4 Q&A’s every beginner saxophone students needs to know!
17 May 2017
you’ve decided you want to learn to play the Sax. You’ve booked you’re free intro lesson with us and you’re excited to get started. however, before you go any further and to make sure you get the most enjoyment possible out of your new instrument, there are 4 questions that most beginner saxophonists ask (or forget to ask) that you should really know the answers to first:
I noticed there are different types of Sax, which one should I choose?
Would you believe there are actually 9 types of saxophone to choose from, each with a different pitch, key and tone but the four most common that you are likely to come across early on are (in order of pitch):
The highest in pitch of the four is the soprano sax. the soprano saxophone is often straight in shape and looks a little bit like a brass clarinet. It’s lighter than many of the other types of saxophone but demands particular control over mouth shape and which can be tricky for beginners.
The alto sax is the most common type amongst beginners. When you picture the shape of a saxophone, many people would describe an alto sax with it’s traditional curved shape. Although slightly larger and heavier than a soprano, holding an alto sax is comfortable for most people. Some beginners and tutors find that the alto sax is more forgiving than others and is therefore a good choice for the majority of newbie saxophonists.
The tenor sax is slightly larger than the alto with an extra curve in the neck and a bigger body. Tenor saxophones can be heavier than an alto sax and they are capable of producing lower notes due to their size which allows the air to make larger vibrations. The size of the tenor sax requires more powerful lungs than its smaller counterparts. According to wikipedia, many of the most influential saxophonists in Blues and Jazz have been famous tenor sax players.
The baritone sax is easily differentiated from the other 3 saxophones here in that it has a looped neck. The longer the total length of a saxophone’s body is, the deeper the note it can produce. The baritone saxophone is capable of producing the lowest notes of these 4 types of sax and is often used in big bands to provide a bass line. A bigger body means a heavier instrument so it tends to be stronger, more experienced players that eventually progress to the baritone.
How do I know I’m buying the right one?
As with any instrument, It’s a personal preference and the “right one” for you may not be the same for someone else. There are a few things to remember when choosing your first saxophone.
Often, new sax players will begin with an alto saxophone for the reasons mentioned above but these can range hugely in price. Brand new alto saxophones can range from a few hundred to several thousand pounds which can be hard to justify for someone new to the instrument. Shop smart for entry-level new instruments or quality, secondhand saxophones that are undamaged (and clean!).
Another consideration due to the size of the saxophones compared to other instruments is whether you feel physically comfortable holding your sax. it can be beneficial for new sax players to try holding different types of sax either at a shop or music school to get a feel for which best suits your body.
What’s an “embouchure” anyway?
You’re going to hear this word a lot. Embouchure is a posh term for “mouth shape” and relates to both woodwind and brass instruments. You create sound from your sax when the air vibrates through the reed and into the instrument but to do so you must make a specific shape with your mouth. The shape required depends on the type of saxophone and some are more forgiving than others. A good tutor like ours will spend plenty of time working with you on your embouchure to make sure you’re producing the cleanest sounds. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem natural at first, It will be second nature in no time at all.
What was that squeak?!?
When embouchure goes wrong, prepare for a squeak. Woodwind instruments or rather, those that play woodwind instruments sometimes squeak. Saxophones, like oboes and clarinets, use a thin piece of cane called a reed which helps to produce the notes you play. if the shape of your mouth isn’t quite right you’ll be “reminded” with a shrill, high pitched squeak! Although a little embarrassing at first for the newbie saxophonists, It’s nothing to be worried about. Just remember, it happens to everyone and it reminds you to keep working on your embouchure!
There is one thing that you absolutely have to remember that many new saxophonists forget: woodwind instruments can seem quite alien and complex at first but trust me, if you practice and get the right guidance you’ll sound like a pro in no time if you just stick at it!