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How to Play the Saxophone in Tune

Learn how to play the sax in tune in this Howcast video.


Hey, this is Troy Roberts. Today we're going to talk about saxophone intonation and how to play in tune. This is an alto I'm using. The best thing to do in the initial stages of intonation training is to get yourself a tuner. In this case, I've got a little app on my iPhone. It is really accurate, actually. It is pretty sensitive. I'll give you an example. Playing long notes, you should do this with all long tone exercises, just chuck the tuner in front of you, and hold it as long as you can in tune, and, of course, move through the horn this way.

As far intonation there are few other exercises you can work on, because, really, there's no saxophone that is in tune. You are going to have make little, little adjustments with your armature and really be in touch with how a note feels in tune, and practicing with the tuner is really going to help you build that muscle memory. The most obvious way to make tuning adjustments in a live situation, pulling the mouthpiece out is going to make you flatter, pushing it in is going to make you sharper. It is common to tune up with a concert B flat, so get your tuner. OK, that was pretty much in tune. If we were to pull out, you will see how it gets flat, and pushing in to far is going to make it sharp.

A good exercise to help with intonation on the saxophone, because there is no saxophone that is actually in tune, you need to make little adjustments. The more control you have over this mouthpiece, the better. Intonation wise, tone wise, because really, that is your sound. The rest of the horn really just guides the notes. To be able to play a major scale on your mouthpiece alone is evidence of pretty good control, so here is what you should strive for:

Drives your neighbors crazy, but it is really a worthwhile exercise. When you put the horn on the end of the mouthpiece, it makes a lot of difference if you really are hearing the note before you play it. When you are playing in an ensemble situation with other instruments, especially with other saxophones in a big band situation, there are little differences, the difference between and. One is slightly flatter than the other one. If a whole sax section could be the same level, to that minute detail of intonation that is really going to shine through in the end, and that is intonation for the saxophone.

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