How to play the tenor saxophone

In the English-speaking world, notes are known by letters, with Do equal to C, and going up alphabetically to G from there, then starting over.
For example, when a tenor saxophone, a B♭ instrument, plays an F scale, it goes like this.

1. Naturals

Notes that are neither sharp nor flat are called “natural.” This table shows the names of notes in Germany, enpan, Italy, France, the UK, and the US.

Germany C D E F G A H C
Japan Ha Ni Ho He To I Ro Ha
Italy Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do
France Do(Ut) Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do(Ut)
UK
US
C D E F G A B C

2. Accidentals

Notes with signs indicating flats (♭), sharps (♯), or other changes, are called accidentals.

1) A sharp (♯) refers to a tone one half-step above a natural.

Germany Cis Dis Eis Fis Gis Ais His Cis
Japan Ei ha Ei ni Ei ho Ei he Ei to Ei i Ei ro Ei ha
Italy Do
dieisis
Re
dieisis
Mi
dieisis
Fa
dieisis
Sol
dieisis
La
dieisis
Si
dieisis
Do
dieisis
France Do(Ut)
diesis
Re
diesis
Mi
diesis
Fa
diesis
Sol
diesis
La
diesis
Si
diesis
Do
diesis
UK
US
C sharp D sharp E sharp F sharp G sharp A sharp B sharp C sharp

2) A flat (♭) refers to a tone one half-step above a natural.

Germany Ces Des Es Fes Ges As B Ces
Japan Hen ha Hen ni Hen ho Hen he Hen to Hen i Hen ro Hen ha
Italy Do
bemolle
Re
bemolle
Mi
bemolle
Fa
bemolle
Sol
bemolle
La
bemolle
Si
bemolle
Do
bemolle
France Do(Ut)
bemole
Re
bemole
Mi
bemole
Fa
bemole
Sol
bemole
La
bemole
Si
bemole
Do
bemole
UK
US
C flat D flat E flat F flat G flat A flat B flat C flat

This covers the basic notes, but there are also double sharps (two half-steps up, indicated by ♯♯), and double flats (two half-steps down, indicated by ♭♭).

Playing an actual (“concert”) F scale

An F scale is a scale that begins at F. On a piano, an F major scale has one flat: F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E. When this same scale is played on a tenor saxophone, however, what is actually played is this: G, A, B, C, D, E, F♯

Playing a tenor saxophone F scale

This can be played with the normal saxophone fingerings: F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E

Transference between instruments

Saxophones essentially all have the same fingering, so those fingerings carry over between them.
When changing from an alto sax to a soprano sax, for instance, the alto has an E♭ tube, while the soprano has a B♭ tube, meaning that even when you play the same score, different sounds are produced. Unless the score itself has been changed beforehand, the player must transpose the notes as they play. The mouthpieces are also different between instruments, so it may take some time getting used to each one.

The difference between the score and the actual sound

Because the saxophone is a transposing instrument, when changing from one instrument to another, such as from an alto to a tenor, playing the same score will produce different actual sounds. Transposing instruments produce sounds different from those in the score and those produced by non-transposing instruments (the piano is the standard for actual or “concert” pitch).
Tenor saxophones are tuned to B♭, and alto saxophones are tuned to E♭, but when playing the same note on a score, the fingerings are the same. When a C is played on a tenor saxophone, however, the actual pitch produced corresponds to a B♭ on a piano, and in the case of an alto saxophone, playing a C actually produces an E♭.
What that means in practice is that to play a concert F major on a tenor saxophone, the player should play a G major on the score. For an F major on the alto saxophone, the player should play a D major on the score.
This arrangement was originally conceived with the intention of making saxophone fingerings easier. When actually playing in a group, however, because it is more convenient to use names for the notes that are common to everyone, the notes are referred to in terms of actual sounds (hence term concert pitch). There is no need to be overly concerned with the details of this process when first starting out. If you continue to practice, playing from a score with both the written and actual pitch on it, you are sure to get used to it soon.

Enharmonic equivalents

In a score, there are a variety of situations in which you may encounter C♭ or F♭. In modern musical notation, however, C♭ is actually the same pitch as B natural, and F♭ is actually the same pitch as E natural. These sounds are known as enharmonic equivalents.
Technically speaking, there is a very slight difference between C♭ and B natural, but based on the current even tuning of intervals on the piano, the sound actually produced for each is the same.
In terms of fingering, B natural and E natural are the same as their enharmonic equivalents, but because wind instruments allow for slight variations in intervals, players should be mindful of the fact that the interval may change slightly through the piece.

Lots of sharps in the score

Tenor and soprano saxophones are in the key of B♭, just like clarinets. All three of these instruments produce a B♭ when playing a C on the score. That is why in order to produce the same C pitch as keyed instruments or the flute (concert or “written” C), they must actually play a D. Because the D major key is a whole step above the C major key, it contains two sharps.
Since alto and baritone saxophones are in E♭, (meaning they produce an E♭ when playing a written C), in order to produce an actual C, they must play an A, which is a perfect third down from C. In this case the key becomes A major, meaning that there are three sharps.
Sheet music for wind instruments are nearly always only parts of the score, so it is arranged for the key of the instrument it is written for.

I started the other way round – first tenor, then bari, then alto. I found the alto much harder to play than tenor at first – the mouthpiece felt so small. Nowadays I am happy with both, but at the moment I think the alto is easier.

I think the only way to know if a 3S reed is better than a 3M on alto is to try. One rule of thumb is that a softer reed makes the bottom notes easier, whereas a harder reed makes the top notes easier.

Targa

Among the pigeons
  • Dec 16, 2017
  • #3

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
  • Dec 16, 2017
  • #4

I only play tenor and I’ve only ever had one or two tryouts with alt, sop and bari. I’m sure each mpc size and embrouchure takes getting used to. But my very limited experience is the same as @Targa’s: the lower you, go, the looser the embrouchure needs to be in general.

Is this because tenor and bari reeds vibrate at lower frequencies than alt and sop?

I’ve heard it said that the degree of lip tension Trumpet players are able to maintain determines the highest notes that they can play. ‘High Blowers’ are especially good at hitting ‘high notes’ when called for.

Be interested to hear about the experience of people who regularly play multiple saxes.

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How to play the tenor saxophone

There are four types of saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor and bari(tone). Three of them are used in school band — alto, tenor and bari(tone). The tenor sax is bigger than the alto, and oftentimes plays the same part as the trombone and/or baritone, especially in the first few years of band. The alto saxophone is usually the most popular, and the smallest of the three woodwind instruments. Since all the saxophones are woodwinds, yet made of metal (brass), they blend well with all the other instruments in the band, and can be used for various parts, including the melody and counter-melody. The largest saxophone of the three, the bari, is usually rented directly from the school, and not through a music retailer. Due to its size, it plays the “bottom” part of the music in the ensemble, usually matching the tuba player. It’s also the lowest wind instrument in the jazz ensemble. So why play tenor saxophone?

So why play the tenor saxophone in beginning band? While the tenor or alto sax are the best ones to learn to play on, there are many great reasons to play tenor saxophone in school band:

♦ The tenor saxophone has a sound that is hard to miss — it’s rich, exciting, and full of color and tonality.

♦ Some of today’s popular music, both streaming and on the radio, has tenor saxophone in it.

♦ Tenor Sax is used for all kinds of music, including jazz, R&B, soul, rock, pop, and lots of other styles of music. However, it is not used in the orchestra, because when orchestras were first formed, the saxophone, as a musical instrument, did not exist.

♦ It’s relatively easy to get a sound out of a tenor saxophone, so at least in the beginning it’s not hard to play. The fingering system is very easy to understand and tone production is much easier than with most of the other woodwinds. Like all instruments, though, it takes practice to be really good at it.

♦ Tenor Saxophonists can have lots of fun playing in groups — duets, trios, quartets, etc..

♦ The tenor saxophone is a great jazz instrument, so students looking to play in jazz band in middle school may be interested in this instrument.

♦ Once you learn to play one saxophone (soprano, tenor, tenor, bari), you can play any of them. The fingerings are exactly the same from saxophone to saxophone.

♦ The saxophone’s fingerings are also almost identical to the flute, so it’s fairly easy to learn the flute if you have mastered the tenor sax.

An easy way to improvise with 10 great tunes. Tunes include *Baby Blurred My Boogie *Funkasaurus Rex *Funk ‘n Dunk *Eat Your Greens *Ace Fighter *and many others.

Sample Pages

Audio Samples

  • Easy Funk Play Along

Additional Information

Series: Advance Music: Easy Funk Play-Along
Composed by: Ed Harlow
Instrument: Saxophone
Format: Book & CD
Item Number: 01-ADV14826
UPC: 805095148268

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How to play the tenor saxophone

Is it possible to teach yourself saxophone ?

YES !! It is more than possible to teach yourself saxophone !

Just like anything in life, you can teach yourself pretty much anything these days…..with a bit of help.

The internet is an amazing resource.

Websites such as Youtube, Udemy, Skillshare and a whole host of others (like this one . ) will show you everything you need to know about learning how to play the saxophone, and more.

A few things to keep in mind when trying to teach yourself saxophone:

You will need a saxophone !!

Beg / Borrow / Buy / Rent (but please don’t steal !!) a sax.

No amount of watching videos about learning how to play the saxophone will help if you don’t actually have one.

Play the kind of music that YOU want to play.

There is nothing more demoralising and soul destroying than learning classical music if you are into heavy metal…and vice versa.How to play the tenor saxophone

If you aren’t inspired then you will soon give up.

Play your favourite songs. Learn the chorus vocal melody, or guitar riff, or bass line – play them all on your saxophone.

Some songs are more difficult than others, and sometimes learning a new skill takes a little longer than you might prefer.

But, if you are playing what YOU want to play, you will persist, you will persevere, you will triumph !!

You will need to actually play your saxophone.

Unfortunately, learning a musical instrument takes time.

Playing your saxophone for 5 or 10 minutes a day is much better than playing for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes once a week.

If you do this for a month or two or three then you WILL be able to honk your sax in a way that is actually pleasing to your ear.

Play what your teacher/mentor/guide suggests, but also play what you want to play. Start your practice session with some scales and some long notes for a minute or two, but then try to play the song that has been stuck in your head for the last few days…..

You will hear and feel yourself progress, slowly at first, but you will soon gather enough momentum to look back and be justifiably pleased with yourself.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Decide early on on what your musical goals might be.How to play the tenor saxophone

If you want to be a rock star – go for it !! If you want to be a jazz legend or join the state symphony orchestra, then go for it ! If you just want to be a bedroom warrior, then go for that too !! If you want to teach yourself saxophone, go for that too.

If your goal is to play one song at a friends wedding because he/she is putting a band together for the night, then learn your song and have fun at the reception celebrations ?

Part of playing the saxophone involves being relaxed. If you are tense and worried then it will be easy to play “wrong” notes, or not quite sound like you might wish to sound like. Just chill. Breathe. Relax.

Be inspired, but perhaps recognise that it is unlikely that you will be immediately able to replicate note for note your favourite sax solo from your favourite band if you have never played a musical instrument before. It’s OK to have your “L” plates on !!

Make sure that you have fun with your saxophone.

How to play the tenor saxophone

Teach Yourself Saxophone

If it’s a chore and a pain then it is unlikely that you will persist long enough to achieve your musical goals. Please go out of your way to enjoy your saxophone playing. Play what you want to play. Be that orchestral music, or a rock song, or some smooth jazz licks, or even “Happy Birthday” for your 4 year old son/daughter – just play. Play some songs from your favourite TV programs from when you were a child – Batman or The Muppets spring to mind. Play for 5 minutes or 5 hours, or anywhere in between – as long as it’s fun.

The only problem with this is that it is difficult to play the saxophone when you are smiling !!

A teacher of some description will make life easier for you.

Yes, you can go and buy a saxophone and work out how to put it together, make a sound and fumble your way through some notes all by yourself. However, this will take ages and ages, will be extremely frustrating and you will learn bad habits that will stop you progressing.

Teaching yourself saxophone – with some help – is an excellent goal and strategy !

An in person teacher will arguably be the shortest route to success. However they are most likely be expensive and time consuming given potential travel time as well.

This is obviously not a problem if you have the funds available for your new hobby. Please just make sure that you find a teacher that wants to help you play what YOU want to play, rather than what THEY want you to play and how THEY want you to play it.

Online saxophone lessons are significantly cheaper, but just as good.

You can easily find a website or lessons or a teacher that will help you on your way to becoming the saxophonist that you want to be. You CAN teach yourself saxophone, yes, but without some kind of help it will be difficult and time consuming.

You can access online saxophone lessons at any time of the day or night that suits you. If you don’t feel like playing today, then don’t. But, if you suddenly want to play your saxophone right now and learn something new, simply log in and pick a lesson !

There is no right or wrong with learning how to play the saxophone. You do you !

It is completely and totally fine to teach yourself saxophone.

Just remember to have fun, play saxophone, be awesome, repeat !

Matthew

Not a member yet ? Really ? Join us and get access to the always increasing library of saxophone lessons, our Members forums and PDF cheat sheets.

P.S. If you would like simple step by step instructions to help you learn how to play the saxophone:

  • all neatly organised in the one convenient location,
  • all provided by an experienced saxophone teacher who can help you to play the music that YOU want to play quickly and easily,
  • all available when ever it suits YOU (rather than when it suits someone else),
  • with a forum community to ask questions and receive (and give) answers

then check out our saxophone lessons membership options. Get started on your saxophone journey today !

How to play the tenor saxophone

I hear the question, “What kind of saxophone should I play” and it’s usually from beginners who are wondering which horn they should play. But it’s also from some people who are maybe on alto and want to move on to maybe one of the other ones.

Yes, there’s some difficulties in some aspects between the horns, between the different saxophones. But when you learn to play one of the saxophones, one of the more popular voices, like soprano, alto, tenor or bari, you probably all know there’s more than those. There’s there’s actually several more. There’s bigger than the bari which is the bass and even a bigger one, which is a contra bass, but you rarely see them.They’re rarely used. I’ve seen a contra bass that if you’re not that tall you might have to use a step ladder or a little stool to get up to the mouthpiece. They’re huge.

How to play the tenor saxophone

Let’s stick to the four popular ones, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone of course. When I started I fell in love with the tenor because I’m a rock and roller at heart and I listen to a lot of rock and roll and that’s the sax that I heard 90% of the time. So I fell in love with the sound of it and went out and grabbed one and learned how to play it. If you don’t care start with the alto because it is a little easier. If you’re playing the alto and you’re not too bad at it and you switch over to tenor you may find you have a little more difficulties getting the lower last few notes because the tenor is that much bigger and so requires more air.

How to play the tenor saxophone

The bari will be a little harder to play way up on the high register, and to play in tune. The same goes for a soprano. Pretty easy to get the lower notes, when you get to the notes above the high C the D and the D sharp and the E and the F. Those notes are harder to get out. When you do get them out, it’s a little harder to keep the intonation spot-on, but it’s just a little more difficult than the horn you’re used to with a little more work and practice you’re going to get over these hurdles. So don’t worry about it.

Take Advantage of these Free Lessons!

I’ve put together 8 of the first lessons from my beginners guide for anyone that wants to start and learn to play the saxophone right away. You can register after hitting the green button below. You’ll receive access to the first of these video lessons right away.

Baritone and Soprano Saxophones

Generally speaking, most new saxophone students start off learning on either the alto or tenor. They are the easiest. The soprano and baritone saxophones have a few more issues that a beginner will face.

Although the soprano is smaller than the others, it is very difficult to play in tune. At least for the first little while. The baritone is very big and so will require more air. The intonation will be more difficult as well.

Having said that, I would encourage any student to start on the one they love the sound of the most. If you like them all the same, start on the alto!

How to play the tenor saxophone

The best thing to do is choose the one that you love the sound of the most. That’s the most obvious. If you don’t care and somebody’s giving you a certain horn, yeah, take lessons check out these videos learn how to play it.

The saxophone is easy to learn the fingering of course, and then takes a bit more time to develop a good tone, through your embouchure. and proper breathing. But all the little nuances that each of the different saxophones have can be overcome. Their problems can be overcome. All the notes are all the same fingering for all the saxophones. You have to transpose when you play with different instruments because of course, there’s the E flat and B flat. But on its own, the saxophone fingerings are all the same. Go for it! Less talking, more playing. See you later.

By the way, if you’re interested in tips on buying a saxophone check out the article I have written on that as well.

Rent vs Buying

In many circumstances it makes great sense for someone to rent a sax at first. If you’re unsure if you’ll really stick with it or for a school kid who may drop it in a few months.

Many large music store have a rental department and you can be assured the horn you rent from them will be in good playing condition since they have them routinely checked by a repair person. This may not be the case if you’re buying one privately.

A monthly rental for a saxophone is quite reasonable and you’ll know after a few months if you’ll want to keep at it or not and then move on with a decision to start shopping around for one to buy.

Saxophone Keys

All saxophones, except for the C melody which is no longer in production, are transposing instruments. This means that when you play a C on a saxophone, that C will not be a regular concert C as when played on the piano. The alto is called an E flat because when you play a C it sounds Eb on the piano. When you play a C on the tenor it sounds Bb on the piano, that’s why it’s called a Bb tenor. This theory can be difficult to understand at first. I have a more detailed article which explains the saxophone keys theory in more detail.

Are you any closer in answering the question “which saxophone should I play?” Let me know if you have any questions about this. Also, keep this in mind: Deciding on which saxophone to play doesn’t need to be a long and laboring process because you can always switch to another one later!

When it comes to saxophones, there are four major varieties: soprano , alto , tenor , and bass . Among these, the alto and tenor saxophones have become favorites among musicians, composers, and listeners. Professional musicians, including John Coltrane (tenor) and Charlie Parker (alto), have brought the two types of saxophones into the mainstream. While both saxophones are often featured in professional bands and orchestras and have a similar music role, they are also quite unique in nature.

Size

The most obvious difference between the two instruments is their size. The tenor sax is slightly larger and heavier, while the alto sax is smaller, lighter, and more easily managed than a tenor. The neck of an alto saxophone also comes up slightly at the end, while the neck of a tenor bends slightly down. Beyond the aesthetics, the size of the two instruments makes a difference in the notes that they produce. Since the alto sax is smaller, its notes are higher and brighter than those of the tenor sax. The tenor sax produces a mellow, rich, and deep sound. While expert musicians can get a vast range of sounds out of both instruments, younger musicians who have smaller hands and a smaller lung capacity tend to have an easier time playing the alto sax.

How to play the tenor saxophone

The Yamaha YTS-26 tenor saxophone combines state-of-the-art production expertise with design elements of Yamaha professional and custom saxophones. The result is an entry-level instrument that delivers the response, intonation and tone needed to help developing musicians achieve success. New features include an improved Low B-C# connection that ensures the consistent closing of the low C# key and promotes a clear response from notes in the low range of the instrument. Learn More

Transposing Instruments

Both the alto and tenor sax are transposing instruments, meaning neither of them sound the same as the piano and other concert pitch instruments. In written music, the pitch of a transposing instrument is written differently than what’s actually produced; for example, playing a written C on a transposing instrument will produce a pitch other than C. Because they have the same key positions, fingerings, number of notes, and both require a reed and a mouthpiece to play, they’re more similar in nature than most would think. Since the alto and tenor sax are the two most popular instruments in the saxophone family, many professional musicians learn both in order to make themselves more marketable.

Differences in Register

Although the alto and tenor saxophones use similar sets of fingerings and embouchure, they are significantly different in regards to note register. The alto saxophone is an E-flat instrument, which means that a written C played by an alto sax actually sounds like an E-flat. The tenor saxophone, on the other hand, is built half an octave lower. It’s written in B-flat, meaning that a written C for the tenor seems like a B-flat. Although this is a major difference between the two instruments, it’s only noticeable if you try to play your tenor sax using sheet music that was written for an alto sax and vice versa.

How to play the tenor saxophone

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Accessories

Since the alto and tenor sax are quite similar in nature, the essential accessories you’ll need to purchase are virtually the same across the board. Regardless of the type of saxophone your child chooses, you’ll need to purchase the following accessories: a sturdy case, extra reeds, a mouthpiece, and cleaning cloths. While a metronome and a music stand are optional accessories, you may find that your child will enjoy their time learning a new instrument more if these accessories are available. If you need advice about caring for and maintaining your sax, ask your music teacher or a local repair technician for advice that’s specific to your instrument.

Which is Better for a New Musician?

The smaller size of the alto saxophone makes it the perfect option for younger students. Since it requires a smaller and tighter embouchure, the technicalities behind the alto sax make it easier for new musicians to grasp before moving onto playing other, larger types of saxophones. If your child is small in size, the minimal physical requirements of the alto sax also make it an excellent first saxophone for younger musicians. If you’re choosing a saxophone based on genre, nearly each type of saxophone is used in jazz music, but the tenor tends to be the one that’s used the most; therefore, if your child seems mostly interested in playing jazz, the tenor sax is a better choice.

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How to play the tenor saxophone

The tenor sax is laid out exactly the same as an alto in terms of key-work, it’s obviously bigger and it’s in a different key but by far the most significant difference is the way that sound is produced and the embouchure that is required. The mouthpiece, reed and ligature are bigger than that of an alto and require the player to have a substantially different approach.

The main difference in a very general sense is that the embouchure is much more open and relaxed for tenor, so you are going to need “sloppy chops” in comparison to an alto.

It’s worth making a distinction here for embouchure in general between “firm” and “tight”. With my young son Charlie, if I give him a firm hug, he can feel my strength and power but I’m not making his eyes bulge like I would if I just squeezed him as tightly as I could. For tenor sax you need a firm embouchure, but not as tight as with an alto otherwise you are likely to make some interesting squeaking sounds that can be interpreted by whales hundreds of miles away.

Lots of people start playing sax on an alto and then look to progress to the tenor.

If you can make a consistently nice sound on an alto this means that you have trained your brain to recognise how firm your facial muscles need to be in order to get that sound. When you put your alto sax mouthpiece into your mouth your brain recognises it and sends information to your facial muscles.

How to play the tenor saxophone

When you first start playing tenor, you need to re-write or update the mental programming file for embouchure and adapt it for the tenor and this can take time. When you stop playing the tenor and pick up the alto again, it’s likely that at first this could mildly confuse your brain’s embouchure programming software.

However, when you stick with it and grow your ability to get a great sound from the tenor and the alto, your embouchure knowledge will be richer and you will likely have a fuller sound on the alto as a result of your practice on the tenor.

Low notes on the alto will become extremely easy where they might have caused a challenge before. High notes on the tenor are easy to get if you are used to playing an alto.

So, no, although it may disrupt it very slightly in the initial stages, playing the tenor sax will not negatively impact your playing on the alto in the mid or long term.

Overall it’s a great thing to be able to play both instruments. And let’s face it, you can’t have too many saxophones in your life as they have been scientifically proven to be the most beautiful things on Earth.

I’m not biased, honest. Ok… maybe a bit.

Written by Lynden Blades. Saxophone Superhero.

Lynden Blades is a busy sax teacher with a unique approach to music education. Together with his wife he regularly performs with their jazz duo Sax & Honey at private functions throughout the country and abroad. He is also the founder of the “Goldington” range of saxophones.

  • How to play the tenor saxophone
  • How to play the tenor saxophone
  • How to play the tenor saxophone

Goldington Saxophones are modelled on vintage saxes, available in a range of stylish finishes for Alto, Tenor, and Soprano. For more information please visit: www.saxandhoney.com/saxophones-for-sale

Sax Bandits members can claim an exclusive offer via Sax HQ .

With our student range of Zetland saxophones selling like warm baked goods, a question we get asked a lot at Headwind by eager beginners is:

"How long does it take to learn to play the saxophone?”

Despite an overwhelming urge to answer their question with another question regarding lengths of string, I try to take the time to answer it as accurately as possible. Walk out rate during my explanation is about 60% so don’t feel bad if you want to bail now.

I think there's a more important question that every student should ask themselves first.

What do you mean by 'play the saxophone'?

There's a HUGE difference between being able to play the pink panther without any 'wrong notes' and being able to effortlessly negotiate be-bop changes at 250bpm. The difference being a matter of about 10,000 hours of practise (give or take a few thousand).

So the first thing you need to do is choose your end game, and make it realistic. If you're under 25 years old and willing to dedicate the rest of your life to the instrument then you have a decent shot at being a top draw professional. If you're 45+ with three kids and a full time job, chances are you don't have enough time to dedicate to the instrument to one day headline a jazz festival (brutal but true). However, with a reasonable amount of allocated practise time and enthusiasm most people should within a few years (2 -4) be able to read simple melodies with ease, improvise neat diatonic lines and play comfortably with others in an ensemble, which for most will mean many years of enjoyment. I’ve had tons of feedback from people much older than me (ripe 32) who started learning only a few years ago but are now completely sax mad and experience unparalleled satisfaction from playing their saxophone.

So you've identified your realistic end game, now just need to reword the initial question and it becomes vaguely answerable:

How much practise time do I need to allocate to reach my goal?

This is a slightly easier question to answer, with the most basic and patronising answer being ‘the more you practise the quicker you’ll get there' but in light of not wanting to come across like a complete d*ck, here some rough guidelines:

So you’re not looking at making a career from music, you just want to get to a point where you can play some tunes you like and maybe join your mates in the office big band (should totally be a thing btw), but you don’t have a tremendous amount of free time and Netflix isn’t going to binge watch itself, so what’s the plan?

Ok, start with just 20mins every day and you should see some rapid improvement within the first year, then maybe look at going for longer practise sessions to get really stuck in but don't beat yourself up about missing a few days here or there, if you could average an hour every other day for 2 to 4 years with regular guidance from a good teacher you should hit your target. #saxgoals

“I’m not going to get lessons, I’m just going to teach myself using YouTube”

Let me quickly talk about tuition. Good quality one-to-one tuition is invaluable and almost every great player has had some (usually a lot) at some point in their life. This isn't to say that you can't learn a lot by yourself, especially if you have prior musical knowledge, but to think that you can do it all from scratch by watching YouTube videos is naive bordering on mental. YouTube is a fantastic learning resource, I use it all the time, but I know enough now to sift through the thousands of videos posted by people who are a bit deluded about their own playing level let alone their ability to teach. I'd say that more than half of all 'how to' videos relating to the saxophone on YouTube are complete nonsense and will undoubtedly set you back more than you’ll gain (again, brutal but what I believe to be true). In an ideal world you should get a lesson every single week, but I know that’s not exactly desirable / affordable for everyone, so at the minimum just check in with a teacher now and again to make sure you’re not learning bad techniques and you’re practising the right things. You’ve already invested this much time and money into your new hobby…what’s £30 and an hour of your time once in a while? (especially right at the start)

For the more ambitious beginner who wants to sound like Brecker, Coltrane or that other one that did loads of smack, get ready to live and breathe saxophone every waking hour of your day. You'll even need to knock over some 'maintenance practise' between Christmas and New year's and take you horn on holidays with your girlfriend/boyfriend, assuming you haven’t managed to alienate yourself from every member of the opposite (or same) sex you come into contact with by talking about triad pairing and altissimo fingerings (did I say that without being sexist?). If you’re young enough to consider words like ‘woke’ and ‘hype’ to be a normal part of your vocabulary then a formal 'jazz education' route may help you maintain direction and give you access to necessary resources but it's NOT THE ONLY WAY!! You don't need to spend loads of money and four years at a conservatoire to become a burning sax player, there are plenty of living examples of this. Furthermore you don't have to start playing at the age of 8 to be truly great (Didn't Andy Sheppard start in his early 20’s and teach himself?!). Either way you need to hit it hard, and box smart, you'll never become a great player by running up and down scales over the same old standards on your iRealbook app, it just won't happen. You need to first understand the underlying theory of jazz harmony (get a copy of the Mark Levine Jazz Theory book and start learning piano voicings. to start) and then spend an enormous amount of time laboriously learning scales, arpeggios, patterns and transcriptions beginning at a snail pace until it all effortlessly oozes from your fingers….apparently! As a rough guideline, you should be looking to average about 3-5 hours of practise every day (even more some days) if you want to be the best of the best.

When Chad Lefkowitz Brown visited us last year someone asked him during the Q&A "how much time should I practise" to which he replied "I don't see the point in doing much more than 3 hours a day" . so to all you sadistic 8-hour-a-dayers just think about that for a minute, Chad LB. 3 hours a day, goes like the clappers.

I should point out that I am exclusively talking about learning to play jazz, not only because it's the genre which the majority of aspiring sax players want to learn, but it’s the only thing that I can vaguely claim to have attempted to learn over the years. However, If you want to be an accomplished classical saxophonist (like that bonnie lass off the proms) then you probably need to find a really good classical sax teacher, do your grades and go to music college…..and don’t listen to me. You may also want to consider learning the clarinet and flute as well (double reeds if you've got the bottle!) because finding gigs as an exclusively 'classical sax player' is unimaginably tough.

If you want to play any other western genre apart from classical or jazz then just learn jazz anyway because it is the most theory driven non-classical discipline out there. Yeah, big claim.

So this is the bit where I should say something deep and meaningful to round off this questionably constructive blog that may or may not help you achieve an intangible goal that exists solely in your mind and increases in difficulty the closer you get to it by infinitely dividing increments of progress, or something.

As a little encouragement / make you wonder why you bother. here's Chris Potter aged 15

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    Important Tenor Saxophone Tips:
    1) Always attach a label to your tenor saxophone case to prevent someone from taking your tenor saxophone by accident.
    2) Never put books, food, money, toys, or anything besides your tenor saxophone and cleaning tools inside your case.
    3) Do not set your tenor saxophone down where it can be stepped on, sat on, or knocked over. If you are not playing your tenor saxophone, put it back into the case right away.
    4) Watch out for curious friends or little brothers and sisters who may want to “try out” your tenor saxophone. Keep it in a safe place at school and at home.
    5) Keep it away from direct sunlight and extreme heat.
    6) Don’t grab the keys, when assembling or disassembling your tenor saxophone.

    7) Always remove your reed and place it in a reed guard when you are finished practicing.

    8) Gently wipe down the outside of the tenor saxophone with a cloth after use.
    9) Carefully clean the inside of the tenor saxophone with your cotton or silk swab (drop cloth). If you get the cloth stuck, do not attempt to take it out yourself. Bring it to The Master Musician and we will remove it for free.
    10) Bring your tenor saxophone to The Master Musician for regular checkups.

    First things first. If you’re a white guy, you’ll need a stupid hat, the more stupid the better and preferably a beret. Sunglasses are optional, but all the really, really good players wear them, especially indoors. You’ll also need some gig shirts. Hawaiians are good, but in a pinch anything with a loud floral pattern is acceptable, as are T shirts from various Jazz clubs and festivals. The good thing about the latter is that you can get them by mail order, so you don’t have to go to all the trouble of actually seeing live music. And sandals are an absolute must, even in winter.

    Once you’ve assembled the proper attire you can begin practicing. One of the most important things about playing is being able to convey emotion to the audience. This you do through various facial expressions. The two emotions you’ll need to convey are (1) rapture/ecstasy and (2) soul wrenching pain and sadness (i.e., the blues).

    You may find it useful in the beginning to borrow a page from the method acting school. So, for example, to convey rapture try thinking of something nice, like puppy dogs.

    To convey the “blues” try thinking of something really really appalling, like rap. You should practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at least two hours per day.

    You may feel a tad stupid at first, but you’ll never get the chicks if you don’t jump around on stage like a monkey with your face all contorted. And bottom line, chicks is really what music’s all about.

    Next, you’ll need the correct ligature. Some people think that the ligature is just a stupid piece of old metal that holds the reed on the mouthpiece. Well, those people are idiots. Besides your beret the ligature is the single most important piece of musical equipment you will ever buy. Mine, for example, is 40% platinum and 60% titanium; one screw is rubidium and the other plutonium. It makes me sound exactly like Booker Ervin would if Booker Ervin were (1) not dead and (2) on Mars, if (2)(a) there was oxygen on Mars. You may have to spend years and years and thousands of dollars finding the proper ligature, but in the end it will definitely be worth it.

    Now: reeds. Optimally you’ll want to move to Cuba, grow, and cure your own cane and carve your own reeds by hand. If you’re just a “weekend warrior,” however, you can get by with store-bought. First, buy ten boxes of reeds, 100 in all. Next, open all the boxes and throw away 60 reeds. Those were unplayable. Take the remaining reeds and soak them in a mixture of 27.8 % Alpine spring water bottled at the source and 72.2 % chicken stock for a period of 17 weeks. Throw away 20 more reeds. Those were stuffy. Take the remaining 20 reeds and sand each one for exactly 13 seconds with #1200 grade 3M sandpaper. Throw away 14 reeds. Those squeaked. Take the remaining 6 reeds and soak them for another 17 weeks, this time however in a mixture of 27.7% Pacifica beer and 72.3 % rubbing alcohol. Sun dry the 6 remaining reeds for 3 weeks, optimally at an equatorial latitude, and throw away 3 more just on general principles. You now have 3 reeds that will last you several months if you play each one only 20 minutes a day in strict rotation.

    Now, you say you just bought a horn. Although you didn’t say what kind it is I’d sell it immediately and get a different one. The best one to get would be a Selmer Mark VI made at 4:27 PM on June 14, 1963, serial number 125543. If you can’t get that one though (and I seriously doubt you can since it’s mine), generally speaking the older and more expensive the better. The following brands are good: Selmer Paris Mark VI. The following brands not to be considered: any other Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Beuscher, Yanigasawa, Cannonball, LA, Jupiter, Elkhart, King, Martin, Keilworth, Boosey and Hawkes, Couf, Silvertone, and Holton.

    On no account should you play the horn before you buy it. Go strictly on reputation and price. If you can’t get a Mark VI and need further information, there’s some woman who’s owned every saxophone ever made, Sherry or Sheryl or something, and she can probably tell you which one’s the best.

    You will also need some accoutrements: a flight case capable of withstanding atmospheric pressure of dP = – Dg dz where D and g are, respectively, the density of air and the acceleration due to gravity at the altitude of the air layer and dz is a horizontal layer of air having unit surface area and infinitesimal thickness; a tuner; a combination alto, tenor, baritone sax stand with pegs for an oboe, bass clarinet, flute, English horn, and bassoon; Band in a Box; every Jamie Abersold play along record ever created; a reed cutter; swabs, cleaners, pad savers, pad dope, pad clamps; a Sennheiser Digital 1092 Wireless Microphone; an effects rig with digital delay and parametric EQ; a 200 watt (per channel, minimum) amplifier and 18″ monitor; and a metronome.

    It will be helpful if you listen to lots of sax players. Unfortunately, listening solely to players you like is absolutely the worst thing you can do. To really understand the music and its traditions you have to go back to the beginning and listen to every bit of music ever recorded. I’d start with chant and work forward. Once you get to the 20th century pay particular attention to players like Jimmy Dorsey and Sidney Bechet, the wellsprings of the modern Jazz saxophone. In no time at all, or by 2054, whichever comes first, you’ll be able to understand the unique be-bop stylings of players like Ace Cannon, Boots Randolph and Grover Washington Jr.

    Finally, to play the saxophone itself, blow in the small end and move your fingers around.

    How to play the tenor saxophone

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    The saxophone family is a surprisingly large one when you take into account every member, no matter how common. Made up of 14 different types (only 9 of which can be reliably found in playing condition now), there are 2 particular saxophones in the family that have risen above the rest in popularity: the alto and tenor saxophones.

    When you look up the most popular and influential saxophonists, most of them are either alto sax players or tenor sax players. But a question that I have heard often from students over the past few years is, “Which is better? The alto or tenor?”, and I usually just tell them that it just depends on your personal taste. However, during a sleepless, hot, California night, the question wouldn’t leave my head and I just had to delve a little bit deeper and see if there was any credence to the question.

    First, let’s start off with a quick analysis of how each of the horns are similar and different.

    Transposing

    Both instruments have to do some transposing in order to play in the right key with other concert pitch based instruments. This just means that instead of being able to play or read a note as C and have it sound like a C, a saxophonist has to play or read different notes from what an instrument in concert pitch would play or read.

    While both instruments have to transpose, they both have to transpose different intervals. In my opinion, the tenor sax’s job is slightly easier as the transposition is up a 9th, meaning the note you finger on the tenor sax is up a whole step from the concert pitch music you are reading. This is different from alto, which requires you to go up a major 6th (from Concert C to Eb).

    The easiest difference between the two saxes is their size. The alto is noticeably smaller than the tenor. The tenor’s neck has a trademark question mark-like look to it, while the alto has a more right angle appearance to it. Because of their size difference, the alto is lighter, requires less air, and has a brighter, punchier tone. In contrast, the tenor is heavier, takes more air, and has a generally mellower, fuller tone. In the hands of an expert, the tenor can be just as punchy as the alto, and vice-versa; in the hands of a beginner, however, the alto is definitely the easiest to handle. This is due to its keywork being closer together, and the lessened importance of good air support.

    How to play the tenor saxophone

    Eastman 52nd St. Eb Alto Saxophone

    Registers

    While the alto and tenor saxophone both use the same note fingerings (apart from some of the altissimo notes), because of their difference in size, they actually have very different ranges. The alto can play from Db3 on the bottom, up to to concert Ab5. In contrast, the tenor can go lower, all the way down to Ab2, up to E5. This adds up to an interval difference of a perfect 5th between the two. However, if played by an expert, both saxes can go as high as each particular player wants, effectively making both of their top ranges almost unlimited.

    Check out this great video playing the two instruments side by side for a real time comparison of sounds!

    How to play the tenor saxophone

    Allora ATS-250 Student Series Tenor Saxophone

    Accessories

    Because the alto and tenor saxophones are so similar, they have practically identical essential saxophone accessories. When purchasing the necessary additions that both instruments need, neckstrap, reeds, and mouthpiece, the only thing you need to pay attention to is purchasing the correctly sized accessories for your instrument. You don’t want accessories for an alto when you play tenor! These items serve the same function across the board, however their sizes differ depending which sax you choose. When looking to purchase other vital items such as cleaning cloths, tuners and metronomes, you won’t have to worry about them working for one or the other as these items work for all saxophones in the family.

    Which Is The Better Instrument?

    So do we have enough info here to decide which is the better instrument? Well, not really. Each sax has it’s own strengths and weaknesses if we are just looking at them from a purely technical perspective.

    The alto saxophone is smaller, lighter, is relatively easy to get in tune, and takes less air to play; thus making it an ideal saxophone for beginning students. Because of the small size, however, the alto can very easily sound very bright and edgy which many people can find to be polarizing; some people love it and others despise it.

    In comparison, the tenor saxophone is bigger, heavier, and takes a bit more air to play. These things add up to make the tenor a bit better for either larger/older musicians to play or for students who don’t mind having to work a little bit harder to make notes sound. This instrument also has a flip side however, as it is generally the more versatile instrument and can fit in with every setting it is put into with the properly trained musician.

    In Conclusion

    There are too many similarities between the alto and tenor saxes to really consider one or the other to be superior. However, depending on your personal needs or sound preferences, it is possible to find one that works a bit better for you specifically. If you are new to the saxophone or music in general, then the alto saxophone would most likely be the easiest to pick up. Check out our awesome article on choosing the best alto saxophone for you. If you are more experienced or want a sax that has a warmer, generally more mellow sound, then you should go for the tenor saxophone. At the end of the day, they both can make beautiful music!

    How to play the tenor saxophone

    I am a freelance woodwinds session player with a degree in Jazz Studies from CSU Northridge. I am fortunate to have played and recorded with various artists such as: NIKI, 88Rising, Tommy Mora, Melissa Manchester, and Barbera Morrison; as well as go on multiple tours and residencies on Oahu, Hawaii. Primarily a saxophonist by trade, I have also extensively studied and played flute and clarinet. Always looking forward, my most recent exploits have included starting my own home studio for remote recording sessions, writing my own original music, and joining a great sonora band.

    This intermediate-level reading book with accompanying CD (12 listening tracks; 12 play-along tracks) contains very melodic, fun to play blues lines and riffs in various styles/feels. The keys and tempos are comfortable.

    It’s an excellent tool for learning what jazz soloing is all about. Besides reading, you can improvise over the play-along tracks using the chords for the tracks shown in the book.

    Soloist: Fred Lipsius – tenor saxophone, Rhythm Section: Fred Lipsius – piano, Bruce Gertz – bass, John Wheatley – guitar, Bob Kaufman – drums, Yoron Israel – drums.

    Blues for Michael Brecker
    On the Spot
    Sus Sounds
    Goin’ Home
    Funky Blue
    Blues Ascension
    Four in Three
    Diggin’ In
    Nightfall
    Medieval Blues
    Tradin’ Ones & Twos
    Shuffle Them Blues

    • Description
    • Details
    • Sound Clips

    This intermediate-level reading book with accompanying CD (12 listening tracks; 12 play-along tracks) contains very melodic, fun to play blues lines and riffs in various styles/feels. The keys and tempos are comfortable.

    It’s an excellent tool for learning what jazz soloing is all about. Besides reading, you can improvise over the play-along tracks using the chords for the tracks shown in the book.

    Soloist: Fred Lipsius – tenor saxophone, Rhythm Section: Fred Lipsius – piano, Bruce Gertz – bass, John Wheatley – guitar, Bob Kaufman – drums, Yoron Israel – drums.

    Blues for Michael Brecker
    On the Spot
    Sus Sounds
    Goin’ Home
    Funky Blue
    Blues Ascension
    Four in Three
    Diggin’ In
    Nightfall
    Medieval Blues
    Tradin’ Ones & Twos
    Shuffle Them Blues

    so basically the title. Recently I decided that I want to learn how to play saxophone, but I can't decided if I should buy a tenor or a alto. Although I know that the alto is best suited to beginners, i think that the tenor is more interesting.I have experience playing recorder(I dont if this is the right name in English) and harmonica.

    As an alto player, I prefer alto in a band setting but tenor as a soloist. I'd try alto and switch to tenor if you are unhappy.

    yeah, I would play as a soloist, that's why I thought the tenor was a better suit

    Either one. It's all up to personal preference

    really? Many people told me that the alto is better for beginners because it is smaller or whatever

    Listen to a lot of players and decide if you prefer the sound people get on tenor or alto.

    Both are suitable for beginners. People say alto is more suited for small kids starting on sax but when you're in middle school or higher you can start on either

    · 3 yr. ago

    Listen on youtube to a bunch of different recordings of each and decide what sound you like more. Both are fine to start on if you're not a child.

    I started on tenor when I was 10. I chose tenor specifically because there were a TON of other kids that chose alto, and only a couple on tenor. Fast forward to college and I switched to alto for solo work (still tenor in quartets) at my professor's suggestion. Since then, I've grown to absolutely LOVE alto.

    I think it really depends on what you're planning to play as far as genre and music, and what your particular preferences are.

    I'm strictly classical so I find that the repertoire for alto is substantially more numerous than for tenor, and I like the timbre of alto more than tenor for classical playing.

    For jazz, I think I'd like tenor more.

    tenor, it sounds so nice and smooth, plus it is be definitely more mid range

    I started on alto and switched to tenor for jazz band after a while. Alto is good for beginners but like other comments said, if you are unhappy, you can switch to tenor. Both very fun instruments to play

    Like others were saying, the timbre of the two is different. Alto is a bit smoother, closer to a clarinet (not really, but closer than tenor) and tenor is a little more growly and jazzy

    Alto is not best suited for beginners; it is best suited for children. For adults, alto or tenor are best for beginners.

    I would look into why you wanted to learn sax. Was it a specific song? A picture? A player? Which sax was used? Start there.

    Having started as an adult a few years ago with the goal of playing tenor.

    I can say with confidence that you should start with the alto.

    The single biggest reason is that nearly all the beginner material is for the alto.

    Adult beginner Alto player here.

    It really is up to personal preference. I have bought into the idea that alto is easier for beginners, but now with more experience I see it is by such a marginal ratio you might as well ignore it. It would have made more of a difference if I was a kid maybe, as the instrument would have been bigger than myself.

    It's more about what kind of sound you want to achieve. As a modal jazz junkie myself, I know someday I will end up picking up a Tenor, as a lot of modal jazz artists played the Tenor and I just love the sound. However, the Alto is very flexible and lyrical which can be nice for other types of jazz, including more modern approaches (like mixing the sax with synthesizers and stuff).

    Learning the saxophone can be great fun but starting off and knowing what to get can be a difficult task, so i have written this blog to give some advice for people who are starting from scratch. First off you need to decide what type of saxophone you want to learn, I would recommend the alto sax for most people as it’s the most common, not too big and heavy like the tenor and more cost effective. The tenor sax (lower in sound and bigger and heavier than the alto) and soprano (higher in pitch but usually straight like a clarinet and technically a bit more fiddly to learn. They both cost quite a bit more for a student outfit than the alto. For a good student alto saxophone outfit (includes case, reeds, mouthpiece etc) you need to be looking to pay about £500, the better student/intermediate models are around £600 for the Jupiter and £899 for the Yamaha. Sometimes we have Pre-owned models in the shop that either someone has part exchanged or are ex-rental, they can start from as little as £150. I would be careful buying second hand online without looking at it as i have heard horror stories of people buying something cheap and needing to spend the same amount of money getting it fixed so it’s playable. We check every instrument and repair in store if it needs it and we also offer a three month warranty in case anything were to go wrong.

    Ok so you’ve got your chosen instrument and are now looking to start learning it and play some tunes. You can teach yourself from a book, we sell some great tutor books that come with backing Cd’s that you can play along to, they cost about £9.99. This can be fun but some people can start doing things wrong and pick up bad habits, one way round this is to have some one on one lessons with a teacher, we have a list of great local teachers on this website. Lessons start from about £20 per hour but can be invaluable to get started on the right track. Within a few weeks you should be getting a clear note out of the sax and learning a few notes. You would have learnt the different parts and how to put it all together and how to fit the reed. One bit of advice would be to make sure you get a saxophone strap to support your neck, it makes life a lot easier and you don’t have to worry about dropping it! Padded straps are about £20 to buy and can be found in store or on this site.

    I want to talk a little bit about the reed. The cane reed is used to blow in at the mouthpiece to produce the sound, it is essential and getting the right reed for a beginner is very important. They come in different strengths, when you start you want to make sure you play with a 1 or a 1 1/2 size reed which is a bit thinner and easier to get a note out, as you progress with the instrument you can get a 2 or a 3 which will take more puff and energy to play but will produce a warmer and richer sound. Basically if you’re starting to play with a size 3 reed you would find it very difficult to blow and get a note because you’re not used to it and this may put you off and make you think “maybe I just can’t play it” As long as you are playing on a decent sax with the right reed and are following the correct advice then anyone can learn how to play the sax and get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Music should be fun so find a teacher you get on with and who inspires you, learn what you want to learn, be it for exams or pieces of music you like, and try to relax, this is important with sax so you get the right posture and position when you’re playing! If you have a question then you are always more than welcome to call or e-mail the shop and we will do our best to help you on your musical journey. Good luck!

    Altissimo G can be challenging for many tenor saxophone players (and Alto and Bari players too).

    Every brand of tenor saxophone is different in some way, which can lead to different ways to finger the note.

    But playing Altissimo G is more than just sticking down a fingering and blowing; you need to really hear the note in your head before you attempt to play it.

    In fact, there is a simple process to follow when you want to play this, or really anything on the saxophones that I go into in much greater depth in my course, Get a Killer Saxophone Tone.

    Key Points for playing Altissimo G, or any Altissimo note:

    If you attempt to just finger Altissimo G and expect it to come out great, you will be sorely disappointed. This note, as with any Altissimo note on the saxophones can be really out of tune, and you can also (at a certain point) play many of the Altissimo notes with any fingering – but they will be unreliable and out of tune.

    If you do not have a solid range for the full range of the horn before the Altissimo (from low Bb to F or F#), DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PLAY THIS NOTE! Your mouth muscles (embouchure) will not be strong enough and you will resort to bad habits in order to get the note out.

    If you have difficulty matching pitch, work on this skill. There are plenty of ear training apps out there. You can also just use a tuner and a piano: play a pitch on the piano, hear it in your head, sing it back and look at the tuner to see if you matched it.

    Playing the Saxophone is a journey that any professional will tell you, never ends. Enjoy the journey and don’t try to rush your embouchure development, or musical development.

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    About Donna

    How to play the tenor saxophone

    Musician, educator, speaker and Everything Saxophone Podcast host, Donna Schwartz, has helped thousands of people of all ages, all over the world, boost their music performance and improvisation skills through private and small group coaching, and online courses for over 30 years.

    She has created dozens of online courses, including Boost Your Blues Improvisation, Jazz Improvisation Explained, Supercharge Your Jazz Improvisation, Get a Killer Saxophone Tone and many others.

    Donna has performed in the NY and Los Angeles metro areas with finalists from the NBC show, The Voice, members from Billy Joel, Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult, Barbara Morrison and many other artists.

    Her tracks have been featured on a number of indie artists’ CD’s, and in Criss Angel’s Believe show at The Luxor in Las Vegas. Read More…

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