I am happy to teach younger children subject to them being big and strong enough to take the weight and reach the keys. If your child wants to learn but is not yet big enough, the clarinet is a good alternative as many advanced players play both reed instruments anyway.
The saxophone is a reed instrument, which means the student will need a regular supply of reeds as these are consumable items. To begin with students will use a soft reed (strength 1½) but after a few months they may start to use strengths 2 or even 2½.
The sound of the saxophone is generated by the vibration of the reed against the mouthpiece, many hundreds of times a second, in a similar way to putting a blade of thick grass between your thumbs to make a ‘duck call’ or squawking sound!
By pressing the fingers down on the keys, the effective length of the tube is made longer and the notes get lower. The saxophone has a similar fingering pattern to the recorder.
The saxophone is fairly easy to maintain; with regular cleaning and careful handling a beginner saxophone can suit a student right up to the advanced grades (6 to 8).
Which saxophone is the best for beginners?
Most students start on the alto saxophone (pictured) which is the commonest and therefore the cheapest to buy! Some smaller students have started on the smaller soprano, and a few people prefer the larger tenor saxophone; but an advanced player will be able to play any of the saxophone family anyway, with slight adjustments for the different sized mouthpieces.
Where can I buy a saxophone?
There are several reputable music shops in the country, and they all have a web presence. I would strongly recommend that you don’t buy an instrument online unless from a reputable shop (contact me directly for further advice). General speaking, if an instrument looks too cheap, it’s for a reason…
What about hiring?
Most music shops operate a hire and buy system, which has the advantage that you may return the instrument after a certain time if you or your child find it’s not the right instrument. I also have a limited supply of instruments for hire in schools for the first year of study only.
How quickly can I become really good at the saxophone?
There is no short cut to success in learning any instrument; regular practise is the best guarantee of success. As an approximate rule of thumb, most younger students can manage an exam grade every 2 or 3 school terms with practice, but some take longer than others. I will always work at the speed of the student.
How easy is the saxophone compared to other instruments?
All musical instruments are equally easy or hard to learn to play well. The saxophone is popular because of its appearance, and also because of its similarity to the recorder finger patterns, but its bulk, and resistance from the reed makes it hard work to play at first. It still requires several years of study and practise to be able to play to a high standard.
What about other saxophones?
As mentioned above, the saxophone family is fairy extensive, and if you are proficient on one type of sax, it’s not too difficult to use the same skills on the other types.
Advanced players usually find themselves playing the clarinet, particularly in shows where, as ‘reed’ players they may play several different clarinets, saxophones and possibly other woodwind instruments too. Many of my own advanced students play clarinets, saxophones and flutes to a high standard.
What does it mean by E flat or Bb saxophone?
Due to the different sizes of saxophones, notes played on one instrument will not sound at the same pitch as notes played on another. The piano, and many orchestral instruments, are at what we call ‘concert pitch’. When a, E flat instruments plays the written note C, it sounds as a concert E flat – likewise on a B flat instrument, written C sounds at concert B flat. The player doesn’t need to worry about this; music for the saxophone is arranged (or ‘transposed’) into a different key so that it plays back at the correct pitch against other concert pitch instruments, such as the piano.