I've read through What are the best techniques to play overtones in the saxophone? but I can't seem to move forward. I've gotten to the point where I can play the first harmonic, as in an octave above, but for lower notes such as C and below, I always produce a fifth above the octave, the second harmonic, never reaching the first harmonic.

But my real struggle is playing a fifth such as an A with the fingering for D. I've used the trick where I first finger A then go to D, and I can sustain A that way, but I'm never able to play A with D fingering without switching. Is there any technique other than just playing over and over again? Is there something I'm missing?

2 Answers 2


to get the first overtone for notes below C, it can help to do the same trick- play the upper note and then remove the octave key.

As far as getting the second overtone for D, try playing the overtone for a lower note that you can get, and then finger up to D chromatically. It might take a few tries but you'll get it that way. After, try starting with the D and you might have an easier time.

There's no formula for this stuff, just do your best and always focus on developing a good sound.


pjc already gave good tips in their answer, and I have some more to add.

  • Focus on your throat. For the most part, your embouchure should not be changing during your overtone exercises -- instead, it should you be your throat/oral cavity. Focus on playing around with different throat positions and see how they help you.

  • Feel the harmonic you're trying to hit. If you have a piano, great. If not, you can still use your sax. Play the actual fingering for the harmonic you're trying to hit. Then, think about singing that note (actually singing the note helps as well). When you think about singing the note, you should feel your throat automatically change position. Keeping the feeling of your throat and the feeling as though you were to sing the note in your head, put the horn back up to your mouth and play the root of the overtone series again.You should have an easier time hitting the harmonic now.

  • 1
    Plus for hearing the note before you play it. But keep in mind that a piano or any other equal tempered instrument will be out of slightly out of tune with the actual harmonic. For the fifth harmonic(2 octaves + major third) it's about 14 cents sharp.
    – clarkep
    Aug 5, 2017 at 16:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.