Thursday, September 26, 2019

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn? Read This Before Starting Lessons

“Is saxophone hard to learn?” Not exactly. The saxophone, like many instruments, is not difficult to begin playing. It can however, be challenging to master.

Many people say that it’s easy to make a sound on the saxophone, but harder to make a good sound -- at least at first. But if you’re considering getting started with saxophone lessons don’t let the challenges discourage you! A self-disciplined student can progress in their saxophone skills by taking the right steps as a beginner.

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn?

It’s usually easy to get a sound out of a saxophone during your first lesson. If the sound is not responding, the reed and mouthpiece are likely being squeezed together as a result of too much jaw pressure. The way that you hold your lips on the mouthpiece of the saxophone is called the “embouchure.” This is the most important aspect of learning the saxophone and it has a great impact on tone quality. This skill is developed over several years and will require a great amount of coaching.

You may still be wondering, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” One of the biggest challenges of the saxophone is that it’s not an instantly gratifying instrument. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop good tone quality. Furthermore, some people will have an easier time learning the saxophone than others, depending on their age. Children can start the saxophone as early 4th grade and some public schools let 4th graders play the alto sax, but if a child has weaker hands, they may need to start with the clarinet.

People who have prior experience on any wind instrument, especially woodwinds such as the clarinet, will adapt to the saxophone more quickly. Fortunately, the fingering system for the saxophone is not as complicated as other woodwind instruments.

Some students get frustrated that they don’t sound like a professional within the first month or two of lessons. These unrealistic expectations can set a student on a course for disappointment and make it more difficult for them to stick with it. Remind yourself that college music majors who have been playing the saxophone for eight years still have a lot to learn!

The Easiest Way to Learn the Saxophone
Now that we’ve established that learning the saxophone is doable and worthwhile, you’re probably wondering how to get started. At the beginning of your lessons, it’s important to develop fundamental skills on the saxophone, and not simply work on playing the same songs over and over.

Working on the embouchure, scales, articulation, dynamic control, and vibrato will strengthen your abilities as a saxophonist. To start your learning journey with ease, follow the simple steps below and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Choose Your Equipment Wisely
When beginning to learn the saxophone, having quality equipment can make a huge difference. Stay away from “value” brands. Professionals will tell you that if you’re worried about the initial cost, it’s better to get a used instrument from a trusted brand rather than a cheap, brand new instrument.

To get started on the saxophone, you’ll need some standard equipment for beginners:

  • Yamaha 4c mouthpiece
  • Vandoren Traditional “Blue Box” reeds (strength 2.5)
  • A Bonade ligature
  • Yamaha or Selmer saxophone. Most beginners start on an alto saxophone (the smaller of the two), although some begin on the tenor saxophone

For your neck-strap, simply make sure that it is rigid and not stretchy. Most music educators will agree that this is a good quality beginning setup.

Find an Experienced Saxophone Instructor
The best thing a beginning saxophonist can do is to choose a good private instructor. North Main Music is home to an excellent saxophone instructor, Aaron Gratzmiller. Be sure to choose a teacher who can help you reach your specific goals.

Even if you hope to play in the jazz, pop, or rock genres, it’s best to start with a classical instructor and classical equipment. This type of instruction will help you build a solid foundation of tone, reading ability, and technique.

Practice, Practice, and more Practice!
Mastering any instrument is a lot of work, but remember to try to make it fun! With your teacher’s suggestions and feedback in mind, put in the hours properly practicing your instrument. Then, as a reward at the end of your practice session, try some improvisation or play your favorite song.

Including this important step in your practice routine will help you stay motivated. In addition, reminding yourself at the end of a practice session why you love the saxophone will help you avoid frustration and continue thinking positively about your progress.

Now you’re ready to get started. The journey of becoming a saxophonist can be a winding road, but it will also be incredibly rewarding. Good luck!

This article was inspired by and adapted from this one on

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