Years ago a thread on the forum portion of this site prompted me to write an article for my website. It seems only fitting that since we now have a magazine-style article section for the Woodwind Forum, that I update and republish it here.
What prompted my original article was a player who very recently got his very first saxophone, and already had a tonal concept. He turned to members of the WF looking for gear advice to help him achieve his desired sound.
While I think having a tonal concept when first starting out is great, and shows a level of maturity, it can also be an impediment to learning the basics of playing saxophone. Because let’s face it, to use a hackneyed expression: We all had to learn to walk, before we could run.
In an effort to help this player wade through the well-intentioned advice he was getting, I put together a list of what a new player just starting out should do. Think of it as best practices to ensure the greatest success and enjoyment from your saxophone learning experience. Wow, wasn’t that a mouthful? How about this instead:
6 Steps To Help You Get Started On Sax The Right Way
1.Get a decent mouthpiece.
A Rico Graftonite or Yamaha 4C or 5C will do nicely.
2. Get some decent 2 or 2.5 reeds.
Rico orange box are OK for the job.
3. Have your horn checked over to make sure that it isn’t leaking, or doesn’t need anything else.
Even new horns need to be set up when you first get them. This is especially true if you get it through an online source. Get it fixed up if necessary after your tech tells you what it needs. Nothing is harder to learn on than a horn that is leaking, or needs some other small work. That small thing can lead to hours of frustration.
4. Take some lessons with a good teacher to help get you going; to make sure that you don’t develop any bad habits; and to correct the ones you have developed, before they become too ingrained.
Even if you can’t afford to take weekly lessons, take some regular—every 2 or 3 weeks—lessons to begin with. They will pay off big time in the future!
5. Be patient with yourself.
This is an endurance race, not a sprint. It will take time to play the saxophone like the pros you hear. They’ve been playing a lifetime to sound like they do.
6. Recognize that sometimes what you hear on recordings is also added in the studio, and a player’s real sound is different from what you hear.
Processing and effects can do a lot to alter a saxophone’s sound.
I am writing these tips from nearly 30 years of playing, and 20 years of teaching experience. I’m not just pulling them out of my you know what.
Yes I know that there are lots of different reeds and mouthpieces out there, and lots of people will have different ideas. I’m providing the information that I do to my students. It is informed from my own personal experience, and has worked well for my students over the years.
It is way too easy to overload new players with way too much info. That happens on forums all the time. The trick is to bring it down to the basics, which is what I’ve done with these 6 steps to make it easier for you to get started on sax the right way.