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Hey - just tossing this one out there to see what people think about this. I've heard some people mention in passing that the alto is more difficult to play than tenor. For example, Eric Alexander who plays tenor has been getting into alto recently and made a side comment to that effect. Anyway, I thought it was interesting since alto is seen as the entry-level student horn (it's an obvious choice - not arguing against that). I've also heard people mention things like their embouchure needs to be "tighter" on alto than on tenor. Does that mean tenor is easier to play? I'm just curious to see what others have to say on this and why people would characterize the alto as being difficult to play.
 

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I, at least, enjoy listening to many fewer alto players than tenor players. A great many of my favorite saxophonists focus on tenor and soprano, while only a handful do I really love on alto. So I do think in many ways it's difficult to get an alto saxophone to sound truly great, while maybe it's a bit easier (although by no means easy) to get a tenor to sound truly great.

I do love love LOVE these folks on alto: Kenny Garrett, Will Vinson, Chris Potter, Cannonball, Bird, Antonio Hart, Steve Coleman, Keith Anderson, Andrew Gould, Patrick Cornelius, Joshua Redman... and these are all, needless to say, world-class saxophonists regardless of register.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I do love love LOVE these folks on alto: Kenny Garrett, Will Vinson, Chris Potter, Cannonball, Bird, Antonio Hart, Steve Coleman, Keith Anderson, Andrew Gould, Patrick Cornelius, Joshua Redman... and these are all, needless to say, world-class saxophonists regardless of register.
My jazz/saxophone journey started with tenor players but what do you know I wound up with an alto to play! I hear what you're sayin...

But you put Potter and Redman in there...never heard 'em play alto(?). You're missing some cats too - Johnny Hodges, Phil Woods, Art Pepper and more recently guys like Vincent Herring, Miguel Zenón and Patrick Bartley. Just tossing out a few more for good measure :cool: 🎷
 

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I think playing alto well is harder because there are some things that are different in the tone production. So, if you don’t want to be nasally all the time, yes. If you don’t care, probably not. It is easier to scream through though. But I also think that is up to the person playing. Some just jive with alto. To be fair I’ve been getting alto gigs for 15+ years… so many that some people didn’t realize I played tenor.
 

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I, at least, enjoy listening to many fewer alto players than tenor players. A great many of my favorite saxophonists focus on tenor and soprano, while only a handful do I really love on alto. So I do think in many ways it's difficult to get an alto saxophone to sound truly great, while maybe it's a bit easier (although by no means easy) to get a tenor to sound truly great.

I do love love LOVE these folks on alto: Kenny Garrett, Will Vinson, Chris Potter, Cannonball, Bird, Antonio Hart, Steve Coleman, Keith Anderson, Andrew Gould, Patrick Cornelius, Joshua Redman... and these are all, needless to say, world-class saxophonists regardless of register.
Hmm…Do you have a favorite Joshua Redman on alto reference? He’s one of my favorite players and I can’t recall hearing him on anything but tenor or soprano.
 

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An inappropriate set-up can make either horn more difficult than it needs to be. A narrower chamber, smaller tip opening and softer reeds can make a great change. I have a wide chambered piece I love but I get about 5 notes out of it before i'm outta' air. It has a terrifically dark sound which I adore so I keep strength 2 reeds AND never try pushing the horn. This makes it easier.
 

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Hey - just tossing this one out there to see what people think about this. I've heard some people mention in passing that the alto is more difficult to play than tenor. For example, Eric Alexander who plays tenor has been getting into alto recently and made a side comment to that effect.
I am curious to learn what he really said. It might have been “It’s hard to get a good sound out of an alto.”

Find your bliss. Tenor is mine.
 
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alto is 5 to 6 pounds lighter around the neck which comes into play later in life. I switched to sax in college after 12 years of trpt training. So for alto I wanted sanborn , for tenor brecker. Needless to say I didn't get close to either but for me the alto is easier because of the action of the horn. Easier on my hands
 

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I find playing on alto is physically easier, though for some mysterious reason I am mentally much more comfortable playing improv on tenor - maybe it is just the transposition is easier for me. However, what tenor I am playing makes a big difference in the physicality of it - playing my Super Action 80 II seems to be more resistant, like I have to push more air at higher pressure all the time, than when compared to my JK ToneKing Special Tenor or Martin Tenor which are more easy blowing regardless of what register I am in..
 
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For me, at my current level (not very high), bari is easier to play than tenor, which is easier than alto, which is easier than soprano. Easier, in the sense of being able to play them to my satisfaction, which mainly means with good intonation and tone. As the pitch goes up I have more trouble playing in tune. If I were twice as good a player, my opinion might be totally different, because because being a great bari player or tenor player is not at all easy.
 

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Hey - just tossing this one out there to see what people think about this. I've heard some people mention in passing that the alto is more difficult to play than tenor. For example, Eric Alexander who plays tenor has been getting into alto recently and made a side comment to that effect. Anyway, I thought it was interesting since alto is seen as the entry-level student horn (it's an obvious choice - not arguing against that). I've also heard people mention things like their embouchure needs to be "tighter" on alto than on tenor. Does that mean tenor is easier to play? I'm just curious to see what others have to say on this and why people would characterize the alto as being difficult to play.
Of course not. Dumb. Get used to whatever horn you play. Play more than one. Yes it takes slightly different techniques to play sop vs alto vs tenor vs bari vs bass vs...... Figure it out. Many pros concentrate on one/two versions of sax but I think that's mostly just to be consistent for performance reasons.
 

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Hey - just tossing this one out there to see what people think about this. I've heard some people mention in passing that the alto is more difficult to play than tenor. For example, Eric Alexander who plays tenor has been getting into alto recently and made a side comment to that effect. Anyway, I thought it was interesting since alto is seen as the entry-level student horn (it's an obvious choice - not arguing against that). I've also heard people mention things like their embouchure needs to be "tighter" on alto than on tenor. Does that mean tenor is easier to play? I'm just curious to see what others have to say on this and why people would characterize the alto as being difficult to play.
The catch in difficulty in playing tenor is altissimo.
I think playing on alto, altissimo seems easier, but its normal range allows playing higher pitched vocal songs easily.
To play contemporary music it is expected to play higher pitches. (maybe that is why there are lots of smooth jazz alto players.)

For instance: to play "how deep is your love" by the BeeGees, altissimo G is needed on tenor and that can be tricky.
Of course, that song sounds great an octave lower, and the tenor (obviously) has an incredibly beautiful low range.

Then there is Lenny Pickett's altissimo. I gave up on that long ago. Does anyone think that it is easy?
The reason I still play both alto and tenor is I like the natural range of both.
I finally can play a really solid altissimo G on tenor, so that helps. but fingerings can be awkward.
As far as difficulty, in their natural ranges, both alto and tenor, (bari and sop too) are pretty much the same.
 

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The catch in difficulty in playing tenor is altissimo.
To play contemporary music it is expected to play higher pitches. (maybe that is why there are lots of smooth jazz alto players.)
For instance: to play "how deep is your love: by the BeeGees, altissimo G is needed on tenor and that can be tricky.
I think playing on alto, altissimo seems easier, but its normal range allows to play higher pitched vocal songs.
Of course, that song sounds great an octave lower, and the tenor (obviously) has an incredibly beautiful low range.

Then there is Lenny Pickett's altissimo. I gave up on that long ago. Does anyone think that it is easy?
The reason I still play both alto and tenor is I like the natural range of both.
I finally can play a really solid altissimo G on tenor, so that helps. but fingerings can be awkward.
As far as difficulty, in their natural ranges, both alto and tenor, (bari and sop too) are pretty much the same.
It’s fun to play higher up, but definitely not required or even expected by most. I think people who only play at home at an amateur level or do weekend warrior duties in bar and GB bands get a lot of misguided ideas in their heads from forums and youtube about what’s expected on gigs.
 

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I find playing on alto is physically easier, though for some mysterious reason I am mentally much more comfortable playing improv on tenor - maybe it is just the transposition is easier for me. However, what tenor I am playing makes a big difference in the physicality of it - playing my Super Action 80 II seems to be more resistant, like I have to push more air at higher pressure all the time, than when compared to my JK ToneKing Special Tenor or Martin Tenor which are more easy blowing regardless of what register I am in..
your couf and leblanc would be easy blowing altos.
the series ii tenor has a lot of resistance, but I feel like I am standing on a mountain as king when I play those.
 

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It’s fun to play higher up, but definitely not required or even expected by most. I think people who only play at home at an amateur level or do weekend warrior duties in bar and GB bands get a lot of misguided ideas in their heads from forums and youtube about what’s expected on gigs.
I always feel like to be successful in tenor, it is expected to be like Lenny Pickett. (impossible)
Or fast like Brecker.
But I listen more to Gene Ammons.
I do think the public, likes low range songs too.
Karen Carpenter said "the money is the low notes".
 
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