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The first saxophone lessons for beginners should deal with the very most important basics.
Several years ago I decided to put together an eBook in the form of a course for the beginning saxophone student. With so many people learning saxophone online this seemed like a good idea…and it was!
All the main lessons in the course are connected to an online video that goes into the lesson further with me performing the demonstrations on my saxophone. This eBook/ course is; How To Play The Saxophone – A Complete Beginner’s Guide.
The idea is, for any beginner jumping into this great instrument, they learn the very first things necessary such as putting the entire instrument together. This starts with the horn itself and then onto the reed, mouthpiece and ligature.
After about 20 lessons on embouchure, breathing, tone, music notation and some exercises it ends with the student learning to read and play four well-known songs on the saxophone. These are very simple notation and the bonus is you get to play along with the matching backing tracks.
Practicing a song with backing track accompaniment is the best way to do it. Playing with a proper, steady accompaniment forces us to keep better time and play more in tune. Playing in time and having good intonation will make you a better musician! So, why not develop these good habits right from the beginning?
Looking at the table of contents from the How To Play The Saxophone eBook course will give you a good idea of the topics you will learn upon taking on your new journey in to this great instrument:
Taking your saxophone out of it’s case and how to handle it safely
The saxophone mouthpiece
The saxophone reed
The major scales
Introducing the C major scale
Introducing the G major scale
Playing your first songs!
Introducing the Bb major scale
Awesome major scale exercise
Awesome major chord exercise
All the major scales
How to improve your tone
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Over the Rainbow
The very first and most important of the saxophone lessons for beginners is…
Taking your instrument out of it’s case, how to handle and hold it properly.
The saxophone is a very delicate instrument and can be damaged enough that a spring or rod out of place will make it hard or even impossible to be able to produce some of the notes or even your very first tone.
Also, make sure you know where NOT to grab hold of your horn as this may cause serious alignment problems.
If you read something online that says something like “Learn How To Play Like a Pro in 4 Hours!” you know someone is just trying to sell you a one-time course that’s more of a scam than anything else. If you work hard, maybe in 4 hours you can learn the first few lessons here, but that won’t have you paying like a pro.
There are no short cuts to learning these basic and very important lessons no matter what glittering advertisements you may have seen. These are the fundamentals that we all need to learn and develop technique along with a nice tone. It’s a day-by-day, foundation-building process.
You don’t need to worry about notes and fingering yet. That’s waiting for you in the next part of these lessons. Practice by blowing into your sax with your hands on the proper holding position with open fingers, that means not actually pressing down any finger keys. This open finger position is actually a note (middle C#).
How Much Should You Practice?
The more quality time you spend on your saxophone the quicker you’ll start to get results. Quality time means focusing in on the things that will give you the most results. Specifically the things covered in these lessons! If you practice for a good 30 minutes a day you will be doing OK. If you practice a good 60 minutes a day you’ll be doing good. If you spend a solid 90 minutes a day you’ll do great.
Also, it’s important to be consistent. Hitting these carefully laid out saxophone lessons for beginners on a daily basis will give you great results. These results may not be very obvious for you day-to-day, but after several weeks and months you, and your family and friends will notice.
The saxophone mouthpiece we choose to play on is very important. It’s actually the most important piece of our entire set up. Chances are you have just inherited whatever mouthpiece came with your sax. This may or may not be a good choice, depending on what it is of course.
At this point don’t worry about it.
The prime objective at the beginning is to start blowing out those first tones. A little later on as you get better at this you can spend some time thinking about which mouthpiece to get.
When you’re ready, learn more about saxophone mouthpieces here.
The Saxophone Reed
We can’t produce a single sound without a reed on the mouthpiece. knowing where to put the reed on the mouthpiece is vital. If it’s not lined up properly you may not be able to produce a single sound even if you’re doing everything else right. The lessons from the Quick Start Guide show you exactly how and where to place the reed on the mouthpiece with the ligature.
Which Saxophone Reed for Beginners?
How do you know which brand and strength is best for you? As with the mouthpiece, you may have found a reed or two in the saxophone case as well. If so, check the strength number on it. Some reed manufacturers use numbers such as 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 etc. Others reed brands may label their strengths with soft, medium soft, medium etc.
You, as a complete beginner should start with the lowest (softest) strength. So you should have a reed the says soft, or the number 1, or 1.5 (one and a half). Anything harder will make it that much more difficult at this very early stage. The softer reeds will make getting those first sounds much easier than the harder strength reeds.
Don’t buy one or two loose reeds out of a box even if the store allows this. Cane reeds are not consistent and so if the one(s) you chose are bad reeds you will be stuck and have a very hard time making sounds. This is a bad situation for a beginner because you don’t know if the problem is you, or a bad reed. With a full box of reeds you can play through several of them and know when you come across a good one by the way it feels.
I recommend using a good synthetic reed at this early stage to avoid the inconsistencies of cane reeds. A good synthetic reed will play great out of the box and last about 10 times longer than cane.
A few of the most recognized reed manufacturers are Rico, Vandoren, and La Voz. There are many others of course and I’m not saying your reed needs to be one of these brands, but if you’re going out to a music store to buy a box then you’ll probably see at least one of these brands on the shelf. Here is some more info on saxophone reeds as well as more popular brands..
Don’t buy just one single reed, even if they will break a box up and sell them this way. In a box of 10 reeds you may only get a few that are really good, so buying one or two may mean that you’ll get home and find out that neither reed you bought is very good. Now, as a total beginner it may be difficult to judge a cane reed because you haven’t had the experience of playing on a great one and a crappy one to make the comparison.
This is an ongoing problem we sax players face constantly when it comes to natural cane reeds. This is also why many saxophonists have either switched over, or have also starting using synthetic reeds. Years ago synthetics didn’t feel as good as a natural cane reed so many players (including myself) stayed away from them. As technology in this industry has progressed the synthetic reeds have come along very nicely.
As you know, or will at least soon discover is that natural cane reeds come with a few problems:
- they must be well moistened to play
- they will warp when dried out
- they squeak
- short life-span
So, the desirable thing about a synthetic reed is that we don’t deal with any of those problems. Like I said earlier, they didn’t compare in being able to produce as good a sound as cane reeds but this is no longer the case. Even I, a long time natural cane user over the last 30 years or so, have been very happy using synthetic reeds for a while now. The reason being there was finally one that was as playable and comfortable as my preferred cane reed. You can watch and hear my Fiberreed review here.
And Finally, Your Saxophone!
Actually, at this stage your saxophone doesn’t need to be a top-rated expensive model. As long as it’s well-made and in perfect working condition you’ll be fine for a while. How can you tell if it’s in good working order? If someone you know doesn’t play then you must take it to a sax repair shop and have them check it. If it requires simple things such as replacing a leaky pad or two it should be very inexpensive and could save you a lot of headaches.
This is my greatest concern for absolute beginning students; starting to play on a saxophone that is not working right. Even a small leak i the top pads can make it almost impossible for anyone to get the right note let alone a complete beginner. So if you’re a newbie, how can you tell that it’s not you but your instrument instead? You can’t, unless you have an experienced player or a repair shop to look at your horn.
If you’re at the saxophone-buying stage you can check out my full article on what to look for and what to avoid in my saxophone buying guide.
My Saxophone For Beginners Quick Start Guide will get you up and running on this great instrument in no time if you follow along and learn! Sign up and get it from the green sign up link above.
Frequently Asked Beginners Saxophone questions:
How long does it take to learn saxophone?
Saxophone may be one of the easiest instruments to learn. But like most instruments it will take some time to develop your own unique, full sound.
Which saxophone is easiest to learn?
The alto saxophone is best for beginners to learn at first because it’s smaller than the tenor, so It requires less air. This makes it easier, especially at first when air support technique is not well developed yet.
What’s a good saxophone brand?
Stick with the well-known companies that have been around a long time; Selmer, Yamaha, King, Trevor James, Yanagisawa
What is the best saxophone for beginners?
A common favorite is the Yamaha YAS or YTS student model line. YAS stands for Yamaha Alto Saxophone, and YTS stands for Yamaha Tenor Saxophone. These saxophones are of good quality at a reasonable price.