Tenor Saxophone Vs. Alto Saxophone


Invented in the 19th century by Adolphe Sax of Belgium, the saxophone is a transposing musical instrument belonging in the woodwind family. There are several varieties of saxophones, such as the soprano, tenor, c-melody and baritone sax. But the two most common types of saxophones are the alto and tenor. Although these two instruments share some common features, such as having the same buttons and fingerings, there are various differences between alto and tenor saxophones that set them apart.


  • The alto sax is slightly smaller than the tenor sax, weighing around five pounds on average. The tenor sax on average weighs roughly around seven pounds. The tenor sax also has a longer neck piece and a larger-sized reed, rods and tone holes.


  • The musical notes and compositions written for the alto and tenor look the exact when reading them. However, the alto sax, which is considered an E-Flat instrument, is in the key of Eb, while the tenor sax is in the key of B-Flat, or Bb.

Concerts and Players

  • The alto is usually the first type of sax learned by players and is most used in orchestras and marching bands, since the smaller size and weight are easier on students. The tenor sax is played more by jazz and rock musicians, and in classical concerts.

Range of Notes

  • Since the alto sax is smaller, it has a higher pitch and can also reach a wider range of notes than the tenor sax. The tenor sax, however, produces a more mellow range of low notes that the alto sax cannot reach.

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