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Learn to Play the Saxophone: A Beginner's How To Guide

Updated on July 30, 2012

For those of you who have seen my bio, you know that I am a saxophone player. I have been playing for about 10 years now and I’m continuously trying to improve and learn new things that will make me better. I primarily play the Tenor, but have played others as well. In this hub, I will go over things that beginners or people looking to start learning the instrument will need to know.

A Little History...

First off, the Saxophone is one of the most beautiful instruments out there. Of course I am a little biased, but it has the potential to produce the most horrid and the most gorgeous, dark tone. It is one of the newest instruments, first manufactured in the 1800’s as opposed to most other instruments that have evolved over time. For example, the trumpet evolved from bugles and other “bell-front” instruments of the time. Let’s take a look at how to buy or rent a saxophone.

Where Can I Get a Saxophone???

Purchasing a sax, or any instrument for that matter, can be a little pricy and sometimes a bit of a risk. Nonetheless, once you find what you love, it can be extremely rewarding. When you buy or rent a sax do your homework on different shops and dealers. If there’s a music shop around your city, research them and see the reviews that others have given the place. If after you research and it seems like a legitimate place, go in and try some Saxes out until you find the one that fits you best.

Putting It All Together

I've bought/rented the dang thing, now how do I set it up?! Okay, first things first. Let’s learn the different parts of the saxophone. The biggest part in the case is known as the body of the sax. It contains the keys, pads, springs, screws and all the other tiny things used to put it together. Next is the neck. This is the part that forms an “L” sort of shape with a cork on the end. Connected to the end of the neck is the mouthpiece. On the mouthpiece are a ligature and a reed, which allows the saxophone to produce sound. Before you place the reed and ligature onto the mouthpiece, you need to moisten the reed really well. In order to do so, place the reed in your mouth to moisten in really well. The saxophone will not make a sound with a dry reed. When you place the reed on the mouthpiece, it should sit to where it is flush with the mouthpiece on both sides and pushed all the way to the top so that there is about a hair’s width that isn’t covered. The picture above is an example of what the final set up should look like.

When you finally get the hang of things, remember that playing the saxophone should feel natural and not FORCED. Tuck your bottom lip over your bottom teeth just a LITTLE BIT. Place the sax on top of the bottom lip in a relaxed matter. Now take your top teeth and place them on the mouthpiece. DO NOT BITE! With the corners of your mouth, bring them around the sides of the mouthpiece so that your mouth forms and “O” shape. It should be firm, yet relaxed. Now blow some air in to it! Was it a rough sound the first time? Don’t worry, it should be considering you aren't ready to control your tone and stuff first. Remember that in order to sound good, you must sound bad first. Notice how I haven’t had you put your fingers down on any keys yet? That’s because it’s important that you obtain a feeling of what it is like to even put air into the instrument. Don’t get me wrong, keep your hands on the instrument, just don’t press any keys. Here is another picture of what it looks like to hold the saxophone.

This is what your thumbs should be doing on the back of the saxophone.

Keep a Look Out!!

In hubs to come, I will gradually add more and more stuff to improve your playing. If it becomes frustrating because you aren’t happy with your sound, don’t worry. Nobody expects you to be perfect the first time you play it. It takes practice! Thanks for reading and I hope this starts you out on your musical endeavors!


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    • glassvisage profile image


      4 years ago from Northern California

      I agree, what a nice Hub, maybe it would help to add the credits to the images so you don't get in trouble! :) I played the sax in high school and loved it, especially since I started on clarinet and the transition was good.

    • Emayordomo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thanks for such the kind and genuine comment! It's okay though, because I just started off on hubpages. So hopefully I can keep getting noticed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hub pages pisses me off, cause a good hub like this should be higher, this is very influential ..i grew up playing the clarinet cause i couldn't afford any other instrument..i always wanted to play the sax and finally found they were the same ..this will really help people ...getting the breathing and note stroking right is key


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