B-flat Tenor Saxophone

B-Flat Tenor Saxophone

B-flat Tenor Saxophone range

Most commonly associated with jazz, the Tenor Saxophone is the second most popular instrument in the family.  It has a husky and distinctive voice.  I personally find the Tenor to be the hardest saxophone to write for in an independent and idiomatic way (but that is my own predilection!).  This may be because there is no orchestral equivalent to this voice range.  The Tenor Saxophone lies nearly midway between the Viola and the Cello in its pitch (where a hypothetical “Tenor Violin” would be placed).  No other wind or brass instrument in common use quite fits this pitch class.

The lowest range of the Tenor is pungent and strong, while the upper range is more lyrical and flexible.  It works very well as a harmony instrument within the standard quartet (or larger ensemble).  One of my favorite combinations is the Tenor Saxophone and the Bassoon in the unison.  This combination is favored in several of Prokofiev’s works.  I have heard the Tenor Saxophone in combination with the Soprano Clarinet, and I have never been happy with this combination.  Only once, with a highly sensitive saxophonist (who basically played as softly as possible on her instrument) did the combination work.  This goes as well for the lower members of the clarinet family.  It can add a bite to the sound of the trombones and Euphonium.  But, it is best as a member of the saxophone family (where it naturally belongs).

Concerto by Robert Ward

Romance from Prokofiev’s Lt. Kijé.  Listen at 0:58 for the mix of Bassoon and Tenor Saxophone, and throughout for small Tenor Saxophone solos (major solo at 2:00)

James Houlik – regarded as one of the greatest classical Tenor Saxophonists

Saint-Saëns’ The Swan

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet – Montagues and Capulets – Tenor Saxophone solo is at 4:30.