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Hi, I'm new here, only 5 or 6 posts, but I have a question. Sometimes when I'm listening to sax players, If the musician is playing an alto and switches in the middle of the song, or even in the next song, to a tenor I don't here the difference. I know people say that the tenor sounds lower, and it should, but I just can't tell the difference. Could you help me?

P.S. I hope you like my signature.


- The Saxonator
 

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FWIW when I play a sax I sound like me where the ranges overlap. My tenor sound is like my alto sound which is like my soprano sound. That isn't to say I can't make them sound different from each other, but my sound concept is MY sound concept and what I sound like is me.

Clear as mud?
 

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you know Carl......the notes that overlap in alto or tenor (soprano or Baritone or whatever) regardless of the fact that the pitch is the same, still differ because the " core sound " of an alto is different fom the one of a tenor .

I was told so many years ago by my first teacher ( when he discovered that I was playing what tenors were playing....by ear) and I had to find out that this is (at least for me) so .

The core sound of each horn type is different, so, regardless of overlapping, you can tell them apart. That is the way you tell apart also one tenor (alto, soprano, baritone) from another, they play the same note but the timbre is different.

Now the question the Saxonator put to us was different and it was how to tell them apart?

Seems a rather easy question but I have no answer that makes any sense.

Most of the times I can tell them apart .....I think....., but I have no idea of how to comunicate to you how I do it, in the same way that I can't explain you what " for me" the color red is. I have learned that a certain color which others call red appears to me in a certain way, so I know that when I see it it is red and I call it red. The same way I have learned to recognize the sound of a Tenor or a alto,but how can I comunicate to you the experience of this sound in my brain?:?
 

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agreeing with milandro: it's subjective, and really hard to measure or explain, but the timbre of the saxophones do differ. an alto, tenor, baritone, even when playing the same pitch, just happen to sound different. keep listening carefully, and you'll convince yourself before long!
 

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It's sometimes hard to differentiate a few tones (at first), but a trained ear can identify those flags that mark the saxophone after careful listening. I would say the quality of the tone. Just like we all know the tenor has the mellow and nasal tones while the soprano has oboe-like (ducky) tones. I think when the instrument gets close to its extremes that the tell tale signs become more apparent. Mike
 

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I'm trying to imagine what the world would be like if it was ruled by saxophones - there are some very surreal images in my head now...

Anyway, I think I'm with Carl, the same player on both alto and tenor can sond very similar indeed if they're playing in the middle ranges of the instruments and if they're not []trying[/i] for a specifically alto or a specifically tenor sound. One won't sound lower than the other if the same note at the same pitch is being played. Of course as everyone else has said there are definitely differences. Tenors tend to be less precise sounding, more spread out and not so punchy as an alto to my ears. I think of an alto as a precision instrument like a scalpel and a tenor as the american screwdriver* of the saxophone toolbox, hope this helps but it probably doesn't - anyway nice to have you on SOTW!

*that's British for a hammer, no offence to my American cousins intended... well not much anyway :D
 

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i can hear the difference in the edge of the tone that is caused by the different vibration speeds of each instrument's reed. the bari would be the slowest and have more edge and lower overtones to the same note. less pure , if you know what i mean. when you hear a bari play a palm D compared to a soprano playing low D the soprano ( same musician ) has a cleaner tone and higher overtones compared to a " dirty tone " with lower overtones on a bari.
now, a good player can make his alto sound dirty like a tenor on certain notes, but if you hear him play tenor and bari you would know the difference.
when you are listening to a recording and can't tell if it's alto or tenor listen for the middle D. you will hear it's difference in timbre. if it's a concert C then you are listening to a tenor, if it's a concert F then it's an alto.
 

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As others have mentioned the difference lies in the timbre of the sound - Rick's way of describing the tenor sound as more "spread" than the alto is as good a way as I can think of to describe the difference, conversely the alto therefore being more "focussed" or "compact" in tone.

One player who I have had to listen to closely in order to distinguish which he is playing is Grover Washington Jnr - he seems to be able to impart the same "warmth" to his alto playing that I normally associate more with the tenor.
 

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Could it also be that players/listeners tend to prefer a more "spread" sound on tenor and a more "focused" sound on alto? So if you went for "focused" on both (player/concept/reed/mp/sax combination) maybe the core sound where the ranges overlap would be almost the same?
 

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Listen to lots and lots of music, and know what you're listening to - what type of horn does the certain saxophonist play. You'll be able to tell them apart soon enough by identifying the timbre.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you all for posting on my first thread. I'm glad for all the help you have given me. I believe the solution, as some of you have already stated, is to listen to more people who only play one of the saxes. The musicians I listen to have both instruments and play them both constantly throughout the song.
Thanx for all of your help. I believe I should listen to more saxophonists.I need help with that. I don't know many, so maybe you guys could list a few of the good players. Thanx for posting.

- The Saxonator
 

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The Saxonator said:
The musicians I listen to have both instruments and play them both constantly throughout the song.
You may have more of a problem than you thought you had. I think your statement is inaccurate. It would be rare for the same player to play two different horns on the same tune. Different horns on different tunes on the same CD yes, but not on the same tune.

Don't worry, you'll get it eventually. I used to have a hell of a time telling the difference between John and Paul on many Beatles tunes...
 

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The Saxonator said:
Hi, I have a question. I don't hear the difference. I know people say that the tenor sounds lower, and it should, but I just can't tell the difference. Could you help me?
- The Saxonator



The Alto sounds higher, like a woman's voice.

The Tenor sounds lower,like a mans voice.
 

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i was listening to gato barberi on tenor in a room, then i commented it sounded like he was studying david sanborn (am i right?,) and some guy (who was in a bad mood) comments, YOU PLAY SAX CANT YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ALTO AND TENOR???

I explained u can play a tenor like an alto or vice versa, i never mentioned if he was actually playing a tenor or alto - in fact I never paid attention (he didn't accept that.)

Anyway, the point is, it doesn't matter! But if you need to recognize it, it will take some practice because a tenor can often sound a lot like an alto or vice versa. Of course if it goes really low (lower than alto can) its a tenor...
 

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Sax education on CD

I noted this CD find in the media section, but seems appropriate to share here if you're wondering who to listen to.I recently picked up some music that will give a summer school of education. These 2004 german releases called 'Battle of the SAXES' are 4 CD sets with about 90 recordings from all the top sax players. Each set is 4 CDs with approx 300-minutes, so between the two, I've got 10 hours of sax history and styles. Vol 1 slants more towards tenors and Vol 2 features more altos, but there is some mix on each set. The 20 pages of liner notes offer brief bios on each player rather than info on the selections.
On my daily commute, I've worked my way through both sets and am now listening to the CDs on shuffle, trying to guess the player by listening to their sound. Is that Lee Konitz or Paul Desmond?...Gene Ammons or Lucky Thompson?Just another way to train my ear.
I feel lucky myself to have bought these on ebay from 'Scott's CDs' brand new for $10 each from the ebay store is 'SBG's 1Cent cds'. I have no connection with the seller, but wanted to share this listening treasure.The eBay ID is sgrunin; he currently doesn't have the sets listed. Someone mentioned that outside eBay the cheapest they could find was around $18 from cduniverse.com
 

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saxxsymbol said:
i can hear the difference in the edge of the tone that is caused by the different vibration speeds of each instrument's reed. the bari would be the slowest and have more edge and lower overtones to the same note. less pure , if you know what i mean. when you hear a bari play a palm D compared to a soprano playing low D the soprano ( same musician ) has a cleaner tone and higher overtones compared to a " dirty tone " with lower overtones on a bari.
My common sense tells me this is the correct explanation.
 
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