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Saxophones Best tenor for a woman to play?


Senior Member
Wellington, New Zealand

I'm thinking of getting a tenor and am seeking recommendations on which ones would be more suited for a woman - ie on the lighter side, perhaps shorter (showing my ignorance here - are tenors a standard length or is there some variation)?

I'm renting a YTS-275 and quite like that though I do find it bulky/heavy compared to my alto, but I guess I'll get used to it.

Any advice, thoughts would be much appreciated.
Welcome drrob! (I lived in Wgton for a couple of years, aeons ago...loved it!)

I am an elderly gent whos sort-of 'plays' alto.
Thought I'd try tenor, but found it too cumbersome and heavy for my neck, and it's too hot here for 'harnesses'.

If you are young-ish and fit-ish, and prepared to try a different way of supporting the sax from a simple neckstrap, then I think you'll manage...there are many ladies who do!

Modern saxes tend to be a bit heavier than vintage, but I don't think the difference is very significant ..... and a vintage sax brings other problems (and benefits, maybe?).

Good doubt some of our female members can advise you better.:thumb:
Broad brush statement - cheaper = lighter. A friend of mine has a solid silver soprano that is about the same weight as my Selmer tenor - I exaggerate but not much. God knows what it's worth.

No variation on length - that would be an alto or a C melody (definitely not recommended!). There have been some very good female tenor players - Kathy Stobart and Betty Smith spring to mind from the UK - so I don't think you should have a problem.

Be a bit careful though about the neckstrap. There are some good "cushioned" ones (I've used Neotechs in the past) - like Rogerb I find harnesses restricting but I do find the Cebulla a great strap, if a tad expensive. There's also the Saxholder - - never used one myself but an interesting approach.

I had a YTS25 (slightly older version of YTS275) then swapped to a Bauhaus Walstein M2(previously owned by Rogerb!). I'd read that the BW's were heavy but I have to say that I didn't really notice a difference. I use a Cebulla neckstrap which removes the pressure from the back of the neck - I hadn't realised how beneficial this was until I played with a standard neckstrap for a short time!

I use a Neotech harness for playing bari - this distributes the weight across your shoulders, and could easily be used for tenor as well.


(showing my ignorance here - are tenors a standard length or is there some variation)?

Yes, the straight tenor is longer than the curved!;}

IMO a harness or a shoulder strap is better. If you want a less heavy sax go for a thin wall vintage brand.

I think you'll probably find the thing that matters the most isn't weight (they tend to weigh about the same) but the ergonomics of the keys. All depends on your hand shape. If my wife played sax she'd struggle with my Yanagisawa T992 because of the reach around the palm keys, but would probably be fine with the Buescher True Tone alto I find such a challenge because of the very low palm keys. Really, the only thing you can do is get your hands on as manyb saxes as you can.
Thanks for all your replies - very helpful!
I agree completely with all the comments re neckstrap. I absolutely love my Cebulla one and could not be without it. I've got a harness as well but find it a bit restrictive as well as anatomically 'separating' in the front area if you know what I mean ;-)
Although there are harnesses specially made for women, the saxholder is a completely new concept and is impossible to beat when it comes to relieve the pressure on neck and shoulders ( as the majority of the weight is placed on or around the solar plexus).

Anyway, new saxophones are bound to be slightly heavier than older saxophones on account of the keywork being heavier (most modern saxophones have a high F# key) and the fact that the mechanics is not, in general, placed on the body of the saxophones but it is mounted on metal plates called “ ribs”.

So A 1963 Buescher tenor (for example) would be , generally speaking, lighter than a modern tenor of any brand (we are talking of small differences , quite a bit less that 1/2 Kg, so nothing major!). This is not always true for example Yanagisawa series 901 has no ribs while series 991 is ribbed.

Couldn't do 2 hour gigs without mine! (couldn't do 5 minutes with a neck strap!) :thumb:

2nd this harness. I suffer with a neck problem and this harness has not only completely removed any pain or discomfort I was experiencing with a standard neck strap but when you first try one of these harness`s you wont believe it! it really feels like someone is supporting the sax as you just cant feel the weight!

its hard to describe quite how unbelievable it feels the first time you sling up your sax on this harness!
from my own experience, I would say that the weight of a tenor becomes a non-consideration!!

however there far cheaper here!
Unknown Item - Thomann UK

and I revived mine in 2 days!

good luck.
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Thanks for all your replies - very helpful!
I agree completely with all the comments re neckstrap. I absolutely love my Cebulla one and could not be without it. I've got a harness as well but find it a bit restrictive as well as anatomically 'separating' in the front area if you know what I mean ;-)

I had a "lift and seperate" harness which also restricted my ribcage and pulled down on my shoulders - but the one I posted above takes most of the weight of the sax down through the metal rod - I find the sax feels about half the weight it did and Im no longer "lifted and seperated" or restricted! :thumb:
As Milandro said and I would second giving the saxholder a try. Pete has one too. Makes even a bari feel light and it is by far the most female friendly sax supporting device on the market

I play alto mostly and even after 3 hours no fatigue or well at least none from the weight of the sax.
Not to minimise the importance of this discussion about straps/harnesses but take a look at this shot of Gerry Mulligan playing a straight soprano with his baritone (which must weigh about 15lbs) still around his neck!

He must have had neck muscles like one of those Olympic weight lifters!

And although you can't see it in that particular shot, many pictures of Mulligan (even up to shortly before he died) show him playing with a very narrow strap.

Or Roland Kirk:
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I use shoulder straps or harnesses (I prefer harnesses) on all saxes ecxept soprano. It makes me feel better and then I'm also playing better. I don't like anything around my neck when I'm playing. It's easier to do the duckwalk with a harness.:)

Avoid full ribs on the sax body and double arm bracing on the low notes,will reduce weight abit.Look at a harness or the sax holder instead of a strap.
A TJ Alphasax tenor (they don't produce tenors?) would make life easier for younger players. I know this a a common problem in concert bands. To many altos because they can't handle a tenor.
Thanks everyone! I love a new accessory so after your suggestions, and reading some reviews about it, I've gone and ordered a SaxHolder (NZD$84.00). Can't wait to try it.

Back to the tenor discussion. I'm hoping the SaxHolder will minimise any issue with the weight of it, but Jonf's post made a good point about the reach around the palm keys. I have quite small hands and find that they are higher and get in the way more on my P Mauriat Le Bravo alto than on the YTS 275. Any other recommendations re tenors with 'low' palm keys, or ones with high ones to avoid?
Modern Keilwerth saxes, at least the top of the range ones, have adjustable touch-pieces on the palm keys.

But also remember that a decent repair tech should be able to adjust palm keys to suits the player's hand, either by bending or by cutting and shutting. I have had this done on a couple of saxes where one of the palm keys stuck up a bit too far for my hands.

While ergonomics are important, the sound is the crucial thing and keywork can be adjusted.

If I were you I'd get a curved soprano and wear a pair of magnifying glasses - much lighter...........!

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