Any musician will know that you can play any melody you want, but if your instrument is out of tune, then it is not going to sound good. As a saxophone player, please know that no one wants to hear you play Careless Whisper in the wrong tune.
This is why you have to keep making sure that your instrument is in tune at all times, and re-tune it if necessary. This way, you won't be making anyone’s ears bleed anytime soon with your greatest performance!
You can have the best, finest quality saxophone, mouthpiece, embouchure and reed in the world, but if you are playing out of tune, then it still won’t sound as good as it should. So how do you find that sweet spot, and hit the perfect notes every time? You tune it.
How to tune a saxophone
Tuning your saxophone will help you ensure that you hit the right notes every time you play your saxophone.
Knowing how to tune your instrument is an essential skill for every musician, as it can keep you from sounding flat when playing, and make your performances reach the next level!
To tune a saxophone, all you have to do is adjust the position of the mouthpiece to reach the accurate location on the neck of the instrument. But how do you know which is the correct spot for the perfect tune? Follow our step by step guide of how to tune a saxophone!
One of the simplest ways to do this is to get a tuner! This is the easiest and simplest way to re-tune your instrument quickly. For example, instrument tuners can be purchased online easily: If you do not have a digital tuner, then you can use a smartphone application that will help you.
The first step is to set your digital saxophone tuner to ‘A’.
This can either be done by selecting concert note A to begin, or you will have to tune your digital tuner to the frequency of 440 hertz.
One you have done this, you will need to play the ‘A’ note properly. You will then have to watch the needle on your tuner and ensure that it stays in the middle of the display, or if it does not have a needle, make sure that it reads the note accurately.
If the needle is not showing the same reading as the note, it will swing to the left or to the right. The needle will fall slightly to the left if your note is too flat, and it will fall to the right if your note is too sharp.
To counteract this, you will need to adjust your mouthpiece on the saxophone accordingly. Try to do this one millimeter at a time, and repeat the process until the needle matches the note perfectly.
If the note played on your saxophone is too sharp, then you will need to pull the mouthpiece out along the neck cork.
On the other hand, if the note is too flat, then you will need to pull the mouthpiece further in along the neck cork.
If you have corrected the first note, then you can move onto the ‘F#’ or the F sharp. Both the A and the F# should be relatively easy to tune, so it is best if you start with these ones before moving on to more difficult notes.
Repeat the process by playing the F# note, and checking your digital tuner or smartphone application to see whether the notes coincide. Again, adjust your mouthpiece to correct any differences in sharpness and flatness before moving onto other notes.
As you move onto more difficult notes, you may need to alter the way you apply your mouth to your mouthpiece when playing in order to affect the sharpness and flatness. This is called the embouchure.
This is the way that you move your mouth on the mouthpiece, you can play with more pressure to create a flatter note, or loosen your mouth in order to make the note slightly sharper.
Repeat the process of checking the notes, running through each individual note to ensure that they are playing correctly and in tune.
Make sure that you also find a playing position, mouthpiece and posture that works for you.
Things to consider when tuning your saxophone
Depending on the saxophone, you will most likely be playing in a different key from a piano. There are many different types of saxophones, alto, tenor, baritone and soprano.
Alto and baritone saxophones are actually usually in the key of Eb, or E flat, whereas tenor and soprano saxophones are in the key of Bb, or B flat.
This is why sometimes, a digital tuner meant for the piano or even the guitar, will read some notes differently, even if they are in tune. For example, a digital tuner will read the sound of a F# as an A on an Alto saxophone, whereas a tenor saxophone will read the F# as an E.
If you are suffering from this issue, then it is best to use a smartphone application that is specifically intended for a saxophone, as it will gauge which notes are in tune far more accurately.
In addition, it is important to keep practicing and finetuning your embouchure skills, as having the right pressure and hold on your mouthpiece is ultimately going to affect the way in which a note will be played.
By keeping on top of your saxophone skills, and remembering to re-tune every now and then, you can ensure that your saxophone works and sounds perfect.