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  1. #1

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    Default Switching between tenor and alto

    Does anyone have trouble switching between tenor and alto? We memorize the pitches of the notes of the keyboard on one horn, could we then get confused when going to the other horn?

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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    The problem is not confusion over note pitch, but rather adjusting the embouchure to a different mouthpiece and being able to maintain tone quality across horns. When I spend a few days on only one horn, my tone sounds a lot worse when I switch to another. It does come back, but it takes a while (sometimes 2-3 days). The secret is to play them all consistently over time, by including them all in your daily practice.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member stormott77's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    the transposing issue becomes second nature if you do it enough.
    Phil Barone Classic Tenor w Phil tone equinox and isotope A Cannonball BB GS w JJ DV 8
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Quote Originally Posted by stormott77 View Post
    the transposing issue becomes second nature if you do it enough.
    Yeah, I guess... I haven't gotten there yet, though.
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  5. #5
    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    I've found that my tone sucks just as much on one horn as another.
    Sound guy theory of relativity: E=mc^2 (+or- 3dB)
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    "Free jazz is the vegemite of the musical world. It's an acquired taste."-J. Jacques

  6. #6
    Distinguished SOTW Member mascio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    i find my self in the same situation as Hakukani.
    When i was young i switched back and forth a lot and became some what used to it, but i never do it any more. My alto, clarinet, and flute are buried away in the closet. i had both of the above mentioned problems, it threw my ear off momentarily, and my embouchure felt weird. Like anything else if we practice it everyday it gets better. To be a doubler i think you need to practice your doubles every day and you need to practice switching from one horn to another quickly. The good doublers i know all practice that skill.
    Swing hard Daddy-O

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    Forum Contributor 2014 skeller047's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Having played shows in Reno and Lake Tahoe for a living, I will echo what Mascio says - you HAVE to play your doubles every day to keep up your tonal concept / embouchure relationship.

    Regarding transposing, again long months and years of doing it over and over will drive it into the thickest of skulls (I am a good example ...)

    However, I would say that if you have trouble figuring stuff out on one horn more than the other, that you need to put some time in transposing to lots of different keys - don't think of "what note is this in concert pitch (keyboard)" but rather "what note is this relative to the key I'm in". Learn to play the same melody on both horns, in multiple keys. That's the only way it will become easier.

    If you're not very good at self motivation, get some gigs with some singers who have a limited (or unusual) range - they will always throw you off by singing tunes you know in different keys. Like the guy who did Stella in E...
    Steve Keller

  8. #8
    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    ...or playing with the keyboard player that transposes electronically. You look at the keys, thinking you've figured out the key, and WHAM, you find out he's taken the keys up a step...
    Sound guy theory of relativity: E=mc^2 (+or- 3dB)
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    "Free jazz is the vegemite of the musical world. It's an acquired taste."-J. Jacques

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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    ...or playing with the keyboard player that transposes electronically. You look at the keys, thinking you've figured out the key, and WHAM, you find out he's taken the keys up a step...
    Yeah, I've had to explain that when I play keyboard in a jam. Don't look at my hands because I'm transposed. I always look at the guitar player's hand, or the bass if it's a bass guitar. If it's string bass and there's no guitar, then I have to use my ear -- play a note, then move up or down a half step to make it right.
    The Martin "Official Music Man" tenor, Barone black tenor, The Martin baritone, Richards Martin Indiana alto, cheap Chinese soprano, Metalite mouthpieces, Plasticover reeds, Nord Electro 2, bunch of other instruments
    Wall Of Blues, youtube video, P-Town All-Stars, get Rich, Cannons (my band in the 60's) and Cannons record

  10. #10
    More horns than I'm worthy of . . . Mick Stuppguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    ...or playing with the keyboard player that transposes electronically. You look at the keys, thinking you've figured out the key, and WHAM, you find out he's taken the keys up a step...
    Our singer was running out of voice once and decided to take a song down a full tone. I was feeling lazy and tired so I just hit the transpose function and fingered it like I always do. But then we went right into the next song in it's normal key, and guess who forgot to cancel the transpose function.

    If looks could kill (or withhold your take from the night.)

    So now the transpose stays off unless it's a dire emergency.
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    Mind frequently on vacation, mouth usually working overtime.

  11. #11
    SOTW Administrator SAXISMYAXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    My response might be attributable to blissful ignorance rather than mastery, however I don't find my tone degrades much at all between alto and tenor. I consider myself quite the chameleon between these two voices, although I'm primarily a tenorman.

    Allowing myself to become the least bit rusty on soprano, baritone and bass, now that is another story.
    Mike S.
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  12. #12

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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    As a doubler, I find switching back and forth not to be problematic. I suck at both equally. I don't seem to find transposition too difficult, but when it comes to improv, I find I "hear" better with the Alto (which I started with) but I like my sound better with the Tenor. I wish that could be reconcilled, but there seems to be more Tenor work (or parts) than alto. So be it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Quote Originally Posted by Mick Stuppguy View Post
    Our singer was running out of voice once and decided to take a song down a full tone. I was feeling lazy and tired so I just hit the transpose function and fingered it like I always do. But then we went right into the next song in it's normal key, and guess who forgot to cancel the transpose function.

    If looks could kill (or withhold your take from the night.)

    So now the transpose stays off unless it's a dire emergency.
    We do Ray Charles' "Hard Times" in Eb. I transpose in into C just because I can get fancy with the chordal movement and solos. So I tap the transpose up 3 taps. The thing is, I start the song out with solo chording behind the singer. Yes, one time I tapped the transpose 4 times to put me in E. The other guys were looking at me funny. When they all came in, it took a couple of bars to figure out what was wrong -- and what they had been yelling at me all through the first chorus. I still transpose ... but I always check my work before I start playing.
    The Martin "Official Music Man" tenor, Barone black tenor, The Martin baritone, Richards Martin Indiana alto, cheap Chinese soprano, Metalite mouthpieces, Plasticover reeds, Nord Electro 2, bunch of other instruments
    Wall Of Blues, youtube video, P-Town All-Stars, get Rich, Cannons (my band in the 60's) and Cannons record

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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    ...or playing with the keyboard player that transposes electronically. You look at the keys, thinking you've figured out the key, and WHAM, you find out he's taken the keys up a step...
    I once played with a guy and found out that he played everything in C, he just used the electronic transposition to pretend that he was playing in different keys. It was ridiculous .
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  15. #15

    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    I double between tenor as my primary, and alto (working on the clarinet right now, and planning on a sop sax in the near futur). I have never had any real issues with switching around. My tuning on the alto sucks, but I'm blaming the sax, since it leaks like a sive, and 2 other friends that play sax have had severe issues keeping it in tune. Can't wait to get the new alto in to the shop for an overhaul so I can start. (just got a nice vintage selmer)

  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching between tenor and alto

    There's no substitute for banging on things - but I think it helps to feel where each horn has its most characteristic and accepted tone. It's at different places on the range. I feel the alto has its most characteristic tone in the 2nd octave - D2 and up - whereas with the tenor it's a good bit lower down - say E1 to A2.

    Now the challenge becomes: How can I bring the characteristics I hear in that note range to the whole range of the horn? Otherwise altos will tend to sound muddy below their characteristic range, and tenors wheezy or reedy above it.
    Jazz = a man with a $5,000 horn driving a $500 car to a $50 gig.
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