Next to the alto saxophone, the tenor saxophone is pretty much the most popular beginner instrument among the numerous types of saxophones in the instrument family. Especially in jazz, the tenor is popular because of its smoky, deep voice. Only slightly larger than the alto saxophone, it can still be played comfortably by beginners – at least as long as it is an adult beginner.
What does the tenor saxophone sound like?
The tonal range of the tenor extends from the relatively low A-flat to e2. Therefore, many common pieces can be realised on it, but similar to the soprano saxophone, the tenor is tuned in Bb and requires adapted music sheets.
Is the saxophone suitable for beginners?
The tenor saxophone is a little too big for children. Not only is the body too long, but also the distances between the individual tone holes and keys. This makes the instrument difficult to hold and the keys cannot be reached safely by small hands. An alto saxophone is the better choice here. Adults, however, will get along wonderfully with the tenor. Although the instrument is larger and requires a well-trained lung volume, the force required is kept within limits by the longer winding S-bow, which means that even beginners can quickly elicit pleasant tones from the tenor.
Buying a tenor saxophone
The easiest way to get your own instrument is, of course, simply to go to a specialist music shop and browse through the available models. An even lower-threshold option is to buy online, which some shops now offer, at least throughout Germany. Thomann, probably Europe’s largest and best-known online distributor, offers first-class service across national borders, especially when it comes to returns.
Legally, there is always a 14-day right of return. However, Thomann offers to take back instruments that don’t suit you within 30 days. This is great, because it gives you enough time to test the instruments carefully and find your personal favourite. All in all, it is advisable to try out several saxophones before you decide on one.
A tenor saxophone on hire purchase
A popular alternative to the regular purchase in a shop is the hire-purchase option, which is offered by some dealers operating throughout Germany, but also by larger local music shops. You rent a high-quality new instrument for a monthly fee of 20-40€ and usually have a monthly right to cancel. If you like the instrument and decide that you want to buy it, the rental fee is deducted as a deposit and you only have to pay the remaining amount.
You can either continue to pay the amount monthly or you can pay it all at once. Hire purchase is practical in that you can try out different instruments and have the option of giving up learning the saxophone at any time if you realise that you don’t like it or don’t enjoy it. In addition, the rental instruments are usually really good brand-name saxophones that you can’t otherwise get so easily on hire. The following provider offers rental purchases as well as used and new instruments.
Tenor saxophone second hand
Buying second-hand can also be worthwhile if it is a better instrument than what you could normally afford in a shop. However, when buying second-hand, we recommend that you go to a professional dealer rather than buying privately from an amateur on eBay. Second-hand dealers offer the advantage that they ship all over Germany and have workshops where the instruments are overhauled by skilled instrument makers before they go back on sale. This is why you usually get a one or two year warranty on the instrument, whereas if you buy privately, you are not only left to assess the condition of the instrument, but also have to do without further securities. We therefore recommend the following specialist dealers:
Tenor saxophone accessories
The easiest places to influence the sound of the instrument are those that are easily replaceable. These include the reeds first and foremost, closely followed by the mouthpiece as a whole. The S-bow also has a significant influence on the sound, but it is more complicated to replace.
Reeds for the tenor saxophone
The comfort while playing and the clean tone development can be regulated with the right blade and especially with the appropriate blade thickness. Blade thicknesses range from 1 – 5, with 5 being the hardest and 1 the most flexible. Some brands also offer intermediate sizes. For beginners, reed thicknesses 2 or 3 are particularly suitable, as they are very easy to play on, but still offer enough resistance for the tone to remain stable. Advanced players can challenge their embouchure with harder blades.
The mouthpiece for tenor saxophone
First of all, it is important to know that there are different mouthpieces for the different sized saxophone designs. A mouthpiece for the soprano cannot be fitted to the tenor or alto and vice versa. Usually the mouthpieces are designated in ascending levels of difficulty from 3-7. Most beginner’s mouthpieces are numbered 4 and have a small orifice. The orifice is the gap that is created when the reed is placed on the orifice of the mouthpiece. The smaller the gap, the easier it is to play the instrument and make the reed vibrate.
Neck of a tenor saxophone
The length and bore of the neck also have an influence on how the air column inside the instrument behaves and therefore affect tone development, response and tone stability. Since the relationship between the body and the neck is sensitively tuned to each other, if you want to or have to replace the S-bow, you should definitely buy the S-bow intended for your instrument from the same manufacturer. This not only ensures that the pieces fit together, but also that the proportions are correct and the material is the same. The sound result differs depending on which metal alloy is used.
FAQ: The most important facts about the tenor saxophone at a glance
For about 500€* you can get a good beginner tenor saxophone at Thomann. Student instruments from Jupiter or Yamaha cost around 1500€* and from 2,000€* you can buy a more advanced model. The price range is open upwards into the five-digit range.
Next to the alto saxophone, the tenor saxophone is the most popular instrument for beginners. The tenor is not so suitable for children under about 14 years of age, as it is very large and the key spacing is accordingly too far apart. It is also about one and a half kilos heavier than the alto saxophone. For adult beginners, however, the tenor is just as suitable as the alto saxophone.
The tenor saxophone, like the alto saxophone, is a popular instrument for beginners, but children may have their problems with it, as the good piece weighs between three and four kilograms. Holding and balancing this over the long term can be exhausting.