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The alto sax, as it relates to the ear.

Moz

Senior Member
Messages
855
I have just listened to a professional gig linked from this forum.

I must have a very bad ear or a very good one because even in the hands of a consummate professional the alto sax still sounds like a slightly-out-of-tune foghorn; I'm sorry, it's just the way it sounds to me. Whenever anyone plays the alto sax every note seems to me to be slightly flat, slightly 'honking' and generally not very nice. Even the likes of John Coltrane can't cut it with me. I used to think it was because I had a mind that preferred lower notes but played well, even the soprano and sopranino sound fine. It's just the bloody alto sax!

I will no doubt have offended many people but I look look for someone who agrees if only so I don't feel so unique.

I have an alto (as well as my beloved tenor) so I'm not averse to alto sax's as a backup.

Martin

PS My own feeble attempt at alto sax is here http://www.myspace.com/baxters_sax/music/songs/smooth-jazz-22916971 I have tried to make it less 'honky'.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Tend to agree with you. Candy Dulfer's a case in point.

But each to his own. I'm working on alto a lot at the moment, trying to cure those tone issues. Am just starting to get some richness in the lower tones. But higher up I still sound like a constipated duck.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Moz!

Glad to hear from you - loved the track, with some lovely playing. It is an interesting point that you raise. I do think that the smaller the sax the more acute are the intonation/pitch issues. I find the Tenor Sax very forgiving, but the Alto and Soprano much less so. I focus more on Soprano and Alto and find that they can also be more sensitive to variations in the strength of air column being put through the instrument. I now only use custom made mouthpieces adapted to the sound I want to produce so think that there is less likelihood of aural conflict in what comes out of the end.

Kind regards
Tom
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Love the way Young Arthur caresses the slow ballads but feel that he would sound better on tenor. All that dynamic control and the feel of loving the melody and being guided by the words, real class act.

Apologies for being serious.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
I must admit I prefer the trumpet to the alto sax on the second track! I like them as seperate lead instruments, but just don't think that the combo works. Trumpet and tenor sax is fine but this is not pleasant as the trumpet has more depth of tone and makes the alto sound positively shrill and squawky. I have similar feelings on some of Miles later stuff when this absolutely awful soprano sax player starts up - dreadful! (On the Corner).

Perhaps some instrument combos should be banned by the authorities. Sorry to rain on your parade, Pete! For me soprano and alto saxes do struggle when there is a trumpet around; but tenor sax works great, or tenor plus alto IMO. When the piano was more to the fore towards the end then it did not sound too bad.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,287
I have just listened to a professional gig linked from this forum.

I must have a very bad ear or a very good one because even in the hands of a consummate professional the alto sax still sounds like a slightly-out-of-tune foghorn; I'm sorry, it's just the way it sounds to me. Whenever anyone plays the alto sax every note seems to me to be slightly flat, slightly 'honking' and generally not very nice. Even the likes of John Coltrane can't cut it with me. I used to think it was because I had a mind that preferred lower notes but played well, even the soprano and sopranino sound fine. It's just the bloody alto sax!

I will no doubt have offended many people but I look look for someone who agrees if only so I don't feel so unique.

I have an alto (as well as my beloved tenor) so I'm not averse to alto sax's as a backup.

Martin

PS My own feeble attempt at alto sax is here http://www.myspace.com/baxters_sax/music/songs/smooth-jazz-22916971 I have tried to make it less 'honky'.
Martin try listening to Phil Woods or Paul Desmond on alto you might just change your mind.



Brian
 

Pete C

Member
Messages
344
Mclean was renowned for his tuning issues but despite this he has an awesome sound which I love - it was a little tongue in cheek choosing this track with the trumpet. Pete

P.S. Nick - I prefer Charlie to Maceo any day for sound
 
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rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,382
I prefer Charlie to Maceo any day for sound
Interesting. I find Charlie's sound to be extremely variable from recording to recording. At his best, his sound was gorgeous, but at his worst I find it out of tune (sharp) and harsh. Was this due to his 'lifestyle' issues ?

Maceo, by contrast, has a really consistent sound and one that I like. Have you heard him play live ?

Rhys
 

Saxade

Senior Member
Messages
287
Art Pepper is my absolute favourite Alto Player .. he is in the Be bop style ... which is Ok ... but his ballads ..oh his ballads are in his impros are so lyrical.... & he has heart & Sole.....
 

Pete C

Member
Messages
344
yes there is that horrible recording of Bird palying Loverman when he was off his head, being forced to fulfill some recording contract as I understand it. No I haven't seen Maceo live because I don't particularly like funk.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,382
yes there is that horrible recording of Bird palying Loverman when he was off his head, being forced to fulfill some recording contract as I understand it. No I haven't seen Maceo live because I don't particularly like funk.
I saw Maceo play a few years ago and was bored by about 80% of it, especially the rapping and the very repetitious riffing. But the other 20% was great and he can really play. He came down into the audience and had a great sound up close. I think his MkVI is gold plated. I'd rather listen to Maceo than some of the "smooth jazz" I have heard, but then I'd rather listen to Hodges, Cannonball, Phil Woods, Art Pepper than Maceo.

Rhys
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
I'm tenor player, really, and for most of the time I've played, it's just been tenor with occasional soprano, and the odd toot on the misery stick (clarinet) and flute. However, I now have an alto (or three, don't tell the Mrs F) and I quite like playing it. I get what's been said about the tone of the thing to a certain extent, though. For me, trying to make the alto smoother is counter-productive. I find it's best played a bit more earthy, sort of sleazy.

Nice 'n sleazy does it. Does it every time.

Or is that just me?:shocked:
 

Saxade

Senior Member
Messages
287
I have been thinking about this thread... and me being a tenor player (and lover of that sound) cannot understand why anyone could dislike all alto player's sound... Me I really would not buy a soprano because I have heard some ordinary tones coming from that instrument ... including John Coltrane. Then again I was listening to this guy( "crazydaisydo") in YouTube to which I was directed to from a member here & he has my heart.... Man was I wrong to discriminate... have a look here http://www.youtube.com/user/crazydaisydoo#p/search/0/sKQv6Kpec2U
and back to the alto who doesn't like the Baker Street Solo....

Cheers Adrian
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
Art Pepper is my absolute favourite Alto Player .. he is in the Be bop style ... which is Ok ... but his ballads ..oh his ballads are in his impros are so lyrical.... & he has heart & Sole.....
Couldn't agree more Adrian.... Winter Moon is a classic tune of his, I'd love to play like that & have transcribed the first min or so, then it gets a bit fast for me transcribe..... But one day I'll get it!
Cheers & ciao
Jimu


Cheers & Ciao
Jimu

1935 Conn naked lady alto & Blessings soprano
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
I have been thinking about this thread... and me being a tenor player (and lover of that sound) cannot understand why anyone could dislike all alto player's sound... Me I really would not buy a soprano because I have heard some ordinary tones coming from that instrument ... including John Coltrane. Then again I was listening to this guy( "crazydaisydo") in YouTube to which I was directed to from a member here & he has my heart.... Man was I wrong to discriminate... have a look here http://www.youtube.com/user/crazydaisydoo#p/search/0/sKQv6Kpec2U
and back to the alto who doesn't like the Baker Street Solo....

Cheers Adrian

Yup, nice, nice, nice.

In my book Paul Desmond, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss, Johnny Hodges ArtPepper & Charlie Parker on alto can never be called "Honkey"
Honkey is a style (which I quite like) and there are plenty of Honkey Tennor players

Ps you must have heard of Jan Garbarek on Soprano?
I've heard him live ...... check out the Officium albumn.... might change your mind about sops.

Cheers & Ciao
Jimu

1935 Conn naked lady alto & Blessings soprano
 
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Rogerb

Member
Messages
764
It's interesting that so many of us appear to have reacted with "NO! .... Art Pepper!" That was my very first thought on reading the OP.
Then someone said "Paul Desmond" ...mmmmm.
But we all have different ears, so cannot know (yet!) how others perceive these things.
Some tunes do sound much better on tenor, IMO, and vice versa.

[Crazydaisydoo is an amazing role model for me ...he started on sax about the same time as I (admittedly with a 20-year start as a musician, and being much younger!) .... but his progress has been inspirational ...and slightly depressing when I compare my own!! :) ]
 
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