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Thread: Help me decide: Dream tenor, or stay w/ alto???

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    Question Help me decide: Dream tenor, or stay w/ alto???

    First of all let me make it clear that I have always been an alto player and that was what I'd always thought I'd be. I've been borrowing a Selmer Series I alto and trying unsuccessfully to find a new one, but although I've tried many, many altos, I have not found one I'm 100% satisfied with. After playing about 10 or so tenors (which originally was just for fun), I have found THE perfect sax. This horn is way better than anything I've EVER played. It plays amazingly from top to bottom, the altissimo just pops out, and the tone is to die for. I swear, if it was possible to be in love with a sax, this one would be it.

    This horn belongs to a friend of mine who is planning on selling this tenor, but not till the end of the summer. I've spent a week with the tenor now so I know that's not how I felt just one time. I also have until the end of August with the Series I alto before it must be returned. The problem is that I have finally saved enough money for a new sax (which I'd been planning for a LONG time to be an alto) but if I buy this tenor (it's a good price) then I can't get an alto, because there won't be enough $$ left over for an alto. And since I have to give the Series I back, I'll be without an alto if I buy the tenor. But if I don't buy this tenor, I'll be losing out on a TOTALLY AWESOME sax.

    I also have to say that I've always played alto in bands and other groups, and although I've gigged a few times on 2nd tenor, I've basically had no experience playing tenor, whereas I've become a pretty decent alto player. Could I become a tenor player instead? I don't really know, and I've never really thought about seriously playing another kind of sax until now.

    So what would you do? Would you give up your dreams of playing alto because you find your 'soul mate' sax, (for lack of a better word) even if it's not the kind of sax you've always wanted? Or would you pass up the opportunity to get this truly amazing tenor to keep working towards your goals to be a good altoist? Would you be able to switch from one sax to another just because of one horn you felt was "the one"? Or do you think that with time you could find that magical feeling with an alto if you kept looking?

    I apologize if this is too long of a post, but I just don't know what do do, and I don't want to regret whatever choice I end up making.
    "The beauty of jazz is that you're free to do just what you feel." -John Coltrane

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    I think it's important to find your voice on the sax. For some it's alto, other it's tenor, or maybe even soprano. I had bought one of the most beautiful tenors, IMO and ended up trading it for a nice alto. I wish that I could play the tenor and I wish I sounded the best on it, and it's by far my favorite horn to listen to, but truth is my voice on the sax is on soprano and alto. There is a chemistry, if you will when I play those 2. It feels good being able to concentrate on my sound on those horns for now and maybe one day I will pick the tenor back up, but I will establish my voice and playing on my primary horns first. And the horns I feel I play the best will be the best horns I own. I would tell you to be honest with yourself and go for what makes you the happiest. Think about your future goals, continue on the search for the perfect alto and maybe wait for the day you can buy another tenor to compliment your alto. But, don't throw all those years away on the alto. But I will tell you what someone else told me, "Follow your heart" as corny and as cheesy as it may sound.
    Hope it helps!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzy saxxer 4
    ..... I have found THE perfect sax. This horn is way better than anything I've EVER played. It plays amazingly from top to bottom, the altissimo just pops out, and the tone is to die for. I swear, if it was possible to be in love with a sax, this one would be it.
    What more needs to be said? If you read what you wrote here, it would seem that you know what you should do. Go for it!

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Saxland's Avatar
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    Default Alto or tenor

    I could never play tenor properly, I always sounded flat and dull. Then I found out that I needed to have some dental work to align the jaw. Now the alto sounds better than ever. I'm really happy. I even sold my Mark Vi alto of 18 years because I found a vintage alto that smoked it after the dental work.

    BUT.......

    I bought a tenor because it was easier to play while my jaw did some shifting with my teeth. Now I am a better tenor player and am fighting it. The tenor I bought is everything I have always wanted from a sax and myself. I'm scratching my head over this one. I have realised that I was suited for alto when I started playing. As I grew the tenor should have felt more natural, but did not until the dental work allowed that to be evident.

    The conflict I experience, is only when I am not playing either horn. I love playing the alto and its home, but damn I sound better on tenor. Its not just me hearing this. With all the doubting I have, noone but me seems to really care if I play alto or tenor. It is with supreme satisfaction that I am playing tenor better than I ever even considered possible.

    If I were you I would buy the tenor, you can always sell it if it does not work out. This is where you find yourself at the moment. It is a whole new world and a new opportunity to learn.
    Last edited by Saxland; 05-19-2006 at 03:30 AM.
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    Question for you...When you listen to music (without your sax) do you hear yourself improvising on the highs or the lows of the tunes?

    As much as I want to play alto and soprano, they're just not the voice I hear myself playing. I'm a much better tenor and bari player. My real voice is baritone. I tend to hear myself improvising better on tenor/bari.

    So, what do you hear yourself playing in your head? Go with your natural voice.

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    Buy the tenor. Amazing horns like that might only come once or twice in a lifetime. Since you won't be spending more money than you've saved for the alto, you can keep what you've saved and buy an alto later.

    Or, you might come to love the tenor too much to spend the money on an alto.
    "I don't like work- no man does. But I like what's in the work- the chance to find yourself."
    -Joseph Conrad

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    You're going to need both , as well as, soprano and bari IF you really want to work and gig. (and flute and clarinet and anything else you can play) So if this IS the dream tenor- BUY IT. Whatever is left - get a decent alto - YAS23 or something else that works and start saving money for an PRO alto.

    90% of my playing is in a horn band where I play tenor. So if you're looking for wedding/commercial stuff - Tenor is way to go. I know everyone talks about finding YOUR voice BUT it's important to be flexible and ready to play any of the saxes. If you WANT to work.

  8. #8

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    Whatever you do, please don't leave us hanging... let us know your thoughts and what you plan to do.

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    Thanks for all your advice--I'm glad you guys all understand. I haven't decided yet, as I really don't think this is an overnight decision for me. My friend told me I pretty much can borrow it for as long as I want until he sells it at the end of this summer, so at least for a while I can play both.

    I've thought about what my voice is on the sax, and I have to say it's the alto. When I improv I like to play high and really scream. But when I listen to jazz there is nothing I dig more than those tenor solos. Just wondering, is it possible for your voice to change, or to have more than 1 voice?

    Also, I've just recently been getting more gigs on tenor. A guy I knows has heard me play both and all the gigs he's been getting me are on tenor. He's even offered to let me borrow his VI, so obviously he doesn't think I'm that bad on tenor. ...but now with this tenor, you can guess what I'm bringing to the gigs...(This sax is better than any VI I've played!!!)

    RIGHT NOW I'm sort of leaning towards the tenor, but if you knew me you'd also know that I have a really hard time making up my mind about important things like this. I know this is going to be a cheesy metaphor, but it's kind of like how they say when you fall in love you forget everything else. I just don't want to get so carried away by this tenor that I forget about the alto, which has been my focus practically forever.

    Thanks! I really appreciate your replies.
    "The beauty of jazz is that you're free to do just what you feel." -John Coltrane

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzy saxxer 4
    or to have more than 1 voice?
    Well that's apparent in your case . BTW what kind of tenor is it you are playing on? I don't think you can go wrong with either decision you make. Whatever you do, just save to by the other horn at a later time so you can be able to play both whenever you desire.

  11. #11

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    Did I miss something? So what kind of tenor is this magical horn of your friend's? A Selmer SA80 Series I?

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    Sorry for the confusion...the alto I'm using is a SA80 series I (I had been saving to get a better one because the series I drives me nuts sometimes and it's not mine--that's why I need a new alto) and the tenor is a Yamaha Custom Z. It sounds weird, but I did not like the alto versions of it that much. And I know that the Z's are supposed to be pretty identical to each other, but I really like the way this one is set up and adjusted. Especially weird since I've always preferred vintage horns over new. The first time I played this tenor I was a little skeptical of it because I like vintage and I like Selmers, and this was neither...but so much better! It made me understand why my friend was going on and on about what an awesome sax it was when they bought the tenor.
    "The beauty of jazz is that you're free to do just what you feel." -John Coltrane

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Dr G's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzy saxxer 4
    I've thought about what my voice is on the sax, and I have to say it's the alto. When I improv I like to play high and really scream. But when I listen to jazz there is nothing I dig more than those tenor solos. Just wondering, is it possible for your voice to change, or to have more than 1 voice?
    Quote Originally Posted by Jbroad572
    I think it's important to find your voice on the sax. For some it's alto, other it's tenor, or maybe even soprano. I had bought one of the most beautiful tenors, IMO and ended up trading it for a nice alto. I wish that I could play the tenor and I wish I sounded the best on it, and it's by far my favorite horn to listen to, but truth is my voice on the sax is on soprano and alto.
    I think Joel summed it nicely - recognize that your personal voice may not necessarily what you prefer to listen to from others. I love to listen to Miles Davis, Dave Holland, and Jim Hall but should I try to chase after all their voices to call my own as well? No. Find your own voice and be happy that it is NOT the same as everything you hear.

    You talk of "playing alto all my life" and "this is like love"... How old are you? When you speak of equating this recent tenor infatuation and relationships, I immediately think that you are talking highschool-type dating - it seems like it is the center of the universe at the time but in 20 years, it'll just be another experience with driving your first car.

    I'm really proud of how much Joel has thought about this very same subject and come to some really sound conclusions. I wish I had been able to do the same 30 years earlier.

    Find your own voice and develop that before you start chasing everything else.
    Go for The Tone,

    g



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  14. #14

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    Hi.

    You might consider another option, which is to have both an Alto and a Tenor.

    It might be worth inquiring with your local music store about special offers and financing that you qualify for. For example, the WWBW has a cool "Play now, pay later" offer that I took advantage of.

    After careful consideration, if you decide to buy this Tenor, you may also be able buy an Alto on a payment plan with a small deposit. Until you find an Alto that you can love as much or more than this Tenor, you can keep saving and keep searching.

    I'm finding that playing my new Tenor is really helping me develop better technique, which is applying to my Alto playing, and taking it to a higher level.
    Kind Regards,
    DJ TJ

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    I have to say "ditto" to what DJ TJ has said. Why not have both an alto AND a tenor? I started on alto in elementary school 38 years ago, then picked tenor for jazz band work in junior high and have been playing both ever since. I have always thought of myself as a classical alto player and a jazz tenor player, primarily as those are the opportunities I have had over the years. Have played both of them a lot.

    A few months ago I almost sold my Mark VI tenor to have money to by a top-of-the-line soprano. But now I'm playing the tenor a lot. And now the Mark VI will be in my will to someone.

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    I would love to have an alto and tenor, but right now that's just not very reasonable. I graduated high school and will be going off to college this fall, and I have to pay for college by myself. I wish I could just buy the tenor and arrange a payment plan for an alto, but when I go to college (1 and a half hours away) I will have to leave my current job (which pays great!), and I don't know where or how often I'll be working while in college. What I'm saying is that it might be hard for me to keep up with payments on the alto if I don't know how much money I'll be making while there.

    Another thing... I don't know whether the college jazz band will need me to play alto or tenor, and I have to audition to get into the jazz band. If I play tenor, I don't know if I can get my tenor skills to the level of my alto playing by the time auditions come in August. I know the college will probably have an alto for me to use while I'm there. However, because I don't have a sax of my own (yet) I've been using school horns or borrowing saxes. In the past two years alone, I've jumped from one alto to another 9 times and I just want a horn to call my own.

    Thanks so much--you're all really helping me think things over.
    "The beauty of jazz is that you're free to do just what you feel." -John Coltrane

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Dr G's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzy saxxer 4
    I would love to have an alto and tenor, but right now that's just not very reasonable. I graduated high school and will be going off to college this fall, and I have to pay for college by myself. I wish I could just buy the tenor and arrange a payment plan for an alto, but when I go to college (1 and a half hours away) I will have to leave my current job (which pays great!), and I don't know where or how often I'll be working while in college. What I'm saying is that it might be hard for me to keep up with payments on the alto if I don't know how much money I'll be making while there.
    Good call. You'll have enough worries without adding even greater financial burdens.

    Are you majoring in music? If not, keep sight of your goals and let your music sustain you. I am sensitive to this issue because I first attended UT as an engineering major on a full-ride music scholarship. I lasted almost 2 years then burned out due to the overwhelming load of obligations I had heaped on myself.

    If you don't make jazz band the first year, it may be a blessing - again, assuming you are not a jazz performance major. The first year of college can be really tough. You'll need to develop a whole new set of coping skills and study habits. You'll be all the more better prepared to join the jazz band the next year and have a higher probability of academic success for the remainder of your college years.

    G'luck!
    Go for The Tone,

    g



    As a veteran for peace, I am already against the next war.

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    Yep, I'm a music major--music education in fact. I got a half-ride scholarship based on oboe (I bought my brand new Loree a little over a year ago). To keep my scholarship I need to maintain a 3.0 GPA though, so thanks for the advice Dr. G. Am I crazy for trying to be in the jazz band? I hope not because it's something I really enjoy and I'd like to at least try it. Now I just need to decide which axe I'll be playing this fall...

    BTW I get to play the tenor in a gig on Sunday At least I can enjoy it for a while if I end up not buying the tenor.
    "The beauty of jazz is that you're free to do just what you feel." -John Coltrane

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Martinman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RCNELSON
    And now the Mark VI will be in my will to someone.
    Can I have it?

    Just kidding

    Any way, I was in an almost similar situation. I played alto in elementary school, and part of middle school, then switched to bari. I loved bari so much, but had to give it up in high school, since I didn't do marching band. even when I didn't play bari, I considered myself a bari player. I wanted a bari so bad, but my parents couldn't afford to buy me one. I ended up going back to alto, and thinking that I would eventually my senior year be first alto in jazz band. Then came the tenor. I had to play tenor to get in jazz band, and I hated it. My parents bought me a Martin off of ebay. I wanted to play alto so bad. My tenor sound was crap, and I almost traded my horn in to try to get a Yamah 62 (I am soooo glad I didn't do that), but then I got a new mouthpiece, and started taking lessons. My sound got huge, and I loved it. I now consider myself primarily a tenor player, and love my horn more than even the bari. So I guess the moral of the story is, buy the horn you love, even if you don't consider it your primary horn. It may become it.

    Anyway, I hope you make the right choice.
    "Martin owners just change the freakin' bulb and get the job done." - MartinMusicMan

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    Go for it, nothing like saxophone "diversity".
    It's only cool until Kenny G does it.

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