Mr. Fred J. Allen

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Intonation Tendencies of Wind Instruments
Brass and Percussion

Flute  | Oboe  | Bassoon  | Clarinet  | Saxophone  | Brass & Percussion 


Get Adobe Reader! Quick-reference guides to intonation problems of:


  • Slides pulled out = flatter, pushed in = sharper
  • Temperature:  cold = flat, hot = sharp
  • Extreme range:  high twister = sharp, low can go either way depending on players experience level.
  • Dynamic level:  loud = sharp, soft = flat
  • Mutes:  straight and harmon = sharp, cup = flat
  • Embouchure and voicing:  pinching = sharp, loose = flat.  The voicing that takes place inside the oral cavity (tongue position) can also move the pitch up or down.
  • Mouthpiece design:  shallow cup = sharp, deep cup = flat

Valve combination series:

    • open  in tune
    • 2nd  in tune
    • 1st  in tune
    • 1st, 2nd little sharp (3rd valve as substitute = little flat)
    • 2nd, 3rd little flat
    • 1st, 3rd sharp  (trumpets MUST "kick" 3rd valve slide)
    • 1st, 2nd, 3rd very sharp (trumpets must kick 3rd valve slide)

Overtone series (tendencies of the harmonics compared to equal temperament):

  • 1 in tune (1 not available on trumpet)
  • 2 in tune
  • 3 slightly sharp (2 vibrations per second)
  • 4 in tune
  • 5 slightly flat (some can be lipped, many players use alternate fingerings)
  • 6 sharp
  • 7 very flat
  • 8 in tune


Mallet instruments play sharp in cold weather -- beware of this at those cold football games!


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