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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first time posting on the SOTW forums, so I apologize if this thread would have been posted on a different forum, I scanned the others briefly but didn't see anything more appropriate.

Anyways, I'm a Freshman with my High Schools' Marching and Concert bands. Currently I play Alto Sax, and while I enjoy marching, my passion for playing on sax lies in Concert and especially Jazz pieces. Unfortunately, due to organizational problems within class scheduling, freshman are ineligible for Jazz band with the school.
Also, our band has a rather disproportionate number of Altos. (16 in a 3A marching band.) One of our two Tenors is graduating this year, and my director approached me about playing and marching a Tenor starting this Spring in Concert band. He thinks I have enough air, and basic mastery, to move to one of the larger horns.

I decided to give it a try, and got out one of the archaic school Tenors. After I cleaned the cobwebs out of it (Only partially kidding), I did pretty decently; I played the major scales and our shows' Tenor part without too much problem, though breath support and getting enough air seem to be a challenge. A Tenor from one of the local colleges (Western Carolina) offered to work with me on finessing some of the finer points; tone color and what not. Our band definitely needs this Tenor, and I have a few questions before I try to find a way to pay for a decent one.

How different from Alto is Tenor, on a fundamental level. I've been told it takes more air and breath support, but what about embouchure and producing a good sound? I don't really know that much about the differences, and any advice on how to switch successfully would be greatly appreciated.
I've also seen one of our Tenors marching with a harness, rather then a neck strap. I only held it for a short time, but does the weight make for a difference in practicality in marching?
If anything, Tenors are iconic of jazz, but is the playing style in jazz parts different from Alto?
Lastly, I really need a way to find an affordable Tenor. My Alto has served me well, a Bundy student model, but it is time for me to move on to better things anyway, and a switch to Tenor is the perfect opportunity for a new horn.

Any advice, tips, or answers you have are more then welcome. Thanks.
 

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Welcome.
Marching Tenor: Is not the most fun thing to do, mostly becuase of the weight of the horn, will you neck become soar? Probably. Its really up to you if you want to use one or not. I started using one becuase the Bari player used one, and my back was killing me while we were learning drill. If you get a harness though get one with a metal hook.
Air: yes, it will require more air to make a decent sound.
~Carbs
 

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I switched, very early on in what I laughingly (and inaccurately) call my sax-playing career. I went from (what I thought of as) a reasonable tone to something best left undescribed. But I persevered and got better.

Yes, you need more air. I didn't find the embouchure a problem - it'll always be something to deal with, but you already know that. I can't answer about marching - we're a civilised country, y'know ;-) - but it's a fair bit heavier.

I'll leave the question about affordable models to your compatriots (but you probably know the main contenders anyway and, if not, there's plenty of info on these boards).

As with most things, if you want to do it, and put in the practice, you'll succeed. And you'll have had a year getting good on a new sax, which must be worthwhile.
 

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E Baker said:
How different from Alto is Tenor, on a fundamental level. I've been told it takes more air and breath support, but what about embouchure and producing a good sound? I don't really know that much about the differences, and any advice on how to switch successfully would be greatly appreciated.
I've also seen one of our Tenors marching with a harness, rather then a neck strap. I only held it for a short time, but does the weight make for a difference in practicality in marching?
If anything, Tenors are iconic of jazz, but is the playing style in jazz parts different from Alto?
Lastly, I really need a way to find an affordable Tenor. My Alto has served me well, a Bundy student model, but it is time for me to move on to better things anyway, and a switch to Tenor is the perfect opportunity for a new horn.

Any advice, tips, or answers you have are more then welcome. Thanks.
Hi. It sounds like the tenor you tried might have been very leaky so if you could get any reasonable sound out of it i would guess that you'd be fine on a decent instrument. You'll have some adjustments to make with breathing and embouchure but if you've got the idea that tenor is "where it's at" in terms of what you've listened to then you should get a tenor as well as an alto if you can. Two more slightly random thoughts: tenors are heavier and cost more to buy. I wouldn't want to march about with one round my neck but i am a bit of a wuss. ;)
 

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RootyTootoot said:
I wouldn't want to march about with one round my neck but i am a bit of a wuss ...
I know a little about America. I believe nowadays it is possible to "march" in a golf buggy, with your sax on a stand inside.
 

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E Baker:

Welcome.

Thanks for your well written, well thought out questions.

First thing, be sure you have an instrument that plays and works. I've seen so many high school kids come to my private studio with beat up old, neglected tenor and baritone saxophones along with some non-descript mouthpiece, given to them by their band directors with very little direction on how to proceed. Many horns that have come through my studio are in deplorable condition. I was just talking to a school band director this morning who told me on some days, one of his school's tenors is played 6 times!

Horns don't need to be shiny and pretty but they do need to seal. Make sure whatever you are playing, that it has been recently serviced by a competent tech.

Next, be sure you have a good mouthpiece. While the C* is what a lot of students play on alto, they are somewhat problematic on tenor. Because of their relatively short facings, low notes can be balky. You may wish to try a D or even an E. These will make low notes easier to play. At the same time a D or E tip opening requires you to have some chops. Many classical players use a smaller tip otto Link Tone Edge (Hard Rubber). Try one of these in a 5 or 5*...possibly a 6.

Finally, the biggest mistakes I see with "converts" are:

1. not enough mouthpiece in mouth
2. embouchere too tight
3. voicing wrong

Take more mouthpiece in your mouth... A lot more.. Go to the point where you sound squaky. Now back off a bit. It should feel like a lot more mouthpiece in your mouth than alto. Low notes will respond better.

Most young alto players can get around on alto if their embouchere is too tight. They won't sound great, and their intonation will have some serious flaws, but negotiating the entire instrument is possible. The tenor is less forgiving. Find a spot with you embouchere where you can slur octaves smoothly, intune and with good quality without altering your embouchere. I love the note A for this exercise.

Voicing has got be lower for tenor. Think aaaahh not eeeeeeehh. This is particularly important for low notes... Envision an airstream that is more like one you would use to fog up a mirror. Wide and slow.

Finding a teacher who knows a thing or two about the low reeds would help as well.

As far as straps...I would recommend only one thing. if you're going to march with the tenor DO NOT use one of the "classic" Neo Tech's or any kind of strap that has flex in it. As you march the weight of the tenor will make the horn bounce around. That's really bad! It would be analogous to attempting to hit a moving target! I would think you might injure your chops as well if you were not careful.

Good luck!

Steve
 

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I never will understand the appeal of Marching Bands.
To me, it conjures up visions of fingerless gloves and runny noses...allied, from what I have read, to a "Band Director" with fascist tendencies.
 

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Groovy Mucker said:
I know a little about America. I believe nowadays it is possible to "march" in a golf buggy, with your sax on a stand inside.
Love it ! I was just trying to work out how I could manage a sax and a walking stick.

Being serious, I've bought more than a few old saxes from the US, many have arrived with a school/college name stencilled on the case. All needed a bit (not always a lot) of work before they would play easily, and often came with a mouthpiece that could at best be described as 'disposable'. Take heed of qwerty's suggestions, and get a second opinion on the setup you have.

A horn that doesn't leak, and a sensible mouthpiece, will make life so much easier. Doesn't have to be a good 'looker', just a good player. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
First, thank you for your responses, they've been informative and helpful.

Captain Beeflat said:
I never will understand the appeal of Marching Bands.
To me, it conjures up visions of fingerless gloves and runny noses...allied, from what I have read, to a "Band Director" with fascist tendencies.
To be fair, I think it's something of an acquired taste. When I first got my sax 5ish years ago, I swore to myself I'd never be in the local Marching band. I think I was brainwashed at some point during our directors 'recruitment' circuit, as I showed up at our band camp ;). I can't really explain what it does for me in particular, that entices me to show up for practice each day, but it isn't as bad as it seems if you've never done it.
There is also the fact that our director requires us to participate in both Marching and Concert bands to be a part of the music program, and thusly, the Jazz band :| .
 

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I was "switched" from alto to tenor as an 8th-grader, about 35 years ago. Like the others have said, make sure your school horn is in good repair, then get a decent mpc setup - I suggest the Hite Premier and a Fibracell 2 or 2.5 reed. Then work on long tones to build up your breath support.
 

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Carbs said:
Welcome.
Marching Tenor: Is not the most fun thing to do, mostly becuase of the weight of the horn, will you neck become soar? Probably. Its really up to you if you want to use one or not. I started using one becuase the Bari player used one, and my back was killing me while we were learning drill. If you get a harness though get one with a metal hook.
Air: yes, it will require more air to make a decent sound.
~Carbs
No offense, but I marched tenor for 4 years in high school and I never had a problem with being sore after my first year.. its all in your posture. A well set-up tenor shouldn't really take much more air than alto either, its just a different type of playing. The only reason you might need more is if you're being weak on the alto as well.

In response to the marching band thing, I thought it was OK the first year or two and by the end of my senior year it was terrible.. I hated it. I don't really see the point in it, it seems really the opposite of musical. I had to be in it to play in Jazz bands too.

Get the horn to a tech ASAP like others have mentioned. The Hite would be good if you have to play in concert band with it as well, but I would use something louder for marching.. I used a Metalite but they were still making them then. A Graftonite is really cheap and pretty consistent, loud and durable. Perfect for marching..
 

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the point about the neotec strap and bouncing is interesting... wish i would have thought about that earlier this year. my tenor was bouncing all over the place and i just had to deal with it
 

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yes tenor is much different from alto.....
much more air and support is needed.............i suggest you blow up trash bags:)
bigger mouthpiece obviosly something different for the emboture
my suggestion is just practice on long tones.....it will help your tone and help your range on those low notes (as long as you incorporate low notes in there)
also the fingerings are a bit further apart and there is more resistance to your fingers so maybe your technique might be a little lagged (idk i only play tenor).
but tenor is a very wonderful instrument that also helps the alto player wonders...........go ahead and play tenor for awhile and get used to it, then jump onto an alto..........like i said in another thread alto is so easy compared to tenor that i almost choke laughing........if you try that you will see.......oh you will see

but anyway good choice to switch........TENOR FOR LIFE!!!!
 

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Carbs said:
Welcome.
Marching Tenor: Is not the most fun thing to do, mostly becuase of the weight of the horn, will you neck become soar? Probably. Its really up to you if you want to use one or not. I started using one becuase the Bari player used one, and my back was killing me while we were learning drill. If you get a harness though get one with a metal hook.
Air: yes, it will require more air to make a decent sound.
~Carbs
Dude Not just the neck, its your thumb that starts to hurt lol. And by the way, don't complain. This one girl switched to bari a few weeks before we started practicing marching band, and she did it without once taking it off...


Anyway...back to the topic at hand. Its not that big of a deal switching to a different saxophone. Fingerings may change a bit, but not by much. The only time you worry about key change is if you are going to transpose alto music. Then you have a problem :D. I didn't even switch i was thrown into the tenor without playing alto, and i think its cooler then alto.Heck if you want to freak your band director out show up with a contrabass saxophone lol. Otherwise if you think you are ready go for it.:)
 

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DeUtCheaxelplaya said:
yes tenor is much different from alto.....
much more air and support is needed.............i suggest you blow up trash bags:)
bigger mouthpiece obviosly something different for the emboture
my suggestion is just practice on long tones.....it will help your tone and help your range on those low notes (as long as you incorporate low notes in there)
also the fingerings are a bit further apart and there is more resistance to your fingers so maybe your technique might be a little lagged (idk i only play tenor).
but tenor is a very wonderful instrument that also helps the alto player wonders...........go ahead and play tenor for awhile and get used to it, then jump onto an alto..........like i said in another thread alto is so easy compared to tenor that i almost choke laughing........if you try that you will see.......oh you will see

but anyway good choice to switch........TENOR FOR LIFE!!!!
alto for life for me, i disagree i think alto is more difficult
i do agree that tenor needs more strengh to hold and more breath but apart from that

* Tenor is easier to solo on than alto (sounds nicer in all registers usually)

* Tenors embochure is looser (rather than the altos tight embochure due to the smaller mouthpiece,

* Tenors altissimo is a hell lot more easy to go on

and lastly it is much easier to get a jazzy sound on a tenor.

:cool: ALTO FOR LIFE
 

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As far as marching, I'm a little guy (5'7", 171 cm for euro folks) and never had an issue with my neck or thumb--and this was using a heavy vintage tenor with a run-of-the-mill strap back in the 80s. I switched to tenor from alto as a junior in high school. Move to the tenor and don't look back!
 

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Adderleysfasthands said:
alto for life for me, i disagree i think alto is more difficult
i do agree that tenor needs more strengh to hold and more breath but apart from that

* Tenor is easier to solo on than alto (sounds nicer in all registers usually)

* Tenors embochure is looser (rather than the altos tight embochure due to the smaller mouthpiece,

* Tenors altissimo is a hell lot more easy to go on

and lastly it is much easier to get a jazzy sound on a tenor.

:cool: ALTO FOR LIFE
homfg you have netered the lions den man.......

~less resistance to fingering on alto............thats a big one
~it is so much easier to blow on alto......especially when you have been playing tenor for 5 years
~i have found that the range is not that much more difficult then you claim......it is harder though.....but not a biggie
~uhhh i went on an alto and my improv got better so yeah
~as for it being easier to get a jazzy sound out of a tenor...........i have absolutely no idea



I SAY TENOR IS HARDER AND CAN HELP AN ALTO PLAYER MUCH MORE THEN A ALTO CAN HELP A TENOR PLAYER.

PEACE
 

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Hey kid, I'll put it like this. I made the switch from alto to tenor almost the same way you did.

My 10th grade year my band teacher asked me to play lead tenor in the jazz band and to march tenor for my junior year. You see, I was already marching and playing 2nd alto is the jazz band.....I made the switch and I didn't like it at first. But it grew on me.

I don't mean to offend anyone, but high school alto players are a dime a dozen. Have fun, play some tenor....my section always had fun. I want to mostly play alto now, but all my gigs are playing tenor.

Biggest changes: everything. Just shed and shed and shed. Get your feet wet.

Best of luck.

Cheers,

Thesaxbro
 
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