Evan Tate's SaxTips eZine

Thursday, February 17, 2005


The ability to properly intonate (play in tune) is essential skills
that all wind players have to learn. Whether you're an amateur or an aspiring
professional, the ability to intonate is a major pillar to your
development as a saxophonist.

In this week's Sax Tip I'd like to suggest a method and some helpful
tools toward your development.

Overtones - Much has been discussed about the practice and importance
of practicing overtones. It is an essential tool for intonation and tone
development. Practicing overtones, although essential, carry one small
downside with it. Practiced incorrectly, it can wind up tightening your
embouchure and making it inflexible rather than relaxing it. The
greater disadvantage by tightening of the embouchure is the lack
of good intonation. In such a case, your high notes may be too sharp,
and too thin in tone quality. Many students practice overtones by starting
the fundament tone (i.e. Low Bb) and over-blowing to reach the other
partials of the note (i.e. middle Bb, middle F, high Bb, high D, high F, etc.).
When one follows the partials of the overtone series, after a certain partial they are
no longer in tune (after high F - flageolets Ab, Bb, C, D etc.). Many
saxophonists who want to learn flageolet (harmonics, altissimo) have
fallen into this trap and learned to play these notes out of tune.

My suggestion:
* Finger low Bb and first try to produce the middle Bb, and let the
"fall" down to low Bb without dropping your jaw.
* Finger low Bb and first try to produce the middle F, and let the tone
fall down to middle Bb, and then to low Bb. Again, without dropping your
* Finger low Bb and first try to produce the high Bb, and let the tone
fall down to middle F, then middle Bb, and finally low Bb. Again, without
dropping your jaw.
* Repeat the same process with Low B, Low C and Low Db.

This is the exact opposite practice of how many students learn this.
Instead of tightening the embouchure, the embouchure learns to loosen. I
suggest practicing this the first 5-10 minutes of your practice session.
Remember to listen carefully!
Compare and try to match your overtone note with the
regularly played notes.

Download this exercise here or go to:

Useful tools:
* A digital tuner to visually check your intonation.
* A tape recorder to record your session and listen to it afterwards.
Since we always stand "in back" of the horn, we must realize that the horn
does sound different "in front". Or play against a wall (an old veteran's
* A well-tuned piano.

"The EAR Rules!" - Everything in our playing stands and falls according
to how we hear everything.

Have fun!

Evan Tate

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to
Mastery: Saxophone"
. He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School
of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of
professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at
various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for
Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de/, or evan@evantate.de


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