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Thread: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

  1. #1

    Default How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    I’m 35 years old. I played the piano and violin until I was about 18 or 19, and had become quite good at both. I definitely have some musical ability. But for the last 15 years or so, I have completely forgotten to sight-read music. I haven’t played either instrument since I was in my early 20’s.

    I love the saxophone. It’s an instrument I’ve always appreciated.

    In terms of difficulty in learning to play competently, how hard of an instrument is it to learn to play? I have never picked one up in my life.

    For example, it is very hard to learn to play the violin and not have it sound like crap. How does the saxophone compare?

  2. #2

    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    I found that the violin is easier to learn than the saxophone. But it's kinda a ridiculous question when you think about it. You either want to learn the saxophone or you don't. If you do, then just go and do it, if you don't then don't.
    It is of little import as to whether one instrument is harder than another and that is the last thing that you should consider when thinking about taking it up.
    I tried and failed to learn to play trumpet but am playing sax. A friend tried and failed to play sax but is now playing trumpet. So where does that leave the one instrument harder than the other school of thought?
    Just do it !!
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    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    For me, violin is one of those impossible instruments! Saxophone is initially relatively easy, but it is challenging to master. With a good teacher and a decent instrument, you should be able to pick it up fairly rapidly. The main thing is to have fun!
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    Distinguished SOTW Member CooolJazzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    I think it's generally accepted that the saxophone is one of the easier wind instruments to learn from a technical standpoint. The fingering system is generally more logical and intuitive. It's also the one that probably sounds the most like crap until the embouchure becomes more developed, which takes a lot longer than learning the fingering system.

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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by MugsyMD View Post
    For example, it is very hard to learn to play the violin and not have it sound like crap. How does the saxophone compare?
    At the beginner level, it's relatively easy. Easier than e.g. the clarinet or the trombone
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    First, welcome to SOTW!

    One of the best aspects of the saxophone is its limitless potential.

    The sax was designed to be simple to play and it is. With just a few lessons and a little practice, many will no other musical training can play a simple tune. But then, it can take a lifetime of practice to reach anything close to some of the well-known professionals. This is one of the reasons that students that play sax usually sound nothing like saxophone players on popular recordings.

    So in the end, the sax is very easy to play but extremely difficult to master and the journey never ends. But it's worth it.
    Good Luck,

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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    If you played the violin and the piano until 18-19 years of age you definitely remember how to sight read music. No worries. It is usually counting the beat that could need some coming back to.

    As has been stated, saxophone is a rather easy instrument if comparing to other windinstruments.

    Many people start on an alto when they are young due to the size being small enough and the cost being very low. Somehow I have always thought alto being a bit misplaced in pitch (probably upsetting many I guess). Especially when practising by myself - it just does not thrill me enough to practise it.
    Arne Domnerus playing 'the midnight sun never sets' is some of the best I have heard on alto sax.

    I doubled on a tenor at the age of 16 having played violin for eight years.
    I consider it great for playing jazz, bossa, latin, evergreens, rock and even classical music. Stan Getz was my favourite tenor.

    I prefer the soprano for classical, world/folk music, spiritual etc. and there are many good studentmodels at affordable prices these days. Some say soprano is difficult to play due to intonation issues with the sax itself. I don't know about that, I think it is a very nice and easy to play instrument.

    I love the bari for those classical jazz tunes where the listener and player can relax and just flow with the music. (Might not be the easiest to start with)
    Lars Gullin, Gerry Mulligan

    I think it is wise to listen to something you like and choose the saxophone based on what you want to play. (and if you have a family what they might want to listen to)
    Good luck!
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    I've heard the saxophone is the easiest instrument in the world to play badly...
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  9. #9

    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    easy and fun. also you dont have to be perfect to enjoy it.

    GO FOR IT!!!

  10. #10

    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    I agree saxophone is the easiest to learn fingerings, and scales wise. After you've learned the basic and you think your "good" which a lot of 5-8 year players think they are (including me). BOOM! reality comes and smacks you in the face with intonation, accidentals, rhythms, and some things no one can teach you and you'll have to learn by yourself, every instrument is difficult to master or be decent at but, relatively easy to play.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009 warp x's Avatar
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    The saxophone is not hard. It's the music that's hard.

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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    If you've got ten fingers, lungs, arms, and a face, saxophone isn't all that hard to learn. To MASTER? Buckle in: it's a path that some of us walk, but I don't think many of us can say we're at the end of. Heck, I don't even think I've reached the first highway on the journey to mastery, and I've been in the shed a few hours a day for years.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Souportwenty View Post
    I've heard the saxophone is the easiest instrument in the world to play badly...
    It's pretty easy to learn technically in terms of fingerings, but you MUST cut yourself a LOT of slack as far as tone and the small details of articulation note to note. This is what makes a sax sound good; rather, it's what makes a sax PLAYER sound good. To produce a decent tone, just the pure tone itself in the middle of a breathe, won't take that long. But how you start the notes, sustain it and end it, and then string those notes together into a phrase; THAT takes a while.

    Think of how nuanced your speech is to communicate ideas and feelings. We don't think about it but this is your brain telling your mouth and lungs to perform extremely intricate, subtle and specific coordinated movements to create a consonant expression. All of that is completely new territory for a person playing a wind instrument, and it takes time and focus to get your mouth and lungs to do what you want them to. You can't watch what you're doing like you can playing piano or guitar; you literally have to FEEL it. So don't worry if you aren't sounding like you want to right away. You WILL sound good if you want to, but you have to put in the time and listen to good players and listen to yourself and try to make the things happen that you want to happen, and if you're working at it you will see steady progress and improvement. You'll get a bit better each time.
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    Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and 2014 Forum Contributor maddenma's Avatar
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Souportwenty View Post
    I've heard the saxophone is the easiest instrument in the world to play badly...
    I believe I'm the one that said that, but I'll defer to anyone that can make an earlier claim to 1972.
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    As Viktor Borge put it:

    The early trumpets were 9 meters long and the sound so awful that the trumpet players were chased out of town.
    Then someone came up with the idea to fold the trumpet.

    The sound was still awful... but the players got more quickly out of town.
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    In my view: it's easy to play saxophone. It's difficult to play it well.

    Regards Bo

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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    Once you pass that early (six months or so) stage of development the sax is no easier than other instruments in my experience. Over a 50 year period I've studied piano, voice, trumpet, sax, clarinet and flute with teachers and at the university level. Have played them all in professional situations. The challenge is there with all of them, thinking in terms of "easy" is to give yourself a foolish way of approaching music.


    To do this as a hobby or profession it is the same. You need to relax and just enjoy the whole process which will take many years. Learning is one of life's greatest joys, but only if you don't infect it with all kinds of fear and insecurity as so many do.


    Nothing is hard if you love doing it. If you are a person who won't enjoy playing until you get really, really good....you'll probably be disappointed. The adult students I have taught who approach this process with gritted teeth just never got much enjoyment out of it, even when they developed a decent skill set. Ungrit those teeth, avoid constant self-criticism and have fun. With the right attitude, the years of learning will fly by.


    Adults who study music often get caught up in the ego side of things and constantly comparing themselves to others. But that is a silly way of doing things. Only when there is passion, real joy in the whole process, does the journey become fulfilling. Everyone's journey is different, learn to love the journey you are on, don't yearn for someone else's.


    You don't see that view in people who build and fly model airplanes or go mountain biking. Music should likewise be food for the soul at every level of the process. And the process is long, to be sure, so not enjoying the trip is an act of self-loathing and feeds the soul nothing at all.




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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    Well said Zen master (Strayhorn)...the message about ego is excellent. Many saxophone players are plagued by an insatiable desire to display their incredible chops, even when their chops aren't so incredible. It is fun to play fast, but more challenging to make a musical statement.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009 MyMartinTenor's Avatar
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    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    If you actually got good at violin and piano, you already know what's required. Like ANYTHING ELSE IN LIFE, if you sit down and do it every day for an extended period of time (exactly like you did with piano and violin, presumably) you'll become competent.

    There's no way to compare the "ease" of one instrument against another. If this was simple, everyone would do it. Since it takes a TON of work, most people don't.

  20. #20

    Default Re: How hard is it to learn the saxophone?

    now dont discourage anyone. you put your mouth on the reed end, blow some air, and move your fingers around and music comes out the other end of the horn

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