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Alto to Tenor: playing feels easier?

Thierry

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81
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Confignon Switzerland
Played alto (Selmer SA 80 II) once a week (lesson only, slow progress) between 2002 & 2006 before a ectic job forced me to stop. Decided to pick it up again last Easter and manage, when not travelling for my job, to play every day. Proud to say I feel having made more progress in 6 months than where I left back in 2006. So much so that I bought a tenor sax (Selmer Series III) 2 weeks ago and enjoy it so much more, possibly novelty side of it, that I play mostly tenor now.
Is it normal the tenor feels easier to play, bearing in mind on both I play a Soloist D mouthpiece with D'Addario Jazz Select, 3S on tenor & 3M on alto? Shall I go down a notch to 3S on alto? Thoughts welcome guys. Merry Christmas
 

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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Bristol, UK
I started the other way round - first tenor, then bari, then alto. I found the alto much harder to play than tenor at first - the mouthpiece felt so small. Nowadays I am happy with both, but at the moment I think the alto is easier.

I think the only way to know if a 3S reed is better than a 3M on alto is to try. One rule of thumb is that a softer reed makes the bottom notes easier, whereas a harder reed makes the top notes easier.
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
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Breda
I only play tenor and I've only ever had one or two tryouts with alt, sop and bari. I'm sure each mpc size and embrouchure takes getting used to. But my very limited experience is the same as @Targa's: the lower you, go, the looser the embrouchure needs to be in general.

Is this because tenor and bari reeds vibrate at lower frequencies than alt and sop?

I've heard it said that the degree of lip tension Trumpet players are able to maintain determines the highest notes that they can play. 'High Blowers' are especially good at hitting 'high notes' when called for.

Be interested to hear about the experience of people who regularly play multiple saxes.

Mike
Looser embouchure on the tenor makes it easier to play, for me anyway.
 

spike

Old Indian
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2,429
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Half way up a hill
I've been playing 3S on tenor for some time now, but that's too long a story.
On Alto I've always played a 2 reed no matter what make, no matter what mouthpiece and no matter what horn.
I also play a 2 reed on soprano but I've been only playing sop for about 10 years so that doesn't really count.
I've always looked at my horns as completely different instruments consequently I approach playing on each of them in a different way.
I'm always sceptical when it comes to rules of Tom thumb, it may well be that the rules of Roger the ring finger or Felicity the forefinger or even Lily the little finger may better suit your needs.
As @nigeld suggests - try a softer reed.
Over the years that I've been coming to the Caf' there have been so many threads and questions like this - "What shall I do?" and most often there really isn't a one and only one shoe fits all answer.
My personal bottom line is to try 'em out - (but don't mess about) - find the set up that I'm most comfortable with - that suits me best - and stick with it til the eagle grins.
 
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Jazzaferri

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Victoria BC Canada
There can also be quite a difference in sound quality between the softer and harder reeds.

Harder can give breathier or "woodier" (I know its not really a word but...)
 

MrBlueNote

Member
Messages
38
Locality
Portland, Oregon, US
I played alto for about a year before switching to tenor and also found tenor to be more comfortable for some reason. It takes more air, but I felt that my tone was better from the very beginning. I've spent much more time listening to tenor than alto players, so maybe I had a clearer idea of the sound I was going for?
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,738
I started on tenor but I occasionally play alto as well. I've always thought that alto's by far the easier of the two to play but I can't get my head round Eb transpositions. Bb is quite enough for me.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
In general tenor takes more air, less pressure than alto. Changing reed strength on alto? Guess there's no harm in trying, but if you're getting the full range of the sax without problems, it's likely to introduce them. I'd just get used to the different saxes. Doesn't take long. For me the hardest thing is the pitch change
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
The alto embouchure is more demanding than the tenor embouchure---especially for classical playing. The soprano and clarinet are even more so. The tenor can be played with an overly loose embouchure producing a "foofy" sound in the low and middle registers and still be acceptable. On alto or soprano this just produces a "flabby" tone.
 

Thierry

Member
Messages
81
Locality
Confignon Switzerland
The alto embouchure is more demanding than the tenor embouchure---especially for classical playing. The soprano and clarinet are even more so. The tenor can be played with an overly loose embouchure producing a "foofy" sound in the low and middle registers and still be acceptable. On alto or soprano this just produces a "flabby" tone.
Most useful, thanks
 

Moz

Senior Member
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655
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North of Liskeard, Cornwall,UK
I started in 2005 on tenor and got rid of it because it was rubbish, bought a decent alto and played it for a year before moving to tenor. I have tried soprano (yuck) and bari (arthritic fingers don't stretch that far) but my Yani tenor is my love and I will never change now. It is easy to play (bell notes are a bit motorboaty at times). It doesn't sound like a honking goose (alto), skinning a cat -- like the soprano -- and is a damn sight cheaper than a bari.
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
1,141
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SW of London Town
Played alto (Selmer SA 80 II) once a week (lesson only, slow progress) between 2002 & 2006 before a ectic job forced me to stop. Decided to pick it up again last Easter and manage, when not travelling for my job, to play every day. Proud to say I feel having made more progress in 6 months than where I left back in 2006. So much so that I bought a tenor sax (Selmer Series III) 2 weeks ago and enjoy it so much more, possibly novelty side of it, that I play mostly tenor now.
Is it normal the tenor feels easier to play, bearing in mind on both I play a Soloist D mouthpiece with D'Addario Jazz Select, 3S on tenor & 3M on alto? Shall I go down a notch to 3S on alto? Thoughts welcome guys. Merry Christmas
Could it be that your alto needs a service? if you had it a long time without servicing, it could have developed leaks which could make it more resistant/difficult to play.
Just a thought!
 

Moz

Senior Member
Messages
655
Locality
North of Liskeard, Cornwall,UK
I agree. I hadn't used my tenor for a about three years and had trouble with many of the notes. A service and all the problems went away, there were leaks all over the place as the pads had become a little hard.
 

Thierry

Member
Messages
81
Locality
Confignon Switzerland
Could it be that your alto needs a service? if you had it a long time without servicing, it could have developed leaks which could make it more resistant/difficult to play.
Just a thought!

Left it 11 years in its case but got it fully serviced last Easter and played quasi daily 30-60' until I bought my tenor 3 weeks ago. But thanks anyway, good thought
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
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1,113
Locality
United Kingdom
You have to play the alto and tenor differently. They express themselves in different ways.

You’ll find the smaller the instrument the better your breath control needs to be. Therefore, the tenor is easier to blow than the alto. It also has a more relaxed embouchure than the alto. However, you will struggle in the beginning to play it as quietly as the alto.
 
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