If you want to learn an instrument, you may wonder if the saxophone is an easy option.
No instrument is easy per se, but the sax has some aspects that make it easier than other instruments.
Table of Contents
1. Key Layout
One of the things that makes the saxophone easy to learn is the key layout.
It can be overwhelming at first because you have to use both hands to trigger keys, and the pinkies each trigger multiple keys.
However, the layout is pretty straightforward when you look at the saxophone. The more keys you close, the lower the note; the higher the note, the more you open.
That design can make it relatively easy to figure out fingering if you have yet to officially learn it. Compare that to brass instruments, which are a bit trickier to understand simply by looking at them.
You may notice a pattern with those fingerings as you learn more notes. The fingerings are the same between the first and second octaves, which is super nice.
2. Octave Key
A more specific way the keys make the saxophone easy to learn is the presence of an octave key.
It would help if you used your embouchure and air pressure on brass instruments to make higher pitches.
However, the only thing you need to do on the sax is move your left thumb to the octave key. That will open a small tone hole on the neck of your instrument, and the small hole raises the pitch an octave.
You don’t have to learn and memorize how the harmonic series works. You won’t have to worry about lip slurs or other exercises to master playing up and down in octaves.
Now, you do have to position the neck on the sax correctly so that the octave key is in the right place.
That way, it will work properly, but that’s easy enough on most instruments.
3. Less Muscle Strength
Getting a good sound on the trumpet can take a lot of work.
You must build up your lip muscles, especially if you want a good tone in the high register.
While you need some lip muscle strength for the sax, it’s much easier for a beginner. You can get a decent sound within your first week or so if you have a good mouthpiece and reed combination.
Now, getting an even better saxophone sound will take practice.
However, it will take less work than it would take to get a similar sound quality on a trumpet or another brass instrument.
The saxophone embouchure is one of the easiest of all wind instruments.
You must fold your lower lip over your teeth and place the mouthpiece between your lips at a 90-degree angle with the reed on the bottom.
Close your lips around the mouthpiece and blow to get a sound. That can be odd if you’re used to playing brass instruments, but you may find the saxophone is easier if you’re still new to brass.
When playing brass instruments, you must buzz your lips and press them against the mouthpiece in the right spot. If you compare a sax embouchure to a clarinet embouchure, it’s similar, but clarinets play at 45 degrees.
The flute and double reed embouchures are also more complicated if you’re comparing other woodwinds.
Flutes have no resistance, double reeds don’t have any mouthpiece, just two pieces of cane wrapped together.
5. Multiple Sizes
Another advantage of the saxophone is that you can choose from multiple sizes. Most beginners start on either the alto sax or the tenor sax.
The alto saxophone is better for kids, teens, and adults with smaller hands. However, the tenor can be suitable for taller beginners with larger hands.
You can learn other saxophones later; they have the same fingerings and use many of the same fundamentals. Many other instruments only come in one size that may not be the most comfortable for you.
Many serious saxophonists play more than one size, and you can make larger instruments work even with small hands. As a beginner, though, it’s nice to have the option to start on a more comfortable instrument.
While it can sometimes be easy, there are also Reasons that the Saxophone Is Harder Than Other Instruments. Here are 10 examples!
6. Playing Position
How you hold a saxophone to play it is relatively easy, especially compared to the trumpet.
If you play the alto or soprano sax, you hold the instrument vertically right in front of you.
When playing the tenor or baritone sax, you hold it to the right since those saxophones are longer. Either way, these playing positions are much easier than holding a trumpet up at the right angle.
The angle of your saxophone matters a little bit but less. You’ll place your hands on either side of your saxophone with your left hand on top, even if you’re a left-handed player.
Some other instruments can be tricky to hold, from the trumpet to the flute to the violin. If you want something relatively easy, give the saxophone a try.
7. Easy to Find
When you’re a beginner, you need to get your hands on a good-quality instrument to help you learn to play.
Luckily, the saxophone is common enough that it’s pretty easy to find something.
You can usually go to a local music store and find new and used saxophones available for sale. Many music stores also offer rent-to-own programs, so you can pay off the sax over time or return it if you decide to quit.
You can also do that if you’re looking to buy a saxophone outright.
Along with music stores, you can check Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and other resale sites or buy a sax from the manufacturer.
8. Neck Strap Support
Saxophones can be heavy, especially the low saxes, like tenor and bari.
Fortunately, you can use a neck strap to take some weight off your hands.
Many bari sax players use a full harness to distribute the weight throughout their torso rather than just their neck. A baritone saxophone may even come with a floor peg to offer more support.
Having the extra support can make it easier to play the sax. For one, your hands don’t have to clutch the instrument to keep it from dropping.
Now, you may still need to support some of the weight, particularly with your right thumb. Still, it’s a lot easier to hold than, say, a tuba, where you don’t usually have any external sources of support.
How Much Do Saxophones Weigh? Find out more here!
9. Easy Upgrades
Most beginner saxophones are made with the understanding that you need help getting a sound.
However, the sax you buy or rent doesn’t fit your needs.
Instead of swapping it out for another model, you can make small changes. An easy option is to use a different reed; softer strength is usually enough to fix your problem if you can’t get a sound.
You can also look at reeds from other brands or get a more supportive neck strap or harness. You could get a new mouthpiece and ligature to use if you have more money.
Of course, you can upgrade other instruments similarly, such as with a new trumpet mouthpiece, but the saxophone has more options.
10. Various Materials
Beginner saxophones tend to use brass as the main material. They might have a clear lacquer, but some models have gold or silver plating, so you can choose a model with the materials you like.
Different materials can offer unique sounds, so keep that in mind as you try a sax. You can also look at mouthpieces of different materials, such as rubber or metal.
When it comes to neck straps, you can find some that also use different materials. Some neck straps are pretty basic, while others might have foam padding.
11. Smaller Range
The saxophone has a relatively small range compared to other instruments.
Beginner models tend to go up to a written F6 or F#6 and down to a Bb3, for a range of two and a half octaves.
As you advance, the small range can become difficult because you may need to learn altissimo fingerings. However, the range can benefit beginners since it’s less overwhelming.
Also, since you have an octave key, you can learn unique fingerings for all the notes. Many of them repeat with the addition of that octave key.
Depending on how fast you learn, you can learn the entire standard range of the sax within a year. Then, you can focus on learning the altissimo fingerings, but you don’t have to.
12. Alternate Fingerings
When you first learn the saxophone, you’ll learn basic fingerings.
However, the more you advance, the more you’ll need to play fast, technical passages that can be tricky.
Fortunately, the saxophone has many alternate fingerings that you can use.
The most common is the three fingerings for written Bb or A#. You can play that fingering with the first two fingers of your left hand and one of the right-hand side keys.
But there’s also a special key on the left hand that can help you play that note. Another option is to use the first finger of your left hand and the first finger of your right hand.
Some passages make regular fingerings nearly impossible, and alternate fingerings come in handy. You don’t get that option on many other instruments.
13. Classical and Jazz
The saxophone fits right in with both classical and jazz music.
Now, it’s not a standard orchestra member, but some pieces call for it.
You’ll be able to play classical music as a soloist or in a saxophone quartet. The bari sax is also a good alternative to the cello or bassoon when playing continuo parts in Baroque music, but you’ll have to transpose the music.
Of course, many people think of jazz when they think of the saxophone. Alto, tenor, and baritone are all part of a classic big band, and you can play the sax in smaller combos.
If you like all kinds of music, the saxophone is great. You can learn classical and jazz solos and even play solos from famous pop and rock songs on the instrument.
The alto saxophone is easier to play than the soprano saxophone, and so it is a good choice for beginners. A simple comparison of the length of the soprano and alto saxophones shows that they are about the same, 70 centimeters long.Is it hard to Learn To Play The saxophone? ›
In terms of learning the saxophone, it's one of the easiest instruments. The scales run up and down the keys, making it perfect for beginners or people who are switching from the piano or other woodwind instruments with similar technique. What is this?How long does it take to learn saxophone? ›
How long does it take to learn saxophone? It depends. For most people, it takes around two years to reach a basic level of proficiency. However, some people may be able to pick up the basics more quickly, while others may find that they need more time to really get comfortable with the instrument.What is the best age to start learning saxophone? ›
For young beginners around 8, the Alto and tenor saxophone are popular choices, while the Baritone saxophone is more suitable for students around 9 or 10 years old due to its weight. Many people start saxophone later in life, and it's never too late to begin your musical journey!What is the 1 easiest instrument to learn? ›
- Triangle. The triangle is perhaps the simplest instrument to master. ...
- Xylophone. The melodies are commonly recognized by children before they understand the words. ...
- Harmonica. ...
- Bongo drums. ...
- Ukulele. ...
- Flute. ...
- Clarinet. ...
Saxophone doesn't necessarily take a lot of air, but it does require strong air control. We call it breath control. Breath control allows you to play loudly or softly and stay in tune with a steady sound. Good breath control, or breath support, starts with the diaphragm.Can I learn sax in 3 months? ›
Realistically, playing the sax should take between six months to a year to really learn. That means maintaining the skill long after you have stopped playing regularly. However, once you start, you won't want to stop.Is it hard to learn saxophone for beginners? ›
The good news is that the saxophone is much easier to learn than other instruments, and it's a whole lot of fun! Like many instruments, the saxophone isn't too difficult to begin playing but challenging to master. Many people say that it's easy to make a sound on the saxophone but harder to make a good sound.How many hours a day should I practice saxophone? ›
As a rough guideline, you should be looking to average about 3-5 hours of practise every day (even more some days) if you want to be the best of the best.Is 40 too old to learn saxophone? ›
It is NEVER too late to learn how to play the saxophone. I have a few students who are over the age of 70. One of these students has never ever had anything to do with playing music in her entire life.
Loads of our thousands of Sax School students start to learn sax at 50 or older. While it's true that children have an easier time learning, age does come with some significant learning benefits.What instrument should I learn before saxophone? ›
More often than not, first-time saxophonists have some experience playing the clarinet. In most band classrooms, students must first learn the clarinet before they can switch to saxophone.What is the hardest instrument to play saxophone? ›
It can be either straight or curved. The soprano is known as the hardest saxophone to play.
The saxophone is arguably easier to play than the flute. Saxophones may present some level of challenge in their dynamic range, particularly if you wish to play softer notes. But, other than that, saxophones have a more intuitive fingering and an easier embouchure than most other woodwinds.