The Tenor Saxophone

The tenor saxophone is one of the most widely used saxophones today. The other most often used is the alto saxophone. The baritone and soprano are also popular but in no way are they as popular as the alto and tenor.

Speak about Jazz music and mention must be made of this saxophone. In fact most times when people think of Jazz music they think of the tenor sax. It is popularly believed to be the signature instrument of modern Jazz, just as the guitar is to country. Many people don't differentiate between a regular saxophone instrumental, and a Jazz track in which the tenor is the solo instrument. 

One of the first important tenor saxophonists in Jazz was Coleman Hawkins. It's as if Adolphe Sax invented the sax just for him. John Coltrane was one of the most influential, along with Lester Young, and Sonny Rollins.

tenor saxophone

The tenor saxophone is a transposing instrument, pitched in the key of B-Flat. So when a player plays C on the instrument the sound that is produced is not the note C, but B-Flat. The instrument is very popular in ensembles such as marching band, concert band, jazz ensemble, and even symphony orchestras.

Most students learn to play the saxophone on the alto. Many of them later switch to tenor. If you're a student who wants to learn how to play saxophone, this is probably the way to go. Switching from alto to tenor is not difficult. Both instruments use the same fingerings. The tenor is larger than the alto saxophone, so a slightly larger mouthpiece, ligature and reed are needed. It is the fifth in the saxophone family.From smallest (highest) to largest (lowest), they are: sopranissimo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and subcontrabass.

Go here for a large tenor saxophone picture.

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