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i was a die hard tenor player for 2 decades till i discovered sanborn. i discovered your tenor chops do NOT transfer over to alto esp when it comes to improv. you must play more Lyrical and not rely on time proven tenor riffs
 

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I think it also has a lot to do with the particular horns. It's kind of difficult to have a tenor and an alto that are exactly the same. One or the other will have some kind of quirk/difference that makes it feel "more difficult" on your muscle memory, From lips to embouchure, to fingers and more, it has to be approached in a different manner so it also depends on how adaptable the player may be.
 

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I started on tenor and it's what I focus on although I have a baritone and alto. I have a good sound on tenor and the baritone but I never liked how I sound on the alto. To myself I've always thought that the alto sax was the most difficult to get a great jazz tone out of.
 

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I can't help but think that individual physiology comes into play - the shape of a person's oral cavity/face and the way they put air into the horn will lend itself to one horn more than the others. What I think is interesting is how much nature vs nurture comes into play with this.

Personally, I started on alto at age 12 before switching to tenor at 14. Tenor was my primary weapon of choice until I started college, played alto heavily for a year or so, dabbled in all 4 horns a bit, and eventually became mostly a trombone and euphonium player.

To this day, tenor is the horn (on saxophone anyway) that feels the less "foreign" in my hands if I'm picking it up after a long hiatus. Is this because of the way I'm built, or because I spent the most time with it during my formative years? Hard to say what part confirmation bias played in any of this as well.

Anyhow...

easiest to play if I'm out of practice and have to immediately gig - Bari
easiest to lock in on a week's notice - Tenor
the one that locks in most reliably after multiple weeks of woodshedding - Alto
I just don't bother - Soprano
 

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…Personally, I started on alto at age 12 before switching to tenor at 14. Tenor was my primary weapon of choice until I started college, played alto heavily for a year or so, dabbled in all 4 horns a bit, and eventually became mostly a trombone and euphonium player.

To this day, tenor is the horn (on saxophone anyway) that feels the less "foreign" in my hands if I'm picking it up after a long hiatus. Is this because of the way I'm built, or because I spent the most time with it during my formative years? Hard to say what part confirmation bias played in any of this as well…
Alto at 12, bari at 13, tenor from 14 to 18, then a forty year break, and now trying to play them all again. The nostalgia definitely figures into how I view each horn, and how I feel when I play them. I’ll never be a pro, so I’m really the only one who needs to be satisfied with how I play now. It’s an ongoing journey.
 

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VI Soprano, Searchlight Alto, TH&C Tenor
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My old alto came with a great mouthpiece, and I was surprised at how easy and nimble the thing was to play. Makes me think of the blazing dexterity of Bird, Ornette and Braxton. Tenor is a little more effortful, but also user friendly. Perhaps lends itself a little more to pure tone exploration. IDK. I learned on bari, which took more physical grunt, but otherwise not appreciably more difficult. The soprano, on the other hand, is a cruel mistress.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Sax, Flute, Keyboard, Vocal
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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.
I weighed myself with my the Martin tenor and then again with my Yamaha alto years ago I noticed a difference of 4 to 5 lbs. and I felt a significant dif on my back. Results vary I’m sure depending on which alto or which tenor you weigh. But that’s what I had.
 

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I weighed myself with my the Martin tenor and then again with my Yamaha alto years ago I noticed a difference of 4 to 5 lbs. and I felt a significant dif on my back. Results vary I’m sure depending on which alto or which tenor you weigh. But that’s what I had.
I have back issues too, and can appreciate the difference due to weight distribution - how you hold the horn, your posture with each, the horn’s center of mass relative to your body, etc.
 
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I'm just an amatuer play-at-home hacker so take my opinion for what it's worth but I find tenor to be much harder to master. The fingering is the same across all saxes; it's the control of the sound that's so much harder on a tenor. Having started my musical life as a clarinet player going to alto wasn't too hard. The tighter embouchure is more similar to clarinet than it is to tenor, if that makes sense. For me, looseining the embouchure enough to get the horn to sing but not so much that I lose control and squawk is the problem. Then making it sound musical and in control without choking off the sound is the next challenge. None of it is impossible, just something to always remember when playing.

I notice a difference going from my 1950s 10M to my 1990s Antiqua alto. I think I prefer the older style keywork. Seems to fit my hands better. The Antigua keywork on the right hand seems to be a bit more spread out than I would prefer.

Music is hard, period.
Definitely hard to do well.
 

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For me, when I play alto, any reed with my Meyer 5 seems to work. Tenor always seems more difficult even though that’s what I play all the time.
I bough a mint early engraved Mark 7 alto a year or so ago that kind of fell in my lap and I’ve played a grand total of two gigs on it. Alto always feels easy to me. Now soprano, thats a whole another animal.
 

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YSS62, YAS62, YTS62, YBS62, Sopranino
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I think it also has a lot to do with the particular horns. It's kind of difficult to have a tenor and an alto that are exactly the same. One or the other will have some kind of quirk/difference that makes it feel "more difficult" on your muscle memory, From lips to embouchure, to fingers and more, it has to be approached in a different manner so it also depends on how adaptable the player may be.
Exactly. The somewhat adjustable saxophone meets the somewhat adaptable human.

My tenor setup is easier to play than my alto, but I know it doesn’t have to be this way. At the moment I just prefer the greater resistance on the alto and it results in a sound I prefer. For now.
 

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I'm a tenor man, myself, but I've played a lot of alto. For difficulty, with me, it seems to depend on style. I find classical styles easier on alto than tenor, but jazz styles easier on tenor than alto. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why.
 

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I have always said this to friends and even young students. There’s no such a thing as this horn is harder than that horn. It’s all about how you connect with the instrument. Guess what, I find, soprano, Tenor and clarinet a lot easier than alto and flute. Just because I simply don’t enjoy playing the alto that much so a tenor comes out every time I grab an alto. Flute simply because I hate it, no sugar coating. The more you connect sonically and conceptually with an instrument , the easier it will be for you. Doesn’t matter if it’s a saxophone, trumpet or a harp.
 
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Oh as an addendum there are recordings of Potter and Redman on alto. I want to say Potter is on alto on one of the tracks from his album with Red Rodney and Redman, well… it’s been a while. Let me check.

He's on at least one of his early albums as a leader on alto as well. Gratitude? Not sure... I wish he would play it more! Potter also played alto in Steely Dan's section for the album Two Against Nature, and for some shows.
 

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I don't know anything about tenor since I just play alto, but one thing I've thought for a while is that alto to some extent has one big influence you have to deal with in some way no matter what (Charlie Parker), while tenor has a bunch of different big players so you can choose more easily frow a wide range of influences.

There are plenty of distinctive alto players other that Bird - Desmond, Sanborn, Maceo Parker, Arthur Blythe, Eric Dolphy, Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, and more - but they don't have the same sort of dominating influence. On tenor, there is a distinct Sonny Rollins school or Coltrane school or Lester Young school.
 
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