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  1. #1

    Default Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Hello,

    I used to practice alto sax like a maniac long time ago. Then I quitted for a long time due to my personal problems. Nowadays, I decided to come back to blow in but the thing is I hear Tenor Sax in my blood rather than Alto. I am kind of confused about it because I never played Tenor before and now I would like to buy a Tenor Sax to begin with.

    Does it take more air to blow into a Tenor Sax than an Alto?

    And what are the major playing differences between Alto And Tenor? I know the size matters so practicing a Tenor harder than an Alto in order to blow your *** off into the horn?

    Also, I am 1 meter and 68 centimeters height so handling a Tenor and blowing into it might be difficult than Alto size-wise?

    Thank you in advance for the answers. I really need them before deciding to purchase an Alto or Tenor.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Tenor is a easier blow and requires a more relaxed embouchure than alto. My 12 year old started tenor at age 10 in spring of 4th grade. A Keilwerth SX-90(I know she's lucky). She did great. Tenor is her favorite sax. Only problem she had in 4th grade was reaching the low C key and the low notes on the left pinky. If you like tenor and that's what you hear go for it!!! I have a tenor(and a soprano too) but I prefer the Eb saxes the nino,alto and baritone. And guess what??? I play the Ebers better. Go w/ your heart. If you hear the tenor it will reflect in your playing!!!
    It's great when your kids play sax!!!!More and more Saxophones!!!!All types and manufacturers!!!!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I play both so I'll give you my humble opinion...Well....A lot of players find the Tenor easier to play in tune but keep in mind that the lower sound helps....I mean, as pitch goes down the ear is not as ...umm... "picky" about tuning (generally speaking).

    A Bass player hitting a Low E can be 10-15 cents off and if he's performing in a band, you'll not notice it NEAR as much as an Alto being 10 cents off...just the way the ear works.

    And it boils down to what you are used to ....shoot, I just Bought a Jupiter XO model and the first 10 minutes of playing the horn, I was not Completely happy (compared to my "The Martin")
    After an hour though, I LOVE the XO...Plays in tune better than any horn I've ever played....and has a lower end that's awesome plus the Highs ....above High F are VERY pure and easy to hit....went to an octave above the horn with no problem

    So...in short...you can get used to playing almost anything...and I'll echo what SYCC says:
    Go with your heart.

  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member Saxland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Height is not a problem. You are 5 foot 5 by my calculation. If the weight of the tenor is a bit much around the neck you can use a harness.

    http://www.studiospace.com/rcsq/harness.htm

    There are free blowing mouthpieces out there, Morgan and Jody Jazz hard rubber come to mind. Lung capacity can be built up by playing long tones and exercise.

    If you hear tenor go for it.
    http://www.smallsjazzclub.com
    CANADA'S National Jazz Radio Station is www.Jazz.FM

  5. #5

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    My results have been the opposite of what Blue Tone described. Even though I have been playing the tenor for years, I still do not have the breath support and control to say, subtone an entire tune as smoothly and effortlessly as Coleman Hawkins often did, especially when you're talking the low C. It's just tough to subtone that note sometimes without getting a clean note instead.

    Then on the alto which I just picked up recently (quite easily I was surprised to find; I already have a killer tone ), I find it harder to hit the highest notes than on the tenor, and that it requires a firmer embouchere.

    So I guess that's it for me: Lowest notes harder to control on the tenor, highest notes harder on the alto....

  6. #6
    Distinguished SOTW Member. notes_norton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I play (or have played) soprano, alto, tenor, and bari. I only own alto and tenor now.

    Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    In a word, NO.

    There are some things that are easier to do on tenor, and others on alto, but they are minor and probably depend more on the brand/make of saxes and mouthpieces than anything else.

    I found the soprano hardest to play, but then I had a cheap soprano.

    One word of advice. Play them differently. They express themselves in a different manor. Charlie Parker is quoted as saying, "You don't play the sax, you let the sax play you." Find out what each one will do and what they won't do and you will get more enjoyment out of each one.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I play jazz and standards, mostly by ear, not much reading.

    Alto is easier than tenor for me in most respects. It doesn't have that pesky low note problem that the tenor has. I am much more satisfied with my alto tone than with my tenor. The alto's ergos are easier, too, because my hands are in a more comfortable position when playing alto. The horn is lighter, making four hour, standup gigs easier on my bod.

    And alto is never a problem with airline carryon.

    The only negative to alto is that after 50 years of playing C and Bb instruments, I have to really woodshed playing tunes in concert G (alto key of E). I don't hear the changes as readily. "Wave" in concert D (alto B) is really tricky.

    But I much prefer playing tenor. Go figure.

  8. #8
    AntonVonWebern's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I find the low notes (below D1) much easier on Alto and Sop than Tenor, I thought it was because my Tenor is a bit cheap (jupiter 500) but I had it serviced and the low notes do speak but its more of a challenge than the smaller saxes for some reason, interesting to note that others here also think the same more or less (is it to do with the geometry of the air column or something?, or is this all in the 'mind').

    Low notes on Tenor are definitely do-able though, there is a Mel Martin lesson on the Rico site where he goes from low Bb to high F# on the tenor with some ease, as per usual we should just shut up and practice.

  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member Fader's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I'm faster on my alto, but my tenor is "easier" to play somehow - I geuss it just boils down to personal preference.....

  10. #10

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Thank you all for your precious thoughts and insights. I really appreciate them alot.


  11. #11

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Well, it looks like I am not finished yet.



    I have couple of more questions though...

    I know that the number one rule is to purchase the best saxophone you could ever get. But living in a Third-World Country (Turkey), the economical situation I am in is not very good nowadays. I just bought myself a nice mouthpiece and a product called silencer which muffles the sound and I practice it long hours for now .

    The other day, I saw a Tenor that the name of its brand is I have never heard of in a shop here in istanbul and it costs approximately like $500. Thinking of saving a lot of money and buy myself a Keilwerth Tenor will take me at least 2 years by collecting my paychecks. First I thought saving that amount of money and till that time, practicing only with the mouthpiece would take me somewhere stable until I will first take the Keilwerth in my hands. But then I thought buying that particular cheap sax won't do no bad to me economically and it would be a good idea to practice scales also on an actual saxophone till I get the Keilwerth. Until here, everything is good.

    My question is about the intonation. Could it be harder for me to switch from that particular cheap sax to Keilwerth intonation-wise? I also would like to add that I do not think the cheap sax has a bad intonation but there is a chance of it. I could handle the difference of the fingering positions between these two saxes but when it comes to intonation - the bad habits would kill me in the future that I think.

    I know that I am not asking from you to say buy the cheap sax and save your money then buy the Keilwerth later on or maybe the vice versa. You see I am confused on that.

    If you share your precious thoughts about it - I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you all in advance.


  12. #12

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    It will be easier to switch from a cheap sax to a Keilwerth than no sax to a Keilwerth. Might as well having something to practice on for the time being.
    Soprano: Kessler Custom Deluxe Red Brass, JodyJazz DV 7*
    Alto: Selmer Reference 54, JodyJazz DV 7

  13. #13

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I say don't buy the cheap sax but buy something decent (something from a member in this forum maybe) around that price or a little bit more. Buying a cheap, unknown tenor can seem like a good idea at first but then when intonation matters, you will be extremely frustrated.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Thank you for your thoughts about my issue. I appreciate them a lot.


  15. #15
    Distinguished SOTW Member. notes_norton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Intonation can vary greatly from sax to sax, same brand, and even with consecutive serial numbers.

    When I bought my Mark VI and my Grassi, I tried 3 of each with a tuner, and picked the one with the best intonation. The "mode" was the same with the same model, but the range of intonation was markedly different between the saxes of the same brand.

    I have played cheap saxes (Pan American, Bundy, past-their-prime Conn), second tier saxes (Grassi Prestiege, Mark VII) and top of the line saxes (Mark VI, H.Couf Superba, King).

    I now play second-tier saxes only. Why? They are 90% as good as the top-of-the-line horns, cost half as much, and you don't cry as much when they get dinged.

    I find the main difference between second-tier and top-of-the-line saxes is tone and durability. What is good tone anyway? Getz, 'Trane, Dexter, Curtis?

    Get the best you can afford. Play it first making sure the notes are easy to play (I tried a Winston Soprano once that wouldn't play high E), and check out the intonation. If you are happy with that, go for it.

    Playing anything before you get your dream sax will only make you better. And if you can play a cheap horn, a good horn will be a delight when you get it in your hands.

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  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member BlueTrane2028's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    I wouldn't call a Mark VII a "second tier" saxophone. Some of them absolutely KILL, and even the worst of them are easily as good as current Selmer horns.

    Back to the subject at hand.

    Just be careful you don't end up with a SSO (Saxophone Shaped Object) like what happened with Kush. There ARE some decently Chinese made saxophones on the market that you should be able to get for little cash, BUT make sure you go shopping with someone who already plays the sax and knows what they're talking about. Better still, as suggested before, get something from someone in the forum. A good condition Bundy or YTS-23 will get you very far for little cash, and then the upgrade to the Keilwerth you mentioned doesn't have to happen until you're good and ready for it.

    Whatever route you take, I wish you the best of luck.
    Soprano – Olds "Pro SS" | Alto – 1940 King Zephyr | Tenor – 1970 Selmer Mark VI | Bari – YBS-62 | Clarinet – Buffet E-13 | Bachelor of Music – West Chester University

  17. #17

    Default Re: Is Tenor Sax Harder To Play Than Alto?

    Thank you everyone for your insights and thoughts. I really appreciate them a lot.

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