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Discussion Starter #1
In another thread Stefan wrote:
stefank said:
I own an alto (just in case I need one in some sort of emergency), but (for me) tenor is what it's about - probably because it's closest to my vocal range. It may not be just that however (the vocal range) - different people (regardless of their voice) may be most comfotable in a particular range. Miles made some interesting comments about how he "thought" in a range lower than Dizzy and some other trumpet players.
Older contributors please forgive me if this is a topic that's been discussed to death before, but aside from the great image this gave me of an alto in a glass box by Stefan's front door with a little hammer on a chain and a message saying "in case of emergency break glass and play alto" I think this idea of an affinity to one sax or another is an interesting concept to think more about, particularly the idea about thinking in a range.

The different pitch saxes are more than just different in their ranges of course. Taking the two most common saxes as an example for a moment I wonder whether the exquisite precision and lyrical qualities of the alto appeals to some types of personality and the more laid back and unrefined qualities of the tenor appeal to other types. this applies to soprano, bari and the others too. Of course you may not agree with my descriptions (I'd be interested to learn other peoples' more educated ones) and also of course many of us play or at least appreciate the qualities of more than one sax.

That said I, think the majority of us are drawn more to one sax than to the others. If this is the case for you then do you know why?
 

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First thing, I love all the saxes and the music competent musicians can evoke from them. But I've always liked the tenor the most. The soprano is too piercing, the alto too strident, the bari too comical — the tenor's the only one with an inherent sense of dignity. But I must admit, I was heavily influenced by my best friend's older brother who assured me, as a jazz-struck teen, that the tenor was "the most jazz-ile instrument."
 

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shotgun said:
The soprano is too piercing, the alto too strident, the bari too comical — the tenor's the only one with an inherent sense of dignity.
Oh, okey dokey, I'll take the bait. He's absolutely right. Tenor sax is for real men. It's baritone to tenor in voice terms, lieder to bel canto, it's the main voice in terms of sax impro (if you're prepared to leave out Parker and Bechet, which might just be a bit of a stretch...;) ) Tenor is a deeper (and so more manly?) version of the male voice.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I was particularly interested in learning what anyone thought that their preference said about them.

I too am drawn more to tenor than the other saxes and I was looking at some of my personality qualities and wandering if the fact that I'm untidy, emotional, a deep thinker, lacking in precision, lacking in discipline and a concepts guy more than a details guy has anything to do with that preference. (I do have some good qualities too, I just can't think of them right now :) )

So can anyone else see a fit with their personality or am I making a complete fool of myself here and it's purely and simply to do with preferring the pitch range as the others have said?
 

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Rick Adams said:
I was particularly interested in learning what anyone thought that their preference said about them.

I too am drawn more to tenor than the other saxes and I was looking at some of my personality qualities and wandering if the fact that I'm untidy, emotional, a deep thinker, lacking in precision, lacking in discipline and a concepts guy more than a details guy has anything to do with that preference. (I do have some good qualities too, I just can't think of them right now :) )

So can anyone else see a fit with their personality or am I making a complete fool of myself here and it's purely and simply to do with preferring the pitch range as the others have said?

Well, I'll say this: when I quit tenor, I felt it was helping me to leave behind some old habits and personality trends. In fact, I only bought my alto originally as a backup instrument but when I played it I fell in love with the sound and figured I should stop playing tenor. This coincided with a pretty big change in my life: quitting my daily alcohol use. This might sound strange but I associated wailing the blues on my tenor with drinking, because after a few beers it seemed easier to put in the air it required and put me in the mood for the big, deep sound of jazz tenor. I know not everyone is like that but that is just the association I formed.

I sometimes yearn for it (tenor - thankfully not beer) but I am hopeful I can get better at alto and not need to play tenor, because I do not like the 'heaviness' of the sound as much. When I first started playing I admired the husky jazz tenor sound the most but now I am more interested in a 'lighter' sound.

I haven't had a drink in about 2 months and am perfectly fine without it. Alcohol seems fun at first and then it sucks really bad after a while. I know I can't be moderate so I just abstain.

I am working on my getting alto playing up to what my tenor playing was and generally don't have the desire to play my tenor again because I still associate it with the past.

Most people would see this as strange but I thought I'd write about it here since it seemed appropriate. I still love jazz tenor and all that but perhaps I just feel like having a novel playing experience will help me move ahead in my life, and I might come back to tenor later.
 

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Rick Adams said:
I was particularly interested in learning what anyone thought that their preference said about them.

So can anyone else see a fit with their personality or am I making a complete fool of myself here and it's purely and simply to do with preferring the pitch range as the others have said?
Nah, you're not making a fool of yourself at all although it's probably easiest on everyone to just allow that different people have different reasons for playing different instruments. I'm willing to bet that we could find a few tenor players who are neat, coolly rational, disciplined and exacting airheads with a penchant for hands-on experience, even on this board! Taste, as they say, is difficullt to account for. Peer pressure and hero worship probably had more to do with my choosing the tenor than musical personality, which was unformed at the time. But seeing myself as a tenor guy certainly influenced my subsequent musical experience and cultural perspective and very likely influenced my personality as well.
 

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Each musician probably has a instrument that is their "voice" ie the instrument that most eassily converts their ideas and emotions to music. Mine is the baritone. But I love all the saxes and play most of em too!!!
 

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Antigua Winds: SS 3159 Curved Soprano , Pro One Alto & Tenor w/Cryo Necks, BS 3220 low A Baritone
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Interesting thread. If I could only play one sax, it would tenor hands down. I also love playing soprano and bari, but for some reason I don't enjoy playing alto.
So tenor is my true voice, soprano for texture and color, and bari for power and just plain fun. I usually cover alto songs on tenor or soprano.
Think of it as tenor is "The Man" with bari " The Bodyguard" with soprano being "The Wingman" supplying lyrical running commentary. Just my $.02. Man, I should go to bed !!!
 

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Something that has struck me is how many tenor players double on soprano, but steer well clear of alto. I count myself in there. Maybe there's a Bb thing
going on too.
 

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the time has come to reveal the truth about my preference for the tenor sax and how I became a saxophone player >> My models for the tenor were ,back then, Vido Musso and Charlie Ventura and all those Italian guys with the sleek brylcreamed hair, I was pretty sure that If I got myself a tenor and tried to look like the image the chicks would be banging down my door.
Little did I know that to make a living out of music I would have to suffer the alto,baritone and ,forgive the French, the clarinet too !!!!
 

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slobberchops said:
Something that has struck me is how many tenor players double on soprano, but steer well clear of alto. I count myself in there. Maybe there's a Bb thing
going on too.[/QUOTThere is!!!!I like baritone the best and right up there w/ baritone is it's Eb little brother the alto. I like the Eb saxes better. This is one reason both my daughters each have a Bb and a Eb sax. Hopefully by starting young on 2 saxes in differant pitch(Eb,Bb) they will not have a preference.
 

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I guess I don't understand the whole "manly" thing in the voicing of tenor vs. alto. I noticed that back in the 50's and 60's a lot of R&R sax players did play alto, and that the tenor players starting with King Curtis and on through the Lenny Pickett era have opted to play some of the wailing sax sounds in the altissimo rang of the tenor. I noticed on a Huey Lewis video that has old and new clips of the band that Johnny Colla played alto 20 years ago on numbers that he now plays tenor on. Maybe the fact that you can fairly well overlap the alto in the altissimo ranges of tenor makes it unnecessary to have an extra horn on the stand to get kicked over during gigs. Since I can't carry a tune in a bucket vocally, I guess it doesn't matter which horn most approximates the man's voice. Seems to me like Ella Fitzgerald pretty much overlapped all but Bari. As I get older I appreciate the fact that the alto is just a whole lot lighter than the tenor and doesn't hurt my back as much.
 

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I play alto, tenor and bari. I enjoy whichever one I'm playing at the time. But here's where I'll get in trouble with most of you...I much prefer the sound of clarinet to the sound of soprano. I stumbled into a good deal on a Yani S990. Whenever I played it I felt that I should be spending my time on clarinet. Same register, much more pleasing sound, more versatility. I sold the soprano.

OK. Go ahead and charge me with heresy.
 

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Interesting thread - I play all normal saxes plus C Tenor. As to my true voice, I waiver naturally between Alto & Tenor - depending on the tune. The tenor is definitely dirtier & sultry. The Alto, in comparison, is clear and articulate. Where I have a choice, I go where the flow of the tune moves me.
 

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This has been worrying me for some time now, and I can't help but wonder, does playing Eb and Bb instruments mess up your ability to play by ear? Say you're soloing on tenor, and you want to play a note you hear, you finger it, and it's off by a fourth... Not so nice!

If it does, that seems like a great reason to only play Bb or only play Eb.
 

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Agreed. I played tenor, but I switched, now I play alto. People who play multiple instruments, any kinds, I think are making sacrifices, unless they are just really talented, and maybe have a reason for it, like being a big band leader. Benny Carter could play alto sax, clarinet, and trumpet, and it didn't seem to hinder his alto playing... but I just want to play alto. And just one alto... but hopefully have an extra one for backup. :) It's a pain when the horn is in the shop and you can't play, even if it doesn't happen often.. :|

LazySaxman said:
This has been worrying me for some time now, and I can't help but wonder, does playing Eb and Bb instruments mess up your ability to play by ear? Say you're soloing on tenor, and you want to play a note you hear, you finger it, and it's off by a fourth... Not so nice!

If it does, that seems like a great reason to only play Bb or only play Eb.
 

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LazySaxman said:
...does playing Eb and Bb instruments mess up your ability to play by ear? Say you're soloing on tenor, and you want to play a note you hear, you finger it, and it's off by a fourth... Not so nice!

If it does, that seems like a great reason to only play Bb or only play Eb.
This does not seem to happen - I think your mind automatically integrates the sensory data that provides the mental context for the correctly pitched response. I also suspect people are already "thinking Eb" when they reach for the Alto, and "thinking Bb" when they reach for the Tenor. If I fumble around for a few notes on occasion, it's because I'm not correctly hearing and integrating the key of the music, not because I don't know where the key of my horn is. Usually I can anchor the piece from note one.
 

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retread said:
I play alto, tenor and bari. I enjoy whichever one I'm playing at the time. But here's where I'll get in trouble with most of you...I much prefer the sound of clarinet to the sound of soprano. I stumbled into a good deal on a Yani S990. Whenever I played it I felt that I should be spending my time on clarinet. Same register, much more pleasing sound, more versatility. I sold the soprano.

OK. Go ahead and charge me with heresy.
I won't be the one to charge you. I bought a CD of Paquito D'Rivera playing some Brazilian tunes that I wanted to hear him play alto on only to find that the majority of the songs were on clarinet. I had pretty much relegate clarinet to an older time (swing, dixieland, etc.) but found that the richness of the sound that Paquitio got out of the horn added another dimension to the jazz samba that I though revitalized it. I also noticed in going back through some of my older albums that Mancini used Art Pepper on clarinet quite a bit during that "Peter Gunn" era... sort of the Playboy After Dark pseudo jazz combo thing... still it sounds great. Makes me want to dust off my clarinet and noodle around.
 
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