So ive just recently met a guy that plays a tenor sax and he wants to jam. I told im just startin out and dont kno how to jam. Dont get me wrong i can play a bunch of scales and read a little bit but i still dont kno how. I was told a sax was in C# and im in E so should i play higher or get him to play lower? What kind of scales would i use? any incite would be very helpful thank you.

Tenor Sax are B flat instruments. So if he plays a "C" its going to correspond to your B flat on your bass, since Bass is a C instrument.

If he's been playing awhile, he may be able to transpose on the fly. I do this when playing with my son (I play bass, he plays tenor sax). It can be a bit tricky.
1. First of all, tenor sax is in Bb, not C#. Also, you are not in E, you are in C, or concert pitch (the lowest note on your instrument has no bearing on the key you're in). So, either you stay in standard tuning and transpose every key he says down a whole step (2 frets), or tune down a whole step (in other words, from EADG to DGCF), and just call the notes the same. As an ex-sax player and, obviously, a bass player, I can tell you, from experience, that it is WAY easier to transpose on bass than sax. With sax, you end up having to play a lot weird keys involving a lot of sharps and flats. On bass, that's not a problem, because you have frets. All those button things (the real name for them is "keys," just FYI) you see sticking out of a sax? That's how you get the majority of sharps and flats. If you're a competent sax player, and playing an already written piece, you can deal with it. But because you can choose any key you want, choose one that's easier for him. I recommend you have him pick the key, as I have no experience with tenor sax, only alto.

And speaking of alto sax, just be glad he's not playing an alto (which is in Eb). You'd either need to tune up 1.5 steps or down 4.5.

2. I guess I already answered that.
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I'll agree that it is easier to transpose on bass by far, but it sounds like the TS is a beginning player and transposing is not easy for people when they start out, so if the sax player can assist a bit here, it would be helpful for the TS until they can get the gist of how to do it...
Well being a moderately seasoned player of both tenor sax and a bass it's much easier for the bass to transpose for the sax player, as kugel put it it's much easier on you since you simply move frets while the sax player has to use odd fingerings which are really no big deal if it's a written piece of music but if you're sitting there improving with them it becomes a big pain. So yea ask him what key he wants to use (he'll probably say Bb which is no flats no sharps for him which if my memory serves me correct is two flats on bass) and I don't recommend playing in a different tuning...keep it in standard and go from there. Good luck with the jamming, the first couple times are going to be rough but keep at it, when you get good it gets fun
so, the problem is that what the saxaphonist calls C is actually Bb ?

If it was me i'd work out the key and then just talk about everything else in terms of intervals (eg: say the chord progression was E A B E; just say it's in the key of E, (...f# for the sax...?) and then say "chord progression is "I IV V I") it'd mean you only have to deal with the problem of getting confused between two notes once, rather than for every note. otherwise, since C for him means Bb for you etc. It could get REALLY confusing...

whenever I've jammed though, half the time it's 12bar, and the other time it's something really easy, like two chords or something.
Or you could just play everything in concert Bb (Bb for you and C for him) and no one would have any troubles. I would seriously start there, just to get playing. I don't think it's as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. I've written songs with me on tenor and my friend on bass and it wasn't too tough. IT was just the melody where he had to go through it (he wrote it) and tell me the notes. How hard is it to transpose up a full step from what the bass is playing? Even for a new tenor sax player that isn't too overly difficult. I also don't get this odd fingering thing, I really don't. The fingerings in one key aren't going to be more difficult in another key. Unless you are thinking key signature which I wouldn't at all until you have worked together for a while. Just think notes and chord structure.
Last edited by jazz_rock_feel at Dec 20, 2008,
Yes jazzy I and I'm pretty sure others were refering to key signature however your solution does indeed provide a simpler answer