So you've decided you want to start playing the saxophone
, but first you have a number of decisions to make. Saxophones are not the cheapest of the woodwind instruments and so it's important to start on a model that you can make progress with at a satisfying rate.
Typically, there are four standard sizes of saxophone. These are soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone. The soprano sax is in the key of Bb, then the alto sax is half an octave lower, in the key of Eb. The tenor saxophone is a full octave lower than the soprano, and also in the key of Bb. Finally, the baritone sax is an octave lower than the alto and consequently also in the key of Eb.
In addition, music students are sometimes recommended at school to start with the clarinet before taking on the sax. The clarinet has more difficult fingering and so it is thought that if you can master this you'll be able to make swift work at progressing on the saxophone. However, there is another school of thought which suggests that the saxophone is a good place to start if you are new to the woodwind family because of its more gentle learning curve. The embouchure of the saxophone is thought to be less demanding. Embouchure refers to how you apply your mouth to the mouthpiece to produce notes. As both this and the standard range of keys are easier to work than both the clarinet and the flute, a student saxophonist will be able to get a pleasing sound out of their instrument more easily.
Of the four main saxes the alto saxophone is the one that many beginners are recommended to start with because of its pitch. A beginner will generally find this the easiest type of the four to get a good range of sounds from as the higher and lower ranges require more demanding breath work. In addition to this, the key scale is smaller on an alto and so children should have an easier time of it in getting their hands around the instrument. The alto sax is also the most frequently used type of saxophone in classical compositions and subsequently there is a lot of sheet music written for the alto sax available.
Nevertheless, the most important thing about choosing a saxophone is finding one that you think will keep you invested in learning. They are not the cheapest of instruments and so it is worth seeking advice from your local music store and trying out several different models before making your purchase. Some stores will also offer rental schemes that allow you to try before you buy, which can be a cost-effective way of dipping your toe into the world of saxophone playing before making that big commitment!
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