What is an alto tenor

Which saxophone should you choose: alto, tenor, soprano or baritone saxophone?

The saxophone is one of the most frequently played instruments of the 20th century. From Maurice Ravel and his famous Boléro to John Coltrane or Sidney Bechet to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, they all used his silky, pulsating sounds in their compositions to their advantage!

Let's start with a little history: It was the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax who invented the saxophone in the early 1840s. His father was also an instrument maker and he started developing and manufacturing his own musical instruments at a very young age. In 1841 he presented his saxophone to the panel of the Belgian industrial exhibition, patented it in 1846 and turned his invention into one of the greatest innovations of his time.

Although made entirely of metal, the saxophone does not belong to the brass family. Because of its reed, it belongs to the family of woodwind instruments. There are seven types of saxophones, from the highest to the lowest register: sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass and double bass saxophone. Here, we'll cover the alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone saxophones to help you better understand what type of saxophone to choose and why.

The various advantages and expressiveness of the alto saxophone make it the most played saxophone in the saxophone family. This is also the instrument that beginners often take their first steps on, as it is quite easy, more accessible and technically easier to master than the tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones. It is the perfect instrument for schoolchildren and students, which undoubtedly favors a pleasant and encouraging learning process.

If you are looking for a saxophone especially for a child, the alto saxophone is a very good choice as its weight and mouthpiece, which is less technical than the other saxophones, make a big difference. It should also be taken into account that there are alto saxophones that are specially designed for the smallest hands!

Do you want to explore the sound of an alto saxophone? Below is the recording of the piece "Baker Street" for the alto saxophone. You can compare the sound to the tenor and soprano saxophone sheet music later in this article. Here is the link to the sheet music if you want to play the piece.

By the mid-1950s, the tenor saxophone became the most popular jazz instrument and a veritable romance developed between the instrument and the style. They are made for each other!

It is more likely to be played by adults because of its greater weight. If you already play the alto sax, using the tenor sax couldn't be easier. However, it rarely happens that someone starts learning the saxophone with a tenor saxophone, as mastering the technique is more challenging.

However, if you've decided to play the saxophone for some jazz and find the sound so signature of these tenor saxophone giants, go ahead! It is entirely possible to start with a tenor saxophone, which simply requires a little more work at the beginning.

Do you want to explore the sound of a tenor saxophone? Below is the recording of the piece "Baker Street" for the tenor saxophone. You can compare the sound with the sheet music for alto and soprano saxophone in the other sections of this article. Here is the link to the sheet music if you want to play the piece.

Like its big brother, the tenor saxophone, the soprano saxophone is tuned in Bb, but one octave higher and it covers two and a half octaves. Its high pitch makes it one of the most difficult saxophones to master as the highest notes are the hardest to get out.

Although there are soprano saxophones that are curved like the alto saxophone, the soprano saxophone is mostly straight, its shape resembles the clarinet and its sound is similar to that of the oboe.

Despite its technical difficulties, the curved soprano saxophone is sometimes used by young children when studying: its small size, lightness, and the closely spaced keys allow them to start very young and then continue on an alto saxophone. However, this is only a sensible option if the child really has difficulty playing an alto saxophone due to its heavier weight. If so, it will turn to an instrument like the flute or clarinet.

It is often used in classical or jazz compositions and is less suitable for electronic music.

Do you want to explore the sound of a soprano saxophone? Below is the recording of "Baker Street" for the soprano saxophone. You can compare the sound with the sheet music for alto and tenor saxophone in the other sections of this article. Here is the link to the sheet music if you want to play the piece.

Finally we want to get to know the baritone saxophone! It is the largest of the four saxophones featured in this article, and its intense, deep sound is more dedicated to bass lines, especially in classical orchestras or big jazz bands.

It's the one we'd least recommend to someone who is still learning: besides its weight and size, which require a higher price than the other types of saxophone, and although it makes it easier to create the sound, its loose mouthpiece makes accuracy more difficult to control, as the transition from the highest to the lowest notes requires a lot more muscle strength.

However, if you are already familiar with the saxophone and want to explore the world and sounds of the baritone saxophone, do not hesitate! Amateur saxophonists don't have to be rocket scientists to learn to play the saxophone.

So which one?

It all depends on your level and what you are looking for!

The Alto saxophone is best suited from a technical point of view due to its lightness and ease of use for learning the instrument and for beginners. It is also suitable for children and there are special models for small hands! It is the most widely used saxophone in the saxophone family, both in terms of composition and performance.

You can sign up for one Tenor saxophone decide if you want to learn jazz and feel the special sound of the great jazz musicians who play the tenor saxophone. However, it does take a little more effort, especially at the beginning!

While it is smaller and often much lighter, it is Soprano saxophone also the technically most difficult instrument to master and therefore not recommended for beginners. Its mouthpiece is smaller and therefore requires more work from the muscles of your mouth to achieve a nice sound. Nevertheless, the soprano saxophone produces a wonderful sound if it is well mastered!

In summary, the criteria on which your choice should be based when purchasing a saxophone are yours Age, Your musical experience and your experience with saxophones and finally the music you like i.e. the Style or the styles of musicthat you want to explore are.

And then what pieces to play? Explore Tomplay's sheet music!

That's it! Now you have your saxophone in your hands and you're good to go! Or almost ... all you have to do is choose what to play.

You can find tens of thousands of saxophone scores on the Internet, but still it is not easy to find high quality sheet music that suits your level!

At Tomplay we offer an extensive catalog of sheet music for alto, tenor and soprano saxophones. Each piece is available in different levels of difficulty and includes a playback recording synchronized with the score to accompany you!

Choose your favorite sheet music and play it accompanied by a playback recording made by us with professional musicians!

Check out how it works below!

▶️ Explore the Tomplay sheet music catalog for the saxophone