Choosing Your First Saxophone
So you’ve decided to learn to play the saxophone – well done! But how do you know which instrument to buy (or hire)? Obviously, if you are going to have lessons, your tutor (which could be me!) will advise you, but if you’re setting out on your own, here are some pointers to consider:
- For children aged 10+ and adults, I recommend starting with the alto, due to its relative ease to play and hold.
- For children under 10, there is a cut-down version of the alto called ‘Alpha sax’ by Trevor James. It has fewer keys and is much lighter in weight.
- I don’t recommend a curved soprano for beginners. They may be easy to hold, but they are harder to play and get in tune (unless your budget runs to a premium make).
- Adults may choose the tenor, especially if you are taller and are prepared for its size and weight. However, there is much less music and other material available for beginners on the tenor.
Should I buy second hand?
I would not recommend buying a used instrument via a private sale (e.g. ebay etc) unless you can get it checked out by a saxophone teacher or repairer. Nothing will kill your enthusiasm for learning as quickly as the frustration you’ll experience trying to play a sax with problems!
Which makes would I recommend?
Here are my recommendations in order of price and suitability.
Reeds and Mouthpieces
You should begin with a soft reed, strength 1 1/2 Initially students go through reeds quickly, so buy at least 5. Most saxophones will usually come with a student mouthpiece which is fine. If you need to buy a mouthpiece, I recommend the Yamaha 4c.
The Benefits of Having Lessons
Obviously, you could teach yourself saxophone just from online tutorials and tutor books. There are several basic tutor books like Learn as You Play and Abracadabra that will give the notes, but the tunes are very old fashioned and uninspiring.
However, I believe that mixing in some formal lessons from a good saxophone teacher will pick up any bad habits you are developing, whether the lessons are live online or in person. Your teacher will also be able to recommend good videos to watch and play along with, (such as those from the Newbury Sax School of course!) Students that pick the saxophone to play tend to be more interested in jazzier styles of music, and appreciate playing that style of music when they are practicing and tutors will know what’s available for your level.
Should I Learn to Read Music?
To get the most from saxophone courses and if you want to play in a band it is important to have a basic knowledge of note positions and rhythms. When you begin the saxophone it is very easy to start reading music at the same time, simply by pairing each new fingering position with the note’s location on the musical stave, and the rest will come with practise.
Saxophone Tutorial Videos
The Members Area of the Newbury Sax School website has a great jazzy course for beginners with 200 pieces of music and 120 videos and backing tracks. These are structured to take you from beginner to an intermediate standard. Try some free examples with this link.