support Tone without tears Beginners' impro Patterns & exercises

Beginner What makes a piece suit an instrument?


While learning the alto using the abracadabra saxophone book, I really liked playing Summertime ... the haunting sound of the alto seemed to work perfectly with that piece, but when I started playing the baritone it no longer sounded great, and I decided that some tunes must just be better suited to some instruments.

I just bought a book of the music of Gershwin for alto sax (since it seems impossible to buy music for baritone), and it has Summertime in it, but this version sounds great on my baritone. Guessing from the key signature, the first version is in F major, starting on a high A, while the second is in C major starting on a middle E. Apart from that (and articulation differences which I ignored, playing the second version the way I was used to playing the first version) the two appear identical.

So, why would one version work for me on one instrument, and the other version work on the other? And are there any good rules for figuring out which pieces will suite which instruments, or is it just a case of trial and error?
Hi Richard
I agree, some pieces suit some instruments better than others, and also a change of key sometimes helps, to get that 'right' sound.
I just have a sop and tenor, and find those lilting, play on the top of a hill, or on the shore line, wafting across the valleys and the sea type of tunes like Summertime, Shenandoah, Danny Boy etc do sound better on the sop, and the deep moody, cool jazz sounds better on the tenor. As an all-rounder, I like the tenor best though.
The key does make a difference as well. I download the dots from places like, and then using BIAB I print it out in different keys, then find the key which suits the instrument best. Usually lower for the sop, and higher for the tenor, great way to practice your keys without boring old scales:)
I haven't tried the baritone, would like to, but they're a bit expensive for my shallow pockets. Have you listened to Karen Sharp, she plays some great bari on her CD Wait And See.
Luluna plays a range of instruments, she might have some comments to make on this. Anyway, it's fun finding out innit?:sax:
I find for me many songs only really work in a narrow range of music keys on the sax. I tend to use the palm keys and side keys for a lot of blues and jazz playing, and this kinda dictates which music key suites the tune. I play Alto and tend to stick to the following music keys

Concert G (this transposes to E on the Alto, and Gm is the relative minor of Bb, this suites a lot of Jazz tunes and blues)

Concert C ( this transposes to A on the Alto, good for keyboard based blues as many seem to be in concert C)

Concert F (this transposes to D on the Alto, again a good key for minor blues)

By using the side and palm sax keys in these keys I can really fly through some tricky chops.

Hope this helps

It is fun/interesting finding out what works.

I guess it's largely a matter of personal taste whether you think a piece of music sounds good or not (just for clarity, I wasn't really asking about how suitable a piece might be in terms of playability, but about how it sounds/feels), but we must all share some common musical appreciation, and I was wondering if there are known rules or if it's just something experienced musicians develop (clearly some people can look at a piece of written music and know whether they are going to like the way it sounds on their instrument).

I have bought and listened to Wait And See ... I like the playing, but it's not my favorite style of music (a prog-rock fan really), and probably doesn't help me much in finding simple tunes I'll take pleasure in learning. So far I've discovered that I like quite a lot of Gershwin (though that seems to be working better on the alto than the baritone) and Duke Ellington (though that's mostly too hard for me to get anywhere so far).

I guess it would probably be worth taking some of the simplest tunes, and transpose them into different keys to try them out.
The instrument makes quite a difference, for instance I can play faster on the flute than on the tenor, mainly as the mass of the key system is less and possibly that of the air column. Think of the notable differences between Gerry Mulligan and Bird.

Purcell wrote Variations on Old Hundred, yep the Hymn, you can actually give it a totally different feeling, almost like a standard. Thought about the Trio from Cosi fan tutti but not making much progress as much prefer the operatic version for once.

Experiment, explore and enjoy.

Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

Support Cafesaxophone

Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces

Forum statistics

Latest member
Top Bottom