I get lots of questions about tuning your saxophone from my Sax School students.
The problem with tuning exercises is they can be pretty boring. Here’s a fun way to improve your saxophone tuning, that really works too.
Tuning your saxophone can be frustrating, and confusing. But if you’re playing with other musicians, or even with a backing track, playing in tune is really important.
You can adjust your saxophone tuning by moving the mouthpiece in or out. However, your tuning can also vary within your range, so while most notes are in tune, some may play sharp or flat. This can be because of the way your sax is made, or because of the way you play it. To play your saxophone in tune all the time, you need to understand these little changes.
Here’s some simple tips to help you.
There are loads of great tuning apps for your phone or tablet. I really like Tonal Energy Tuner which also has a built-in metronome – and shows you a smily face when you’re playing your saxophone in tune! ????. Choose a tuning app that works for you but don’t get too hung up on tiny variations in tuning. You’re looking for a general sense of being in tune across the range of your saxophone.
Tuning apps will usually show your note in concert pitch, which is what the note would be on a piano. If you find the different note names confusing, with most apps you can change to the right key for your instrument (E♭ for alto sax and B♭ for tenor sax).
Using “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with your Tuner
This is a great melody to use when you’re working on your saxophone tuning, because the first section uses lots of notes from the scale. So as you’re playing, you can check your notes with your tuner.
You can also set your tuner to play the key note of the melody, so you can try to match it on your saxophone. This is a really good way to develop your ear – which is so important when you’re playing with a backing track or with other musicians.
Watch the video to see how I do this while I’m playing the melody.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can try it in different keys.
Try playing around with the melody, checking your tuning as you go using your tuning app.
Include this exercise in every practice session and you’ll see some real progress with your tuning. It works with any simple melody, so have fun with it!
Playing in tune is just one part of making progress on your saxophone. For more great tips, lessons and exercises, get my FREE Ultimate Saxophone Toolkit.