The saxophone was invented by the Belgian Adolphe Sax. Its sound is produced using a reed, and so even though it’s made of metal it’s also part of the woodwind family.Although it was adopted by some composers as part of the orchestra, it gained more popularity in military bands due to its big sound, and was later made famous by great jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
The saxophone family consists of seven instruments, but the most popular beginner’s instruments are the alto and tenor saxophones. Due to the size and fingering, the minimum age to start learning is around 8 years for the alto and 12 years for the tenor.
As saxophone reeds are made of cane, they will wear and split with use, so it’s a good idea to buy a few replacement reeds as they are relatively inexpensive, and can be bought either individually or in boxes of 10.
If you’re a beginner, then start with softer reeds marked from ‘1½’ to ‘2½’, which make it easier to produce a more even tone and pitch (‘4’ is the hardest type available).
What to look for
- Ask your tutor which brand or model they recommend you should buy, plus which type i.e. Alto, Tenor etc, as they are all different sizes. Also try it sitting down. Check to see if you can use the side and palm keys, so you can tell if you need a smaller one.
- When you go to buy always take someone with you who knows instruments or plays them as they will be able to hear and see what the beginner does not. You will also be able to hear what it sounds like from a distance if they play it.
- Remember that in addition to the Saxophone itself you will have to buy reeds and have the instrument maintained.
- Ask the salesperson if you can have the instrument on approval or indeed if you can rent it with a view to purchasing it, or something similar, down the line.
- When you have decided on the instrument you want, make sure you get that one and not one from the stock room, as all instruments have their own sound.
- You must also make sure to purchase appropriate cleaning materials. Like the flute, saxophone keys have pads to seal the holes. These need to be looked after. A cleaning swab should be used to dry out the instrument after playing to prolong pad life.
- Make sure that you purchase a good quality neck strap which will help correctly support the weight of the instrument.