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Bothered and bewildered am I.


Senior Member
Morning all, or evening wherever you may be. I have my absolute newbie coat on this morning and need advice.


As most of you know I am playing a TJ custom built raw alto. I have now been promoted to the swing band and I have a problem.

I am constantly being told that I am too flat. Okay I tune in with my electronic tuner (snark) and it gives me a more or less accurate reading.I am then informed that I am too sharp.

I have tried every position on the cork with my mouthpiece (Meyer 6) (Benz 2.5 reed) a very comfortable but expensive reed and alternated with a same strength Rico.

I know there are other TJ Raws in this forum and wondered if same had a similar problem.

Self analysis.

Been playing nine months. Is it just sheer lack of experience ?

Mouthpiece. Should I experiment with other makes ?

Instrument. Is it the make up of the saxophone as it is raw brass, where as every other sax in the group is lacquered ?

My teacher tells me that my tone is okay and my tuning nothing to worry about. Obviously I can not say to the other players " It is you who are out of tune not me." as they all have several years experience.

Self confession. I do sound marginally different and have to reign in volume wise.

Advice given by other band members. I need to relax and loosen off my embouchure. I am biting too hard, however I have been using the same mouthpiece pad for the last four months and there is hardly a mark on it.

It might be an age problem at 75 and a half my musculature is not as buoyant as it was twenty years ago.

Perhaps I should give up sax and learn bass guitar.>:)

Any advice other than get yourself a new zimmer frame and a pair of comfortable slippers gratefully received.:thumb:

Best regards. N


ex Landrover Nut
Yes, relax. Learn to play with a loose embouchure, and keep it loose. But..... biting will raise the pitch and make you sharp, not flat. What note do you tune to? And are you flat in both registers?


Well-Known Member
Make sure that your tuner is set to the same tuning reference as the band uses.

Many tuners allow you to set the reference pitch to values other than the most common standard of A = 440 Hz. And on some it is quite difficult to notice what the reference pitch is.

Some orchestras and bands use a different reference pitch, either because they think it sounds better or because they have to tune to an instrument that isn't A=440Hz, for instance a piano that is a bit flat.

Hearing (with your ears as opposed to seeing it on a tuner display) your own tuning, especially in relation to other instruments is something that comes with time.

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Advice given by other band members. I need to relax and loosen off my embouchure. I am biting too hard, however I have been using the same mouthpiece pad for the last four months and there is hardly a mark on it. N
Hello Navarro,

You've been playing about the same length of time as me and I'm definitely struggling with a tense embouchure problem. I get the impression it's quite common.

Thanks to the helpful people here, I've discovered there's an easy way to find out if this is an issue for you. Play the alto mouthpiece and reed on their own with your normal embouchure. Your tuner should show concert A at 880Hz, or perhaps a little lower and the note should be steady. This is easier said than done in my experience. I was nearer Bb - or B on a bad day.

Good luck,



Well-Known Member
It is probably your embouchure that is causing your problem as when you playing with others you are more than likely tensing up without knowing it causing your intonation to go off,when you are at home you are more relaxed.
It is also very difficult when you are playing with other horns to blend in,you have to constantly learn to listen so that you are at one with the tuning.
All this will come with time,9 months is not all that long in time so don't be too hard on yourself.
I have the same sax as you and i can honestly say it the best sax i have ever had for overall tuning,but yours might be different.

Give yourself some time to work this out, i am sure it will get better the more you play with others.



"Amen" to what everybody else has said. And nine months isn't long at all so no worries.

One suggestion, however, if biting is something you suspect (and if you're playing flat that doesn't sound like it - biting more likely to cause sharpness) is that you can try occasionally playing with a double lip embouchure. In other words, cushion your top teeth with your lip too so that no teeth make any contact with your mouthpiece. Play like that for a few minutes, then go back to your normal embouchure. That should "calibrate" your bite - if that's what you're doing.


Senior Member
Thanks all, as usual sound advice and taken on board . I will try that little exercise you suggest Baritonesax. Many thanks again. I will keep you informed progress wise. Best regards N.

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Like you, I'm a newcomer and I think newcomers tend to play flat. With being an experienced singer, I understand when I'm in tune with myself (e.g. if I go from A to E I expect that to be a 5th and I know of it's flat or sharp). However, to check being in tune I have to use a meter (or the piano). It's only the last few months that my "standard embouchure" has been approximately in tune. 12 months ago I could be anything up to a tone flat.

The sax is a wild beast - my tutor showed me that you can drop a minor third just by relaxing the embouchure - which is crazy!

It's a wild, wild beast and needs a lot of work to tame.

I think it would be worth checking what they are tuning to though. We had big problems with the wind instruments in the orchestra we use for local concerts tuning to the organ in the local church: it's about 2/3 of a semitone (more than 60 cents) sharp. After a concert in whch the bassoon had to transpose up a semi-tone (tuning up 60 cents was impossible) we now hire a chamber organ if we need one with a band.
Saxholder Pro

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