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Thread: WOW- i sound REALLY bad on tenor!!!

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    somerset pensylvania

    Default WOW- i sound REALLY bad on tenor!!!

    I've been playing alto sax for a little over 5 years (YAS-21, Larry Teal mpc., Vandoren Java #3 reeds). Last year I switched to playing tenor at school (YTS-23, Hite Premiere mpc., Vandoren Java #3 reeds-all provided by the school except for the reeds). This is the first year that I am old enough to try out for district band, so i've been working like crazy on my solos(alto&tenor). I play the tenor only at school, and i rarely bring it home, mostly because it's very inconvenient. The tenor sax is pretty old, and i've bugging my director to get it fixed for months, because i couldn't play low B, Bb, or C# at all. The result of all that is that i've been practicing BOTH solos primarily on alto sax. Yesterday i got my tenor back, and while i can finally play all the notes, it still sounds like crap. I brought it home for the weekend to work on my solo, and i just played it, and was absolutely shocked. It sounded SOOOO bad I could hardly believe it. I've just recently been really finding a good tone on my alto, and it was a huge shock to hear myself play that terribly on the tenor. My director is presuring me into playing tenor for all the auditions and county band, and i honestly don't want to at all, because it sounds that bad. I'm embarrassed to even have people hear me play it.

    I've been suspecting for awhile that the mouthpiece leaves much to be desired, but it's hard to tell, because i've never played another one. What could my problem be, and how should i go about fixing it. I don't really have the funds to buy a really good tenor sax mpc., having just bought a new alto one. Could it be something else? Please help me!!!!


  2. #2
    Forum Contributor 2011
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    Nefertiti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    New Hampshire


    The problem is........... you need to practice the tenor.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Adelaide, Australia


    Nefertitis right, I was in the same boat as you a little while ago, except with bari. It wasn't til I started lugging the beast home on weekends (on the bus!) and gave up my lunch times to practice it that I improved a lot. If you don't think you can get the tenor home, even for weekends (although I can't see how it would be that big a problem) at least take the mouthpiece home so you can do mouthpiece exercises.
    Sincerely, your local Lame Alto Busker

  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member Jerry K.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    San Diego, California


    Tenor is a different beast and the mouthpiece is important as well with regard to your tone. I remember a few years ago when I decided to start playing tenor after playing alto for several years. I went to a couple music stores and played everything they had. I universally sounded like crap on all of them!!! It wasn't until I actually got a horn home and played it for a solid week, an hour or so a day, that I started to sound good. One thing I noticed is that you need to really relax your embouchure as compared to the alto. Good luck.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Mississauga, Ontario, Canada


    After playing an alto for five years, my school music teacher bought temporary rights to a musical called "The Pajama Game".

    Although there are parts for the alto, collectively, they probably make up a bit less than 20 bars,

    So, I was thrown into the tenor pit, and assigned a Vito. From the start, I was shocked by how awful I sounded on the tenor. I couldn't play more than three notes on a standard scale.

    I had to learn most of the songs to performance level in two weeks,

    Turns out that by the end of the two weeks, I did it, and achieved an adequate sound for the performance.

    I switched back to alto, and I had consequently found that my tone had improved. However, that might only be because my tone was so bad on tenor... (Also helps to have a fellow Tenor Sax player who played the alto exclusively as well.)
    Jupiter 869SG Artist Series Alto Sax
    "We don’t hide behind nicknames, and will reply to every message that doesn’t question our parentage or sexuality." - Universal Edition, Vienna

  6. #6

    Default I feel ure pain

    yeh i play tenor and soprano and clarinet but i sound like somebody screaming after they stapled their tongue to the wall on alto

    maybe ure just natural on some instruments, and tenor aint ure thing

    try a bari, they usually go together well with alto

    the world needs more decent bari players anyways

  7. #7


    I had this problem with my tenor but this happened after I switched from alto a few years back, when I got my tenor sax I played it solidly for a while and my tone on the tenor improved, I then played my alto and found it alot easier to play and naturally my tone on the alto had improved as well. I became entrapped by the alto and played it instead of my tenor for ages, my tenor became frightfully neglected and when I picked it up again I and the tenor sounded awful together, I practised loads thinking it would get better and it didnt so as a last resort I sent it off to get serviced and when it came back it played better as the inside of the ligature had become damaged and the mouth peice was also damage or something was wrong with it, the service person gave me a list and told me to examine them and clean them and also use them both regularly. Anyway the point of the story was that if you think it could be something wrong with the sax get it serviced.

    Or alternativly you may be a bit to up tight when playing the tenor as you have realised you sound awful (which is never nice for a musician, try confronting the problem with a more relaxed attitude and practice an hour or more a day and within a couple of weeks in theory it should of improved.

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