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On Tuning the Saxophone Section

by Eugene Rousseau

Many student players take the time to tune to one note — which is fine for a start. But, it is necessary to relate to different notes when working with a saxophone section.

In tuning the saxophone AND a saxophone section it is best to start with two notes:

When tuning the saxophone section I recommend that all play B because this allows us to hear each instrument on a note that is in the same position acoustically.

B may seem a trifle flat, which is OK. If B is sharp the mouthpiece needs to be pulled out slightly. Then, play F# to confirm the mouthpiece position. In tuning the saxophone section, after the alto has tuned, the tenor should also play B. This will produce an interval of a perfect fourth which, if not in tune, is very easy to hear. After the tenor has tuned with the alto using this perfect fourth, the baritone should now play B with the tenor. This will produce a perfect fifth, also very easy to determine tuning.

Then, when tuning the section further, note the five examples below. These chords are in concert keys, followed by the steps for tuning. In tuning chords it is important to begin with unisons and octaves, then fourths and fifths, as these comprise the foundation for good intonation, and they are the easiest to hear. Given are only five examples, but the creative teacher could create many more.

For more information about Dr. Rousseau and a wide range of advice and discussions concerning saxophone performance and mouthpieces, visit