How To Tune a Saxophone
When tuned correctly, the saxophone is one of the most pleasant of all instruments to hear during a solo or ensemble piece. However, you can only achieve the wonderful, rich sound of the saxophone once you learn to tune a saxophone correctly. For more information on saxophone tuning, read this guide.
Saxophone Tuning Tips
- First of all, it’s important to remember that tuning techniques can differ depending on whether you perform as a soloist or in an ensemble. If you are performing as part of a group, it’s always best to tune together to achieve the perfect sound.
- If you are tuning a saxophone on your own, you’ll need to make regular checks on the state and condition of the saxophone to make sure instrumental damage is not the primary reason for your sax sounding out of tune. Ensure all areas of the instrument are free from dirt and obstructions; doing this regularly will help to preserve your saxophone in the long term.
- Once you have made these initial checks, it’s time to make a further inspection of the reed. Try and make regular judgements on whether a reed is in an appropriate condition for the instrument to play effectively. If the reed develops a very soft edge, it probably needs replacing. Similarly, if the reed exhibits signs of damage, it will no longer be of use. When buying a new reed, some considerations needs to be made about your level of expertise, as reeds can vary in both price and quality.
- Take a couple of minutes to wet the reed, and when ready, place it over the mouthpiece opening. The top of the mouthpiece should always meet with the top of the reed. View the reed from behind the mouthpiece to make sure the reed appears just a little above the mouthpiece. The ligature now needs to be tightened until the reed comfortably remains in place.
- Test out the saxophone. Bring the mouthpiece to your mouth, and ensure your embouchure is secure without cutting off air-flow. Playing incorrectly will make it even harder to tune a saxophone correctly.
- As soon as you’re ready to play, try an appropriate tuning note to act as a guide to the tuning changes needed. On the Soprano and Tenor, try a ‘C’; alternatively won a Baritone and Alto, attempt a ‘G’. Watch for the reaction on the tuner – this will indicate how much adjustment is necessary. The tuner will reveal whether the pitch is too flat or sharp. Use ‘lipping up’ (tighter lip pressure on the mouthpiece) and ‘lipping down’(the reverse) to ensure the tuning is as accurate as possible. Sometimes, the mouthpiece may need some minor tweaking, so bear this in mind as you try and match the tuner note.
- In an ensemble, get one member to act as the tuner reference point. This can be helpful in getting a large group to make tuning adjustments quickly and effectively before a performance. Finally, aside from saxophone tuning, to maintain good hygiene wash the mouthpiece and reeds regularly.
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