Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
647 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Right now our choir is composed mostly of women’s voices (not intentional). I play the alto which I think provides good vocal support to the women. My question is: would a tenor (or maybe a sop) strengthen the men’s voices?
The music is mixed charismatic and traditional church songs.
Would appreciate any insights and experiences. Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
618 Posts
Tenor would be a great choice for men's voice. If you've ever listened to the Getz/Gilberto album, you'll remember that sometimes you can't tell where the voice stops and the horn starts.

Of course, it's Getz...................

dv
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
One of the things I like about tenor sax is that the lower octave is a good match for men's voices, and the upper octave is a good match for women's voices. Makes for good versatility in a church setting.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,319 Posts
I often harmonize with both men and women with my tenor. I think sometimes the soprano can stick out too much and may not blend well with other instruments. The tenor is more versatile and works better for me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
647 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all for your insights. I was actually leaning more towards tenor.

Honeyboy, you're comments on the soprano also reinforces my observation. IMHO the soprano is more suited for solos in a church setting. Thanks again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
259 Posts
In both my home church's worship band and the ALL2U Band, I play all 3 of my saxes plus flute, depending on the song. I would agree that the tenor is the best general purpose horn, but alto and soprano definitely have their place in working with choirs, congregations,etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
267 Posts
This is a great question because to ask the question another way, “What is the criteria for buying a new horn?” The obvious answer is “Where do you want a new horn to take you musically.” I can appreciate the feeling that the current group is a little short in the Tenor/Bass department and as a team player you are trying to fill in the gap instrumentally. Most folks wouldn’t be that considerate. But should one go out and buy a horn just because the present group is in is a little short on male voices?

Although, you are going to be playing with these people for a while, it probably will not be forever. So, if one buys a horn based on the present situation, that’s all good till the present situation changes. It is the norm for these kinds of groups to have more women in them than men. But as time goes on, the voices lower. My wife sings tenor in the choir when needed. And that’s a quite often.

The great thing about either Tenor or Soprano is that it is a Bb instrument and doesn’t have the minor third jump in transposing sheet music. It’s closer to the concert key.

From a listener’s standpoint, some say that a soprano is more liturgical in a catholic scene, than either an alto or a tenor. At least, that’s what they tell me. The main trouble with a straight soprano is that by and large Catholics don’t know what it is.

However, what I play or what someone else plays is irrelevant. The acid test is what sounds the best when you play it. I suggest that you try out as many sopranos and tenors that you can find. And the horn in which you can feel more of the spirit – that’s da 1.

I’d keep an open mind. You may even decide to rent for a while and chart your progress in your adaptation to these instruments. This usually pays off in the long run.

But my main criteria wouldn’t be the vocal deficiencies of the group. Let them recruit. Otherwise, they might put you in a box that you can’t get out of such as constantly playing tenor and bass lines. With a soprano, one can play soprano and alto lines, and tenor and bass lines an octave up. They will all harmonize.

It’s easier to adjust down than up in saxophones generally speaking. It’s an easier adjustment on the embouchure.

Should be pretty exciting in finding out which horn the spirit wants you to play.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Good thoughts there Chris,

But I think Tenor is a good all around choice. :)

That said, I ended up with a soprano so I can get ready for a selection that
the Choir Director wants to play. :)
It's the ONLY new axe in my collection. :)


In all seriousness though, it is a danger that they will, at least mentally, put you
in a box. My son and I have finally broken them of that where we are, by taking
different instruments to each service. :)
Besides the fact that doubling is a blast, we can select the horn that is
best suited for a particular song. :)

All that being said, give a few a try and see which one you are Supposed to
play. :)

mark
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
647 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Excellent points Chris and Mark. Thanks!

Straightsax said:
From a listener’s standpoint, some say that a soprano is more liturgical in a catholic scene, than either an alto or a tenor. At least, that’s what they tell me. The main trouble with a straight soprano is that by and large Catholics don’t know what it is.
Chris,
Someone told me this before but am not sure exactly what it means. Would appreciate if you can explain. Thanks and God bless!

Ben
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
267 Posts
Ben,

Most importantly, this assessment that the soprano is more liturgical than the alto are by folks that do not play the saxophone. The simplest way it can be explained is that some consider the instruments that are a normal part of a symphony orchestra to be more liturgical (in the more orthodox denominations) than those instruments that are normally considered to be part of a “Band.” Orchestral equals more liturgical and Band equals less liturgical. When it comes to the various types of instruments, most folks make that association. For instance, at the Cathedral tympani are in and drums are out. Yet it’s all percussion. This association is made by folks that are not musicians or have a tendency to associate liturgical music with traditional music. Traditional being defined here as classical Western European. The Vatican has plenty of classical Western European.

It was somewhat surprising one time when a music director told me that. A gospel selection was planned for the following Sunday, and at rehearsal it was suggested to him that an alto saxophone would be more fitting to the piece of music. He still wanted the soprano because it was more “liturgical.” When I asked him he said that the timbre and the range of the instrument was more liturgical.

Also, to some folks it can be either a visual thing or just knowing that it’s a saxophone and the fear that one is going to rip into “Harlem Nocturne” for a communion meditation. It’s their mental association with the saxophone.

The soprano is in the same range as the flute, violin, trumpet, so there isn’t that stark contrast associated with the soprano as with the alto or tenor. Traditional Organist’s have a definite preference for the soprano, if they are willing to use the saxophone at all.

And then there are some folks that think the Organ is the only liturgical instrument. Before Vatican II, the Organist position was a full-time job. Not so much anymore, unless the parish aspiring to be a mini-Cathedral. Your question also gets into the rift between traditional and contemporary music in the Catholic Church. And that’s a Pandora’s box I’d rather not open. It’s a whole culture war. These folks think that anything besides the organ and the choir is heretical. They wished Vatican II never happened.

But then, we are still, as of this date, pioneers and guest's on someone else’s turf. It’s also varies largely from parish to parish, depending on who the music director and/or the Pastor is and what their preferences are. Saxophone players are not allowed in every parish. Campus ministries tend to be far more relaxed. So, if a parish wants you to play, it's a blessing and not the norm.

But then, none of these folks play the saxophone so they are coming from a different perspective altogether. As far as the folks on this board, whether soprano, alto, or tenor – it probably all sounds very liturgical to us.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
647 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Straightsax said:
Ben,

Most importantly, this assessment that the soprano is more liturgical than the alto are by folks that do not play the saxophone. The simplest way it can be explained is that some consider the instruments that are a normal part of a symphony orchestra to be more liturgical (in the more orthodox denominations) than those instruments that are normally considered to be part of a “Band.” Orchestral equals more liturgical and Band equals less liturgical. When it comes to the various types of instruments, most folks make that association. For instance, at the Cathedral tympani are in and drums are out. Yet it’s all percussion. This association is made by folks that are not musicians or have a tendency to associate liturgical music with traditional music. Traditional being defined here as classical Western European. The Vatican has plenty of classical Western European.

It was somewhat surprising one time when a music director told me that. A gospel selection was planned for the following Sunday, and at rehearsal it was suggested to him that an alto saxophone would be more fitting to the piece of music. He still wanted the soprano because it was more “liturgical.” When I asked him he said that the timbre and the range of the instrument was more liturgical.

Also, to some folks it can be either a visual thing or just knowing that it’s a saxophone and the fear that one is going to rip into “Harlem Nocturne” for a communion meditation. It’s their mental association with the saxophone.

The soprano is in the same range as the flute, violin, trumpet, so there isn’t that stark contrast associated with the soprano as with the alto or tenor. Traditional Organist’s have a definite preference for the soprano, if they are willing to use the saxophone at all.

And then there are some folks that think the Organ is the only liturgical instrument. Before Vatican II, the Organist position was a full-time job. Not so much anymore, unless the parish aspiring to be a mini-Cathedral. Your question also gets into the rift between traditional and contemporary music in the Catholic Church. And that’s a Pandora’s box I’d rather not open. It’s a whole culture war. These folks think that anything besides the organ and the choir is heretical. They wished Vatican II never happened.

But then, we are still, as of this date, pioneers and guest's on someone else’s turf. It’s also varies largely from parish to parish, depending on who the music director and/or the Pastor is and what their preferences are. Saxophone players are not allowed in every parish. Campus ministries tend to be far more relaxed. So, if a parish wants you to play, it's a blessing and not the norm.

But then, none of these folks play the saxophone so they are coming from a different perspective altogether. As far as the folks on this board, whether soprano, alto, or tenor – it probably all sounds very liturgical to us.
Thanks Chris. Very enlightening.
I agree people who have this opinion are non-sax players who lean on the traditional side. Unfortunately they are still a lot of them around to sufficiently influence the choice of church music.
In most Catholic churches I've been to the organ has been largely relegated to the background (where I live I know only one church who still uses it) in favor of more modern instruments, usually the guitar or electric keyboard.
Any additional instruments tend to be on the classical side (usually flute or violin) instead of the band side (in fact I've never seen or heard any brass/horn instrument).
Going back to the liturgical sound of the soprano sax, based on what you say and what I've seen, I think it's safe to say it's more a perception thing rather than an actual sound thing.
Thanks and God bless!
Ben
 

·
Mouthpiece Refacer Extraordinaire and Forum Contri
Joined
·
3,406 Posts
I play soprano/alto/tenor at a rather progressive Catholic church - sometimes too progressive:) . This past weekend I played "Take Five" on top of "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" to the delight of our lead music minister. I asked if it would be ok in advance and she said she had been waiting for one of us to just do it. I actually played it on soprano which worked out fine, really.

I find more versatility with the soprano where I can play along side a trumpet player or subtone and add an indirect feel to what's going on musically. As a musician, I prefer to play harmonies more than melodies, but I think that the soprano is more appropriate than tenor for lead/solo play as it's tone has more cut without overtaking the blend of the other musicians. I think alto, too, makes a great solo instrument at church - particularly if it is a piece with minimal accompaniment - be it piano, organ, or harp.

I'll put it this way - There would be more occasions I'd be wishing I had a soprano than there are occasions I'd be wishing I had a tenor. As I bring both, I eliminate the conflict...
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top