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Tenor Sax vs Alto Sax – That is the Question

Thanks Neal. I have only just started playing Alto Sax as an adult. I was experiencing a lot of discomfort in my right thumb. I found I was holding the instrument incorrectly and have now adjusted the thumb hook and my grip which has helped. However, as I am going to buy a better quality Sax now I know I am sticking with it, I was wondering if a Tenor might be more comfortable for me to hold (given its larger diameter). I have quite big hands. Also would you say Tenor is better suited to Rock and Blues than Alto.

Hey Davey,
Sounds like you fixed the issue with your sore thumb?

Most of the pressure shouldn’t be on your thumb, if your neck strap is adjusted right.

Personally, I use a harness for my tenor. It won’t hurt your neck today or tomorrow, but years of playing all the time will cause problems. With alto, you probably don’t need one.

I have known quite few sax players who would do things like using a regular neck strap with a bari sax…. Even with tenor it can be bad (over time).

It doesn’t look quite as ‘cool’ on stage, but for the bigger saxophones, it may be better to practice with a harness and perform with a neckstrap.

A tenor might be more comfortable for you. That’s funny though, usually I hear about people’s hands being too small for the bigger saxophone, guess your case it the opposite. Try one out and see how it feels.

For me, the issue is more about which one you like the sound of better. I like the tenor sound. But alto can be have a sweet sound and is usually better for classical music and there are some great jazz alto players too.

Cannonball Adderley could definitely play the blues, but yes, the tenor is usually used more for rock and blues. You would sound different if you used an alto for blues and rock, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


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  1. saul garcia says:

    Iwanna see a video of a tenor sax and alto sax

  2. Victor Emeka Osakwuni says:

    Please tell me is Tenor and Alto which is better for a begginner.

    • Hey Victor,
      For a child or someone with smaller hands, alto sax could be easier. I started playing tenor sax when I was 11 years old though, so it’s not really a problem. Mostly it’s your preference.

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