How to Play Altissimo G on Tenor Saxophone

Altissimo G can be challenging for many tenor saxophone players (and Alto and Bari players too).

Every brand of tenor saxophone is different in some way, which can lead to different ways to finger the note.

But playing Altissimo G is more than just sticking down a fingering and blowing; you need to really hear the note in your head before you attempt to play it.

In fact, there is a simple process to follow when you want to play this, or really anything on the saxophones…

Process to Play Altissimo G:

  1. Find a piano or tuner that can play pitches, and play Concert F (that’s our “G” on tenor). (You want the F an octave and a fourth above Middle C on the piano.)
  2. Play the pitch many times so that you can hear it in your head.
  3. This next step is crucial: You must SING it, out loud, and match that pitch. (If you can’t match the pitch, you are not really hearing it.) 
  4. Notice what’s going on inside your mouth; your tongue position, throat, oral cavity. That’s why it’s important to sing that exact pitch (or for men, the highest Concert G that you can).
  5. On the instrument, finger Altissimo G, and SING the pitch through the horn. Again, notice your oral cavity, tongue and throat position. (You will want to imitate this when you play the note.)
  6. Once you are able to sing the pitch in tune, and are aware of what is going on inside your mouth, you can then play the note. 

Key Points for playing Altissimo G, or any Altissimo note:

If you attempt to just finger Altissimo G and expect it to come out great, you will be sorely disappointed. This note, as with any Altissimo note on the saxophones can be really out of tune, and you can also (at a certain point) play many of the Altissimo notes with any fingering – but they will be unreliable and out of tune.

If you do not have a solid range for the full range of the horn before the Altissimo (from low Bb to F or F#), DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PLAY THIS NOTE! Your mouth muscles (embouchure) will not be strong enough and you will resort to bad habits in order to get the note out.

If you have difficulty matching pitch, work on this skill. There are plenty of ear training apps out there. You can also just use a tuner and a piano: play a pitch on the piano, hear it in your head, sing it back and look at the tuner to see if you matched it.

Playing the Saxophone is a journey that any professional will tell you, never ends. Enjoy the journey and don’t try to rush your embouchure development, or musical development.

Here’s the Video:

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Some Comments from YouTube:

Adam Doyle
+Donna Schwartz I have tried and haven’t succeeded yet with altissimo G but I have gotten out some of the higher notes like C and D, ironically. With practice and patience I will get it eventually. Thanks for your advice.
I tried the “singing” the notes thing and it works. I tried it with long tones. I even tried it on one of the exercises in a book I am working on. I “sang” each and every note and with getting over a cold I sounded awful. I then played the exercise and got through it. Now I am going to drill this into my son’s head to start “singing” the notes. Thank you so much. It’s a nice little gift.
Donna,  I’ve been working on trying to get to A for about year. I switched to a berg metal mouthpiece from a 5 Yanagisawa hard rubber and I found the horn was vibrating much better. This was about 5 days ago. Then two days after watching this video and following your advice TODAY FOR THE FIRST TIME I HIT A. I CAN’T WAIT TO PLAY ‘WHAT DOES IT TAKE” FOR MY MOM. Jr is the reason she bought me a sax Thank you so so so much.
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