Is Saxophone Hard to Learn? Read This Before Taking Lessons.

Is saxophone hard to learn

“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 be discouraged! Any self-disciplined student can progress in their saxophone skills by taking the right steps as a beginner. Keep reading to learn more.  

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn?

The saxophone should be easy to get a sound out of on the first day. 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?” The truth is, certain people will have an easier time learning the saxophone than others. For example, students younger than middle school age shouldn’t take saxophone lessons because of their smaller hands and mouth.

Is saxophone hard to learn

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

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.

Some students get frustrated that they don’t sound like a professional within the first month or two. These unrealistic expectations can set a student on a course for disappointment. Keep in mind 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 you no longer have to ask, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” you’re probably wondering how to get started. Initially, it’s very 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.  Here are our best recommendations:

  • The Selmer S80 C* 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.

Is saxophone hard to learn

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. TakeLessons has a great selection of experienced saxophone instructors for both online and in-person lessons. Be sure to choose a teacher who can help you reach your specific goals.

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 have 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. Search TakeLessons today for a qualified saxophone teacher near you. The journey of becoming a saxophonist can be a winding road, but it will also be incredibly rewarding. Good luck!

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6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Musical Instrument

Here’s What to Know Before Buying an Instrument

6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Musical Instrument

Thinking about buying a new instrument? It’s a big decision, as an instrument is truly an investment — especially if you’re spending several hundred dollars (or more, for higher-end brands and models) on it.

Before making your purchase, you’ll want to do some research. But where do you start? With so many brands out there, how do you know which ones are worth the money? What do you really need to ensure years of playing and practicing?

We came across a great article over on Donna Schwartz’s blog that we think hits the nail on the head for what to consider before handing over your cash — whether you’re looking at new or used musical instruments.

Donna writes:

Whether you are a beginner, hobbyist or pro, here are 5 questions to ask yourself when trying out different musical instruments:

  1. Does the sound of this instrument match my concept of how I want to sound?
  2. Is the instrument free-blowing enough to allow me to get my “perfect sound”? (Or maybe I want a little resistance on this trumpet to help out with high notes?)
  3. Is it easy enough to play in all registers of the instrument comfortably?
  4. Can I control the intonation in all registers of the instrument?
  5. Are the keys placed in such a way that I can perform rapid passages comfortably?

The above 5 questions are important and vary for every performer. This next question though is absolutely necessary for every musician that wants to perform at their best for a long time.

When you are comparing a few different brands and have found some you really like, before you pull out the credit card, it is crucial to ask this question:

If my instrument breaks, do you have the parts to fix it, and if not, can you get the parts?

Donna continues to point out that an instrument like the saxophone has more than 600 moving parts — so if you end up with an instrument with sub-standard parts that can’t be replaced… you may be out of luck if it breaks. Moral of the story? Do your research. Ask questions. Get help from your music teacher, and have him or her try out instruments with you. Make an informed decision!

You can read the article in full here.

For even more tips, we also like this article from the Tampa Bay Music Academy blog. As part of their steps for buying an instrument, they offer some additional pointers regarding instrument quality:

Instrument quality can generally be assessed using three categories: student quality, intermediate quality, or professional quality.

Your 5th grader doesn’t need a professional quality instrument yet, but should you go the cheap route with a student model or shell out a few more bucks for the intermediate? Ultimately, that depends on your goals for your student.

Is this a “try it and see if you like it” endeavor, or have you and your child committed to this instrument for the long haul? Student quality instruments are usually made of cheaper materials and won’t produce as nice a sound, but they are good for students who don’t know if they will stick with it or not. They’re also good starter instruments if money is tight.

If your child (and you) have committed to playing this instrument throughout middle and high school, however, go ahead and invest in the better quality option if possible.

Continue reading the article here.

And finally, if you’re opting for the used musical instruments route, Get-Tuned.com has a great article on how to evaluate a used instrument.

Readers, how have your experiences been buying new or used instruments? What other tips would you add? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Image by Vincent Diamante

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Choosing a Neck Strap | How to Play Saxophone Tips

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Learning how to play saxophone starts with the right equipment–namely, a quality neck strap! Read on for some helpful advice from Brookings, SD teacher Carl S… 

 

The saxophone is a unique instrument for many reasons. One example is that the saxophone is the only band instrument that uses a neck strap. Unfortunately, the neck strap is often the most overlooked aspect of playing the instrument. One of the first things that I stress to a new student is the importance of the neck strap and it’s effect on their performance.

Potential Issues with Your Saxophone Neck Strap

There are several considerations regarding the neck strap. First, you need to realize that the purpose of the neck strap is to hold the saxophone in its proper playing position.

If the neck strap is adjusted too low, you’ll end up adjusting yourself to the position of the instrument, instead of adjusting the instrument to yourself. This can cause the head to point down, disrupting airflow, and also causes the throat to be unnecessarily strained. Some try to make up for this by holding the weight of the instrument with the right-hand thumb, which can cause serious long-term problems. If you’re sitting, sometimes the neck strap will end up hanging loosely while the saxophone rests on your seat. This problem is easily solved by standing while practicing, even if only for a portion of the practice session.

On the other hand, if the neck strap is too tight, the angle and amount of mouthpiece in the mouth will be incorrect, causing undesirable tone issues. Young students often have difficulties adjusting neck straps. I often see tangled neck straps that are stuck in one position. To combat this issue, choose an easily adjustable neck strap that will still stay in place.

Types of Saxophone Neck Straps

There are several different types of neck straps. Some are simple and thin while others have comfortable cushions. If you fear that the saxophone will come unhooked and accidentally dropped, many neck straps have clasps instead of hooks for extra security. Some newer neck strap designs allow the weight of the saxophone to rest on the shoulders instead of the neck, which decreases strain and increases airflow. An alternative to the neck strap is the saxophone harness, which takes the weight completely off of your neck. There are even neck straps that attach to your belt loops and come over your shoulders like suspenders. I’m personally not comfortable with the idea of my instrument being attached to my pants though! Finally, keep away from stretchy neck straps. Even though they are comfortable, the fact that they are constantly adjusting is undesirable when trying to develop consistent performance habits.

Finding the Right Type

So, how do you find the right style or type? While there are several great brands out there, the most important thing is getting what works best for you and your needs. Try several out at local music stores to get measurements–everybody is different.

When learning how to play saxophone, remember the importance and purpose of the neck strap! It can cause or solve many issues! Are you really sore after practicing? Do you strain to produce a good tone? Do you feel like you use a lot of air, but your sound is still soft? Does the saxophone make your bottom lip press into your bottom teeth? The neck strap can have an effect on all of these issues and more.

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 

 

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