- Berkshire, UK
That is, if I can play an alto would I naturally be able to play a tenor, baritone or soprano?
Because most saxes are transposing instruments (i.e. not the 'Melody' which is a 'C' instrument) the notes for each are written the same, so the fingering is the same across the instruments.
I struggled with tenor off and on with varying degrees of success for years but the addition of a curvy sop this summer inspired me to have another go at tenor and it seems to be going well this time.
They all have a personality that needs to be accommodated and it takes me a phrase or two to switch embouchure and a chorus or two to get comfortable.
The mouthpiece and reed set up for each one is a challenge till you find it.
I like having a "set". It feels complete, apart from the quiet longing for a bass.
Thank you Colin, much appreciated as ever. Now....what is the difference between a curved soprano and a straight one?!
Difficult question.... let me guess..... is one curved?
The main difference when playing is arm position. The curvy is more like a short alto with arms close in while the straight is more forward with the arms in a more clarinet position. I find the curvy hangs better on the sling for me.
A general point - the smaller the sax the more precise the intonation. Hence a soprano sax may sound/be less in tune than an alto, then tenor, then baritone.
"At college, I started on soprano, but I couldn't play in tune at all. I improved a bit on alto, better on tenor. Eventually I picked up baritone, and everything was finally fine"
(He told me this himself, back in the 80s)
You would not recommend "experimenting" with a soprano while learning the alto then?
A general point - the smaller the sax the more precise the intonation. Hence a soprano sax may sound/be less in tune than an alto, then tenor, then baritone. This is one reason as to why people who start on alto sax often shift to tenor and prefer the sound that they make.
Due to different mouthpiece material, a metal tenor sax mouthpiece is virtually the same size as an ebonite soprano mouthpiece, and makes it easier on the embouchure when switching between the two.