I hear the question, “What kind of saxophone should I play” and it’s usually from beginners who are wondering which horn they should play. But it’s also from some people who are maybe on alto and want to move on to maybe one of the other ones.
Yes, there’s some difficulties in some aspects between the horns, between the different saxophones. But when you learn to play one of the saxophones, one of the more popular voices, like soprano, alto, tenor or bari, you probably all know there’s more than those. There’s there’s actually several more. There’s bigger than the bari which is the bass and even a bigger one, which is a contra bass, but you rarely see them.They’re rarely used. I’ve seen a contra bass that if you’re not that tall you might have to use a step ladder or a little stool to get up to the mouthpiece. They’re huge.
Let’s stick to the four popular ones, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone of course. When I started I fell in love with the tenor because I’m a rock and roller at heart and I listen to a lot of rock and roll and that’s the sax that I heard 90% of the time. So I fell in love with the sound of it and went out and grabbed one and learned how to play it. If you don’t care start with the alto because it is a little easier. If you’re playing the alto and you’re not too bad at it and you switch over to tenor you may find you have a little more difficulties getting the lower last few notes because the tenor is that much bigger and so requires more air.
The bari will be a little harder to play way up on the high register, and to play in tune. The same goes for a soprano. Pretty easy to get the lower notes, when you get to the notes above the high C the D and the D sharp and the E and the F. Those notes are harder to get out. When you do get them out, it’s a little harder to keep the intonation spot-on, but it’s just a little more difficult than the horn you’re used to with a little more work and practice you’re going to get over these hurdles. So don’t worry about it.
The best thing to do is choose the one that you love the sound of the most. That’s the most obvious. If you don’t care and somebody’s giving you a certain horn, yeah, take lessons check out these videos learn how to play it.
The saxophone is easy to learn the fingering of course, and then takes a bit more time to develop a good tone, through your embouchure. and proper breathing. But all the little nuances that each of the different saxophones have can be overcome. Their problems can be overcome. All the notes are all the same fingering for all the saxophones. You have to transpose when you play with different instruments because of course, there’s the E flat and B flat. But on its own, the saxophone fingerings are all the same. Go for it! Less talking, more playing. See you later.
By the way, if you’re interested in tips on buying a saxophone check out the article I have written on that as well.
Rent vs Buying
In many circumstances it makes great sense for someone to rent a sax at first. If you’re unsure if you’ll really stick with it or for a school kid who may drop it in a few months.
Many large music store have a rental department and you can be assured the horn you rent from them will be in good playing condition since they have them routinely checked by a repair person. This may not be the case if you’re buying one privately.
A monthly rental for a saxophone is quite reasonable and you’ll know after a few months if you’ll want to keep at it or not and then move on with a decision to start shopping around for one to buy.
All saxophones, except for the C melody which is no longer in production, are transposing instruments. This means that when you play a C on a saxophone, that C will not be a regular concert C as when played on the piano. The alto is called an E flat because when you play a C it sounds Eb on the piano. When you play a C on the tenor it sounds Bb on the piano, that’s why it’s called a Bb tenor. This theory can be difficult to understand at first. I have a more detailed article which explains the saxophone keys theory in more detail.
Are you any closer in answering the question “which saxophone should I play?” Let me know if you have any questions about this. Also, keep this in mind: Deciding on which saxophone to play doesn’t need to be a long and laboring process because you can always switch to another one later!