Cheap Alto Intonation, How Many Cents Is Too Many?
I'm new here. I have been playing tenor for a little under a year now, and I have gotten my bearings with it now for sure. I just got a new alto for Christmas, and I have been having some concerns about the intonation. When I first started playing, I immediately noticed that pitch was much more malleable than on tenor, which is not great for a noob like me. I got the awesome TonalEnergy Tuner app, to try to help me correct. That’s when I really saw that things seemed a little too far off.
I should mention that this alto cost $230 on Amazon, and although it’s f*cking beautiful, I have had to make some adjustments, such as leveling tone holes and sanding down cork in a couple of places. The mouthpiece didn’t fit on more than 10% of the cork when I got it! I also had to sand down the neck fitting to get it to fit nicely. Honestly, these were definitely things I somewhat expected to have to do, given that I asked for a sub-$300 saxophone. It’s mainly only the intonation that concerns me.
The thing is, I know that all saxophones have intonation issues, but I don’t have a good understanding of how those pitch imperfections scale across the range of saxophone qualities. I have one or two notes that I can’t get within 15cents no matter how hard I try, and when I play in the lower octave, I tend to be able to nail the pitch on all but 2 notes, but as soon as I get into the second octave, everything is about 15-30 cents sharp and I have to adjust my voicing and embouchure a lot to get down to pitch. I can adjust down most of the time for most notes, but when I’m looking at the pitch graph, it seems like such a big change.
Bottom Line: Do most student alto saxophones have this much natural pitch fluctuation, or should I return this thing? With all but a couple (mainly one) note I am able to get within 5 cents if I adjust for each note individually. There are many notes that consecutively work with the same voicing, but, in a few particular areas, I know I'll have to adjust quite a bit to be able to hit the note. When I just play a song or a scale, it doesn’t necessarily sound too out of tune, so I’d be happy to play with it for a while, but I’m mainly worried that maybe playing with this might make me develop adjustment habits that will cause problems when I move on to a real instrument.
TLDR: Does anybody know how much alto saxophones usually fluctuate in pitch without any sort of intonation adjustment? I’d ask my teacher, but it’s through the college, and my return window ends by the time the semester starts.