I have just aquired a soprano saxophone for the first time. Previously I have only played alto and baritone, never a soprano before.

Something I am encountering which I have never before - and it is driving me crazy - it seems like the entire range of notes from bflat to csharp (standard fingerings) is intonated really out of whack. When playing melodies centered around this range it is practically unnoticable but where it really becomes obvious is when doing wide jumps.

For instance, when I just go between the low c and the mid c, it is very obvious the mid c is off by almost an entire half step. Same thing when I go between the low b and the mid b. But if I use the octave key to make the jump while maintaining the low fingerings then the jump sounds perfectly correct. And fter I noticed this now I notice that the standard fingerings for bflat to csharp just all sound off by over a quarter step. To a lesser extent this is also true for the a and g, but not as pronounced. The keys from f down all sound fine.

If I allow my cheeks to fill with air while playing the problematic notes it can almost correct the problem, but it's not really stable, does not feel right at all, very prone to error.

Is this normal for a soprano saxophone? Am I supposed to be doing something differently to get the notes to sound correct? Or do I just have a cheap saxophone? It was a 300 dollar Kaizer brand. I bought it just to have something small around the house to mess around with. Is this something I will just have to live with until I feel like buying a better saxophone?

It just occurred to me that the problem could just be I did not push the mouthpiece far enough on to the neck, or I pushed it too far, and adjusting this could help. Sorry if these are very elementary soprano sax issues, I am basically diving in blind using just my experience with alto and baritone. I haven't read any "getting started" guides or anything tailored specificly to soprano sax.

The model is Kaizer SSAX-1000, purchased new.


2 Answers 2


Yes, the embouchure and breath control required are radically different from all lower saxes. Listen to the difference between the sound Coltrane and Sid Bechet produced!

Start by tuning to a nice middling note, so you're not dealing with the bottom half-octave, which is very difficult to control. Similarly, it's very easy to overblow the upper notes, making them a halftone sharp.
Disclaimer: I was a serious clarinetist who managed to learn different breath and embouchure not only for tenor but also soprano, on a Selmer MarkVI. There are certainly crap sopranos out there.


There are many poor saxophones on the market, so it is possible that your saxophone is out of whack. However, it could also be something you are doing. I assume that the Bb to the C# you are talking about are the throat notes on the saxophone? Those notes are notoriously out of tune on all saxophones, anyway. By nature, because of their conical shape, saxophones easily go out of tune. Sopranos are even worse because of the small size of both the instrument itself and the mouthpiece.

It is extremely sensitive to changes in embouchure. Since you are coming from a lower saxophone, you are used to a much larger mouthpiece, so your mouth has had to move more to make adjustments for pitch. Now, those adjustments have a much greater effect on the pitch.

I would suggest playing with a tuner and checking every single note. Play your scales, practice jumping intervals to get a good sense of how to hold your embouchure. You will have to be very conscious about holding it very steady for a while before getting to do all those cool saxophone things like bends.

Another thing to check is the mouthpiece. A new mouthpiece helped the intonation on my alto.

It will take a while of playing your saxophone a lot and getting used to it before you can really know if the problem is with the saxophone. Students of mine (beginners) have bought inexpensive instruments: clarinets, flutes, and a saxophone. In my experience, the pitch of these instruments has not been off much, but the hardware seems to break easily. Also, the mouthpieces provided are usually not good.

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