by Farid Iqbal
Some people say that out of all the members of the sax family, the soprano sax is the one that has the problem with intonation. This, although a widespread belief, is actually not necessarily true as any musical instruments can be plagued with this issue. It just seems to be more noticeable on a soprano as any slight change in embouchure tension causes a greater change in pitch than on an alto or tenor.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to fix this problem without having to throw out your instrument all together or spend hundreds of dollars on it. Furthermore, these fixes are easy enough for you not to have to worry about picking one up to learn it in the first place.
Adjust Embouchure Tension. One of the most common causes of incorrect intonation is improper embouchure. Remember the fundamental idea that proper embouchure requires your jaw to be dropped and your upper teeth to be in contact with the mouthpiece. Moreover, note that too much embouchure tension will require the mouthpiece to be placed too far out on the cork. This in turn will cause the key notes to be flat and the notes on the other end to be sharp.
The best way to find the proper tension would be to first tune the middle C of the soprano sax to concert Bb, play up and down the scale and check the pitch of each note against a tuner.
Get a Suitable Reed. Reed strength is important when tuning. A reed that is too soft can have a tendency to be flat. Conversely, a reed that is too tough will produce sharp notes. Ideally, a beginner should generally start on a 2-strength reed and move up to 2 and a half once the embouchure muscles strengthen.
Also, it is not a good idea to make dynamic changes in the reed that you use because you will have to make drastic breath support adjustments that will most probably cause intonation problems.
Use a Proper Mouthpiece. For beginners, it is key to know that while most student saxophones are satisfactory, most of the time the mouthpieces that come with them should not be but instead replaced. Mouthpieces are made with many different internal dimensions that directly affect intonation, thus, it should always be matched with the saxophone and embouchure of the musician.
It is recommended that young players use hard rubber mouthpieces with a medium tip opening and chamber.
The three tips mentioned above should help fix the intonation problems you may be experiencing with your soprano sax. But do keep in mind that another option may be to just keep practicing. Naturally, an intonation issue may result from a hardware problem but it too can be caused by inexperience. Remember that perfection can be achieved through persistence and hard work–that is still the best way to hone your skills, including your intonation, on your sax. There are lots of instructional material to help you with this, all you have to do is choose which one to go with.
You may want to learn more about the saxophone through a sax video or get some tips on its handling, learn more about its history, or even improve your own playing. Visit http://saxvideo.org for all this useful information.
Raffy Chan is a writer and internet enthusiast, based in California. He enjoys doing research, writing, and website/s creation.
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