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Thread: soprano sax vs. clarinet

  1. #1

    Default soprano sax vs. clarinet

    Hey guys,

    This is a question for those of you who play both soprano sax and clarinet.

    I have a younger cousin wanting to take up a woodwind instrument and wanting either a soprano sax or clarinet; so which in your opinion would be the harder to learn for a complete beginner and what are the pro's and con's of both instruments?

    (also apologies if this is in the wrong section)

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member Carl H.'s Avatar
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    Clarinet is harder to learn.
    Clarinets can be had fairly cheaply.
    Clarinets have a lot of music specifically for them.
    Soprano sax is more of a specialty instrument for advanced players and ensembles.
    So far, this is the oldest I've been.

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    it will also be easier to transition from clarinet to sax than the other way around.

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    I play clarinet and saxophone as well as teach Middle School Band full time. Trust me on this one LEARN CLARINET FIRST. The saxophone will be a breeze to pick up in 7th or 8th grade. (That doesn't mean saxophone is easy BUT Clarinet fingerings directly relate to most of the saxophone while saxophone fingerings work on only 1/2 the clarinet)

    PLUS the music for clarinet is much more interesting. I'd also be surprised if a band program allowed beginner soprano saxophonists.

    Good Luck.

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    How old is that "younger cousin"? If we're talking about someone that wants to learn music in a school program, I'd go with clarinet. If we're talking about someone out of school that wants to play, then let them listen to a couple of CD's and ask them which sound captures them the most.

    BTW, even if we're talking about a school student, I would get them doubling on sax within a couple of years. This coming from a clarinet player . . . I wish I had switched while I was in school.

  6. #6

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    Yeh it would be for a school program, so clarinet makes more sense really.

    Thanks for the replies I shall relay the information on.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Sorry to differ, although I believe all the above arguments are valid too. A lot may depend on the child.

    I've seen kids struggle with clarinet and lose interest quickly. The saxophone is easier and in many young minds a cooler instrument. If they know a saxophone is an alternative and love the saxophone, making them play clarinet may just put them off music.

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    Pete, you may face a totally different attitude in UK, but most school programs in the USA would not be thrilled to get a beginner soprano sax player. I agree, however, that if the student wants to play sax, that's exactly what they should do. In the USA, we'd start them on alto (occasionally tenor) and let them pick up soprano for jazz bands and personal studies.

    Do the scores bought for school concert/marching band programs include soprano sax parts these days? I'm afraid my experience in that realm is . . . somewhat outdated.

  9. #9
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    You are probably right, I'm no expert in school music programs. Just thought I'd offer an alternative point of view that may just be of some use. IF the child is going to be learning at school I imagine the school will give some advice anyway.

    It's all grist for the mill.

  10. #10

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    I used to play clarinet and bass clarinet as a kid, and moved to saxophones later on. I agree that clarinets are more difficult in terms of fingering, but possibly, saxophones may have a larger spectrum in terms of sounds you can produce, and may be more challenging (and interesting?? well, except for the bass clarinet, of course) in that aspect. Perhaps, some of this has to do with the fact that clarinets have a more or less fixed diameter of the "tube", while saxophones are based on a cone-shaped tube. Anyway, if somebody wants to learn both instruments, it is wise to start with clarinet because of the more difficult fingering. However, sound prodcution is different, and people with clarinet embouchure needs to be conscious about developing a new and more relaxed embouchure. X-clarinetist saxophonists have a tendency to have too tight embouchure, particularly for tenor, I think. So, if the kid really wants to play saxophone in the long run, I think it is a good idea not to start with clarinet, but go straight to saxophone. IMHO.

    Bjorn

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    Bjorn, I'm a living example of what you wrote about. I didn't pick up a sax until I was over 50 yrs old, and I fight tight embouchure every time I pick up a sax. My standard advice for school clarinet players is to use an alto sax during school marching season. It exposes them at a fairly early age to another sound/style option, and gives them more volume where volume counts. Cost-wise, you can pick up a decent alto for marching for $300-400, so we're not talking about a huge investment either.

  12. #12

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    I think that is a good advice, Fred. Playing different instrumetns adds another dimension as well. One of the best saxophone players in our area is also a fantastic piano player. I think playing different instruments may improve the musicality of the performer.

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