Tune Well, Sound Great!

Get a better tone


Have you ever heard an instrument play so poorly that you wish you had earplugs? Unfortunately we spend some time creating these undesirable tones as a beginning musician. Hopefully we don’t cause too much pain to those around us in the meantime. Want to get out of this phase? Here is one thing you can do to sound great!

Get in Tune

You can have the best saxophone, mouthpiece, reed, and embouchure in the world, but if you’re not in tune, the saxophone won’t sound the way it should.

What is Tuning?

The short answer is this: the mouthpiece is placed in the correct spot on the neck of the saxophone. How do you find the exact spot? Follow these steps and you will be on your way.

The Steps

Get a Tuner (Step #1)

I recommended a tuner in a previous post; you can find my recommendations by clicking here. If you don’t own a physical tuner, there are apps and tuners available for free online.

Set the Calibration to 440Hz (Step #2).

This may sound complicated, but this is easily adjusted. In fact, it may already be set correctly on your tuner. If the calibration number is not accurate, just enter the correct number: 440. Look for a label such as “calibration” or “Hz” when looking for the 440 number. The image below is from an online tuner:

How to tune an instrument

Note- the 440 setting is commonly used in the United States. Other areas in the world may use a slightly different setting

If you have a physical tuner, check out the video below for a “How To” demonstration on calibration settings.


Play an F# with the Octave Key (Step #3)

Now that the tuner is set, simply play F # with the octave key.  The goal is to line up the needle straight up and down (or have it read “0”).

Improve my tone


How do I get a better tone







Improve my tone






In Tune

Correct Note Should Display (Step #4)

When playing your F#, the tuner should display the following note on it’s screen:

  1. Alto/Baritone- A
  2. Tenor- E

If another note displays, the mouthpiece is far from it’s correct position. Move the mouthpiece in either direction until the correct note displays.

Watch the following video for an accurate display of the notes, for both the alto, bari and tenor saxophones:


Flat or Sharp? (Step #5)

  1. If the note is flat, push the mouthpiece in to make the pitch go up.
  2. If the note is sharp, pull the mouthpiece out to make the pitch go down.

Why does moving the mouthpiece make any difference? When you pull the mouthpiece out, the saxophone becomes longer. When you push the mouthpiece in, the saxophone becomes shorter. A longer instrument creates a lower sound and a shorter instrument produces a higher sound.

When the saxophone is in tune on the F #, then you’re ready to move forward. This doesn’t mean that every note on the saxophone is in tune, but you are starting in the right place. You’ll get a better sound on your own and you’ll do a better job of matching up with other instruments when playing in a group.

Want a better tone?

There is more information available which will help you improve your saxophone tone. Check out the options below to get this information.

  1. Get free lessons when you sign up for our newsletter. Click here to fill out the form. Start today!
  2. Already have the free lessons? Click here and “Like” us on Facebook. This will unlock a feature that will allow you to receive feedback on your playing. If something is not quite right with your tone, I will be able to hear it and let you know how to fix it.  I am excited about this offer. Give it a try!

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Comments 2

  1. Jeff ~ the photos show the Korg tuner. Is this the one you recommend? A search on Amazon shows a CA-1 CHROMATIC tuner and a CA-40 Chromatic. No idea the difference or what to go for . Please advise Jeff. (Tried phone apps but really not working & I’m not “that” out of tune!) Thanks! Paddy

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