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Discussion Starter #1
I played tenor for about 10 years and have now just switched to alto. I wanted a change, wanted to experiment with a lighter sound, and also the weight and comfort factors were a consideration for me. What has your experiences been switching from tenor to alto or vice versa?
 

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well, I've done the opposite (not so much switching but rather doubling) a few months ago and I must say that Tenor, for a number of reasons, is much more difficult to play but very rewarding. Also the style of your playing should be affected by the sax you play. The alto being quick and nippy and the tenor more thoughtful (I really went to play tenor bacause I am slowish on alto playing ballads on it as if it was a tenor...). Possibly you will experience some embouchure teething problems.
 

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Interesting. It's usually alto to tenor not the other way. I would think you'll find the adjustment to a different m/p will be the trickiest thing. I've noticed that switchers from alto to tenor almost always say the tenor embouchure is "looser". I'd be interested as to whether you think the alto embouchure is "tighter". I'd take advice from someone who's expert on what alto m/p is a "good match" to your tenor piece, meaning what mouthpiece/reed combination will feel fairly similar to play in terms of resistance and playing in tune.
 

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Embouchure will definitely be the main issue.

I went the other way and it took me a long while to 'loosen up'. I personally find the tenor more comfortable even though it weighs more.
 

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docformat said:
Embouchure will definitely be the main issue./QUOTE]


yes, it messed up (or rather it exposed some hidden problems) a little my embouchure. I am dealing with a sudden attack of squeaking on every piece and horn now (I am fighting back!) ;) . On the whole I find the tenor takes more enrgy to play (weight is a little issue) especially my diaphragm breath support ( I know, long tones!....) is having trouble to adjust. Nevertheless worth doing it. I am also trying baritone now and a little soprano to top it all. I am mad!:twisted:
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Well right now, probably the most noticable difference for me is that the alto seems more resistant. The lower notes tend to squeak unless I play them in that 'window' required to get the note to speak. I guess I am used to using a more air down there when now it's more about having a tighter embouchure. For the high notes like around the palm keys, I find it's really easy to lose control (and sound really bad) and I have to tone down the air.

I can't use the same mouthpiece I was using before because the alto requires a medium (or small?) chamber mouthpiece and although I'm still using a Morgan, it's an M, not an L, which is a bit different. And I'm still fussing to find the holy grail reed, when before I used vandoren blue box (but it doesn't work on the M chamber very well.)

One of the tricky things for me was/is getting my ear used to the different key... also the keywork (and to some degree intonation) was slightly better on my tenor, especially the low Bb cluster (went from a Buescher 'Crat tenor to a Martin Indiana alto.) Maybe I'd prefer a "pro" line Martin but I understand they are pretty close.

I feel I can't play as fast or fluid yet on my alto as I could on my tenor, but I hope that will improve with time (and better reeds.) But I love how light it is and although the keywork seemed small at first it is fine now. I like being able to sit and play which was harder for me to do on tenor, I can even sit cross-legged on the floor and play. Naturally it's much lighter to carry too (in the case.) :toothy8:

To me the alto has a different voice, which is the most important thing.
 

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Congrats on the alto! I prefer the alto over tenor any day...I hope you find it that way too. It's a lot easier to carry too. And more fun to play.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
bluesaxgirl said:
Congrats on the alto! I prefer the alto over tenor any day...I hope you find it that way too. It's a lot easier to carry too. And more fun to play.
Thanks, I really enjoy it. I am noticing that it is true about how it takes less air but a more solid embouchure. Perhaps it is because my mpc is slightly on the open side (.90 I think.) It is a little work on my chops (fatigueing) but I love the sound.

edit: thinner reed helped this.
 

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I play them both, but am primarily an alto player. I find that the tenor is actually starting to hurt my back some.

For me, the alto is just a tighter setup. I have more mobility in playing fast passages and better control over things like my altissimos than I do on tenor. Tenor kinda feels big and clunky to me, a little like going from driving a car to a mack truck.

The one thing that kind of has a tendency to screw me up from time to time though is that I "hear" in Eb. If I'm playing tenor, I'll end up starting to go for a passage then suddenly realize that I'm playing it in the key that's supposed to be for alto.
 

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edhara
try a harness strap. I am betting that your back hurts, becuase you Neck hurts. It spreads the weight to many different places making it easier to carry.
 

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I switched from tenor to alto about four years ago. I continue to play tenor but it's frustrating when compared with how far my alto playing has come. I find tenor difficult to play comfortably after playing only alto and baritone for so long. Like Ed, I tend to hear in Eb and I think this poses a greater challenge than any other for my tenor playing. Having played baritone and bass clarinet for so long, the larger size of the instrument and the mouthpiece is not really an issue. It's all the tonal concept and the hearing of ideas in a different key: it's all a mental battle!

Tenor is a great instrument but I find it a lot more difficult after being a dyed in the wool alto player for so many years. It takes a ton of listening to and playing with great tenor players to really get it happening. Good luck it's worth it :)
 

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I was primarily a tenor player also. Dabbled in alto a bit in school but mostly tenor. Now that I don't have juries to worry with, I play alto tenor AND soprano. To me, if the horn is set up correctly, alto was multitudes easier after playing tenor for so long, my air support was huge for playing classical tenor, so it made the nuances more crisp on alto.

....however...Soprano.....was a different story...it was like trying to vibrte a reed from across the room with a straw and a ceiling fan.....lol but I have overcome!! :D

Alto is quite rewarding for me because I feel like it's just easier, however, someone above me said it right, alto is technical, tenor is the one that really sings....=)

- Pat
 

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Carbs said:
edhara
try a harness strap. I am betting that your back hurts, becuase you Neck hurts. It spreads the weight to many different places making it easier to carry.
Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll do that... I want to do more tenor stuff, but it's really difficult for me for any length of time during a gig. :)
 

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edhara said:
Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll do that... I want to do more tenor stuff, but it's really difficult for me for any length of time during a gig. :)

Yes!

I have a neotech sling. It goes over my left shoulder and under the right. A bit small for alto (although it works for me), but very comfortable and great for tenor. All the weight goes on the shoulder, and it is comfortably padded.
 

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I started on alto in 6th grade and then switched to tenor as a junior in HS. I switched back to alto as my primary horn my 3rd year of college when I began playing lots of lead alto in big band. Now I'm working back into tenor more. I like my technique more on alto but my tone/sound more on tenor. Regardless, I think I'm at my best when I work on both horns. Playing tenor helps my alto playing and vice versa. In college I normally played the alto in big band and tenor in jazz combos, funk, and salsa bands to make sure I'd spend time on both horns.
 

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i've always found that tenor is much easier to play than alto. especially in the high register and altissimo range. it's not very difficult to play up to D4 or E4, which on alto is a challenge. tenor does take slightly more air, but i find that i adjust to it after a few minutes of playing.
i've heard a few people who were mostly tenor players who always sounded like they were still playing tenor when they played alto...like their tone just sounded tenorish. i've been told the same is true when i play tenor. since i'm mostly an alto player, i sound like i'm playing alto on tenor.!
anybody else notice this?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
dpmusic said:
i've always found that tenor is much easier to play than alto. especially in the high register and altissimo range. it's not very difficult to play up to D4 or E4, which on alto is a challenge. tenor does take slightly more air, but i find that i adjust to it after a few minutes of playing.
i've heard a few people who were mostly tenor players who always sounded like they were still playing tenor when they played alto...like their tone just sounded tenorish. i've been told the same is true when i play tenor. since i'm mostly an alto player, i sound like i'm playing alto on tenor.!
anybody else notice this?
well the great Coltrane switched from alto to tenor early on, and always liked to use the upper register a lot in his solos, and could sound a little like an alto at times imo. Gene Ammons or Ben Webster on the other hand did not! On one Cannonball Adderly album I have, he digs down into some low notes and it sounds closer to a tenor than any alto I've ever heard. Really fun.
 

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I have some James Carter albums where his alto can be mistaken for a tenor.

But I generally find the whole "sound like a tenor player playing alto" and similar criticisms a bunch of bullcrap. Most of the time it's said in a disparaging manner and doesn't refer to tone but the way you play and improvise on your horn. What, I can't play parker licks on tenor or Coltrane on alto? I roomed with a bari player who was overly critical of players who didn't play strictly bari. He said they sounded like "tenor players playing bari." I say screw that. I sound like a saxophone player and that's it. It doesn't matter what horn I'm on. I play Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan licks. Nobody's ever accused me of sounding like a trumpet player playing saxophone. So why should it make a difference if I'm playing alto or tenor?

BTW, I really don't consider myself an alto, tenor, or soprano player. I'm a sax player. Sonny Stitt switched off enough to where he wasn't pigeon holed (even playing bari early on) and I like to try to do the same.

END RANT
 

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Agent 27,I agree w/ you. While Baritone is my favorite;I play soprano alto and tenor as well. Both of my daughters play multi sax. The older daughter plays alto and tenor. The youngest plays soprano and alto(tenor when she is big enough-she's 9).
 
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