Tutorials

Beginner Why call it C when it's E flat?

ukwoody

Member
Messages
81
Location
Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
Hi all,

OK, I am struggling with a very basic concept here, that I hope somebody can explain in a manner suitable for a numpty like me.

I am at a very early stage of learning, so bear with me please.

I have an Alto sax. If I have understood things correctly it "apparently" plays in E flat. If you play a concert C on it, it actually sounds like E flat. (From memory, sorry, it's early!)

How??? Logic says that if you PLAY a C, it should BE a C. Otherwise surely it is E flat??? How can you play one note, say it sounds like another, then call it by the first?

I don't have a dog, call it Rover then expect it to answer to Tiddles (unless it's my stupid thing that answers to anything of course :))) )

(as a side issue why is the sax E flat? why not build them C? what is the benefit of having it in another key?)

Hope that all makes sense guys???:confused::w00t:

cheers Woody
 

AndyB

Member
Messages
210
Location
Durham, NC, USA
Some of this is explained in the book "The Devils Horn."

A long, long time ago there used to be many more types of saxophones. There was one keyed the same as the piano, C. There was one keyed the same as the French horn, in F. If you fingered the note C the same as the C sax, you got the note F. The C and F saxophones were mainly intended for orchestral use. There were others that were keyed the same as the other instruments in marching bands, Bb and Eb, like the trumpet, etc.

The use of the saxophone in marching bands was much more popular than in orchestras so the Bb and Eb lived on and the C and F saxophones became extinct. The use of Bb and Eb simply meant that people writing charts for marching bands only had 2 keys to deal with.

Vintage C Melody Saxophones can still be found as they had another surge of popularity in the 1930s in America so that amateurs could use piano scores:

http://www.marshwoodwinds.com/[click on Saxophones:C-melody]
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,656
Location
McLean, Virginia
If you play a concert C on it, it actually sounds like E flat.
The page Sue pointed you to should explain.

But if I can correct you on this. To play concert C, you finger A on an Eb transposing instrument


(as a side issue why is the sax E flat? why not build them C? what is the benefit of having it in another key?)
You get saxophones in Eb, Bb and C. There are also some older rare examples in F.
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,415
Location
Daventry
Woody - it's just one of those arcane musical "that's the way it is/if you have to ask the question, you won't understand the answer" things.

Step away from the question now, nothing to see......

;}
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Just to baffle you even further, Woody ;}. There are two choices with instruments, either use the same fingering for all members of the family and transpose, as described by that nice Mr. Thomas, or try to explain to a class of primary school kids that although all fingers down on the treble recorder sounds a 'C', but on an alto it is an 'F' as they are concert pitch.
You volunteering, Woody? :)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
22,004
Location
Just north of Munich
Just to add a vote from experience to the transposing instrument concept, many years ago I started to teach myself the tin whistle. Tin whistles come in even more pitches than saxes. My music was in different keys, C, D, F, G and so on. Was a nightmare and I started rewriting all the pieces in C. Made life much easier. Also if you're playing with someone who finds C a bit low, then pick up an D or E or F instrument and you're straight there, with the same music.... And no new fingerings. :welldone

Just as an aside, in the days when the harmonica (also a transposing instrument) was used a lot in the US, at least one player had his set in a belt over his shoulder, looked rather like an ammunition belt.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
OP
U

ukwoody

Member
Messages
81
Location
Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
And to guess your next question - the bottom 'C' on your Alto is the Eb below middle C.
And for my next party trick...:))) Cheers,LOL

I hope eventually to be able to join the musicians in the church I attend as part of the "worship team". The main players are of course guitars and a keyboard (although there is a flute and violin on occasions), so I'm gonna have to learn to transpose, I suppose.
Bum! LOL

Gonna be some real praying here:D

woody
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,656
Location
McLean, Virginia
umm, is this humour or are we missing the subject? LOL
Shirley as in the large suburb of Southampton where I grew up. (I assume you're in Southampton UK??). It's changed a bit over the last 5 years!"
Oh yes Shirley in Southampton !!!, (I don't know Southampton too well), but I do have an Auntie Shirley.

Yes, I try to avoid Shirley as the traffic is so bad, but occasionally venture there to retrieve a parcel from the post office. I can't recommend that experience.
 
OP
U

ukwoody

Member
Messages
81
Location
Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
You're all wrong.

Shirley is in Croydon and although you can keep Benny Hill, Ernie and his horse, all the rest are subject to Croydon and Sarf Lundun Massive rule.
I hate Croydon. I've spent FAR too many hours sat there in traffic. Shirley So'ton is FAR better then croydon;}

And Yes Benny Hill did live in So'ton, for many years until his death, although he was originally from Eastleigh just outside. Tommy Cooper was born in Langley again just outside So'ton, but not sure about the sweet shop, could well be though.

woody
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,428
Location
Coulsdon, London/Surrey
As a Croydon born person (it says so on my birth certificate) and member of the Croydon and Sarf Lunnun Massiv, I have to support my highly steamed associate Mr Git. He was merely ponting out a fact that Shirley is in Croydon. He was not saying anything about liking it. Nor would I. Oh no. Certainly not!

Apart that is from a certain woodwind emporium, where Griff the sax Merlin toils deep in its bowels surrounded by broken springs, discarded pads and bent necks. >:)
Colin
 
Top Bottom