5 top tips for beginners learning the saxophone

When you start learning a musical instrument it is the beginning of a wonderful life-long hobby or career. Learning music creates many opportunities to meet new friends, play beautiful music and develop a useful talent that is good for your health and mental well-being. So getting a good start to learning an instrument with a professional helping you along the way will allow you to be super successful.

Here are a few quick tips to support parents who have a child learning the saxophone or any adults starting lessons for the first time.

1. The neck strap should not just take the weight of the instrument but also be adjustable so that the mouthpiece can be in line with the mouth. Lots of beginners tend to dip their head to meet the mouthpiece rather than bring the mouthpiece up to meet the mouth. By doing this you alter the shape and embouchure of your mouth and it doesn’t create the best sound. When you first start learning, you will need to adjust the strap much higher than you think to have a good posture for playing.

2. Buy a cleaning cloth for the saxophone so the moisture can be removed after every playing. You can buy clean rods but don’t leave it in the body of the saxophone. The fibres stick to the pads and they become sticky when playing. I like the BG brand of cleaning swabs.

3. Ensure you buy a box of reeds rather than a single reed. In the early days, those saxophone reeds break quickly! This is due to reeds being caught on clothes, in the hair and not put on the mouthpiece correctly. When you become more experienced the reeds will last longer. Try to get into a good practice of putting the cap onto the mouthpiece when you are not playing as this will protect the reed.

When you buy a box you can usually get a better deal from your local music shop than if you buy single reeds. Make sure that you order the correct type of reed for the instrument you are playing, as alto and tenor saxophone reeds are different sizes. I like to use Vandoren reeds for beginners and strength 1 1/2. However, lots of band teachers start their students on stronger strength reeds and use Rico brand. There is nothing wrong with this approach either. As you becomes more experienced at playing the saxophone you will naturally need to play on stronger strength reeds.

4. I would always recommend investing in one-to-one lessons with an experienced teacher, even if your child is learning through a band program. The importance of good technique, creating a great sound and playing a breadth of amazing repertoire is so important for developing a rounded and competent player who is at home as a soloist and a band member. Some teachers only specialise in the jazz sound and others specialise in classical saxophone repertoire. This is something to consider for the future if you want to become a master at the instrument. It is also essential in those early days that you buy music books and purchase a great method book. Learning off the internet and trying to find appropriate music for your child’s ability on the web is not the best way forward.

5. Lastly, join a band as quickly as possible. Not only is it a great way for meeting people who love music but everyone who does this improves their sound, sight-reading and ensemble playing so quickly.

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