Is saxophone easy to learn?

Man playing tenor saxophone in jazz big band

Playing in a jazz big band is a dream for a lot of adults wishing to start the saxophone from scratch. But how hard is the saxophone, really?

Updated: June 24, 2021

By Jeremy Trezona

hello@saxtuition.com

A lot of new students (particularly adults) think twice about starting a new instrument before finally taking the plunge.

"Will I have the time to commit to practice?"
"Will I enjoy it?"
"Will my shiny new instrument just end up sitting in a corner gathering dust?"


A lot of these concerns stem from one simple question: How easy the saxophone easy to learn?

Well, in this short article we'll look at some of things you might not have known about the saxophone and why it's actually a very beginner friendly instrument.

Prefer to watch instead? Check out our handy YouTube video below!

A modern instrument.

Although we might not realize it, in the grand scheme of things the saxophone is actually quite modern. Designed in 1846, the saxophone is over 500 years younger than the earliest trumpets and guitars.

Thanks to it's clever, modern design, the saxophone is actually one of the easiest instruments to start on.

Let's start by considering the keys. If you take a close look at the saxophone, you'll notice they're spaced apart in a precise way to match the shape of the human hand.

This makes a huge difference when playing the saxophone, as we don't have to bend or stretch our fingers to reach the keys.

alto saxophone

Notice that the white keys are offset? This small detail ensures that the saxophone keys are easy to reach, even for those with smaller hands.

One key to rule them all.

Also, unlike many other wind instruments the saxophone also features an octave key.

What exactly is an octave key I hear you say?

Well, the octave key instantly takes our note from the lower register to the upper register, meaning we only need to learn one set of fingerings across 2 octaves of the saxophone's range.

Even better, the octave key is conveniently located right above the lefthand thumb rest, meaning changing registers is only a small press of the button.

saxophone octave key

The octave key sits conveniently above the left hand thumb rest (the large circle in the middle of the image).

No need to squeeze.

We've all seen the pictures of trumpet players squeezing their lips together to reach high notes - it looks like hard work, because it is!

It's important to remember that the saxophone is distinct from the trumpet, in that that we use a reed (a piece of cane) on our mouthpiece to create a sound, instead of the buzzing created by our lips.

That is why the saxophone is a member of the woodwind family of instruments, rather than the brass family (like the trumpet and trombone).

Dizzy Gillespie
saxophone reed and mouthpiece

Pictured (left): The late, great jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Pictured (right): The saxophone mouthpiece, with reed attached.

In comparison to brass instruments, woodwind instruments (like the saxophone) require a lot less muscle strength in the lips to create a reliable tone, making them a beginner friendly choice.

Learn sax the way that suits you best

Often the hardest thing about learning the saxophone is simply finding the right material to get you started and keep you on track.

"What techniques should I start with?"
"What songs can I learn?"
"How will I know what to learn next?"

OK, brace yourself, because here is where the plug happens...

The SaxTuition Beginner Series is a highly rated, unique way to learn the saxophone online.

Available for digital download, the Beginner Series is a complete course that gives you all the skills you need to conquer the saxophone.

Saxophone online course SaxTuition
Saxophone instructor from video lessons

At the heart of the series are 12 lesson videos (over 3 hrs of content) that are taught just like a real in-person lesson. But, unlike a real lesson, you can rewatch the content as often as you like!

With each video, there's a ton of great songs and exercises to practice in the included eBook. Even better, you'll be learning how to read music and understand theory at the same time.

(No prior knowledge required!)

iPad with saxophone beginner eBook
Saxophone demo tracks for beginners

To guide you through each and every song in the book, we've got 200+ demo tracks for you to play along with, recorded on both alto and tenor saxophone.

So, if you're ready to take the leap and start your saxophone journey, enter your email below for a free trial of the Beginner Series, free saxophone tips sent to your inbox and $20 discount code valid 7 days after sign-up.

Sign up for a free trial of the Beginner Series

Ready to dive right in? Check out the Beginner Series product page for more information.

Learn more

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