Overtones on Bb


This exercise is designed to teach a saxophonist how to isolate the overtones above a fundamental.

Play a low Bb as normal. Then play an F natural with the octave key as normal. Then, holding the fingering for a Bb, think and play an F natural. Practice alternating between Bb and F without changing fingering. Next isolate the Bb an octave above the low Bb. Eventually it is possible to play three octaves of the overtone series above a low Bb: Bb2, Bb3, F4, Bb4, D5, F5, Ab5(out of tune), and Bb5.

Bugle Calls


To practice facility in voicing the overtone series you can practice bugle calls. Maintain a low Bb fingering throughout and change notes only by altering your voicing.

Palm Key Overtones


As overtones can be played above Bb so they can be played above other notes. Importantly, the palm keys overblown by a major 6th make useful fingerings for altissimo notes B to D#. For the B (palm key D overblown) add the G key for extra stability. Practice alternating between the palm key note and its altissimo alternative. Once you are secure with these notes try the next overtone a perfect forth above eg. Eb – C – F – C – Eb.

Repertoire that uses Altissimo

  • Concertino by Ibert
  • Concerto by Larsson
  • Pequena Czardas by Pedro Iturralde
  • Aeolian Song by Warren Benson
  • Concerto by David Maslanka
  • Concerto by Glazunov

Further Reading on Altissimo

  • Rascher, Sigurd, M. (1941) Top-Tones for the Saxophone, (Carl Fischer, New York)
  • Rousseau, Eugene High Tones