Can I Learn to play the saxophone?
ANSWER: This is a question I’m often asked. The answer is that unless you have a physical impairment that prevents you from playing the instrument, yes you can learn to play the saxophone.
The level of proficiency you attain however, depends on a couple of things. Ultimately, your determination, the amount of time invested, and the amount of natural ability you posess work together to determine your success.
Learning to play the saxophone, especially jazz saxophone, is an adventure that you can enjoy the rest of your life. One of the greatest joys of this experience is knowing that you can learn more about the instrument, the music, and yourself, everyday that you practice.
TOPIC: Alto or Tenor?
ANSWER: Once you’ve decided to play the saxophone, you are faced with the task of selecting an instrument. There are several important factors that you will need to consider.
Determine first whether you would like to begin with alto or tenor (beginners should avoid soprano). I recommend that most kids begin with alto because it’s the smaller of the two. If you are an adult, you might wish to take into consideration that the tenor is larger, and somewhat heavier on the neck. It is, however, manageable by most healthy adults with no back problems. There are also special harness straps that distribute the weight more evenly on the back.
If you are not certain of the differences between alto and tenor, visit a music store that sells band instruments, and ask to see both. You might also wish to listen to players of both tenor and alto to see if your ear prefers one or the other.
If you are still not certain as to whether you prefer alto or tenor, my recommendation would be to begin with alto. All the notes and reading that you learn on alto can be easily transferred to tenor should you decide to make the change.
TOPIC: Should I rent or purchase a saxophone? How about a used sax?
ANSWER: Most reputable band instrument stores have rental programs. I like this option, because it (hopefully) insures that you will obtain an instrument in good working condition. It’s also helpful if the store has a repair shop where the instrument can be play tested to insure everything is ready to go. I have seen brand new saxes come out of the box needing adjustment, so don’t be afraid to ask the staff to check the instrument and even play test it for you.
If you are looking to save a buck and purchase a used instrument, be cautious. An instrument may look beautiful and still need $300 or more in repairs to get it playable. If you purchase online, make sure there is a money-back guarantee, and that you have someone that can check the instrument for you once it arrives.
Avoid discount store off-brand instruments. The trouble with these instruments is that you may have difficulty finding a repairman to work on them a year or sooner down the road when they need adjustment. If in doubt as to a brand to choose, contact your local band instrument repair shop and ask for advice. Some of the more popular and reputable brands of saxophone include Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Guardala, and Keilworth. There are quite a few other worthy brands.
TOPIC: What are the necessary accessories?
ANSWER: As with any new hobby, there are a lot of available accessories, some necessary, some not. Accessories often add to the experience and complete the feeling of being prepared to undertake the task. Below is a list of items you will need.
Reeds- Extra reeds are an absolute necessity. If you are renting or have purchased a new saxophone, chances are that it came with one number 2 reed. You should purchase a pack of five to ten number 2.5 reeds. There is no real advantage to purchasing high quality reeds at this point, so just get the plain Rico brand reeds.
Reed Holder- A red holder designed to store 2-4 reeds is good to have.
Cork Grease- If you are renting or have purchased a new instrument, chances are that it has a tube of cork grease in the case. If not, it’s cheap, so purchase a tube.
Tuner- For anyone learning to play the saxophone using online or self-instruction, a chromatic tuner is essential.
Metronome- A metronome is a helpful, and highly recommended practice aid. Be certain to get one that has a loud click, so you can hear it while practicing.
Music Stand - A music stand is essential for holding the music in a position that allows you to sit or stand comfortably while practicing.
Cleaning kit- Most music stores offer cleaning kits. Many of these kits contain items that you may not need, so you might do better purchasing things separately.The necessities include a mouthpiece brush, neck cleaner, and a body cleaner. The neck and body cleaners are usually just pieces of fabric tied to a string with a weight on the opposite end, and are used for drying the inside of the instrument after practicing. Another type of body cleaner is a long bushy plume that is inserted and removed from the body of the instrument after practicing.