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Thread: How can I make a flat horn play in tune?

  1. #1

    Smile How can I make a flat horn play in tune?

    I'm a retired music teacher and just a recreational level player.... Just want to play in community concert bands and have fun. I recently tried a Besson Prestige (silver) BE2052-2-0 and a Yamaha 842.

    I loved the Besson in every way until I played it in front of a tuner. It (or should I say I?) played several notes so flat and others so sharp that my embouchure would have to undergo constant major contortions to be in tune - or even close

    The Yamaha played pretty much in tune (or close enough) right away - allowing me to just enjoy playing with minor (very doable) adjustments. However, it's not a Besson...

    I'm using a Wick SM4...

    - If I played a second Prestige, would my tuning experience be different?
    - How close to being perfectly in tune is close enough?
    - Would the tuning improve as the horn gets played?
    - Would playing long tones in front of a tuner over a period of months push my embouchure/ear in the right direction?
    - One repairman suggested shortening the main tuning slide (literally sawing some tubing off the horn...) Anyone ever done that?

    I'm looking/hoping that the more experienced players will be able to offer suggestions on what I might do in order to play the Prestige in tune.

    Thanks
    Brian

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,051
    It sounds as though you recognize the need for some embouchure development independent of how any given horn plays. It also sounds as though perhaps you haven't been playing very much for a while and need to get back in the groove.

    You DEFINITELY shouldn't be cutting any horn (especially one of that quality) without KNOWING that its pitch is incorrect. I'm shocked that a repairman suggested this.

    So yes, start playing regularly (daily) and see how things change. I don't think it should take months. More like weeks to see a real difference.

    Another thing you can do is to have another euphonium player play the instrument and see what he/she thinks. This should be someone you know is competent and experienced. That will tell you right away whether it's the horn or its you.

    There is no "close enough" to being perfectly in tune (though this doesn't necessarily mean "in tune with a tuner" when you're playing with an ensemble). However, for practical purposes, if I'm more than a couple of cents out in one direction or another, I'm not happy. I think I read somewhere that the human ear can detect a tonal variation of 3 cents. Anybody else know if that's correct?
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Schilke 66
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  3. #3
    The advice from Gary is good:
    • Do NOT cut the horn.
    • Have someone else play it (someone who is good and who is used to a compensating horn).


    The SM4 should be a good match, but is that the mouthpiece you played before? A big mp change can cause a pitch droop for a while.

    The Yamaha is built sharper, if I remember my testing correctly, which is helping you (but may be a problem on a hot stage, which causes the horn's pitch to go up). But regardless of that, one would not normally need to choose Yamaha over Besson because of the overall pitch.

    As shown in the comparison below (click to enlarge), the Besson wants to be a bit flatter in the lower range than the Yamaha (the closest matches I have are a 641 and 2051). You can probably learn to control that. But if your middle Bb is flat after you warm up, then you need to worry more.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  4. "" But if your middle Bb is flat after you warm up, then you need to worry more.""

    That is the case for me. I started playing two years ago after nearly 30 years break. (I`m 49) The last year on a Boosey & Hawkes Sovereign round stamp from late -70`s, DW 4AL, lovely sound! Biggest bore I ever played on, but the main tuning slide is now pushed all the way in. This has gradually happend, and for the last 6 month`s, it`s no more to push! I suffer from fatigue on every rehersal due to lipping up most of the time.
    I will let someone else have a go, but other than that, what should I do??

    Thank`s

    Arne

  5. #5
    For the record, the Sovereign had a bore of .580" (about the same as the Imperial). It seemed much larger because of the shape of the leadpipe (for the 967) and the larger bell. I believe the Prestige in in the now-common .592" area.

    Can you quantify what the difference was on middle Bb between the 842 and the 2052?
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. #6
    Maybe your "inner ear" tends to be flat. Try tuning by matching your tone to a reference pitch (you can probably get an app if you have a smart phone). If you are able to hear beats, then this can work really well. You might also try buzzing for a tuner. if your buzz tends towards flat, then your horn is off the hook. - Carroll
    Last edited by carbogast; 11-17-2014 at 08:15 PM. Reason: typo

  7. #7
    One other thing... many tuners present "tempered" tuning which is suitable for fixed pitch instruments such as piano. I don't think wind instruments are designed and built to be "tempered". This is a pretty technical area and I've often wondered how Dave generates his intonation comparisons. I suppose that since they are comparisons against a standard, any standard, including a tempered scale will do. Dave, can you elaborate on this? - Carroll

  8. #8
    Thanks everyone for your ideas so far...
    I will try buzzing and see if I can buzz in tune - never tried that before - sounds messy :-)
    Another player did try the Besson in question and got the same results.
    The SM4 is a new mouthpiece - not causing a problem on the Yamaha - and all mouthpieces were consistently flat on the Besson.
    I am returning after a 2 year lay off - so my embouchure isn't what it will be in 6 months...
    I'm using an iphone tuner - I'll check the tempered scale idea out more too.
    Just for the record - I would NEVER take a hacksaw to a Besson - awful idea :-)

  9. Pitching flat could be a mouthpiece problem.
    The SM series is very open, very deep and I have to push the tuning slide all the way in when using one + lip up.
    I don't have major tuning problems with a DW4AL or SM4 Ultra or Bach mouthpieces.
    Doug Elliott mouthpieces have a shank that goes in further than standard, so if you can find a tech to shave the shank of your mouthpiece it may buy a couple more cents on the tuner.

    OR you can try practising with the tuning slide set to where you'd like it to be and leave it where it is, making adjustments with the lip.
    If tuning improves after a while, then it was all down to you. It could be counter productive if it is indeed an equipment problem (that's why it's important to see if you have the same problem on other mouthpieces).

    Another potential cause is that the instrument may have a leak. I've once had a horn that squirted water from one of the solder joints when I used a hose.
    (interestingly the leak didn't register in the technician's air pressure checking machine, and I had to find a hose to demonstrate it to him)

    I wouldn't trust iPhone tuners. The other night the conductor was tuning us with an iphone tuner, and the person next to me has an other app running and they were 10cents out! My favourite method is using a tuning fork (good aural exercise too).

    Good luck!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,051
    Good thought about the leak. Most likely place would be a water valve. Always good to check.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Schilke 66
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

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