Tenor Saxophone has an inherent “it” factor. From its cool appearance to its smooth sound, the tenor is a favorite of aspiring and seasoned woodwind instrumentalists.
Given the tenor’s tremendous popularity, a cornucopia of manufacturers produce the instrument hoping to entice the would-be consumer to bring their particular tenor home to the studio.
Inasmuch, a discerning saxophonist must thresh through available brands and playing characteristics to insure that the ideal instrument is tested, selected and purchased at a price that does not “break the bank.”
The list of tenors that follows, while not exhaustive, should provide the saxophonist with some strong options for consideration.
Regardless of proficiency level and budget, a tenor player should select a particular instrument over a particular brand. Name and reputation mean nothing if the instrument is not the right one for the instrumentalist.
In the novice market, the Alpine line of saxophones are a sure thing. Without compromising the construction and tonal quality of the instrument, Alpine creates tenors that feature excellent playability at an affordable price.
While most student Alpines are constructed of brass, they feature a durable epoxy coating that makes the instrument quite sturdy even if it is taking a beating from a beginning tenor.
The Alpine 711 is a favourite in the beginning band setting.
Keilwerth Tenors come at a premium price and are appropriate for the professional audience. While recognized for rich lacquered finishes, mother-of-pearl keys, and exquisite mechanics, the Keilwerths tend to be underappreciated for the sound they produce.
In the hands of a proficient musician, a Keilwerth produces a warm, melodic sound. Often used for ballads and adagio solos with the symphonic band, Keilwerth tenors take smoothness to new heights.
Keilwerth SX90R Professional Tenor Saxophone Review
In the Keilwerth family, the SX90R is a gem. With a large bow section and several bell finishes available, SX90R is a robust, attractive, and well-playing tenor. Only the most serious musicians should consider the SX90R.
Yanagisawa and Vito
Leblanc subsidiaries Yanagisawa and Vito offer excellent instruments to the two extremes of the tenor market. In the Yanagisawa line, the T9937 is a beautiful, wonderfully crafted saxophone.
Yanagisawa T-9937 Tenor Saxophone Review
Featuring a sterling silver finish, shell inlayed keys, blue steel springs, and gorgeous engravings, the T9937 is quite the “looker.”
The octave and table systems of the Yanagisawa are engineered to provide precise and consistent movement between notes.
Always intone, the T9937 is best used as a featured instrument for all ensemble types.
The Vito family of tenors are crafted and priced for beginners. Named after Vito Pascucci, the woodwind repairman for the Glenn Miller orchestra, Vito saxes are a mainstay in student ensembles.
The Vito V7141T makes a high quality instrument accessible to the novice. Like its cousin in the Yanagisawa line, the V7141T features legendary Leblanc craftsmanship and playability.
The Selmer name is synonymous with quality, reliability, and musicality. Known to hold their value as they age, Selmers find their way into many professional studios and ensembles.
Selmer Tenor 74 Reference Saxophone Review
Available in a variety of finishes with customizable engravings, the Selmer Reference Model 74 is a world class tenor built in the noble tradition of the Mark VI series.
Recognized for a beefy sound, the 74 is often deployed in the jazz setting, but also has a versatility that has it at home in a chamber or symphonic ensemble.
A favorite of consummate musicians the world ‘round, the 74 receives constant endorsement and praise from professionals.
In the Selmer Series III grouping, the Model 64 seems to be a good option for the intermediate musician.
Featuring deftly fast action and immediate sound response, 64s provide accessible pricing to high school or college students without compromising Selmer quality.
When it comes to tenor saxophones, Yamaha’s models continue to stand above the rest. Renowned by artists of all ability levels and playing contexts, Yamahas provide a “birth to grave” continuum of options as the tenor player deepens his or her skill set.
On the high end of the Yamaha line, the 62Z is a noteworthy option. Featuring quick, fluid action and a sultry tone color, the 62Z takes “cool” to new heights.
With standard features like blue steel springs, hand engraved markings, and a variety of lacquered finishes, the 62Z offers the professional a beautiful, versatile, and buttery smooth saxophone.
Yamaha YTS-82ZII Custom Z Tenor Saxophone Review
The Yamaha 82Z is perhaps the most exotic tenor saxophone option available today. Crafted in French brass with mother-of-pearl embellishments, the 82Z is known by many professionals as the “Custom.”
When expense is not a concern for the would-be 82 owner, Yamaha designers gladly take the 82Z base and sketch a finished product that meets the needs and desires of the professional musician.
Gold plating, crystal keys, and wool felt pads are among the myriad options available on the Custom.
When the tenor nears completion, Yamaha designers will even entertain the professional’s preferred design and messaging for the bell of the saxophone. Customization aside, the real beauty of the 82Z lies in its sound production.
With precise mechanics, an airtight body, and deftly manufactured key holes, the 82Z offers the most perfect sound available in a tenor.
Using only the most durable materials in construction, Yamaha designers insure that the 82 does not break down.
The downside is cost. A professional must be willing and able to spend 20K or more to own a one-of-a-kind 82Z.
Yamaha also offers stellar starter instruments. While the YAS and YTS saxophones are manufactured to Yamaha’s exacting standards, they are sized and priced for the novice.
Like other top brands, Yamaha is known for producing instruments of consistent quality throughout all levels of tenor performance.
Tenor saxophones are lovely, versatile, and buttery smooth instruments. Many novices are attracted to instrumental music after seeing and hearing a tenor belt the blues or hold down a counter melody in a symphonic work.
Likewise, selecting and owning the right tenor for the right musician is a wonderful opportunity that deepens the performer’s reverence for the instrument.
As always, be patient when you select a tenor. Ask good questions. Consider the actual instrument over the brand of instrument. Prepare for deepened playing enjoyment.