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Difference Between Alto and Tenor Saxophones

Alto vs Tenor Saxophones

There are four major varieties of saxophones–soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Among these, the alto and tenor saxophones have become favorites of musicians and listeners alike. Professional musicians along the lines of John Coltrane, tenor, and Charlie Parker, alto, have made it easier to bring these two instruments into the listening rooms of millions of music fans all over the world . While both saxophones can be used in the same ensemble and have a relatively similar musical role, they are quite unique in their structure and range.
The saxophone was invented by Belgian musician Adolphe Saxophone. Over the years, the alto and tenor saxophone’s close association with American rock and roll and jazz music. Alto and Tenor saxophones are generally considered woodwind instruments, not brass, that is definitely contrary to popular belief.  They are both transposing instruments. This suggests that neither of them sound similar to Concert Pitch Instruments like a piano.
They practically comprise of the same buttons, fingerings, number of notes they can play, as well as the structure of mouthpiece and reed, which is the noise maker on both. They are very popular and are the most commonly used of the Saxophones in the Saxophone Family.
Even though the Alto and Tenor Saxophones use essentially similar sets of fingerings and embouchure, they have significant difference when it comes to note register. The Alto Saxophone is considered as an E-flat instrument which implies that a written C for the alto sounds like an E-flat. On the other hand, Tenor Saxophone is built half of an octave lower, in the key of B-flat, which means that a written C for the tenor seems like a B-flat.
The musical compositions that the tenor and alto saxophones can play appear just the same on paper. Nevertheless, the size difference makes an identical note on the Alto Saxophone sound higher than that of played on a Tenor Saxophone. The alto saxophone covers a higher range of notes than the tenor. The tenor can reach low notes, however, that the alto cannot.
The tenor is slightly larger and thus, heavier. It has a neck piece that is shaped differently than that of an alto saxophone – which is important since it serves as the primary distinction from any other type. The neck of the tenor saxophone comes up, makes a slight bend down, then out perpendicular to the body. The alto is smaller, lighter, and more easily managed than a tenor. The neck of an alto saxophone comes up slightly then up at an angle.
Their sizes differ for an important purpose. Size affects the range that can be played on the Alto Saxophone. The Alto is higher pitched and plays higher notes than the Tenor Saxophone. Smaller instruments usually play higher and larger Instruments play lower sounding notes. Tenor saxophone has a mellower, richer, deeper sound. Expert saxophone players can get a vast range of sounds out of both instruments.
Nearly each type of saxophone is used for jazz music, but the tenor proves to be the one used the most. The smaller frame of the alto saxophone also allows it to be a preference for younger students of the saxophone. It is a suitable instrument to start on because it would require smaller, sometimes tighter, embouchure that is easier for younger musicians to grasp before moving up to playing other bigger types of saxophones. Smaller overall body size, minimal physical requirements, makes the Alto Saxophone an excellent first saxophone for a young musician.
Summary:

  1. The alto and tenor are the most commonly used instruments within the Saxophone family. Both are used in Jazz music.
  2. The alto is considered as an E-flat instrument, while tenor, B-flat. The former plays a higher range of notes than the latter.
  3. The tenor is slightly larger than the alto, and thus produces mellower and deeper sounds as compared to the latter.

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1 Comment

  1. The guy who invented the saxophone was named Sax, not Saxophone!

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