Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 58 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,073 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First off, it's not like I'm inexperienced. I've been playing saxophone for 42 years now. Given my experience in rock and roll bands in the 80s, I would guess something like a third of my total playing time in my life has been on tenor; probably the majority of my saxophone earnings have come from playing tenor.

Yet, I have always found it harder to play the low register on tenor than any other register of any other saxophone. I don't think it's because I have trouble with low register playing in general, or I wouldn't be able to drop pianissimo low Bbs all day long on baritone and bass sax. And I have no trouble with the low register on alto or soprano, either. But anything below about low F just seems stiff and unresponsive on tenor in a way that's not the case for soprano alto baritone or bass sax.

I experience this on any tenor sax I've played; on the full range of mouthpieces I've played. Obviously some are better and some are worse.

There's a poster here "1saxman" who often comments on tenor necks being different because of the double bend. Suddenly it occurred to me - maybe my lifelong finding that the low register of tenor is harder to play well than any other might be related to the neck design of tenor saxophones. Every other sax either has a simple single bend or no bend at all. I know that a curve in an instrument tube has the effect of changing the apparent volume - I think it's that a bent tube acts like a straight tube of greater diameter, though I'm not sure of that.

Does it seem plausible that this inherent nature of the tenor sax neck might be the reason why I always feel like I have to work harder in the tenor low register than in any other register of any other saxophone?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
27,335 Posts
Does it seem plausible that this inherent nature of the tenor sax neck might be the reason why I always feel like I have to work harder in the tenor low register than in any other register of any other saxophone?
No. Not in any way imaginable.
Tenor is simply not for you.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,890 Posts
Yeah - must be the neck. I believe someone makes straight tenors. Perhaps get your hands on one of those?
except the neck, of straight tenor is not straight-er than for curved tenors! It's the same neck!

Music Medic sells even a double bent " talto" ( tenor shaped alto) neck ( Used by Roy Benson prior to MM for many years already, and theirs it is meant for children can you imagine what it would be like to educate children with " extra" resistance ... There isn't ! )

There is not an objective problem in S necks.



 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
8,275 Posts
Being a life-long tenor player, I have to say the only time I ever had full facility in the low register was on a Martin CIII. The Selmer-style removable bow causes this. One old trick is to drop a wine cork down into the bow and see if it helps. Of course, I've always played big, hi-baffle mouthpieces too, which in my case is the #1 problem, but that's just the way it is. This, combined with the Selmer thing, does make it hard to get that lower register softly, but it has been done by many over the years so it can be done. It just doesn't matter to me the way I play and the kind of music i'm involved in.
But to the question, a neck change might help but the most important thing is getting the neck properly sized/fitted to the tenor sax, including a vacuum check. Then, every sax has leaks of varying degrees - there is no 'perfection'. You have to find a good tech and take it in every six months if you expect to sub-tone the low notes.
One of the most overlooked areas is the neck octave key and pad. Make sure it is firmly pressing the pad to the vent and that the pad is not leaking. I had terrible problems with my VI one time and it was because I tried to be a wise guy and use a cork octave pad - bad idea. These things are almost always porous and easy to crack. A cork octave pad on a sax is a nightmare waiting to happen.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,073 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm not even sure if I want to call it a "problem" given the many thousands of hours I've logged playing tenor. But my facility in that area of the horn is always limited compared to other horns, and the fact that I am more fluid in the baritone and alto low registers than tenor seems to imply that there's something about tenor.

The post is really more of a speculation than a request for ways to fix something, because I don't think there's something to fix.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
35,014 Posts
Being a life-long tenor player, I have to say the only time I ever had full facility in the low register was on a Martin CIII. The Selmer-style removable bow causes this. One old trick is to drop a wine cork down into the bow and see if it helps.
Interesting. I haven't played a Martin CIII, but I do sense a difference in the ease of low end on the Borgani Jubilee (xxxxxJ) and Buescher TH&C - both having a larger radius bow (the Selmer Ref 36 also has a slightly larger radius bow, compared to other modern Selmer tenors). As to whether the issue is exacerbated by the removable bow - well, that is the case of most modern builds. Soldering the body-bow joint does seem to help the matter. Randy Jones soldered that joint on my Ref 36, Matt Stohrer soldered the joint on my 187xxJ, and my OBT has a factory-soldered joint - all have good low end response. The cork trick was to address the gurgle that is an acoustic flaw, present on some (but not all) horns.

It is curious, Turf3, to have that challenge on only tenors, and yet on all tenors. When you first describe it, it sounded like a regulation issue, but to have it on all tenors is odd. I wonder whether it is a mouthpiece issue. Or as others suggest, maybe tenor is just not for you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,073 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Maybe tenor sax isn't the right instrument for you if you've been playing it your whole life and can't get around the low end.
Well, that's probably a contributor to why I consider myself primarily a baritone player, doubling alto. I still take gigs on tenor, but I'd rather be playing alto or bari.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,979 Posts
Does it seem plausible that this inherent nature of the tenor sax neck might be the reason why I always feel like I have to work harder in the tenor low register than in any other register of any other saxophone?
Long story short, I don't believe so.

I'm curious to know what horns you've tried, what mouthpieces you've tried, and how hard the reeds are.

In my experience, tenor sax lower register response is fully dependent on:

1. The horn being 100% free of leaks
2. The mouthpiece match with said horn
3. The reeds not being too hard (or way too soft for that matter)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
35,014 Posts
Yeah, but you'd think I could just split the difference between alto and baritone.
So what setups did you try?

I wish you could experience one of my horns... You might get hooked on tenor!
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
My main tenor since I have played one is a Martin Comm III and the bottom end is the most beautiful thing about this horn. The low Bb is like a large ocean liner coming into port after a long voyage. He just comes rumbling out full blast from scratch, and all the other notes from C1 down are the same. I'm no pro but I certainly have no problem blowing those notes at any volume I want from a whisper to a blast and they are really something else. I only say that because every other sax player I have played with either in the 6 horn combo I was in or at the jam sessions I played at here for several years used to look at my sax after hearing it with this look of wonder. One guy I got to know and play with had a King Cleveland. Not a bad horn but it just couldn't match the Martin for richness of tone or the body and complexity of the notes that came out. He asked me to play it and I let him and he then played his, looked at his and shook his head. He had heard and felt the difference and wasn't happy. The following week he was playing alto.

Another similar experience was in combo where the newest member to join was playing a Thomann Antique Tenor. Not an expensive horn by any stretch. It was passable but no match for the tone of mine. He let me play it and I ran some arpeggios up and down and it was easy to play although not elating except when I tried lower altissimo and blew right up to G3 like it was nothing. On my Martin that is something that has taken years to even get halfway decent at. I told my tech about this last week when I booked some time for him to do some work fixing leaky pads for me and he explained it as follows.

As we all know, no sax can be in tune with itself all up and down the range. Therefore the vintage saxes choose either one end of the sax to have good intonation for the other. The Martin by nature of its design and hand made manufacture has a fantastic bottom end, but at the expense of altissimo which he confirmed for me is known to be one of the hardest to get out. It's just the way it is. Why do you need G3 anyway? he asked. I said I like the key of G, especially G Blues and it gets me p.o.'d if I can't get that top G. Often I can get A3 or B4 or some squeal up higher but not that damn G3 to pop right out like it did on that damn 385 euro Thomann horn.

The other thing he said is that if you want to play altissimo on a Vintage horn then get a Super 20 because they were designed the opposite of the Martin and the top end just comes out like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube (my image not his). However, the trade off is that it doesn't have a bottom end that is either easy to play or sounds anywhere as good or is in tune like the Martin.

So there it is. Since the OP didn't say what tenor he plays, I think we need to know that to know if it is just the nature of the sax or something else more sinister at play. I mean you do know that if there is any looseness at the neck tenon....and this happens over time and needs to be expanded to tighten it back up.....there will be problems of getting the low notes out. That's because the node at the neck tenon is in concert with that in the bell and effects how those notes play. That's why the bell notes get wonky with any leak up top at the Fork F pad or in the tenon. If you neck still can rotate when you have tightened the screw all the way you can you likely have a teeny leak and need to get it expanded. At the very least have your tech do the vacuum test on it to see if it is or isn't a problem. You may have had a tiny leak there all this time and not known that it was causing that flaccidity in the bell notes.

Just my two cents worth of what I hope is common sense.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,073 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
My main tenors through the years that I've practiced, rehearsed and gigged on have been Conns - 10M and 16M.

Over the years I've played for brief periods, but have never owned the following - mostly giving them a good try-out in the music store:

Martin Committee 3
King Super 20
H Couf
King Zephyr
Yamaha Custom
Keilwerth
Yanagisawa
Buescher Aristocrat
Buffet S1
King Voll-True

I've probably played a bit on a Selmer Mark 6 somewhere along in there.

I also once tried out two different Selmer Supers.

That's what I can remember.

None of these ever seemed substantially freer-blowing than my Conn of the time.

I've mostly played a Meyer 8 but I also spent quite a bit of time with Dukoff D7 the standard rock and roll mouthpiece of the 70s and 80s. I can also remember some Brilhart Ebolins, a couple Otto Links, a C* Selmer Soloist, and an old Conn Eagle that played exactly like a pair of old gym socks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
451 Posts
I am a bari player and find that Bari and Alto come easier than tenor. My working theory is that I voice Eb, so playing those pitches makes more sense. I still play tenor, but it never feels like home. It always takes me a minute or two to dial into tenor sax (and I still can't figure out tenor alitssimo).

Don't get me started on dialing in c melody...
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,131 Posts
Maybe I'm just weird, but I play Alto more than any other sax and its the one that I have the hardest time hitting low notes with confidence -- especially at pianissimo. Bari and soprano are the easiest and then tenor. However, I've always attributed this to the mouthpiece/reed.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
My main tenors through the years that I've practiced, rehearsed and gigged on have been Conns - 10M and 16M.

Over the years I've played for brief periods, but have never owned the following - mostly giving them a good try-out in the music store:

Martin Committee 3
King Super 20
H Couf
King Zephyr
Yamaha Custom
Keilwerth
Yanagisawa
Buescher Aristocrat
Buffet S1
King Voll-True

I've probably played a bit on a Selmer Mark 6 somewhere along in there.

I also once tried out two different Selmer Supers.

That's what I can remember.

None of these ever seemed substantially freer-blowing than my Conn of the time.

I've mostly played a Meyer 8 but I also spent quite a bit of time with Dukoff D7 the standard rock and roll mouthpiece of the 70s and 80s. I can also remember some Brilhart Ebolins, a couple Otto Links, a C* Selmer Soloist, and an old Conn Eagle that played exactly like a pair of old gym socks.
Well, I have to admit that I have never played either of those Conns expect to try one or two of the used ones on consignment in my Tech's sax showroom. Being on consignment used to mean that they were often not play ready and so may or may not have played their best. So I don't remember much about those Conns except that I didn't like the Cobra necks or the pinky table layout. Two of the altos I have owned, including my first ever horn back in 1964, were New Wonders and I loved their sound. I don't recall any problems with the sound quality of the bell keys or difficulty getting them to blow, but I do recall that I had a harder time with the transition between those notes because of the 3-across layout. I have never like that design and it causes me to miss fingering both B and C# decisively. I don't have that problem with my Martin, my Buescher TT or my Conn NW Sop which has a 1, 2, 1 layout of those keys.

Truthfully I find both tenor and alto pretty much the same in ease of blowing although having to jam in Eb always takes a moment or two of reorientation to get going. When I first started playing alto at jams instead of Tenor I kept a cue card in my pocket in.case I confused the transpositions. DUh!! Other than that it was fine. It's not my own personal voice like tenor, it's true, but I do enjoy playing it more and more lately.

Soprano is the hardest of the three for me, but only because of the size of the key layout for my big spatulate fingertips and the smaller size of the mouthpiece. Other than that I accept that trying to play above F is a dumb idea because it has no Fork F and avoiding shrillness is not easy either. Altissimo on Sop is not my idea of a good sound and I think most people probably feel the same when they hear it. I know that my wife certainly doesn't, anyway. The bottom end on the other hand is great, so I play that a lot more and low Bb on my Sop is fun.
 
1 - 20 of 58 Posts
Top