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Thread: Thinking of switching from tenor to alto, need some advice

  1. #1

    Default Thinking of switching from tenor to alto, need some advice

    Hi guys,
    I'm a high school sophomore currently playing in the marching/concert band with a Tenor sax. Due to schedule complications, I was not able to play in the band last year, and the year before that (8th grade) the only music played was various short pieces from a Standards of Exellence book, where everyone had the same part. That last bit is kind of important... before this year, I honestly didn't know how a band was composed. That is, I didn't know that trumpets, flutes, and clarinets would always have the melody, alto saxes would have the counter-melody, and bari saxes would fill out the low brass, which, of course, played the bass line. I omitted the tenor sax because it seems to be in a category all of its own: something I like to call the never-never land between the bass and the countermelody... it's sort of both, but really, it's neither. It rarely has the counter melody and only occasionally has the full bass line. In one song we recently played, the tenor sax part was made up of whole notes, followed by what appeared to be random, spastic notes. Something to the effect of "dah, pause, dah dah, pause pause pause, dee dah dee... etc etc ad nauseum."

    This is the band as I have come to understand it. My question is this: is my assesement pretty much correct? Will trumpets always have the melody and altos have the counter-melody? Is the tenor really stuck in never never land?

    I truly enjoy the sound made by both instruments, but I really don't like never-never land. So, is it safe to say that tenors will never have the "fun" part? Should I switch?
    Hope my questions came out semi-coherent. Gah.

    Thanks,
    Tadd

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member groovesax's Avatar
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    If your talking strictly marching band here, and I assume you are based on your assessment, then your sort of on the right track here. But, then again, very few of us join a marching for the purpose of fulfilling our musical aspirations. The tenor parts will get a little more interesting in a concert band, and more interesting still in a jazz band. In the long run, pick the instrument that expresses the voice you want to depict. I might suggest listening to a few masters on either instrument and then make the decision. I'm afraid I can't offer much advice on classical saxophonists to listen to, but if you want to get examples of jazz sax players - alto - Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Hank Crawford and Jonny Hodges; on Tenor check out - Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon or Zoot Simms to name a few.

  3. #3
    Researcher, Teacher and Horn Revitalizer
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    You may want to talk to your music director to get his input. Maybe he'll select a couple more interesting pieces for you on tenor.

  4. #4

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    I know from expierence, as an alto player and tenor player myself, that the tenors to occasionaly get the never-neverland parts, but honestly it depends on the composer. For marching band this year I played tenor because it has the bassline parts such as the baseline in the Ozzy Ozborn song "Crazy Train" so there are songs out there where the tenor get some glory. Also in cocnert band it does alot of harmonizing and such, but mainly it depends on the composer.
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  5. #5
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    And then there are the lazy arrangers who just use tenor to double the bass clarinet. It's a thrill to encounter low G while playing tenor.

  6. #6

    Default Horns too!

    My wife says you all forgot the French Horns. They are usually in never neverland and when they do have a decent part, the altos double the part. I have played tenor for many years but about a year ago I started playing alto too. For awhile I think my embouchure suffered, but now it is stronger than before.

  7. #7

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    Maybe if cost or opportunity are no object -- why not play alto in Concert Band, and alto/tenor/bari in Jazz Band? You are right about the distribution of the "workload" in the score -- flutes/clarinets/trumpets will always do the heavy lifting (melody), and everybody else is bass, "color", or percussion. That's just the way it is, nobody is trying to cut you out of your fair share of interesting parts! I did not start saxophone back in my school days to march or play in Concert Band, but for Jazz Band. I got to play a lot of tenor solos. I played clarinet in C.B.

  8. #8
    altosaxguy1's Avatar
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    thats not really true in my band, tenors have the melody just as much as everyother instrument. So I would just hang in there.

  9. #9
    Forum Contributor 2007 jacobeid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by backlash
    I know from expierence, as an alto player and tenor player myself, that the tenors to occasionaly get the never-neverland parts, but honestly it depends on the composer. For marching band this year I played tenor because it has the bassline parts such as the baseline in the Ozzy Ozborn song "Crazy Train" so there are songs out there where the tenor get some glory. Also in cocnert band it does alot of harmonizing and such, but mainly it depends on the composer.
    I see you are in Ohio. I know we played against a football team whos band played crazy train. Did you guys happen to come to Dublin Coffman this year? Were you the purple band (I forget where they were from) by any chance?

  10. #10

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    My experience weirdly mirrors yours. I am a HS soph who's not in band this year (scheduling complications) and who recently took up the alto again. Tenor gets some sweet parts in jazz pieces, but I'll tell you this, not a bad idea to pick up the alto again. You'll suck for a couple of days, but it'll come to you. Your tenor and alto playing will improve, and you'll be more versatile.

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