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Thread: Switching from alto to tenor - best way to proceed?

  1. #1

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    Default Switching from alto to tenor - best way to proceed?

    After playing 5 years the alto (SX90R) I purchased a tenor (Reference 54).
    Tenor is a bit different. Some notes are easier to attack, some of them are more difficult. Palm keys are easier on tenor, but G2 is much more difficult. Mostly I get a little gurgle hitting G2. Sometimes not. A problem that I never had on alto, there was sometimes a little gurgle on D2, problem solved with embochure and air support. Is it the same with G2 in tenor?
    Do you have any hints, tips or tricks to speed up the switching, to get a good sound on tenor? I like my sound on alto but it took me a long time to get it. How long does it take on tenor if you play the alto reasonable?
    Practicing 1h per day.
    Please share your experience, tips, ...
    Thank you.

    Markus

  2. #2

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    I think we've been here before. You may want to do a search for this sort of topic before. My own experience is that tenor became my main horn about 3 years ago having previously played alto for 11 years. The best way of describing the experience from my perspective is that I found that I could 'impose' my sound on the alto. When I started on tenor I tried to play it like a large alto. That doesn't work. The tenor has a different harmonic make up to it's sound - you will need to give yourself time to find all those nice harmonic layers to the sound. Generally I would say to not tuck your bottom lip in too much - keep it a bit looser and let the horn do the work - if you try to force it you will end up sounding thin and unpleasant. It took me about a year before I started to find my voice on tenor - and I had a pretty well developed tone on alto when I started.
    The G2 thing on tenor is the same issue as D2 on alto - you just gotta work at it.
    Most importantly - get some recordings of good tenor players and listen listen listen
    Hope this helps.
    Dentarthurdent, International man of mystery.
    "To do is to be" (Socrates)
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  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Columnist / Forum Contributor 2008 Hurling Frootmig's Avatar
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    When I made the switch I found that at first I needed to play on pretty closed mouthpieces and every couple of months was able to move up to something a little more open. Playing tenor takes a different airstream (quicker) to get fast response.

    The other thing you can do is lots of long tones.
    "We'd all play like Stan (Getz) if we could" - John Coltrane

    ~~~~~~~~
    The Woodwind Forum

  4. #4
    Musician and Composer saxchado's Avatar
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    I second what has been said before, but note that I made the opposite switch, from Tenor to alto. THE asolute most important thing to remember is that a tenor is not a large alto, but like Dentarthurdent said, it has it's own color spectrum, and it's own sound. The best thing to do is start slow--don't try to run before you can walk in your new feet! Do lots of listening and transcribing, and don't forget the all-important long tones, for that is where your tone is truly refined. Nobody ever gets a sweet, deep tone practicing nothing but sixteenth notes. From Alto to Tenor and vice-versa is absolutely the hardest switch to make among the saxophones because the biggest differences are the little tiny things that are so difficult to perfect.

    Good luck!
    Beware of sticky keys. --Chad

  5. #5

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    Default mouthpiece pitch

    I suggest checking your mouthpiece pitches.

    Use a tuner and find out what pitch you naturally play on your alto mouthpiece. (Hopefully it is right on or within a halfstep above or below A=880.) After that play your tenor mouthpiece. It should be near a concert G.

    Get a clean steady tone doing that then let the horn amplify it...then voila, you've just switched instruments!

    (These mouthpiece pitches could be extremely different if you are playing a lot of jazz...especially if you are transcribing a lot of Kenny Garrett.)

    Best wishes,
    Quentin

  6. #6

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    Thank you for your help. Longtones are part of my daily practice routine. MPC pitch on alto is A, on tenor near G - is o.k.

    Markus

  7. #7

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    G2 gurgling problem is solved. I switched to ZZ reads and practiced to attack G2. Some days later the problem has vanished.
    Thank you again.

    Markus

  8. #8

    Default I just feel the difference and play

    I started many yrs ago and stop for many yrs. Now I'm back playing alto and tenor. I know the mouth piece, reeds and embro are important, but man I just feel each horn and the mood and play. I believe in the technical stuff, but I just play and let the horn bring out the mood and the sound.

    ssgtjohn

  9. #9

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    Hey Markus,
    The best way to go is to just do it. Listen to some of the greats, like Coltrane, and go for it. It takes some practice, but it is just some tweaking a few things here and there.
    -barimann

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