Great Instructional Video on Intonation by Michael Lake

Michael Lake over at put out a video on youtube this week on intonation that I think is excellent!   Michael is not a sax player, (he plays alto trombone….I know, “How dare you Steve, this is a saxophone site!!“) but his thoughts on intonation in this video are right on.

Every note you play on the saxophone is one of three things:  A.) flat  B.) sharp or  C.) in tune.  Those are the only three options to choose from.  When you are playing music,  you want to be in the habit of listening and trying to figure out which of those three options you are on each note that you play.

We all know the benefits of practicing long tones on the saxophone. As long as you are practicing them, why not put on some music and as you practice, try to hear how each note fits with the music.  Remember, you have only three options to choose from,  so how hard could it be?  The hardest part is this, every note is different!  You can’t just tune your middle B with a tuner and assume every other note on the sax will be perfect.  You have to practice using your ears to be your tuner in the moment and then adjust each note to be  C.) in tune.

Watch Michael’s video below.  He goes into great detail and highlights some great points.  I especially like the baseline test at 1:16-2:57 where he plays some notes and asks you if they are flat, sharp or perfect.

I also loved the demonstration at 4:39-8:00 where Michael demonstrates playing a Bb to different chords and then reveals the tuner.  It was really cool to see how some notes were sharp or flat but they sounded great with the chords behind them.

Lastly, Michael points you to a playalong track called Island  Mines that he created for one of his books where he demonstrates playing to the track in A minor and his notes sound right on and in tune.  This is a great demonstration of using your ears and adjusting each note as your built in tuner (your ears) guide you.

Thanks to Michael Lake for providing this great video! Hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think below and if you know any trombone player point them over to Michael’s site at  Thanks,  Steve

Michael Lake Instructional Video on Intonation

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Interesting video and information, Steve. Thanks for posting it. I watched a video about breath control that Michael Lake did too, which was also well-done and useful.

  2. Avatar Michael F says

    Thanks, Steve. While I liked this video a lot also, I felt he was a little black/white when he encouraged watchers to throw away their tuners. I submitted a comment about it to the video, aimed at furthering discussion. I think contextual intonation (he says this) is a great topic for all musicians.

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