Saxophone sound practice #2: Overtones

This article is the second exercise of the series Practice Your Own Sound. If you didn't read the first exercise on long tones, you should probably do because it's an important preliminary work: Saxophone sound practice #1: Long tones

Overtones: Why?

Working on overtones will make your tone richer, your sound larger, and is essential to play correctly in the high register and altissimos. It is also important to practice them in order to feel what is going on in the body, regarding diaphragm, larynx and palate. And to connect to your saxophone.

Overtones: How?

A basic note like a low Bb, or any note, is composed of several frequences, or harmonics. This practice consists in isolating those frequences, decomposing the basic note.

Low Bb...

It is very noisy, and at the beginning real awful. Your neighbours will love it! If you want to spare them a little, play in your dressing.

Starting on a low Bb, do a decrescendo, let go the sound, don't try to keep the Bb low. Fortunately, another note will appear, a medium Bb or a medium F. For now, isolate the medium Bb, keep it, do a crescendo with it, play it loud!

After doing this a few times, go back to the low Bb. Of course, all of this has been done with your diaphragm and throat only. Your jaw did not move, nor your fingers :)

Now, do the same from low Bb to medium F, to high Bb and all the following harmonics. It might take some years before being able to isolate a high harmonic from the low fundamental, so you can do it from an intermediate one. For example, go from the overtone medium Bb to overtone medium F, and so on. Play around, look, skip some harmonics, try out, explore.

You can also play some scales with harmonics.

When an harmonic is not coming, play first the note you want with its original fingering and play the low Bb, keeping the same sound. Do it as much as needed, be kind and patient to yourself, some harmonics will require a certain amount of practice before being mastered!

And so on!

Now, do the same exercise from low B, low C, C#, D, D#, E.... You can break down all the notes that are being played without octave key, the higher the harder!


  • During this exercise, get relax. A tense jaw is your worst ennemy.

  • Sing the note you want to reach, if you have it in mind it will come more easily.

  • Use a tuner

  • Modify the pressure of your lips, the opening of your throat, the placement of your tongue in order to find the good frequency.

  • Look up, it helps sometimes.

  • Do it everyday!

And after?

The Practice Your own Sound series is not finished yet, there is still one exercise left! Last but not least: Saxophone sound practice #3: working on 5ths and 8ves

But! If you have no more time to practice sound and want to start on technique, here are some tips to work on your scales : How to work your scales efficiently


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