Tuning an Alto Saxophone

Use a tuner to make sure you are playing in tune.

Tuning an alto saxophone is relatively simple compared to most other instruments. On the alto saxophone, if you are sharp, pull out on the saxophone mouthpiece. If you are flat, push in on the mouthpiece. Using a tuner you can accurately check your pitch and make sure it corresponds to a concert pitch of A=440 hertz. Tuning should be done before and after a complete warm up to ensure your instrument is ready to play with any ensemble.

Turn on your tuner and place it as close to the saxophone as possible. Place the tuner near the bell to get an accurate sound. Play the G that sits on the second line of the staff. If the tuner shows that you are sharp, pull out on your mouthpiece and try the pitch again. If the note is flat, push in on the mouthpiece to raise the pitch.

Warm up on the alto sax by playing long tones. Play whole notes by starting on C in the middle of the staff and descending a half step to B. Ascend back to C and move down a whole step to B-flat. Continue this series by adding a half step each time until you hit G on the second line of the staff.

Play the following series of notes on your saxophone while the tuner is on D, E, F-sharp, and G. Hold the G out and see if the saxophone is in tune. If the needle, or digital readout, of the tuner is not directly in the center, adjust the mouthpiece by pulling in or out until the instrument is in tune.


  • While a tuner is a good guide, you must tune to the ensemble as well. If you find you are out of tune with the rest of the ensemble, adjust to fit the ensemble's tuning.
  • Tuners come in digital and analog forms. Digital forms will tell you the exact frequency you play and whether you are sharp or flat. Analog tuners have a needle that swings from left to right. When the needle is in the center, the instrument is playing in tune.
  • Keep in mind that the alto saxophone is a transposing instrument. This means the pitch you play is actually off by a minor third. When you see a C written down, it will actually sound like an E-flat.


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