Saxophone Forum

by scm2012
(9 posts)
6 years ago

Help me pick a sax

Knowing that I know nothing about saxophones, when I decided to try to learn it, I rented an instrument instead of buying one.

My teacher (Who is also the man behind the counter in the music store) said "learn on an alto".   And he has ideas about what he'd like sell me should I decide to buy one.

Instead, I'd like to decide what sax to buy and then give him a chance to get one and sell it to me.

So...   On guitar-- I am basically a blues player.  That is what my friends and I like to do together--   so whatever sax I buy, it should be a good one for Blues/Jazz.

I have read a tenor sax is the best sax for blues....  I need advice there..  Like why is that the case?  Because of the range it plays in? or the key it is set at?   (but you can play it in any key-- right?)  See, I have what I think is a great blues guitar -- because I know guitars...

There is not a lot of information on the internet about that.  I just read -- "tenor for blues" with no explaination.

beyond that, once I decide alto vs tenor, I need to decide on the sax itself--

For one thing.. I do not want to put money in to a sax because it is "good for a beginner",

I'd like to buy one that just sounds real decent and does the job I want it to do, for the amount of money I have to spend, and then grow in to it if I have to.


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  1. by GFC
    (714 posts)

    6 years ago

    Re: Help me pick a sax

    There's no law about only using a tenor for blues.  It's just a lot more common than alto.  It all hinges on your own preference for your own sound.  There have been a lot of fine blues sounds on alto.  Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Earl Bostic, Cannonball Adderly, Jackie McLean, Lou Donaldson (with Art Blakey), Gary Bartz .... even Charlie Parker had the blues at the core of his sound. 

    The Alto is in the key of Eb, which is a fourth above Bb, the key of the tenor.  Guitar-based blues are most commonly in E, A, and D.  On tenor, that's F#, B, and E.  On alto, that's B, E. and A.  So you're going to need facility in keys near the bottom of the circle of fourths regardless.  Should you ever decide to take up a Bari sax, that's in Eb like an alto.

    I'm partial to old Martins and Conns for blues.  I played blues for years on an old Martin Indiana tenor.  They're not tremendously agile in their handling, but they can have a gutsy sound.  There's a guy in town who sounds good playing blues on a Martin Imperial, which was Martin's second line horn after the Indiana.   Martin "searchlight" and "The Martin" horns are great too, but they're going to cost more.  It's hard to go too far wrong with old Conns for blues.  There are some differences between the sounds of the "Chu Berry," early and late "lady on bell," and "shooting star" horns, but they're all big and fat sounding.  The earlier horns can get a sweeter, richer sound than the later ones, which may or may not be important enough to you to justify their higher cost.  You might also consider are the Pan American horns, which were made as a low priced line of Conns before they made the "shooting star" horns.  If you do get a Conn, you want one with"Elkhart, Indiana" on the bell.  The ones made in Arizona and Mexico have a reputation for problems.

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