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How To Tune a Saxophone Properly

By January 15, 2015May 27th, 2016sax lessons, saxophone exercises, Saxophone Tips

If you play saxophone then you need to learn this tuning technique because it’ll teach you how to tune a saxophone properly. Push the mouthpiece further up the cork if you’re flat and pull it out if you’re too sharp right? Yes, that’s a good start but to be perfectly in tune like a pro you must learn this technique shown in the video:

How To Tune a Saxophone

The position of the saxophone mouthpiece on the cork is the first step and basic way to measure your tuning. To get the sax perfectly in tune we need to play and experiment with our embouchure pressure as well.

The saxophone can be a tricky instrument to play every note in tune. Even when we tune it up so that most notes are in tune there will be a couple notes here and there that will give you extra problems and attention. This is where experimenting with embouchure pressure comes in.

Playing against a tuner or constant pitch of A440 as explained in the video, we can zero in on where the saxophone note is in relationship to the constant pitch of the tuner or tuning tone or tuning fork. Whichever of these you may be using.

Your saxophone note will cause a wavering effect against the tuner. A slow, longer waver will mean your saxophone note is falling flat to the proper pitched note. As you tighten your lip pressure you will notice that your waver will become shorter and quicker. This waver speed increases as you go sharp to the tuner note. It’s here that you will come back down and try to get rid of this quick waver but don’t let it get so loose that it becomes the slow and flat waver. Your aim is to get it to not waver at all, or at least hardly at all as this means you are as close to being in tune to the proper pitched not as possible.


  • Johnny,

    Thank you for these tuning tips. There is always something new to learn on any given topic.

    Could you post the name of the program you ran in the background giving the 440 constant tone?

    Please keep the tips rolling.



  • john says:

    Thanks Walter. You’ll find that video with the tone here:

  • Mark Payne says:

    Hey Johnny,

    I think this is an excellent video to help players know how far to mount their mouthpiece on the neck cork. I like to use a marching lyre and clip on tuner like a small Snark that feels the pitch.I can adjust it to watch while I’m playing. This helps me to stay in tune up and down the register and know if I’m getting flat or sharp if my embouchure get’s tired. Since these tuners are unaffected by surrounding noise, I know if it’s me or the person playing next to me that’s off.

    Best Regards,


  • john dennis says:

    Johnny, Love your instruction and transcriptions. When you put out “What Does It Take” you made my day. How about Jr’s Walk in the Night?
    I’m a 70 year old returning to the sax after a 50+year hiatus. Now have some nice Selmer instruments and several chromatic tuners so I just blow c and tune to eflat or bflat.
    Am I off base with that approach?
    J Dennis

  • john says:

    yes Mark, I recently worked with a trumpet player who was using the same thing and it works quite well.

  • john says:

    John, not familiar with that tune. As for the chromatic tuners, you’re right on there. That’s also a good way to keep your transposed notes sharp in your head!

  • james brown says:

    I’ve noticed once you have the mouthpiece in the correct place, regardless of where you play on the sax, you can
    sharpen & flatten a note very easily.

    This can occur if you are one of these players that
    moves their mouth in and out of the mouthpiece
    whilst playing – you should be able to play the whole
    range of notes without changing the mouth position,
    perhaps it happens when you take a breath?

    When you play in tune, you are playing in tune to
    what you hear in your mind? The mood you are in
    can affect tuning. Like Johhny says play a
    chromatic scale with a tuner and you will be
    surprised how some notes are more in tune than
    others, a lot of this is to do with being unfamiliar
    with how that note should sound in tune.
    So it’s also a case of the mind learning to be in tune.

  • UU Pfister says:

    thanks Johnny that’s really helpful. I just go and try it out.

  • Thanks for the great tip Johnny–these types of tips make such a HUGE difference. We’ve been so busy moving into our new house that I didn’t see this video/post you put here in the blog…haven’t been here to the blog/member’s videos at all but soon. Looking forward to your new Improvisation course 🙂

  • james brown says:

    thanks to using this method of tuning, i recently discovered one of my ears hears the same pitch slightly flatter than the other ear.

  • I need a teacher for my saxophone

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