March 27, 2020

Should I start on the soprano saxophone?

Many students (particularly adults!) from around the globe ask me the same question - should I start learning the soprano saxophone? The soprano is, of course, a beautiful and exotic instrument, made famous by smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G.

But is the soprano a good choice for a beginner?

In the video below, Jeremy dives into the subject and gives you a demonstration of what the instrument is capable of!

The challenges...

Tuning. Playing in tune on the soprano sax is difficult, and takes a lot of practice. The main reason for this is because the mouthpiece is smaller, and is therefore more sensitive to small changes in the embouchure. When starting from scratch, this can be especially hard to control!

Opportunities. The soprano stands out because it's unique, but unfortunately that uniqueness also means that opportunities to play in bands and orchestras can be quite limited, especially if that is your only instrument. This can be of particular concern to school students who might be looking to join their school's ensemble.

Price & availability. Another issue for many will be the price. Unfortunately most major saxophone manufacturers do not make 'student model' soprano saxophones, meaning prices for a new soprano sax can start at around $1500 USD. Although there are cheaper alternatives on eBay and Amazon, these instruments can sometimes come with their own challenges in terms of build quality and reliability.

The benefits...

The sound. The main benefit of the soprano saxophone is self evident! It's a beautiful and unique instrument with an exotic sound. How can you possibly compete with that?

The size. Being a smaller size, the soprano is lightweight, responsive, and is a lot of fun to play. In the video I compare the soprano sax to driving a race car; it might be unforgiving, but that's all part of the fun...

In summary

In general, the best advice I could give for beginners interested in starting on the soprano saxophone is to start with the alto saxophone first, for the reasons laid out in the video.

This is especially important for school aged players who want to involve themselves in school bands and orchestras.

However...

If you're an adult, you love the sound of the soprano saxophone AND you're up for a challenge - I say, go for it!

It may take you longer to master than some of the basics of the instrument, but if you're not in a hurry to join a band, then you might as well give it a try. After all, the love of the instrument is ultimately what drives us all to practice and get better on our instrument.

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