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Saxophones Branching out from tenor to alto

hairypete1138

New Member
Messages
17
Afternoon all! It's been a long while since I posted on here, but I've been lurking around for the past few months having bad thoughts about spreading my sax wings into the realms of the alto. I got my BW bronze tenor in January, and that is progressing very nicely still, but I've got a hankering for something new...

Having checked out the usual sources and read many a review, I stumbled across a listing on ebay this morning for a TJ Horn classic alto with all the extras from the sax.co.uk sax pack and only 18 months old for silly money. Sadly, GAS got the better of me, so I need to own up to my wife when she gets home tonight. More importantly though, I've got a new horn on the way! :w00t:

So what I wanted to ask was this: those of you who went from playing tenor to playing alto (if anyone else has done it the 'wrong' way round that is) - how different was it in terms of technique? Is there anything that I should be aware of before I start? I'm guessing that the bottom end will blow easier than on a tenor, and the top end harder, would that be a fair assumption?

Any and all suggestions/advice very welcome indeed.

Cheers
Pete
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Congrats. And good luck tonight.

I found that alto had more resistance and needed a much tighter embouchure. But a lot depends on mouthpiece/reed. Took me a long time to get a low resistance and decent sounding mouthpiece.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Pete!

Good that you have finally seen the light. I guess the things you will notice first off are the much lighter instrument, and with a crook at a different angle. The mouthpiece is a lot smaller, and you will need a tigher embouchure, but not so tight that you endlessly squeak. I would say that a good mouthpiece is very important as the Alto plays more sensitively than a Tenor, which is more forgiving in certain areas.

It is worth consciously trying to think of it as a completely different instrument (not that there is much difference in reality - but it is likely to help your learning) not just a small tenor. It may be useful to play the saxes interchangeably so that you are aware of both differences and similarities, and can adapt each time you change. I play both most days and do nt have to consciously think about it, but am always aware of the different neck shape and getting the positioning of your strap and mouthpiece "just right". You may find it useful to have a different focus for each sax - in terms of what stuff you choose to play.

Beyond that it will be interesting to hear how you get on. When switching from Alto to Tenor I was very aware of gurgling notes. When I go from Tenor to Alto I am more aware of squeaks etc. and the need to get a good sealwith my smaller embouchure, at the same time as not overtightening it.

Kind regards
Tom
 

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,910
Hi Pete,
I started out on alto then moved on to tenor which i play 90% of the time now but every now and again i get the urge to get the old girl out for a blow, firstly and as others have said you do need, well not necessarily a tighter embouchure, but a more controlled one, secondly mouthpiece choice i use quite a large tip opening on tenor 8* and 10 but i once tried an 8 on alto and honestly, it was like trying to blow down the channel tunnel! i ended up with a small opening Selmer soloist and an even smaller Pillinger.

Resistance is generally harder on alto...well to me anyway but the payoff is you will be able to get around on it lightning quick compared to tenor.

One of the first pieces i learned to play at a decent tempo was Charlie Parkers Yardbird Suite....on alto but have never really been able to quite get there with the tenor.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
but the payoff is you will be able to get around on it lightning quick compared to tenor.
Interesting. I've never really noticed much difference - I'm just as slow on either.

And in answer to the OP: yes, top end's harder, bottom end's easier.
 

hairypete1138

New Member
Messages
17
How are the meat tenderiser marks? :confused: >:)
Surprisingly light! I think the fact that I got a £500 package for £200 appealed to the boss's inner skinflint, so it's all good :woot:

Thanks to everyone for your comments and advice. I'm interested in the idea that I could be able to get around the sax quicker on the alto - this would be good, as I am prone to fumbling if I try to go too quick on the tenor... I guess I'll have to see how it goes
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Make it sound good and she'll be encouraging you to get another... Tenor's much easier on the ear as well. Altos can be very hard, bt not as bad as a sop....
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Make it sound good and she'll be encouraging you to get another... Tenor's much easier on the ear as well. Altos can be very hard, bt not as bad as a sop....
I think this mostly comes down to intonation. The notes are more "bendable" on alto and especially sop. Which is fun when that's what you want to do but you have to listen more carefully to yourself to get a reasonable approximation to the right pitch.
 

hairypete1138

New Member
Messages
17
Well, the horn was waiting for me when I got home yesterday, and the first thing that struck me was just how much smaller it is than the tenor that I'm used to! As someone with shovels for hands, this alarmed me a little bit, but I put it together with the stock TJJ mouthpiece and the well-used rico 2 reed that had been included, and to my surprise it sounds pretty damned good, and I can hit the keys alot easier and more accurately than I thought i might be able to. it seems to blow cleanly throughout, apart from a bit of a gurgle on the low B and Bb. This may be a mouthpiece issue, and I have ordered a Yamaha custom ebonite and some Java 2.5 reeds to see if this is the case. If not, I may need to whip it up to the repairers to get the keys and pads checked (the low B key seems a bit soft compared to the rest - maybe a new spring is needed?), but in any case, for £200 I'm more than happy with it.
The other thing I will need to work on is my embouchure, which I think I'm right in saying needs to be alot tighter at the top end than on tenor. However, I seem to be in a far better starting position than I thought possible when I started looking at altos, so it's all good :thumb:
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Sounds great! Alto's are quite small instruments and it sounds that it can just about cope with your sausage fingers! There should be no need to have a very tight embouchure, just a well sealed one. Having been playing the Tenor for a while then I presume that your embouchure is reasonably well developed so that you have been able to approach the alto without having to squeak your way through your first experiences.

Glad to hear that you are having a good experience with it, and look forward to future updates.
Kind regards
Tom
 
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Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,910
The gurgling your experiencing is i guess just down to your lack of familiarity with the alto but if the low B is not seating properly dew to to light a spring tension that may be the problem and nothing to worry about.

Regarding the spring tension on the low B you will be able to give the existing spring a tweak with some long nose pliers to get a bit more resistance.
 

hairypete1138

New Member
Messages
17
Thanks again guys. I've solved the gurgle - I needed to put the mouthpiece further on the neck. I'd put it on about as far as I do on. Y tenor, but when I checked my tuning today, it was flat, so I pushed the piece further on and tuning and gurgles were sorted :) now I need to work on hitting those top notes from a cold start, and that's going to take some practice!
One thing I do need to get checked out at some point is the side octave pad - I'm having to put the octave key right down to fully open the pad. I guess that could be the norm with these TJJ horns, but I'll probably get it checked out anyway.
Onwards and upwards though!
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hence the gurgle is likely to be the dissonance between you trying to play the correct note, while the sax is wrongly tuned - so a good sign, but good you have resolved the dilemma!

We'll make an Alto player of you yet!
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
One thing I do need to get checked out at some point is the side octave pad - I'm having to put the octave key right down to fully open the pad. I guess that could be the norm with these TJJ horns, but I'll probably get it checked out anyway.
Onwards and upwards though!
Take a look at the neck octave to pin clearance, the body octave is opened by this.
 
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