Maybe you tried playing your saxophone along a song or with a band and you just realized how out of tune it sounds. Or perhaps you just realized whatever note you hit on your saxophone isn’t in key. Whatever your reason, is it just you hitting the wrong notes? Or saxophones can actually go out of tune? That’s what we’ll talk about in this article. So let’s dig in.
Saxophones can go out of tune. Saxophones are sensitive instruments that can go out of tune whenever it is disassembled or subjected to extreme temperature changes.
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Why Your Saxophone May Be Out Of Tune
Here are all of the different reasons why your saxophone may be going out of tune
Changes in Temperature
Temperature variation is the main reason why your saxophones may be out of tune. When the temperature at which the saxophone was tuned varies greatly from the temperature in the playing environment, the saxophone may go out of tune.
This is because saxophones are made of metal. The properties of metals are known to change with temperature. As you may already know, metals expand in hot temperature conditions and contract in low temperatures.
Thus, drastic variation in the temperatures of the tuning and playing environments can cause your saxophones to go out of tune. Basically, temperature affects the way saxophones sound.
That is why saxophones that have a cold temperature have low pitch while warm saxophones have high pitches.
Also, when you fail to warm up your saxophone before tuning it initially, your instrument will go out of tune when it eventually heats up while you’re playing. Due to this, it is recommended that you warm your saxophone before tuning it. I will speak more on “warming your saxophone” later in this article.
As a rule of thumb, if the temperature in the environment where you tuned your saxophone changes significantly, you should re-tune your saxophone to suit the current temperature condition.
Saxophones have a recognizable curved shape, with their bell facing upwards. The shape, size, and length of the various components of the instrument play a role in creating the right pitch and tune. That is why huge dents can affect the tune of your saxophone.
They can cause your saxophone to go out of tune. However, this depends on the location of the dent on your saxophone. A dent that is up high or closer to a tone hole is more likely to cause your saxophone to go out of tune than one which is not.
Whenever you disassemble or dismantle your saxophone, you are basically breaking apart every setting that has been done on the instrument. Therefore, you need to re-tune your saxophone every time you put or assemble it. This is no different from other instruments like guitars and drums.
When you remove the strings from a guitar, it goes out of tune. The same can be said when you remove the drum head from drums. Saxophones are no different. Thus, when you disassemble your saxophone, they can go out of tune.
Can Saxophones Go Out of Tune If You Play Them in The Cold?
Saxophones can go out of tune if you play them in the cold. This is because, in cold temperatures, the top of your saxophone will become warm while the bottom remains cold. This will cause your low notes to be flat and your top notes to be sharp.
The result you will get when playing your saxophone in cold temperatures will vary greatly from the result you will get when you play it in warm temperatures.
This is because saxophones are made from metal. And just as I mentioned earlier, the properties of metals change when there is a temperature change. Thus, since saxophones are tuned when they are warm, cold temperatures will affect them differently.
If you play the saxophone in the cold, the outcome you will get will be distorted and inaccurate. Such saxophones usually have dull pitches as well.
What Should You Do When Your Saxophone Goes Out of Tune?
If your saxophone seems way off-tune, I recommend that you take it to a musical shop for it to be looked at. Alternatively, you can decide to tune it yourself. If you are not used to tuning your saxophone by yourself, you may find it hectic to do.
However, if you are like me, I’m sure you would like to experiment with tuning your saxophone by yourself. Thus, I will provide more information to guide you on how to tune your saxophone in the next section, so keep reading.
How To Tune Saxophones
Tuning is very important when it comes to playing the saxophone. This is because tuning allows you to produce a clear and beautiful sound. Thus, you must make sure your instrument is properly tuned and adjusted before playing.
Before you begin to tune your saxophone, there is one important thing you have to do first. You need to warm up your saxophone. This is because whenever a saxophone is stored inside its case, it tends to get cold.
Therefore, you need to introduce some form of warmth into the instrument by playing it. When a saxophone gets warm, it expands.
The warmth of your breath and hands, coupled with the vibrations the instrument makes, serves to heat up the saxophone as you play. After warming up your saxophone, you can then proceed to tune it.
Watch this video below to get detailed information explaining how to tune saxophones after warming them up.
Best Saxophone Tuner
To choose the right saxophone tuner to match your needs, there are a few things to consider. They include; your ability to match the pitches and where you will be using your instrument.
That is why there is a wide category of tuners available to choose from. However, not all of the varieties under each category are good. I have narrowed down the best saxophone tuners for every category of saxophone tuner. This will make it easy for you to settle on one.
Electronic tuners are relatively easier to use than non-electronic ones. Having an electronic saxophone tuner on hand is ideal for situations where you need to be certain that your ears are not deceiving you.
Unlike tuning forks, these electronic tuners do not require you to match pitches using your ears. The tuning information is displayed on a screen. This makes it easier for everyone, irrespective of their skill.
Electronic tuners work by measuring the sound waves that come into them. They then give feedback indicating whether sound waves are too sharp or flat.
Korg TM60C Combo Tuner
The Korg TM60C Tuner (on Amazon) is widely accepted by many as the best electronic tuner for saxophones. This device enables you to simultaneously use a tuner and a metronome. This type of tuner works quite well and provides accurate information to the user.
It has a large, backlit LCD screen that can simultaneously show the tuner and metronome. This tuner is easy and convenient to use and has an excellent response meter as well.
The Korg TM60C is built to accurately detect a pitch without any delay or time lag. It has a detection range for different varieties of instruments. This device comes with long battery life and memory backup as well.
Some people tune their saxophones by ear. Though this way of tuning saxophones is subjective, it is widely accepted as one of the best ways of tuning your saxophone.
A tuning fork is the best non-electronic tuner for your saxophone. The tuning fork you go in for should depend on the type of saxophone you own or play. This is because every tuning fork has a specific frequency at which it vibrates to create a single note.
To use a tuning fork effectively, you need to match the pitches accurately to that of the saxophone. Unfortunately, this might be quite difficult for lots of people.
However, if you can match pitches by the ear and only need to adjust the mouthpiece of your saxophone, you can go in for a tuning fork.
When it comes to tuning your saxophone with a tuning fork, you need to play a pitch on the tuning fork first. Then you match that pitch to the pitch of your saxophone. You can purchase a tuning fork set from any music shop.
App tuners are phone software or applications that can substitute electronic and non-electronic means of tuning musical instruments. For most people, it is not easy to choose a saxophone tuner app. Most of these apps are available for free.
However, you may have to pay a dollar or two to get certain advanced features.
Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner
The Cleartune tuner app is available on both android and iOS for a fee of $3.99. This app is designed to be an easy and simple to use tuner and tone generator. It has a simple “note wheel” interface for navigation.
This app enables you to accurately tune your instrument quickly using the in-built microphone in your smart device.
It features a big display, which makes reading easy. This app presents a wide variety of temperament and pitch settings. It can be used to tune lots of musical instruments. Some of these instruments include; electric or acoustic guitars, piano, bass, brass, among others.
How Much Does It Cost To Tune Saxophones?
There is no monetary cost involved in tuning saxophones. You can easily tune your saxophone by yourself at home. Tuning your saxophones will only cost you money if there are some repairs and replacements to be done on the saxophone.
In such a situation, the amount involved will basically be for the repairs and replacements and not necessarily for the tuning.
Saxophones can go out of tune when they get dented or when you disassemble them. Also, if you fail to warm your saxophone up before tuning them, they can go out of tune. Therefore, you need to do is to ensure that your saxophone is warmed up before tuning.