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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just bought a great 1960's Mark VI tenor from PM Woodwind in Chicago! I've tried at least 20 MKVI's over the years and thought most were great, but just not for me. I even owned a MKVI and an SBA for several years, and loved the sound, but they just weren't comfortable for me. I played alto for 20 years before switching to tenor, perhaps that's got something to do with how I approach blowing the tenor?

I've been playing a KingS20 (also Conn 10M) for the past 10 years. As much as I love the S20 & 10M horns, It was always in the back of my mind I'd end up on a MK VI or SBA again - if only I could find the right one...

I finally found it! A big shout out to Paul Maslin at PM Woodwind Repair for knowing what MY needs are and keeping an eye out for the right horn for me.

Here's a clip from my first gig on the MKVI. I hope you dig it!

http://instagr.am/p/CT2Ksdeg9U-/
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So I guess I could've been more clear about my implied question: What effect (if any) do you think playing alto for 20years THEN switching to tenor would have on equipment choice?

An interesting theory I've been working with - I've heard that when learning a language as a child, the mouth muscles grow and form around the shapes needed to pronounce the words correctly, and this is why it's so hard for an adult to pronounce new foreign words easily. The muscles have "cemented" their shape and function. Perhaps it's the same with switching to a different sax? For me the challenge has been finding equipment that feels like home but also speaks well on the tenor...

I'm interested in hearing about other's experiences in this situation.
 

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That's an interesting question - I started playing clarinet at 9, then got an alto as a young teenager (12), and picked up a tenor at the age of 17, because I joined a R&B band. But when I left high school a year later, the tenor went back to the store (it was a rental). I continued on alto for the next 10 years, and finally bought a Mark VI tenor, which I still have, because, well, gigs.

It took me some time to really get a good tenor sound, probably 3 years or so, and even then my embouchure was still too tight. But the really interesting thing, to me, was how the work I did to improve my tenor sound also improved my alto sound. Namely, push in, relax the jaw and take in more mouthpiece.

I liked the clip a lot, I think you get a nice sound. Regarding your question, I have not really looked for equipment that "worked" for me, I always just played a Link. I did fool around with different alto pieces though, including trying an alto STM for a couple years. In the last 15 or so years, I have bought several tenor pieces, all in the Link-ish realm, and found one that really works for me. Hmmm -- kinda corresponds to when I joined SOTW... hmmm....

I think the question of what instrument and mouthpiece works best is so individual, for me it's a matter of "can I get what comes out of the horn to match my conception, AND feel comfortable at the same time". I'll go with something that feels better or is easier to produce notes (like altissimo) even if the sound isn't quite perfect, because I know I can shape the sound somewhat. I had that experience when I bought a "back up" tenor that I played as my main horn for a couple years (Phil Barone), because it was 95% of the tone of my Mark VI, and the altissimo and palm key notes were a piece of cake. Then I bought a new neck for my Mark VI and the Barone is in back up status now. (Hmmmm... really have bought a lot of saxophone stuff since I joined SOTW.... hmmm.......)
 

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So I guess I could've been more clear about my implied question: What effect (if any) do you think playing alto for 20years THEN switching to tenor would have on equipment choice?

An interesting theory I've been working with - I've heard that when learning a language as a child, the mouth muscles grow and form around the shapes needed to pronounce the words correctly, and this is why it's so hard for an adult to pronounce new foreign words easily. The muscles have "cemented" their shape and function. Perhaps it's the same with switching to a different sax? For me the challenge has been finding equipment that feels like home but also speaks well on the tenor...

I'm interested in hearing about other's experiences in this situation.
Congrats on finding a tenor that's a great fit for you, Nick.

As to your question, those 20 years have made so many changes in YOU - how you hear, how you blow, what you want from your sound... I think it's more about what has changed rather than what is "cemented". Accept it and enjoy the moment.
 

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So I guess I could've been more clear about my implied question: What effect (if any) do you think playing alto for 20years THEN switching to tenor would have on equipment choice?

An interesting theory I've been working with - I've heard that when learning a language as a child, the mouth muscles grow and form around the shapes needed to pronounce the words correctly, and this is why it's so hard for an adult to pronounce new foreign words easily. The muscles have "cemented" their shape and function. Perhaps it's the same with switching to a different sax? For me the challenge has been finding equipment that feels like home but also speaks well on the tenor...

I'm interested in hearing about other's experiences in this situation.
i always think alto players that play tenor sound like they are not totally comfortable with the voicing of the notes, especially in the low range of the horn. It's like they are still unconsciously hearing and voicing the notes up a fourth from where they actually are on the tenor. That's my impression anyways. All the notes come out and it sounds fine to the ear but the notes don't seem to have the depth of tone and presence that a tenor player would have. I switched from alto to tenor myself after college and I felt like a poser on the tenor for a couple years until something clicked and I started authentically voicing the notes for tenor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
i always think alto players that play tenor sound like they are not totally comfortable with the voicing of the notes, especially in the low range of the horn. It's like they are still unconsciously hearing and voicing the notes up a fourth from where they actually are on the tenor. That's my impression anyways. All the notes come out and it sounds fine to the ear but the notes don't seem to have the depth of tone and presence that a tenor player would have. I switched from alto to tenor myself after college and I felt like a poser on the tenor for a couple years until something clicked and I started authentically voicing the notes for tenor.
An interesting thought! For me it's more about wanting the tenor to feel more manageable. I really had to learn to be very efficient with the air, whereas the alto didn't require as much wind I suppose. It did take several years for me...
 

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FWIW Nick I think you have a very nice sound on tenor and I really like your concept. Very contemporary and very nicely articulated. I know a lot of guys who move from tenor to alto to soprano with ease and play each with a different approach. Not just doing on tenor what they do on alto. From what I can hear if you’ve played the majority of your life on alto and then made the transition to tenor you’ve done a good job. You play some really nice lines and sound very comfortable on the new VI. Congratulations on finding a VI that really works for you. I’d like to hear more of you in a pro recording situation. Cheers. Alex
 

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To me, each sax is a completely different instrument, unrelated to the other except for the shared fingerings. Different sound, different concept. My choice of tenor had no connection whatsoever to my choice of alto or to my prior experience on alto. Same goes for soprano, bari, bass, flute, clarinet, piano, etc. All different, each unrelated to any other.

You sound great on tenor, by the way. I may steal some of those tasty lines.
 

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I was an alto player before I picked up the tenor, primarily because I listen to and really enjoy many of the great tenor players of the past and present. But, I was never really satisfied with my sound on tenor. So, after about 10 years of playing tenor I went back to alto as I realized that my sound is on alto. It's much easier to focus on the music when you don't have the distraction of your concept of sound getting in the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
FWIW Nick I think you have a very nice sound on tenor and I really like your concept. Very contemporary and very nicely articulated. I know a lot of guys who move from tenor to alto to soprano with ease and play each with a different approach. Not just doing on tenor what they do on alto. From what I can hear if you've played the majority of your life on alto and then made the transition to tenor you've done a good job. You play some really nice lines and sound very comfortable on the new VI. Congratulations on finding a VI that really works for you. I'd like to hear more of you in a pro recording situation. Cheers. Alex
Thanks for the kind words Alex! I'll post more studio recordings on instagram in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So, after about 10 years of playing tenor I went back to alto as I realized that my sound is on alto. It's much easier to focus on the music when you don't have the distraction of your concept of sound getting in the way.
I couldn't agree more! Alto still feels so much easier physically, but the back-pressure can trigger migraines for me, which is why I stick with tenor. Hopefully I can figure that out again down the road...

Here's a link to my first album when I played alto: Free Time - ft. David Liebman, by Nick Bisesi
 

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I couldn't agree more! Alto still feels so much easier physically, but the back-pressure can trigger migraines for me, which is why I stick with tenor. Hopefully I can figure that out again down the road...

Here's a link to my first album when I played alto: Free Time - ft. David Liebman, by Nick Bisesi
Back pressure has a lot to do with the mouthpiece in my experience. I don't know what you are playing but I have medical issues with back pressure as well and they are gone with a mouthpiece with less back pressure.
 

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Really liked the stuff on your BandCamp site, both alto and tenor! I don't think the video above does you justice -- it's just a short news bite.
 

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You have a big sound on alto Nick–on your recording with Liebman, I'd say you were a tenor player all along:) Switching between the two is haphazard for many, but not you by the sounds. Some alto players have a big tenor sound but they gravitate to the singing upper register of the tenor, many just don't click with the horn.
As for your question: how does 20 years of alto playing effect your choice of tenor gear?
You would be in a very small category there, most don't wait 20 yrs before doubling. My guess would be you'd find an average pro tenor player with a suitcase full of pieces, and try them until you found an expressive voice on tenor. I can't see there would be a law operating here, other than what sounds good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Back pressure has a lot to do with the mouthpiece in my experience. I don't know what you are playing but I have medical issues with back pressure as well and they are gone with a mouthpiece with less back pressure.
Thanks for your insight - I played a HR Berg for about 15 years then switched to a Meyer 7 (on 1st series MK VI). Reeds were La Voz Med-Hard on the Berg, and Hemke 3.5 on the Meyer (I used the Meyer setup on my Free Time recording).

The trick for me on alto is to find an easy-blowing MPC that's not shrill. What MPC's do you think fit that bill? It seems like Meyer (and copies) are the only game in town...
 
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