The saxophone is a simple yet beautiful instrument that carries an unmistakable sound.
And whether you’re a fan of orchestral music, smooth jazz, or both, you may be wondering how to get started playing the saxophone.
The saxophone is a fairly easy instrument to learn, so most new sax players can play simple melodies in 1-2 years. In 2-4 years, saxophonists usually feel comfortable enough to play in an ensemble.
However, learning an instrument is a lifelong commitment, and mastering the saxophone will take a lifetime.
Before you can play your saxophone, you need to understand how to properly put your instrument together.
Saxophones are stored in several pieces when not being played, but assembling it is simple enough.
You’ll need to attach the neck to the body of the saxophone and then tighten the screw to keep it in place. Be sure to wet the reed in your mouth, and then you can carefully attach it to the mouthpiece.
Finally, the mouthpiece can be attached to the neck. It should be firmly in place, about halfway up the cork, and use cork grease when necessary.
Saxophone fingerings are fairly intuitive in that the pitch correlates with how far up or down the neck your fingerings occur.
The more buttons you press further down the neck, the sound gets lower. As buttons are released, the sound gets higher.
Learn some basic scales to practice each of the fingerings as well as switching between them.
Once you get the hang of a few different scales and are comfortable moving between notes, you can begin to learn actual songs.
Learning to play songs is one of the most efficient ways to improve your saxophone playing.
Once you can easily play those tunes, try “Pink Panther Theme Song” or “Baker Street” to start incorporating the signature soulful sound of the instrument.
The saxophone wasn’t meant to be played very straight and precisely, so be sure to put some feeling into your music.
Now that you can navigate numerous scales in addition to some simple songs, you may be ready for some more advanced pieces to take on.
Some solo pieces to try are “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, “Petite Fleur” by Sidney Bechet and Claude Luter, and “Saint Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy.
You may also have an interest in joining an orchestral group or a jazz ensemble. Playing in an ensemble is extremely beneficial, and working with other musicians can introduce you to even more music, helping you pick up and master new techniques.
Orchestras could play anything from classical music to pop tunes. Jazz ensembles will help you learn traditional jazz music as well as new/unfamiliar works or even improvisation.
Even once you can comfortably read sheet music and have mastered a healthy repertoire of songs, there is always more practice to be done.
Dedicate at least 20 – 30 minutes to your instrument each day. Split that time between practicing scales, learning new songs, and improving your technique and tone on songs you already know.
If you’re interested in learning how to improvise, play some jazzy instrumental music and start playing to figure out what you can do and what works.
Over time, you may notice that you’re beginning to sound just like the recordings of songs we all know and love!