The tenor saxophone uses a slightly larger mouthpiece, reed, and ligature than the alto and soprano saxophones. It is easily distinguished from these instruments by the bend in its neck, or its crook, near the mouthpiece.
The tenor saxophone is used in many different types of ensembles, including concert bands, big band jazz ensembles, small jazz ensembles, and marching bands. It is occasionally included in pieces written for symphony orchestra and for chamber ensembles; three examples of this are Ravel's Boléro, Prokofiev's suite from Lieutenant Kijé,and Webern's Quartet for violin, clarinet, tenor saxophone, and piano. In concert bands, the tenor plays mostly a supporting role, sometimes sharing parts with the euphonium, horn and trombone. In jazz ensembles, the tenor plays a more prominent role, often sharing parts or harmonies with the alto saxophone.
The tenor saxophone was one of a family of fourteen instruments patented in 1846 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian-born instrument maker, flautist and clarinetist. A medley of ideas drawn from the clarinet, flute, oboe and ophicleide, the saxophone was intended to form a tonal link between the clarinets and brass instruments found in military bands, an area which Sax considered sorely lacking. Sax's patent, granted on 28 June 1846, divided the family into two groups of seven instruments, each ranging from sopranino down to contrabass. One family, pitched alternatively in Bb and Eb, was designed specifically to integrate with the other instruments then common in military bands. The tenor saxophone, pitched in Bb, is the fourth member of this family.
Although a handful of novelty tenors have been constructed 'straight', like the smaller members of the saxophone family, the unwieldy length of the straight configuration means that almost all tenor saxophones feature a 'U-bend' above the third-lowest tone hole which is characteristic of the saxophone family. The tenor saxophone is also curved at the top, above the highest tone-hole but below the highest speaker hole. While the alto is usually bent only through 80–90° to make the mouthpiece fit more easily in the mouth, the tenor is usually bent a little more in this section, incorporating a slight S-bend.
The mouthpiece of the tenor saxophone is very similar to that of the clarinet, an approximately wedge-shaped tube, open along one face and covered in use by a thin strip of material prepared from the stem of the giant cane (Arundo donax) commonly known as a reed. The reed is shaved to come to an extremely thin point, and is clamped over the mouthpiece by the use of a ligature. When air is blown through the mouthpiece, the reed vibrates and generates the acoustic resonances required to produce a sound from the instrument. The mouthpiece is the area of the saxophone with the greatest flexibility in shape and style, so the timbre of the instrument is primarily determined by the material and dimensions of its mouthpiece. Materials used in mouthpiece construction include plastic, ebonite and various metals e.g. bronze, brass and stainless steel.
The mouthpiece of the tenor saxophone is proportionally larger than that of the alto, necessitating a similarly larger reed. The increased stiffness of the reed and the greater airflow required to establish resonance in the larger body means the tenor sax requires greater lung power but a looser embouchure than the higher-pitched members of the saxophone family. The tenor sax reed is similar in size to that used in the bass clarinet, so the two can be easily substituted.
The tenor saxophone first gained popularity in its original intended role: the military band. Soon after its invention, French and Belgian military bands began to take full advantage of the instrument which Sax had designed specifically for them. Modern military bands typically incorporate a quartet of saxophone players playing the E? baritone, tenor, E? alto and B? soprano. British military bands customarily make use only of the tenor and alto saxes, with two or more musicians on each instrument.
Much of the popularity of saxophones in the United States derives from the large number of military bands that were around at the time of the American Civil War. After the war disused former military band instruments found their way into the hands of the general public, where they were often used to play Gospel music and jazz. The work of the pioneering bandleader Patrick Gilmore (1829 - 1892) was highly influential; he was one of the first arrangers to pit the brass instruments (trumpet, trombone and cornet) against the reeds (clarinet and saxophone) in the manner which has now became the norm for big-band arrangements.
The tenor saxophone became best known to the general public through its frequent use in jazz music. It was the pioneering genius of Coleman Hawkins in the 1930s which lifted the tenor saxophone from its traditional role of adding weight to the ensemble and established it as a highly-effective melody instrument in its own right.
We have pads availble to make a pad set for any tenor sax.
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