Feel the music with the tenor saxophone
There’s a reason why the tenor sax is arguably the most popular sax we have. Here are our favorite advantages of owning a tenor sax:
- It’s just the right size, not too big and not too small.
- It’s the most versatile sax in the saxophone family.
- Its tonal variation is wide enough to give a sound that’s close to professional level tones.
- It comes in a classic, curving design.
How to test a saxophone
Testing a saxophone is best done by someone with some experience playing the saxophone. If you’re only starting to learn how to play the instrument, take an experienced player along when going sax testing. They have the skill to work the instrument and extract sound from all notes, and will tell if anything is off. Ensure that you play all the notes, including the high notes, and note how each sounds. Also, test the sax using different reeds and mouthpieces to see what quality of tone you get with each.
Main tips on maintaining a saxophone
Your tenor saxophone will last a long time if you take care of it well. I’m sure you’ve heard of sax players who’ve been using the same instrument for more than two decades. That’s what happens when you adopt a strict care and maintenance routine for your sax. Here are some main tips to observe:
- Avoid dropping the sax
- Always wipe the sax (especially the mouthpiece and neck) dry after use
- Avoid touching the keys until you’ve strapped up the sax, ready to play
- Don’t store any other items in the sax case. This case is for the sax only.
- Don’t use abrasive cleaning agents and techniques to clean your brass.
- Don’t lift the sax by the body – the keys are sensitive. Lift it by the bell instead.
Features that will help to choose the perfect tenor saxophone
To choose the best tenor sax, you should understand what features determine how the sax will sound and how easy it will be to play. Below are the most important ones.
We have large tenor saxophones and some smaller ones. A good size for you is one that sits properly against your body and does not feel bulky. When considering the size, it is good to remember that the tenor sax won’t be as small as an alto sax, so keep your expectations real.
Always consider the weight when choosing a sax, as some saxophones are heavier than others, depending on the brand. You want a piece that will be light enough for you to play in comfort. If you’re a beginner, choose a light model and as you get accustomed to wearing the sax, you can upgrade to a bigger model, if necessary.
The mouthpiece attaches to the neck and is the vessel by which your mouth and lips transmit the sound to the instrument. It is held in place against the neck by a cork, and you can tighten or loosen the cork as needed till the mouthpiece fits just right. The size and shape of mouthpiece affect the tone produced by the sax.
The neck is a cone-shaped tube whose design, size, shape, and material help define the tonal quality and dynamics of the saxophone. In some saxophones, the neck is made from the similar brass material used to make the rest of the saxophone body. In others, the neck is made from a sterling neck or copper. It can also be gold or nickel plated. You can replace the neck your sax came with if you like, particularly if you want to test the tone variations different necks give.
The body refers to the portion of the sax between the neck and bell. It is where the keys are located, and it can be ribbed or non-ribbed. The sax body is made of brass and may be gold, silver, or nickel plated for strength, to prevent oxidation, and for shine preservation.
A tone in a sax has to do with the quality of the sound or the tonality and how the different overtones come together to produce the sound we hear. The tone is affected by the type of reed used, the size and shape of the mouthpiece, even the keyholes and pads used.
Tenor saxophones are typically tuned to the key of Bb. Sax keys are the small, padded, cup-like metal pieces that cover and expose the tone holes. They’re used in combination with each other and may open or close depending on which other keys are pressed. The placement of keys is standard in all saxophones, though some saxophones may have a few extra keys, for example, a high G or low A. It’s important to note that, in most cases, you can still play these notes even in saxophones where the extra key is absent.
The reed is essentially made from cane and is the only component in the saxophone that you’ll replace more frequently than all others. When you’re just starting to learn how to play the sax, go for a thinner reed, preferably a 1.5 or 2. These lower ranges are thinner and easier to operate than reeds in the 4 to 5 range. As you become proficient, you can then switch to the thicker reeds which require more skill and mouth energy to operate. Good reeds for beginners and intermediaries include the Vandoren SR223 Tenor Sax Traditional Reeds. Try out different sizes of reeds to find what size you like best, as reeds don’t all come in the same size and shape. Thinner reeds tend to give brighter tones, while thicker reeds sound thicker and stuffier.
Most of the saxophone pads are located within the body of the instrument. For tone enhancement, always ensure that the pads are properly shut in. Pads can be replaced over time. Just ensure that the new pads are of the right size. If you can’t get the pads in the exact size of your old pads, pick ones that are smaller as opposed to bigger ones, which will end up being loose.
Brass is the material most commonly used to make saxophones. Some saxophones may have parts of their body made from other metals such as sterling silver, bronze, and copper, but these are an exception. Many of the tenor saxophones you’ll come across will be made from brass. Brass is preferred for its malleability, strength, hardness, and rust-resistance.
Saxophones are expensive. Even the cheapest sax costs quite a chunk of money by any standard. It’s therefore wise to choose a sax that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty so that if any part turns faulty during the warranty period, you can have it replaced at no cost rather than spending extra on it.