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alto is harder to play well than tenor. just playing in eb is harder !
I haven't read the entire thread yet, but had to comment on this statement. Unless you're being sarcastic (sorry if I missed that!), on alto you aren't forced to play only in Eb. You can play in all 12 keys, just like you can on tenor. So they are equal in that respect.

As to which horn is more difficult, I think it's largely a matter of which one you are most familiar with playing.
 

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I haven't read the entire thread yet, but had to comment on this statement. Unless you're being sarcastic (sorry if I missed that!), on alto you aren't forced to play only in Eb.
One might even say you “get to” play in C when everyone else is having to play in Eb! 😄
 

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I haven't read the entire thread yet, but had to comment on this statement. Unless you're being sarcastic (sorry if I missed that!), on alto you aren't forced to play only in Eb. You can play in all 12 keys, just like you can on tenor. So they are equal in that respect.

As to which horn is more difficult, I think it's largely a matter of which one you are most familiar with playing.
since the band in a whole is always playing in concert keys the alto always has i more sharp to deal with than the tenor. plus your tenor riffs dont translate to alto . playing mostly alto the last 20 years believe me i have mastered playing in all keys . played with a singer who liked the key of B thats seven sharps on alto
 

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since the band in a whole is always playing in concert keys the alto always has i more sharp to deal with than the tenor.

plus your tenor riffs dont translate to alto

played with a singer who liked the key of B thats seven sharps on alto
Ok, I'll answer each of these statements in turn. It's irrelevant that the alto has one more sharp to deal with on any given tune, since on both horns you have to deal with all 12 keys. And once you are familiar with those keys, it's no more difficult to play in a key that has one more sharp.

Not sure what you mean about tenor riffs not translating to alto. You could play the same riff on an alto, either in the same key or in a different key.

Playing in concert B, that would be 7 sharps in C# on tenor, or 5 flats in Db on tenor. On alto, if you think of it as G# (I wouldn't) yeah it would also be 7 sharps, but most players would treat that key as Ab, with 4 flats. A bit easier that way, since you avoid notes like F double #. So, in this case, you've got one less flat on alto. Not that any of that makes one horn more difficult than the other.

Just an aside, but I've found that once you really learn to play in a given key, you're not thinking about the number of sharps or flats, you just know the notes and the fingerings without having to think about it.

If one horn is more difficult than the other, I think it has more to do with the different embouchure, intonation & tone control. All of which is a matter of which horn you get most used to playing. Those who play both alto and tenor need to spend time on each of them and learn to make the adjustment when switching.
 

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Lol so the song is in concert B (5 sharps) and you get to play it in Ab which is only 4 flats i.e. easier (for someone who can’t play equally in all keys, anyway) and would be even worse on tenor (C# = 7 sharps or Db = 5 sharps.) Yup, really making the case here that alto is a “hard key” to play in! 😆
 

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I’ll be honest, I’m still surprised no one is mentioning Hank Crawford and Marc Russo. Especially those who like Sanborn (of which I am one).
hank crawford, jimmy mcGriff "on the blues side" imo is one the best for great alto sax riffs. I am trying to learn them.
when I was coming up the thing was learning scales.
but i wish i had memorized 100 riffs like crawford came up with.
check it out and let me know what you think.
 

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Lol so the song is in concert B (5 sharps) and you get to play it in Ab which is only 4 flats i.e. easier (for someone who can’t play equally in all keys, anyway) and would be even worse on tenor (C# = 7 sharps or Db = 5 sharps.) Yup, really making the case here that alto is a “hard key” to play in! 😆
in jazz for many years it was mostly Bb,F,C. I remember the real book songs were in easy keys for tenor and alto.
The rock era brought in more E,G,D, A. A song in G is slightly easier on tenor than alto. A song in Ab is slightly easier on alto.
An argument for more saxophone keys.
I know everyone here will say one should play in every key the same skill level. Saxophones are not like guitars.
I have heard some people say they have Bb in their head and have a problem with Eb. I get inspired by doing something different.
I will wait for criticism.
 

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hank crawford, jimmy mcGriff "on the blues side" imo is one the best for great alto sax riffs. I am trying to learn them.
when I was coming up the thing was learning scales.
but i wish i had memorized 100 riffs like crawford came up with.
check it out and let me know what you think.
keeny loggins has gotten some great performances out of players like russo and everette harp.
 

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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.
True, he alto players you mention were all different. Benny Carter is over looked. Dolphy was a virtuoso's virtuoso. I love those two.
except the smooth jazz players all the same pentatonic blues thing (on alto and tenor)
 

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Ok, I'll answer each of these statements in turn. It's irrelevant that the alto has one more sharp to deal with on any given tune, since on both horns you have to deal with all 12 keys. And once you are familiar with those keys, it's no more difficult to play in a key that has one more sharp.

Not sure what you mean about tenor riffs not translating to alto. You could play the same riff on an alto, either in the same key or in a different key.

Playing in concert B, that would be 7 sharps in C# on tenor, or 5 flats in Db on tenor. On alto, if you think of it as G# (I wouldn't) yeah it would also be 7 sharps, but most players would treat that key as Ab, with 4 flats. A bit easier that way, since you avoid notes like F double #. So, in this case, you've got one less flat on alto. Not that any of that makes one horn more difficult than the other.

Just an aside, but I've found that once you really learn to play in a given key, you're not thinking about the number of sharps or flats, you just know the notes and the fingerings without having to think about it.

If one horn is more difficult than the other, I think it has more to do with the different embouchure, intonation & tone control. All of which is a matter of which horn you get most used to playing. Those who play both alto and tenor need to spend time on each of them and learn to make the adjustment when switching.
I think the octave key location gives alto a different overtone emphasis. Like Rosemary Clooney singing with Bing Crosby. In duets they sang the same pitch, but obviously they dont have the same vibe. IMO a riff may sound cool on tenor may not sound cool on alto. and the other way around. There are riffs on tenor, I would never use on soprano.
I spent many hours at NTSU using a metronome and B never came close to as fast as D. I know the notes but knowing the chromatic relationships is the issue issue. Coltrane and Brecker got there (maybe). Ron Carter said when Miles had Adderley and Coltrane, they would play the same handful of songs over and over to completely master those songs. IMO think the emphasis should be that the student learn songs in many keys in different styles that fit the desired direction. And build a catalog of riffs.
 

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I know everyone here will say one should play in every key the same skill level. Saxophones are not like guitars.
No idea what you mean by this. Unlike saxophones, guitars can't play the same thing in every key, for example if you want to use open strings in a voicing. But yeah, there are no hard keys. If you find a key "hard" you need to confirm whether you've actually spent as much time in it as the keys you don't find hard. Because that's all it is.
 

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with Spanish tuning less so than Stanley Jordan 4ths tuning, play a scale then slide to change keys.
Stanley Jordan can play the same scale anywhere without changing anything.

I figured someone would say, just practice more.
I have played sax, piano, and guitar for over 50 years.
And no one will convince me all keys are equal on sax.
The mechanics of the hand varies: not all fingers are equal.
And why when the goal is to entertain people with expressive music.
No one cares if your little finger can do what the fore finger can.
I wonder why all the jazz greats played Bb blues and not B blues.
 

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I figured someone would say, just practice more.
I have played sax, piano, and guitar for over 50 years.
And no one will convince me all keys are equal on sax.
The mechanics of the hand varies: not all fingers are equal.
And why when the goal is to entertain people with expressive music.
No one cares if your little finger can do what the fore finger can.
I wonder why all the jazz greats played Bb blues and not B blues.
Usually, what makes a key "easy" or "hard" is the mental aspect/familiarity. Rarely am I playing at such a speed that biological or mechanical limitations are the primary determining factor of what can be played - at least, certainly not most of the time.

I'd also point out that every key has various advantages or disadvantages - some keys' scales may be more cumbersome but arpeggios might be easier, for example. So each key is unique, with its own character, but the vast majority of time I hear people talking/complaining about hard keys it really is an issue of familiarity.
 

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I have played sax, piano, and guitar for over 50 years.
And no one will convince me…
I agree. I have read many of your threads, and this point is immutable. ;):unsure::whistle::giggle:

I wonder why all the jazz greats played Bb blues and not B blues.
It’s the drummers’ favorite key.
 
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Usually, what makes a key "easy" or "hard" is the mental aspect/familiarity.

I'd also point out that every key has various advantages or disadvantages - some keys' scales may be more cumbersome but arpeggios might be easier, for example. So each key is unique, with its own character, but the vast majority of time I hear people talking/complaining about hard keys it really is an issue of familiarity.
+1. I totally agree with this, at least in my experience.

And I agree with sojoace that every key on the sax is different in terms of fingerings and also where things fit in each register. I'm not a guitarist, but from what guitarists have told me, when they want to move a lick to a different key, for the most part they can play the exact same pattern, just in a different position on the fret board. They don't understand the idea that on sax, while the 'mental' pattern of a given lick is the same (same scale/chord degrees & rhythm), the fingering patterns will be different.
 

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+1. I totally agree with this, at least in my experience.

And I agree with sojoace that every key on the sax is different in terms of fingerings and also where things fit in each register. I'm not a guitarist, but from what guitarists have told me, when they want to move a lick to a different key, for the most part they can play the exact same pattern, just in a different position on the fret board. They don't understand the idea that on sax, while the 'mental' pattern of a given lick is the same (same scale/chord degrees & rhythm), the fingering patterns will be different.
Fingering patterns are different on piano too. Beginners often think C is the easiest key because the mind only has to think "white keys" but actually B major fits the (right) hand the best for running a scale up and down many octaves and is easier to get faster on, imo, so yeah-- familiarity is all it is.
 
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