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Sax Tuning

Lerome

Member
Messages
33
OK. I used to play the oboe. That was great because a whole orchestra would tune to me!!:)

But the tenor sax is, I believe, a transposing instrument. I have never fully understood the implications of this.

Concert A is B on a sax, I understand (from Pete's pages). So, if I finger A on the sax (two fingers and thumb on left hand? I don't have a sax yet) does it sound as B or as A (440 Hz).

Is sheet music for the sax already transposed? If I see A on the sheet, and play A, does it sound A (440)?

This will be clear when I get my hands on an instrument, of course, but I would like to know. Sorry to bother you with such fundamentals.....
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Subscriber
Messages
3,551
Hi Lerome,
I don't know if I'm going to help here.... but if I don't I'm sure someone will come along and give better advice soon. :welldone
I play alto sax.
When we tune in the band, the piano gives us a concert A, we (altos) play F# (ie 3 left fingers, middle right finger) to tune the same pitch.
I assume the music is already transposed - I play what's written. If an A (2nd space up) is shown on the stave, I play A (1st 2 fingers left hand), it doesn't sound A concert pitch though.
Put another way, if I see an F# on the stave (1st space up) and I finger F# (as above) it sounds concert A.
More than that I have no idea, except that my tuner shows me concert pitch, so when I tune my sax, the tuner doesn't tell me the note I am actually playing, it tells me the concert pitch.
You're probably now more confused :( :sax:
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
Concert A is B on a sax, I understand (from Pete's pages). So, if I finger A on the sax (two fingers and thumb on left hand? I don't have a sax yet) does it sound as B or as A (440 Hz).

Is sheet music for the sax already transposed? If I see A on the sheet, and play A, does it sound A (440)?
If you finger an A on a tenor it sounds a concert G.

So if you see an A on tenor sax music it is really a G.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
On a tenor, you finger a C, it plays a Bb in concert pitch, one octave and one tone below the written pitch. If you finger an A, it plays a G concert. It's because the C produces a Bb that it's called a Bb instrument.

Alto, you finger a C and it plays an Eb in concert pitch, 9 semitones (a sixth) lower than written. It's an Eb instrument. But it's easier to think of the pitch as being higher than written, cos it's a smaller interval - 3 semitones, or a minor third.

Bari is an octave below the alto, and Sop is an octave above the tenor.

Most saxes are either in Bb or Eb, but there are some in other pitches. The commonest is the C Melody, In C, pitched a tone above the Bb tenor.

If a part in sheet music is marked for tenor sax, it's usually transposed. So you play an A, and it sounds a G concert. However if you've a piece for (say) tenor plus piano accompaniment, the tenor score will be transposed, but the pianist's part will have the piano part + the tenor part in concert pitch (or an octave higher), so the pianist knows what you should be playing. So you don't play from the piano score.

Some sheet music books cheat, give the same score for Bb and Eb saxes, but with different chord symbols for the guitar accompaniment, depending on whcih pitch your sax is in.
 

Lerome

Member
Messages
33
Thanks for all the replies, from all of which it is now clear to me what happens on the sax!:)

And, as I had assumed, sax parts are transposed in the instrument sheet music (but not, of course, in an orchestral or piano score).

And to play a concert A, I must finger B natural. I will never, ever, forget this now!:welldone
 

SopJob

Member
Messages
78
Hi Lerome,

just for your information: the notes you play on a tenor sax are exactly one ninth lower than what's written on the sheet (assuming the sheet music is written/transposed for tenor sax). The reason behind it is that it's easier for composers and arrangers to write notes for the instrument in the treble clef because most notes can be placed in the center of the 5-line notation system, so that the composer needs to resort to the helper lines above and below less frequently. Don't ask me why the difference is not a plain octave.

You actually do find sheet music (particularly old stuff) for tenor sax that's noted in the tenor clef, but these days, hardly anyone can read those notes fluently.

There are tenor saxes that are not transposing, namely the C Melodies. They are somewhat smaller than a regular tenor sax in Bb. They are not built anymore because they could never make a breakthrough, for various reasons.
 
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