Perpetually sharp vintage Bari
I have a 1937 Buescher Aristocrat baritone sax with an interesting problem. For a while now it has been playing extremely sharp - in the range of about 50 cents just tuning from the mouthpiece. I can get it down to about 20 cents by dropping my jaw to the floor and tuning from the neck joint. It is a low-B not a low-A, so it already runs a little sharp compared to modern horns. But this is just ridiculous.
I'd like to start by saying I am about 95% sure it's not me, because I can make other baris play in tune (I actually tend to run a bit flat.). However, my repair tech never lets an instrument go out his door if he can't play it in tune, and mine has been past him. So either he was too busy to check or he was able to lip it down into what he considered an acceptable range. When I first tried the horn before purchasing it, I thought it was fine. I was pretty new to bari then, so who knows, though. I really noticed a problem about 6 months into playing it, but by then it had already been to a repair shop I don't really trust. Maybe they broke something (they did detach+reattach the Q to remove a dent and someone fiddled with the octave mechanism).
I am at a complete loss. This is a list of stuff I have tried, all with no luck:
- Tuning from the mouthpice. I've pulled it out to where it barely stays on, and it's still sharp.
- Tuning from the neck joint. Not technically something you're supposed to do, but it was a tutor's suggestion. Unfortunately, I can only pull out the neck about 1/4" before my octave mechanism stops connecting.
- Using different mouthpieces. Cheap ones, expensive ones, vintage ones, modern ones, jazz, classical, rubber, metal, all sorts of bore sizes. You name it.
- Getting the horn repadded. It originally had Beuscher snap on pads. I've had a shop (not my usual one) repad it with snap-ons. This was also the time they fixed the dents. I took it in to my regular shop to fix the sharpness issue about a year later; they noticed leaks and repadded with regular pads after grinding the snaps down.
- Varying reed strengths. I've played on everything from a 2-3.5 of various cuts. Yes, I have noticed that softer reeds play flatter, but it's not enough to fix the problem.
- Messing with my embouchure. I've tried biting more of the mouthpiece, dropping my jaw, opening up my throat. Open to furhter suggestions, though.
- Playing in different temperatures and humidities.
Thanks to anybody who's read this far down. :) I'm so out of tune all the time that the conductor of my band has asked me never to play on my poor Buescher. I just hate to give up on this beautiful old horn! I came across this post: https://www.saxophone.org/forum/thread/id/11785/name/pitch+problems+on+old+bari+sax which led me to try asking for help here.
Any ideas at all are appreciated!