You want to start the saxophone! 5 top tips for a great beginning!

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You have been dreaming of learning the saxophone and finally it’s about to happen. Congratulations on choosing an awesome instrument!

The saxophone comes in four main sizes – alto, tenor, baritone and soprano. The majority of people start on the alto or the tenor saxophone and are able to shift onto the other instruments when they become competent because the fingerings are exactly the same. If you are not sure which saxophone to start on then the main difference between the alto and tenor is the tenor is bigger, plays lower, has bigger reeds and the instrument costs a bit more to buy.

The saxophone was invented around then 1850s by a Belgium inventor and musician called Adolphe Sax. The instrument found its place in town bands, big bands, pop music and of course in jazz music. The saxophone is often associated with pop and jazz music but there are many who play classical saxophone and lots of great literature has been written for the saxophone over the last 50 years. Many people study classical and jazz saxophone at university and make a great living from playing the instrument.

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 you learning the saxophone for the first time.

1. The neck strap plays an important role in helping you make a good sound. It 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 of your embouchure (mouth position) 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 really like the BG brand of cleaning swabs and they can go in the washing machine.

3. Reeds play an essential role in making the saxophone sound great. So don’t underestimate the role of the reed. 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. At the end of each practice, take the reed off the mouthpiece, dry it and put it back into the reed protector. This will ensure the reed lasts.

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 such as 2 or 2 1/2 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 and you will be able to tell whether it is a good reed. 

4. I would always recommend investing in one-to-one lessons with an experienced teacher, even if you are 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 ability on the web is not the best way forward. This can lead to frustration and quitting the instrument because you feel not good enough which is a shame as really it’s just about getting the right music for your level.

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 much quicker than when they play alone. If there is no band to play in then make the most of the backing tracks that come with lots of method books. Not only will you be able to play along with a saxophone player but these tracks have been created with different styles and instrumental accompaniment for you to get used to playing with. It will help with your timing and confidence.

We are here to help you learn the saxophone. Reach out now to find out more about lessons!

* As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.  It’s okay – I love all of these music companies anyways, and you will too!

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