Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / Change alto sound to tenor sound!

User ID: 0512724
Jun 17th 10:33 AM
Really want to buy a tenor but no money. Do you think I can use any MP & reed change my alto (YAS-62) sound close to tenor sound?
User ID: 0234554
Jun 17th 11:03 AM
What kind of MP/reed are you using now?
Which tenor player do you want to sound like?
User ID: 8666863
Jun 17th 11:16 AM
Yes you can. It took me quite awhile to change my sound. Made some good money for many years with the sound I got(remember the tenor sound is preferred).

You don't say how advanced you are in playing the saxophone? You won't be able to get a good tenor sound unless you're willing to put in the sweat to make it so.

First thing I did was work up to playing on a mouthpiece with a big sound Berg Larson Rubber 105/1. Took me 6 months and trial and error with reeds. Play a #3 Rico Royal reed now but will be going down to a #2 1/2 soon to make it easier on me. I suggest you try this setup or something similar.

I always liked the alto and was not sorry one bit in the direction I took to stick with the alto even though everyone else was playing tenor. Give a listen to Altoists like Gerald Albright, David Sanborn, Jay Beckenstein, Dave Koz if you want to hear a good full sound on an alto that is similar to a tenor sound.

Hope this helps and good luck.

Ian O'B.
User ID: 8924643
Jun 17th 1:25 PM
The timbre is just different, that can't be changed. Unless you can figure out a way to curve your alto neck and increase its size without changing the intonation of the instrument, just try tenors at some store and see if you think it's worth it to trade your alto for a tenor :)
User ID: 0952054
Jun 17th 2:45 PM
A larger tip opening and harder reed, as well as one that plays a bit less reedy & bright, will probably help. You might experiment with keyheights as well.

Switching to a Conn, Martin, or Buescher might be your answer, finally, if you don't want to follow Ian's advice.

- luck -
User ID: 0952054
Jun 17th 2:48 PM
p.s. you probably ought to try something like a hand-engraved Ralph Morgan, or vintage rubber Link, to get a sound that has more body, is darker, & has a greater proportion of bottom partials. You can also try playing a tenor reed on your alto set-up; you may find it hard to control, but it will definitely give you a different sound.
User ID: 8409173
Jun 18th 11:13 AM
Suddenly I think about Selmer Solist MP? It's very drak tone, do you think I can use it with a La Voz reed to create tenor like sound (also un-screw a bit of the ligature)?
User ID: 8666863
Jun 18th 1:38 PM
Tungp.... Thanks for reminding me about the tenor reed. It definitely helps me get that tenor sound.
Alto.... I forgot to mention to you previously that for many years now I have been using a tenor reed, not an Alto reed, with my Berg Rubber large bore 105/1 mouthpiece. Never had a problem.
User ID: 8193053
Jun 19th 12:47 AM

What alto & tenor reed you're using? Tenor reed seem to be very large, is it OK assembled it on the alto MP?

Difficult to control? Do you mean difficult to make normal sound, or even difficult to make sound?

User ID: 1383404
Jun 19th 5:28 AM
Winesax: Sanborn, Albright have a "tenor sound" on alto? With all due respect, I don't think so. Maybe your turntable's speed needs calibration. I agree that those guys have a "full sound", but I could never mistake them playing tenor (although Gerald does play a nice tenor).
Alto: Don't try to make something challenging, like getting a good alto sound, practically impossible. Either accept you're playing an alto & go for a great tone on it, or trade, rent, buy or borrow a tenor & work on that.
User ID: 1606604
Jun 19th 6:43 AM
I am using HR Link + Fibracell MS + BG super
revelation lig on Yamaha alto. The sound
resembles at least somewhat Coltrane's
tenor sound. There is very little "warmth"
in the tone, which to my mind is one
of the characteristics of "a typical alto
sound". And the lower register is full
and powerfull, pretty much like
tenor's middle register.

I prefer this set-up because the tone
suits very well to the type of music I like
to play, i.e. the music of Coltrane's
quartet and Miles's quintet in the 60's.

By the way,
the choice between alto and tenor is
not only a matter of sound. You should
also consider the fact how you "hear the
music in your head", that is, in what
register you want to play. I personally
want to play notes that are in the alto
register, and therefore I am able to use
the whole register of the instument,
from the very bottom to the highest notes.

User ID: 9976863
Jun 19th 9:00 AM
I'm looking for a sound like Mars Williams on Alto. He definitley has a very dark, edgy soound. Does anyone know his setup or a setup that will sound similar to his?
User ID: 8026483
Jun 19th 9:00 AM
I don't want to comment on how to make alto sound like tenor, but to say that they require a different concept. I hear a lot of tenor players that switch to alto and sound like they think of it as a mini-tenor, that is, they don't have an alto-minded approach. An example would be Grover Washington Jr. I much prefered his tenor sound to his alto, in fact I often cringe when I hear him on alto. Same with Tom Scott. The reverse doesn't seem to apply quite as often, because the tenor provides a "bigger boquet of timbre" if you will. Tenor has so much more natural timbre that it even masks a poor technique better than alto.

I think a good alto sound requires much more work than a tenor sound. It's just harder to bring out the full boquet in the alto, while it's almost always just there on tenor. Did I make any sense?
Dr G
User ID: 0916684
Jun 19th 9:34 AM
You started to. On the other hand, what's the matter with wanting to achieve that "fuller bouquet" that you associate with the tenor?
Sounds like we might be after the same thing but burying the concept in the semantics.

User ID: 8666863
Jun 19th 10:43 AM
Alto.... Yes, as you know the tenor reed is larger, but fits fine on the large size Berg Larson mouthpiece I am using. If you intend to try this approach be careful, the fit of the tenor reed on an alto mouthpiece is not for everyone and will not be the same with other mouthpieces(Ex. Fit on a Dukoff metal mouthpiece did not work for me.)
User ID: 8026483
Jun 20th 9:21 AM
DrG, why, nothing at all. In fact I was speaking from that very experience, which is why I mentioned the harder work. Bringing out the fatness of alto is harder than on tenor, probably owing to the reed size as well as horn bulk, as alluded to above. I worked exclusively on alto for the last 35 years, always seeking to improve tone. Wound up with a metal Dukoff 8M, but I'm still always interested in that next step.

I really prefer the difference in the horns and enjoy making it clear when I'm playing alto without anyone having to look. IMHO most untrained ears guess tenor first when they hear a sax, but I'll bet nobody thinks Sanborn is a tenor player.