How different is the tenor sax and the bari sax from an Alto saxaphone?

So, school starts soon obviously, and I am taking band. I currently am playing alto sax, and I am wondering if I should try to play tenor, bari and alto sax. However, I want to know what some main differences are, so if you play bari or tenor sax, I would appreciate any information. Thank you.

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seck_82 years ago


Just got a bari sax and was really looking forward to playing it. I'm a great tenor player, and could easily blow the bari... however, I could only play the mid register B, and playing anything from an A or lower would result in an our of tune B Flat. All the keys appear to be sealing correctly, all the springs are in position too. I'm really confused and can't find anything on the internet :-/ has anyone got any ideas? Limited to Bs and B Flats at the mo, and that's not really good for anyone...

I've played tenor and bari sax, and really, the only notes that need a lot of air are the low notes. You will find that the lows on tenor can be quite hard to play, and they require you to loosen your embrouchure. You better be tall if you want to play bari, because it's huge. The tenor's pretty big too, but you probably won't have problems with that. The tenor has different notes than the alto, but the fingering is the same. The bari has the same notes, though. I hope this helped, and I hope you decide on which sax you want to play!

paigel13 years ago

Hi, my name is Madison and I play the tenor sax. My friend plays the alto sax and let me tell you first off that when i once tried an alto sax, there was a big difference in sound and how much air I used. The tenor requires lots of air and the Baritone requires a lot more air! I recommend that if you are set on changing, switch to tenor, as it wont require as much air as the Baritone, even though you have a key change. The common problem among altos who switch to bari is that they play the instrument with the common bari embouchure, but use the same amount of air as they did on alto. I switched from clarinet to Tenor and found it difficult mostly because of the air. The most discouraging thing was that when i played any note below C, i often received the overtone, and not the note i was going for. Be aware of this if you switch. If you dont mind staying with the Alto, do that. The tenor has a gorgeous sound, excellent for rich harmonies, and the Baritone provides a rumbly bass. Very Jazzy. The alto plays very soulful melodies, and receives the solos more often than not in Jazz band. If you like melodies, stick with alto. Hope I helped! (And if you already switched, I hope I gave you a helpful tip)

CapnTac7 years ago
Tenor is in a different key, so you have to re-learn all of your scales. Bari is in the same key, but in my opinion, is a waste of metal. I'd either go with Tenor, or stick with Alto.
The bari is a "waste of metal"? Surely you jest, sir. There is a deep, growling tone to the bari that is not available to the alto or tenor. The soprano and alto are great for soloing. The tenor has a great rasp to it, especially in the higher register.  But the big baritone rumbles and growls, providing the foundation for a horn section.

I have played all manner of saxes for more than 25 years, and I think that I have had the most fun playing the bari. "Waste of metal" indeed.
I simply find it obnoxious and a bit annoying, and for the money I spend on a bottom-line bari sax I can buy an extremely well built guitar, plus active pickups. Simply my opinion on the matter. I played it in pep band one night and simply missed the higher register of my alto, and went back to alto within ten minutes of picking up the baritone. I needed to be able to ring out moreso than growl out bass-y notes, and I can't play my rock riffs very well on bari ;) Turn the Page simply isn't the same. Sorry if I offended, I simply don't like that particular sax.
No offense taken.  I find it funny that I learned on an alto and play it still after many years, but that I always yearn for the bass line and the growl.  Perhaps my taste in music (Big Band, Jazz) predisposes me to like the bari more than someone who wants to wail on Rock riffs.  That is why we make different kinds of music and different kinds of instruments: so that everyone can find something that suits them.

And your point about the cost of a good sax is all too true.  I always envied the guitar players in school who could afford a couple of decent instruments, amps, pedals, etc, while I was stuck with a single student-level alto sax.  When I win the lottery, my music room will include a matchied set of Yanagisawa saxes, from soprano to bari.  And winning the lottery is probably the only way to afford this.
CapnTac7 years ago
Something else to note, Tenor plays in the same key as a trumpet, so you can jam out the melody line if you so choose.
zascecs7 years ago
Like Capn Tac said, the tenor has a different key from the bari and alto. Though it isn't that hard to learn, so that shouldn't discourage you. Though when you're in school, there is a lot of competition for the alto sax, so it is harder to get into the first chair. But, the music for the tenor and baritone aren't as fun as the alto. So really, it's you're choice, because there are many more pros and cons for each instrument.

Try the Tenor. The Tenor and Bari are larger and make lower sounds. I play the Tenor and it's lots of fun although you don't get too many solos or anything like that.
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