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I always feel like to be successful in tenor, it is expected to be like Lenny Pickett. But I listen more to Gene Ammons.
Most people don’t play a lot of altissimo, especially not all the time. It’s cool to want to sound like LP sometimes, but you should sound like you and just go for it if success is what you seek. Whatever success is by your measure.
 

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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.
Lou Donaldson, born nearby.
I love his sound. My favorite alto sound.

I do listen to more tenor players. Anytime put on Gene Ammons.
 

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The answer is to play baritone. I just started but altissimo is easier there and I was surprised how easy to get the low notes too. A little bit of work is necessary for the middle register.

I so agree that alto is the hardest and for me I found the sound by using a very open mouthpiece.. I meant listen to the playing by Joshua Redman who I know is a master of tenor is kind of so so on the Alto on the video above. Alto I think is the hardest to be good at.

Tenor is my voice for sure and I can do 4 octaves now, thanks to Sirvalorsax videos, Before 2021 D4 was my top controlled range. I mean I can squeak for effect above D before but it was not controlled and really I was good up to B4 and on good days get to C and D. And I do not need high baffle setups

Alto I am starting to get better. If was always a nice to have horn but now I am taking it seriously and I might even start doing classical and tangos.

Baritone has a lot of potential and in my opinion the most colorful horn sound wise. I am mad that I started late on it.

Soprano, to have a really good sound you have to commit to it. That's what :Dave Liebman did
 

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I think what's hard is trying to play both well. If you devote your time to either one than you will get good at playing it, have a level at comfort, better intonation and an all around grasp improvising on that horn. Most people gravitate to that sound they hear in their head and go with that one. Great players like Stitt, Redman and Potter can just play whatever they like because they are great players.
 

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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.
Interesting, I find the opposite. I have an incredibly easy time with altissimo on tenor vs alto. But, it's probably more related to my horn, which is a dumbfoundingly great The Martin Tenor with ridiculously easy altissimo. G3 is just as easy as any other note, and the rest od the extended range pops just as easily.
 

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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.
Steve, I recall that the liner credits on “Freedom in the Groove” have sop, alto, and tenor. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to it and I don’t recall the tracks on it. There was a SotW thread regarding Redman and alto about 12 years ago.
 
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Interesting, I find the opposite. I have an incredibly easy time with altissimo on tenor vs alto. But, it's probably more related to my horn, which is a dumbfoundingly great The Martin Tenor with ridiculously easy altissimo. G3 is just as easy as any other note, and the rest od the extended range pops just as easily.
Interesting about Martin Tenor.
On most tenor brands altissimo g is the hardest. I think I have heard many others agree.
The thing with Tenor imo is a pro really needs to be good with at least with F#,G,(A is easy).
The older music it wasnt a thing.
I finally got G down consistantly.
But on recordings it came out clinker when I wasnt aware of it.
 

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Interesting, I find the opposite. I have an incredibly easy time with altissimo on tenor vs alto. But, it's probably more related to my horn, which is a dumbfoundingly great The Martin Tenor with ridiculously easy altissimo. G3 is just as easy as any other note, and the rest od the extended range pops just as easily.
part of it may be natural ability. I can't sing tune, but that is why I play horn. LOL The horn brand and the high F# can help with altissimo G. But many play great G without F#.
I came up with my own without F# that works. Otherwise, I would be out tune 50% of the time.
 

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Interesting, I find the opposite. I have an incredibly easy time with altissimo on tenor vs alto. But, it's probably more related to my horn, which is a dumbfoundingly great The Martin Tenor with ridiculously easy altissimo. G3 is just as easy as any other note, and the rest od the extended range pops just as easily.
sounds like companies over the last 40 years should be copying what martin did.
seriously.
I havnt seen many martin players on records.
but i believe you.
I will try one again in a few weeks. after many years.
 

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The answer is to play baritone. I just started but altissimo is easier there and I was surprised how easy to get the low notes too. A little bit of work is necessary for the middle register.

I so agree that alto is the hardest and for me I found the sound by using a very open mouthpiece.. I meant listen to the playing by Joshua Redman who I know is a master of tenor is kind of so so on the Alto on the video above. Alto I think is the hardest to be good at.

Tenor is my voice for sure and I can do 4 octaves now, thanks to Sirvalorsax videos, Before 2021 D4 was my top controlled range. I mean I can squeak for effect above D before but it was not controlled and really I was good up to B4 and on good days get to C and D. And I do not need high baffle setups

Alto I am starting to get better. If was always a nice to have horn but now I am taking it seriously and I might even start doing classical and tangos.

Baritone has a lot of potential and in my opinion the most colorful horn sound wise. I am mad that I started late on it.

Soprano, to have a really good sound you have to commit to it. That's what :Dave Liebman did
Gray bearded Greg Vail is sounding really cool on baritone lately.
I agree, when I played old Conn Bari, everything seemed easy.
Sahib Shihab may had the perfect doubling combo.

Multi Phonics on bari too. I wonder why there havnt been some more experimental bari players.
Or are there?

I played martin soprano and conn tenor in a band for 5 years.
That soprano was no issue at all.
 

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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
How can alto be 5-6 lbs lighter when tenors weight 7.2-7.3 lbs? I did an experiment where I weighed several tenors with a digital scale. The non high f-sharp models were 7.2 lbs and the high f-sharp models were 7.3 lbs. That would infer that an alto weighs somewhere between 1.2-2.3 lbs.
 

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How can alto be 5-6 lbs lighter when tenors weight 7.2-7.3 lbs? I did an experiment where I weighed several tenors with a digital scale. The non high f-sharp models were 7.2 lbs and the high f-sharp models were 7.3 lbs. That would infer that an alto weighs somewhere between 1.2-2.3 lbs.
Clearly he plays a Grafton ;) (actually the plastic Vibratosax alto I think weighs around 2lbs)
 

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Steve, I recall that the liner credits on “Freedom in the Groove” have sop, alto, and tenor. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to it and I don’t recall the tracks on it. There was a SotW thread regarding Redman and alto about 12 years ago.
Track 6: Invocation and Track 10: Can’t Dance and specifically tracks where Redman plays alto on that album.
 

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Gray bearded Greg Vail is sounding really cool on baritone lately.
I agree, when I played old Conn Bari, everything seemed easy.
Sahib Shihab may had the perfect doubling combo.

Multi Phonics on bari too. I wonder why there havnt been some more experimental bari players.
Or are there?

I played martin soprano and conn tenor in a band for 5 years.
That soprano was no issue at all.
The only reason, I took the plunge to get a Bari* was because of all the experimental and Avant Garde and new classical players - Mats Gustaffson, Freddie Ho, John Surman, Dave Mott, Hamiet Bluiett, Dave Sewelson, Joan-Marti Frasquier. Pat Patrick to name a few.

Soprano - I thought I can play until I attended a Liebman clinic and also seen Steve Lacey. and chatted with him a bit I always played Tenor and soprano but I do get it why Liebman concentrated on it for a few years.
 

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In my view, it is harder to get a good sound on alto, than tenor.

There is a great interview on YOUTUBE re this.

type in ….LAWRENCE FELDMAN ON WOODWIND STYLES

in particular, go to about 19.50. Just as he starts to talk about alto. He talks of the differences.

fascinating stuff!!!
 

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... I've also heard people mention things like their embouchure needs to be "tighter" on alto than on tenor...
In my concept and understanding of sax sound production, embouchure (lip position and associated facial musculature) would not necessarily be different, but my voicing/oral cavity (larynx, palate, cheeks, tongue) sure is between tenor and alto and sop. Especially with sop high notes it seems I am just using a tiny space very forward in my mouth as the resonant cavity to shape a tone. So a growing human such as child to teen to adult may possibly have an oral cavity at any given time which naturally favors one particular range for ease of sound production--alto?
Soprano, again: I find it much more sensitive to small changes on my side of the reed; it doesn't lock in to pitch the way the lower-range horns do. The higher register I play (as a 64-y-old), ear training stuff fails me--recognizing and therefore producing the correct intervals to stay in tune. As I play arpeggios up the sop range I stray pretty far off and have trouble hearing which way to correct. And of course the pitch frequencies are closer together so the same deviation from on-pitch leads to a greater percentage of out-of-tune.
Which circles back around to your observation: the alto range is the sweet spot for me to pre-audiate and therefore reproduce pitches in tune. Tenor is still good but harder because the lowest bass notes are frequency-spaced so far apart, placing them exactly on a tuner is a challenge to hear with naked ear.
At any rate, after a few months of exclusive newbie sop I came back to alto and boy do I sound good and with great control. Alto palm and altissimo aren't nearly as dog-whistle high pitched to me after sop! I guess now I have to break out my tenor and bask again in the Rawls sex magic register. What a difference a P5/octave makes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
In my view, it is harder to get a good sound on alto, than tenor.

There is a great interview on YOUTUBE re this.

type in ….LAWRENCE FELDMAN ON WOODWIND STYLES

in particular, go to about 19.50. Just as he starts to talk about alto. He talks of the differences.

fascinating stuff!!!
That's exactly the type of thing I was looking for - good find (y)
 

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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: 🎷
Indeed, Chris Potter recorded somewhat frequently on alto in the 90s-early 2000s. His stuff with Red Rodney was mentioned, and he has a few one-off sideman recordings with others from around that time. Most notably (IMO), he played alto on certain Dave Holland Quintet recordings (e.g., the tracks "Claressence" and "Metamorphos" from Extended Play, "What Goes Around" from Not for Nothin') and others.

For what it's worth, I strongly prefer his alto sound to his tenor - and I like his tenor sound. It's a shame he rarely gets his alto out anymore these days.
 
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