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Does anyone here have experience, or at least strong opinions (hah!), about switching from tenor to alto? I've seen lots of posts here and elsewhere about moving from alto to tenor, but if there's a good vein of advice about moving from tenor to alto, I haven't found it. I'm an enthusiastic adult amateur, guess I'd call myself an intermediate level player (7 years or so). I'm not sure switching to alto would make me any better musically, and I do love the sound of the tenor, but I'm wondering if, as I age, I might find playing alto just physically easier. Certainly lighter weight, maybe a bit easier to blow, especially at the low end?
 

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This is a bit like comparing girls by simple pphysical features.

Baloney.

You either dig, or you do not.
So play an alto for a while, exclusively.
I was a tenor player, and quite the tenor snob, for many years.

Then i spent some time only playing alto. Quite different. To me, and all that.
 

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I used to play sop/alto/tenor/bari as well as flutes, guitars, and percussion - that was then (in my 20’s and 30’s).

Nowadays (the last 20 years or so), it’s tenor.

Tenor - It’s all that matters. To me. In my not so humble opinion.

But don’t let that stop you. Somebody has to play all those altos out there. Thank goodness it’s not me.

Find your own voice, your own passion.

Enjoy the path.
 

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After I broke my back in two places the alto was the only horn I could carry around for very long.

Not too happy about that, but it is better than not playing at all.

Got a Conn Chu NWII cir 1927 and Gary's hard rubber .076 Ponzol, and finally starting to get a sound.

Its cool. Considering.
 

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I play tenor and alto on every gig but I remain a tenor man. If I had to play only alto for some reason, I believe I could do that and still work. You can play alto like a tenor but you can't play tenor like an alto. Alto styles range from Earl Bostic to David Sanborn to Paul Desmond. But the bottom line is get yourself an alto and start working on getting the mouthpiece you want for the kind of alto playing you want to do. There's no reason you can't do both.
 

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I'm wondering if, as I age, I might find playing alto just physically easier. Certainly lighter weight, maybe a bit easier to blow, especially at the low end?
Overall physically easier, probably; lighter, certainly; easier to blow, possibly. You don't need to think too hard about this; one horn is simply smaller than the other. Only you can tell how that will match with your evolving range of physical capabilities. Keep in mind that you don't have to "switch" absolutely, unless you cannot afford to keep and maintain more than one saxophone. If it's easier on your body, you can play mostly alto but still pick up the tenor on occasion.

The alto requires a slightly tighter embouchure, and you'll probably sense a bit more resistance, depending your model of alto and choice of mouthpiece. Good breath support will be important, especially on the high end. On the other hand, the smaller tube requires less air to fill it. This does have an impact on the physical effort required to pump out the bell tones.

What kind of music do you mostly play?
 

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The real question is why are you asking us? Play the one that you prefer, or play both if you want. I'll stick with tenor. On occasion I pull out the alto, blow a few notes, then put it right back in its case. The tenor is my 'voice' but that's just me. You may be different.

From a more general standpoint as to why more players seem to switch from alto to tenor, rather than the other way around, I suspect it has to do with the fact that most players start out on alto (for various reasons) and many of them at some point decide to try a tenor and end up sticking with it.
 

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The real question is why are you asking us? Play the one that you prefer, or play both if you want. I'll stick with tenor. On occasion I pull out the alto, blow a few notes, then put it right back in its case. The tenor is my 'voice' but that's just me. You may be different.

From a more general standpoint as to why more players seem to switch from alto to tenor, rather than the other way around, I suspect it has to do with the fact that most players start out on alto (for various reasons) and many of them at some point decide to try a tenor and end up sticking with it.
Exactly, and one of the reasons to start out on alto is that they are generally way cheaper for what you get. But by the end of the day it is what you like, and there is no reason why it has to be exclusive commitment to either flavor. If you aspire to sound like David Sanborn, go with the alto. Just don't make the mistake to think they are different sizes of the same instrument and you play them the same way, there are differences in philosophy between the different sizes of saxes which make switching challenging but also very exciting.
 

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For those who say no way never you might change your mind if you developed arthritis in your spine. I prefer playing tenor but some days if I’m going to do it at all the alto is much easier on the spine. This past week I’ve spent some time with my clarinet just to lighten the load. That made my lips and jaws tire out pretty quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Tenor Mattness: "I can understand moving from alto to tenor, but tenor to alto??? Why??"

As I said, "I'm wondering if, as I age, I might find playing alto just physically easier. Certainly lighter weight, maybe a bit easier to blow, especially at the low end?"
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Overall physically easier, probably; lighter, certainly; easier to blow, possibly. You don't need to think too hard about this; one horn is simply smaller than the other. Only you can tell how that will match with your evolving range of physical capabilities. Keep in mind that you don't have to "switch" absolutely, unless you cannot afford to keep and maintain more than one saxophone. If it's easier on your body, you can play mostly alto but still pick up the tenor on occasion.

The alto requires a slightly tighter embouchure, and you'll probably sense a bit more resistance, depending your model of alto and choice of mouthpiece. Good breath support will be important, especially on the high end. On the other hand, the smaller tube requires less air to fill it. This does have an impact on the physical effort required to pump out the bell tones.

What kind of music do you mostly play?
Thanks Lost Conn for your helpful answer. And you raise a good point about not having to switch absolutely. I mostly play duets with a guitarist friend, some of the easier standards and bossas. My inquiry about tenor vs alto is not about which one's sound I prefer or which is "better." I like them both, for different reasons, and in different styles. I was mostly seeking people's opinions (ideally based on experience with both) about whether alto is easier to carry and blow, which *might* affect how much I can play in the years ahead.
 

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I don't think age matters much; just watched a video last night about Jimmy Heath going to Tuscon to record ("Passing the Torch") and give advice to a bunch of high school students who love jazz. Jimmy is not a large person, and at 90+, you can hear a little wavering in the sound, but still swinging like the monster he is.

Bottom line - play what you love, don't worry about the rest. If physical issues get in the way, maybe a soprano is an even better choice? Though it's harder to play due to the small mouthpiece and tighter embouchure required...
 

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Played both 30 years ago in Big Bands and then quit due to travel. Had pro equipment then but student/intermediate stuff now. It would cost me @$10k to replace what I had sold now. My student stuff was less than $1k. Got a tenor last year and struggled with that in two big bands. Then I got an alto & clarinet and now play the alto in one band and the tenor in the other. I am having problems with the low notes below D on the alto. Playing different horns and set ups than I did years ago but I am finding the alto more difficult to get used to where as years ago I had no issues. I do remember trying different mouthpieces in the past to get the sound and response I wanted so I guess I have to do that all over again. It could be just more time on the tenor but I am thinking that playing the other horns has helped my tenor sound. Could also be years of smoking a pipe. It has taken over a year to get as good as I once was and now it's just a simple matter of getting better.
 

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I was mostly seeking people's opinions (ideally based on experience with both) about whether alto is easier to carry and blow, which *might* affect how much I can play in the years ahead.
OK, that redefines the question: FWIW, I find the tenor more comfortable to my hands, elbows, and arms. The weight disappears once it is on the neckstrap (and I had years of back pain, culminating in a discotemy). I literally breathe tenor - playing tenor, in contrast to sop or alto, feels like a natural exhalation. At volume, it feels like I’m am singing my heart out.

I hope you may find that experience for you.
 

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I mostly play duets with a guitarist friend, some of the easier standards and bossas.
fwiw, when I switched to tenor I immediately noticed the timbre/depth of tone seemed to fit with (electric) guitar much better than the alto had. Purely a subjective observation on my part, but to this day, many years later, I still feel the same way about it.

As to the age thing, I'll be 68 this year and I don't find the tenor at all heavy or difficult to blow (see Dr G's comment above). If anything, the greater resistance in the smaller horn (alto) is more 'work', but maybe just because I'm so used to the tenor. So I wouldn't worry about that issue, at least not until it becomes some sort of problem (if ever).
 

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Does anyone here have experience… about switching from tenor to alto?… I'm wondering if, as I age, I might find playing alto just physically easier. Certainly lighter weight, maybe a bit easier to blow, especially at the low end?
I am one who played tenor from the start. Never even owned an alto till i was in my 30s. Even then, i never got serious about alto sax until about about 12 years ago. Now I can't stop playing it. Yes, the alto is much lighter and easier to carry in it's case. On your neck it is lighter too (get a Just Joe's strap). I agree the ease of blowing is also easier, but the alto does require more embouchure strength then tenor. People here might disagree with that last statement.

So now I love to play alto for my own jazz playing. Still play and love the tenor too, but that's mainly when people hire me to play it. Since Eb has become more friendly and comfortable, I even prefer the baritone to the tenor. Both of the Eb saxes feel "correct" in their pitches and fingerings. And lastly, don't forget the alto is the most popular with the general public. Good luck either way!
 

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Does anyone here have experience, or at least strong opinions (hah!), about switching from tenor to alto? I've seen lots of posts here and elsewhere about moving from alto to tenor, but if there's a good vein of advice about moving from tenor to alto, I haven't found it. I'm an enthusiastic adult amateur, guess I'd call myself an intermediate level player (7 years or so). I'm not sure switching to alto would make me any better musically, and I do love the sound of the tenor, but I'm wondering if, as I age, I might find playing alto just physically easier. Certainly lighter weight, maybe a bit easier to blow, especially at the low end?

My Chu alto has an extremely smooth and easy to play low end.

The difference in blowing is huge from baritone and tenor. Often I do not run out of air, but out of oxygen. Plenty of stuff in the lungs, but so little oxygen in it I have to exhale and recharge.
 

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I play soprano, alto, and tenor. I started on tenor in 5th grade, and didn't own an alto until my college classical sax professor made me buy one in my third year because "that's where all the repertoire is." While my overall classical approach is similar on all three, my jazz approach is very different, based mostly on my main influences on each horn. So I say if you're happy with tenor get a strap or harness that will reduce stress on your back and neck (if needed,) and stick with tenor.

If, however, you really want to broaden your tonal palette, or are just interested in trying out an alto and/or soprano (and/or bari), you should definitely pick one up and have some fun!
 
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