We’ve compiled a short collection of tips for the beginning saxophonist (someone with two years or less of experience). If you feel anything is missing from this article, please feel free to let us know in the comments! You can also read our tips for the advanced saxophonist here.
What should you have in your case?
Your saxophone (I know this sounds obvious, but I have known kids that forget parts of their saxophone at home or brought the wrong saxophone case and the sax was in the other case back at their house), your saxophone neck, a mouthpiece, a ligature, your ligature/mouthpiece cap, a neck strap, and 2.5 or size 3 reeds. Make sure that you keep several GOOD reeds in your case. It is extremely frustrating for a band director when you break your only reed.
I also recommend that you keep a cleaning cloth in your case, something to store your reeds in (the plastic protectors they come in should be sufficient, just remember to put them back in after you play), powder paper or a dollar bill to fix sticky pads, and something to dry out the inside of your neck and mouthpiece after you are done using them. I also keep electric tape in my sax case for quick fixes and to put on the top of my mouthpiece to make it more comfortable for my teeth instead of buying the little plastic stickers.
When you play, you should sit up straight and play with your sax between your legs unless you play tenor or bari, then you should play with your sax off to right of your legs for support.
This also can depend on your height – if the alto is between your legs and your right wrist touches or is below your leg, you need to play off to the side until you grow a bit more!
Some things you should research and start to learn:
Learn your major and minor scales at least one octave, two if you’re ambitious. You should learn what the circle of fourths or fifths is (especially if you want to play jazz). It will help you learn key signatures as well.
You should be able to read music, understand basic rhythms, and know the proper way to tongue (or at least be on the way to doing so). Tonguing is a real issue with young players because they either do not know how to tongue and attack using just air, or they tongue too hard.
You should be able to recognize that your saxophone is in Eb if you play alto or bari, and Bb if you play tenor or soprano. Once you’ve been playing a year or two, you should also begin to learn how to transpose from concert pitch to the key of your instrument and vice versa.
Research Adolf Sax, the man who invented the saxophone. Learn about and recognize names of famous sax players such as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane. You should explore different types of music that feature the saxophone (jazz, blues, fusion, and even some pop). Listen to at least one jazz station or classical station occasionally if not regularly. You should also begin listening to professional saxophone players so that you can eventually try to emulate what they play and sound like. In addition, you should be able to recognize names of other important musicians such as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.