Learning the Saxophone
This article was written using information supplied by Lorraine at Theme Music UK.
What is a Good Age to Learn the Saxophone?
The most popular sax is the alto sax, and because of its size and weight we would recommend age 10 upwards but that would depend on the size of the child.
What Type of Saxophone is Best for a Child?
The most popular type is the alto sax with its distinctive 'horn' shape and the most common for children to learn on. There is also the soprano sax - which is in a higher register, is smaller but arguably more difficult to learn, and the tenor sax which is in a lower register, is larger that the alto and therefore heavier and less suitable. There are other Saxes too such as baritone and bass which are very large, expensive and unsuitable for younger children.
What Makes of Saxophone Would You Recommend?
We recommend Selmer Conn, Elkhart and Yamaha for rental or purchase.
How Much is a Good Quality Starter Saxophone?
A good student model will cost from £ 299 upwards for an alto. The Selmer Conn student models are excellent value with exceptional playability and tone for that price range.
What Key Features Should You Look Out For?
We aware that some of the cheaper instruments do not stay in tune well - however it is possible to buy an entry-level sax such as the Selmer Conn which keeps tune well and has a good tone. Be selective.
Should You Buy Second Hand?
We would strongly advise you to avoid buying second hand unless you know about saxophones. What may seem like a great deal and only need a 'minor' repair can often cost three times as much to put right as the purchase price! Saxophones are not cheap to service and repair, so we would recommend you purchase new under warranty or rent a new instrument with the option to buy.
What Accessories Do You Need?
You will need a sling, reeds and corkgrease.
Is There On Going Maintenance Needed?
It is important to keep the mouthpiece clean, corks greased and reeds should be stored properly to prevent damage.
What is a Good Book For Someone Starting Out?
We would not recommend a child to attempt to learn without a tutor, however two particularly good books are "A Tune a Day" and "Abracadabra".
How Much Are Lessons?
A 30-minute one to one lesson at an in house music school will be between £13 to £17. A home lesson where a teacher travels to your home will cost between £18 and £22 for 30 minutes. An important point to note is that home tuition can be a really convenient option if you have more than one child, as many teachers will teach more than one instrument. Many of our teachers teach multi instruments such a sax and clarinet or sax and piano etc.
How Do You Spot a Good Teacher?
A Masters Degree from the Royal College of Music does not make that person great at communicating with kids, whilst some of the greatest and most enthusiastic teachers with proven results have been self taught. We would recommend you use a reputable music school or music agency who can offer you a selection of teachers, or ask your friends for a recommendation as that is usually to best way to source a really good teacher.
How Many Hours of Practice Are Suggested?
A child should love to play so it is not a good idea to force them to practice 40 minutes a day as this can have a negative effect. To start, just 10 to 15 minutes a day is fine, and build up from there. It is better to do just 10 minutes a day than 60 minutes once a week!
How Long Does It Take For a Child To Get Up And Running?
I would hope that a child would be ready to take ABRSM grade one within 2 years as a maximum, although we have had some students achieve this in a few months! Everyone's learning rate differs greatly.
What Are The Key Saxophone Exams?
The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) offer accredited graded examinations in sax. They offer grades 1 to 8 for the traditional syllabus and grades 1 to 5 for the jazz syllabus (which is harder and involves improvisation.)
What Tips Can You Offer?
Make sure that your child wants to study this instrument - it's their choice (i.e. they may really only want to play drums!) Find a teacher who is fun and stimulating who can mentor your child to achieve good results. Above all they must really enjoy the learning process whether it's for exams or for fun, and the teaching programme should be tailored to suit each individual student - after all we are all different!