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Common Tenor Saxophones Questions

I have a few questions I get all the time online and thought we could start with these. You can also email me with your questions and I will add anything that looks like it might help others right here.

  • Why does my Tenor C sound different than a C on Piano?
    Tenor Sax is in the key of Bb and Piano is in the key of C. That means your Tenor is 2 half steps off from the Piano. If the Piano plays a C, your middle C would be a D on the Piano. Because the Tenor Sax is pretty big, the sound of your tenor note will be an octave lower than the same note on the piano. You add that up and the Tenor Sax is a ninth, or nine note off from a Piano when playing the same note. That's why we need a Tenor part to play with other instruments that aren't in the key of Bb like the Tenor Sax is.

  • Can I play any Music on my Tenor Sax?
    You can play any music that is written in Treble Clef - That's the fancy looking G in the far left corner of the music lines. If the music is not written for Tenor Sax, you might have to lower or raise it an octave to fit on your Sax and if you are trying to play with other instruments not in the same key (key of Bb), you will have to transpose the song by moving every note up 1 whole step (same as 2 half steps - 2 halves make a whole.)
    But the simple answer is YES, you can play any Treble Clef Music on you Tenor; you just can't play it with other instruments unless they are in the same key. Example - A Trumpet or Clarinet is in Bb so you could play from a duet book with them.

  • What makes a tenor saxophone different from all the other saxophones?
    Each size of Saxophone has its own sound. The Tenor Sax has a medium range and a Tenor Sax Sound that comes with that range. It's hard to explain but pretty easy to hear. It also takes more air than the smaller Saxes to support. It has a bigger mouthpiece than the Alto or Soprano which can make it feel more steady and sound more stable. It is in the key of Bb as is the Soprano Sax. It can then play the same music as the Soprano but not the Alto Sax or Bari Sax. It also is the one Sax that can do all the tricks. It has a large altissimo range (the really high squeaky notes above high F#), can play an extensive overtone series and multiphonics along with false fingering, growl and flutter tonguing. Some of these more advanced topics are discussed on Saxophone US. The fingering is the same on each of the Saxes; same buttons in the same places, just a little bigger or smaller.

  • Is the Tenor Saxophone harder or easier to play than other Saxes?
    I have seen a couple of articles that made a case for the Tenor being the easiest of the Saxes to learn on. I think the reason most kids start on Alto has to do with the age they start and there size. The Alto Sax is a little easier to manage for a smaller kid. For young adults, I usually suggest Tenor unless they have a favorite already. Alto or Tenor are both pretty easy to learn on. Soprano is very sensitive and hard to play in tune and up high, and the Bari Sax is just so big that bowing and holding it can be a bit hard to start on it.

  • I'm an intermediate tenor saxophonist and I have some question about saxophone effects. I'm always tring to add more tonal color to my solos (add more soul) and I'd like to try multiphonics and altissimo to achieve this. I realize 4 years of playing may to be to early to learn Altissimo but can I still learn multiphonics, can't I? My questions are: How do you play multiphonics? How can overtones produce Altissimo notes? Are there alternative ways I can add color to my tone? I've learn to growl and note bend, but I'd like to learn more effects.
    That is a really big question that is really a dozen questions all in one. Most kids want to see progress on these playing effects in the same 30 minutes the average sitcom resolves the worlds problems and it just is not possible. A teacher would be a great idea. You could search online and find a lot of good thoughts and fingerings to try, but the fundamentals are overtone study, developing control of overtones and working thru your saxophone for the best fingerings for both multiphonics and altissimo. Space being limited, play a low Bb. You know you can make it go up an octave without the octave key so do the low Bb and lip it up to the middle Bb. You are now playing an overtone. Actually, every squeek is an overtone of whatever you fingered and thought was going to come out. Rasher and Ted Nash have old and tested books on Altissimo with fingering that work, but you will not get anything out until you can skip thruat least 4 or 5 overtones off a low Bb, B and C. The overtone series is, by interval, an octave, a 5th, 4th, Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Major 2nd, minor 2nd and microtones uo from there. From the Low Bb - is goes low Bb, middle Bb, middle F, high Bb, high D, high F, high Gish and very ish from there up. If you know anything about chords, it is a Bb Major triad, spread out a bit. Multiphonics are much the same. they have fingerings that will mean nothing until you can control overtones. That's it for now. Great Question!

  • i will like to be a good saxophonist so i need a note on how to play alto sax very well. note on how to site read or read music. so i will look forward to hear from u soonest.
    Being a good sax player and being able to read and sight read are great things to desire! A book and a teacher. You need a beginning saxophone book that has fingering charts and teaches the notes one at a time, slowly getting more difficult. A teacher could be anyone that knows how to play better than you do, but it really helps when they are goos on saxophone and good at teaching. It takes a long time to get really good at anything so get started today. If I had a year with you, I could answer that question much better. Good luck!

  • Is it worth the time to search for an interesting sax, something with history and better performance than a student model ... or just rent/purchase a basic instrument to get started?
    A Sax with history does not make a great beginning saxophone. I would stick with an established name and go for a new student model sax unless you have a sax player in your area that could work on finding you a good used one. The main makers are Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Keilwerth. My Sax Review site could be of further help. Sax Reviews. To rent or purchase would have to do more with your dedication to learn and abilitity to buy a new sax. Good Luck!

  • How in the world do you play a G in the extended range?
    That is called Altissimo. Those high notes above high F or F# are overtones or squeeks that can be controled to extend the range of the saxophone. On Tenor the fingering I use is the key above the B key or Fork Key. It can take a year to get very good at it and comes with a lot of practice on overtones on the Tenor. I touch on this about 3 questions up this page. Long practice on overtones will eventually give you the control needed to play this note. It is one of the hardest to play on Tenor so don't get too frustrated. Good Luck!

  • How can I learn to growl?
    I have an article on Sax Growl and have one by a friend, John Laughter on my Sax Players web site - Saxophone Players US saxophone.US. Go to LESSONS for lots of good ideas and helps.

  • Lately I have been wonder how to finger the altissimo notes on the tenor. It would be very helpful if you put a fingering chart on the website so I and others can learn how to play the higher notes.
    That's a good idea. I will work on it. Just so you know that the fingerings take a long time and a lot of control to work right. A few questions ago, I touched on overtones and that is what you need to work on. Also realize that this is going to sound like you are kicking cats for a while so don't get too frustrated. Good Luck!

  • I can't play the low notes on the tenor saxophone. I can play them on my alto, down to the low Bb, but can't get them on my tenor. How do you play the low notes?
    Many things can make the low notes hard to play on a sax. If any of the pads are leaking, the lower you go, you will add up leaks until the sax squeeks or does not play at all. Another problem area can be the octave key. This is a very complex key design and an open octave key will make the low notes very hard to get out. The octave mechanism can creat the problem with either octave key, primary or secondary, so the problem can be hard to find for a new student.
    Other causes for squeeks or dead low notes can include a bad fingering. You might be missing a button when you try that note, or even more common, might be touching a button you are not supposed to and have a key openning up on accident.
    Either of these issues might require some outside assistance. A good repair man can save you a lot of heartache. You can blow until you are blue in the face, and a leaky sax will not play right. Get it looked at. If you need help playing your sax, consider a private teacher for a while. You don't have to commit to 10 years, and that person can watch and hear, and tell you how to do it better - all very cool.
    So, check your sax into a repair man, at least once a year, and try a private teacher for a few months. Other contributers will be the mouthpiece and reed combination. The extremes - too soft a reed and too hard a reed will help or hurt playing low. Sometimes a little softer reed and blowing harder will do the trick. You also need to rememeber that a Tenor is a big sax and needs a lot of air.
    This sounds like a simple question, but many things can contribute to low note difficulty.

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