These unrealistic expectations can set a student on a course for disappointment. Keep in mind that college music majors who have been playing the saxophone for eight years still have a lot to learn! Working on the embouchure, scales, articulation, dynamic control, and vibrato will strengthen your abilities as a saxophonist. When beginning to learn the saxophone, having quality equipment can make a huge difference. Here are our best recommendations:. For your neck-strap, simply make sure that it is rigid and not stretchy.
Most music educators will agree that this is a good quality beginning setup. The best thing a beginning saxophonist can do is to choose a good private instructor.
TakeLessons has a great selection of experienced saxophone instructors for both online and in-person lessons. Be sure to choose a teacher who can help you reach your specific goals. This type of instruction will help you build a solid foundation of tone, reading ability, and technique. Mastering any instrument is a lot of work, but remember to have fun!
Then, as a reward at the end of your practice session, try some improvisation or play your favorite song. Including this important step in your practice routine will help you stay motivated.
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In addition, reminding yourself at the end of a practice session why you love the saxophone will help you avoid frustration and continue thinking positively about your progress. Search TakeLessons today for a qualified saxophone teacher near you. The journey of becoming a saxophonist can be a winding road, but it will also be incredibly rewarding.
Take a deep breath before you start and see how long it lasts you.
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You will need to distribute the air evenly throughout the song. Doing some physical exercise is a useful activity in conjunction with your saxophone practice. Moving helps with your breathing! So try adding some cardio sessions to your schedule a few times a week if you struggle with lung capacity and breath control. As you can see, we are using the same notes as we did before, G, A, and B. Before you try this song, see if you can separate a long note by gently touching your tongue to the reed. You can try this on any note. Try going 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 on just one note of your choice.
Once you can control it well enough, try playing this song! This is an effective way to learn new songs. These three notes are E, D and C. If you look and feel where your pinky is, you want to press down the lower of the two keys that are attached to each other. Do you remember how to play E and D? E is the note with all the fingers in the left hand and two in your right. D is when both hands use three fingers. As the sound gets lower, you will probably feel that you need to blow differently from how you blow when you play higher notes. Visualize yourself going down the stairs or whatever works for you personally.
Low notes can be especially hard to play on cheap saxophones, but that can often be helped by buying a better mouthpiece. Anyway, back to the song!
Once you have practiced part 3 a few times and feel like you know it you can move on to learning the beginning. It looks like this:. This bit of the song reminds us of the very first song you learned, with pretty long notes going up. You will be counting two beats on each, starting on A, then B, and then C. In order to tie the beginning and the end together, we will be playing only two notes! F is played by pressing down the keys for B, A, and G and your index finger on the right hand. Here is the sheet music for the whole song.
Try to start by playing the beginning and the middle notes directly after each other a few times and then add the end! Try playing all of these with the octave key pressed down. The only note you will play without the octave key is the last note in the third song, C. You will simply play the C using your left middle finger. The octave key is a very useful little thing as you easily can place a song an octave higher.
Sometimes it can be a nice effect to play a song in the lower octave to start with and finish one octave higher. This picture shows all the notes from high D to ultra-high F. Now, you have yet to learn how to play ultra-high D, E, and F. They are played with the octave key as well as one, two, or three of the funny-looking keys that are under your left palm.
Back in the day when I was learning to play the saxophone, I never even considered teaching myself. In my world, you got lessons from a teacher, and that was the only way to learn. My view on in-person lessons has changed slightly over the years. There are now some extraordinary online resources such as video lessons on YouTube or entire saxophone courses to which you can subscribe. It is now possible to learn how to play from the internet.
Books by Willis Coggins
Having a skilled saxophone player listen to you when you play is half of the value of lessons. A teacher will be able to hear things you need to work on that you might have no idea about. Ultimately, I believe that regular in-person lessons from an expert are the best way to learn how to play a musical instrument. A good teacher can show you exactly what to do, correct your form and posture, identify errors, select appropriate songs, and more.
And finally, what if there are simply no saxophone instructors in your area? Skype and online lessons are an option you might want to try. But again, there really is no substitute from someone standing in the same room listening to you play. Have you ever heard that it takes 10, hours to get really good at something? One key to practicing effectively is to choose appropriate songs for your level.
Finishing a single song takes you several months. On the other hand, if you learn songs that are on your level, slightly challenging but manageable, what will the result be? If you practice like that instead, you might be able to learn one song per week, which is 52 songs in a year! Practicing a piece that is too hard for me but refusing to give up.
You might find that you start to focus on how much you have yet to learn instead, and that can be very discouraging. These songs are also good to have for concerts, parties, weddings, or other occasions where people might ask you to play. Our main reason to play should always be because we enjoy it. If you find cool songs that are a little too tricky for you, see if you can find simplified versions of them. Perhaps your teacher if you have one can help you to make them easier. Playing many easy songs will, in the long run, be a better idea than just playing difficult songs because you get to try more new things.
Things you will encounter are different keys, time signatures, dynamics, rhythms, and so on. If you only learn a handful of songs every year, there are only so many new things you will come across. And nothing makes you motivated like learning lots of new, fun songs! When you practice, break the songs down into small chunks and focus on one at a time. The way that most amateur musicians practice is not the most efficient way to do it. Most often, they will start from the beginning and play until they hit a wrong note. Then they start over, play everything again, get the same note wrong and start over again.
Eventually, they might learn to play that tricky note they always get wrong, but when the next difficult bit comes along, they will keep starting over from the beginning. When they finally have managed to go through the entire song, they will have played the beginning lots of times, but the second half of the song will be much more unfamiliar to them.
By breaking it down into small parts of a few bars, you avoid this problem. You may still start at the beginning if you want to. Decide how many bars you are going to learn. Now ask yourself how many times you think you will have to play those bars until you know them perfectly. This depends on the difficulty of the song.
When you have played the first bit as many times as you thought you would need, evaluate if it was enough and you know it well, or if you need to play it three or four times more. Another way to practice is to focus on the second half of the song first, perhaps even the very last bars. If you practice backward like that, you will feel that the song gets easier and easier when you, later on, play it through.
But there are a couple of other things you should think about when it comes to choosing the right time to practice. The most important practice session of the week will be the one right after your lesson. And I really mean right after. As soon as you come home after a lesson with your teacher, repeat what you have learned during the lesson. The reason for this is simple: We forget things. Try to practice a little every day or as often as you can. Do something else and get back to it later. Some mistakes are totally avoidable, though.
There may be a few musical instruments that increase in value over the years, but in general buying an expensive new instrument is not the best investment. Even though many beginners imagine themselves playing the saxophone twenty years from now, the reality is that within a few years, most will quit or practice very seldom.
Imagine if your breath still smells like garlic and you have crumbs stuck in your teeth…. When I grew up, I sometimes put an old T-shirt in the bell to dampen the sound when I practiced.
Fortunately, there are better options. Buy yourself a saxophone mute so that you can practice without worrying too much about what the neighbors can hear. There are other ways to avoid disturbing the neighbors, such as putting up foam panels on the walls or playing in a walk-in closet, but nothing is as good as a mute. I truly hope that this guide has helped answer some questions you might have as a beginner saxophonist!
Learning to play might feel overwhelming, but remember to take one thing at a time and everything will make sense after a while. Do you like the artist? Is the transcription accurate? Is it a good teaching tool? Consider writing about your experience and musical tastes. Are you a beginner who started playing last month? Do you usually like this style of music? Feel free to recommend similar pieces if you liked this piece, or alternatives if you didn't.
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Books by Willis Coggins (Author of Alto Sax Student 1)
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