How to Get High G on Saxophone – Tips from the Pros

Your repertoire has expanded quite substantially, even if you’ve just picked up the saxophone. And you’ve been adding more songs to what may be considered an impressive library of songs.

But there are a few tunes that you’ve veered away because even at this time, you still can’t hit the high G on your instrument.

That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even the saxophonists you idolise might have encountered the same stumbling block in front of you at some point in time.

If you want to know how to get high G on saxophone, here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.

Why hitting the high G is tricky

But first things first: why is it hard to nail down the high G on the sax?

You didn’t encounter much trouble playing the lower notes. But with the high G or altissimo notes, you find yourself sputtering every time you attempt to play.

Lower notes are easier to play because nailing the right fingering is practically all you have to do to get the job done right.

With the high G, things can be a bit more complicated. You have to get three things right: your fingering, your breath control, and your embouchure. Another reason why you can’t play the high G is that you are having trouble producing overtones. Altissimo notes are considered as overtones.

And to play an overtone, there are a few things that you need to achieve. First, you have to adjust both your mouth and throat. Second, playing overtones requires visualising the notes you are trying to hit. Suffice to say, it is practically impossible to play overtones without having a mental picture of how the notes will come out on your instrument.

Playing overtones: Perfecting your technique

To play altissimo notes, you have to practice playing overtones. It may take some time to achieve your goal of playing the high G on your saxophone, but with practice and patience, you’ll get there. Here are a few helpful tips that you can follow.

Tweak your tongue position

One of the simplest adjustments that you can make to refine your technique (and hit altissimo notes) is to tweak your tongue position.

This may take some trial and error. Again, with patience, you’ll find the right position that works best for you. You can start by flattening your tongue while playing. If that doesn’t work, make a few minor adjustments until you finally hit the high G.

Open your throat

Playing overtones (and, by extension, altissimo notes) requires having lots of air. To achieve that, you have to make sure that you keep your throat open.

Visualise the note you are trying to play

It’s a good idea to start by playing with a note that’s an octave below. This will give you some frame of reference.

After starting from a lower octave, create a mental picture of the higher note. It helps if you have another instrument like a piano to confirm your mental image of the note. Alternatively, you can try singing the higher note.

Playing altissimo notes: Perfecting your technique

Just like playing overtones, hitting the high G on the saxophone requires a few adjustments (and lots of patience). Here are some tips to help you play your first altissimo notes on your saxophone.

Start slow

Some good things, including altissimo notes, don’t come easy, making them even more rewarding. When you are trying to play the high G, be patient and put sound quality on the forefront.

Modify your fingering technique

One of the issues associated with altissimo notes is that there are different fingering techniques that you can use. Think of it as different roads leading to the same destination.

Early on, you may have to try different fingerings until you find the one that works best for you.

Whatever technique you choose to use, be sure that you get your fingering right. To do that, set a mirror in front of you so you can see if your fingers are positioned correctly. You may also want to devote some practice time with the fingering technique first, without blowing your saxophone.

Start with lower notes

Instead of playing the high G immediately, it is better to work your way up by playing the lower notes first. Start by playing the notes on E, then go higher until you reach the high G.

Check how much mouthpiece you are using

  • Playing altissimo notes requires finding the right balance in how you use your mouthpiece.
  • Use too much, and you’ll get a sound that’s thin and harsh.
  • Use too little, and you’ll have to play doubly hard.

Remember the embouchure

In playing overtones, you’ll have to modify your tongue position until you find the one that works best for you.

In playing altissimo notes, you’ll have to tweak your embouchure. And when you do nail the high G on your saxophone, you have to remember the embouchure and mimic that as closely as possible.

Patience and practice get the job done right

It’s easy to feel down and frustrated when you can’t nail a particular technique. That’s understandable, especially if you have just started playing the saxophone.

The great news is that with patience and practice, you’ll be able to hit your stride and play altissimo notes. It may take some time and lots of trial and error, but it can be rewarding as an instrumentalist when you reach your goal. Keep at it, and you’ll master this difficult technique on your alto sax.