How to Choose a Beginner’s Saxophone

Since its invention by the Belgian Adolphe Sax in 1840, the saxophone has become one of the most famous wind instruments in both pop and jazz. The sound of the sax is what helped shaped and define the sounds of early rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s still a common sound in nightclubs and symphony halls alike. With such enormous versatility from this instrument, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular choice for people looking to take up a new hobby. But with such versatility comes a range of different instruments – how do you know which one is right for you as a beginner? We’re here today to give you a quick overview of the different saxophones from highest to lowest, and which is the easiest to start on.

Soprano

This straight looking saxophone is the smallest and generally cheapest saxophone you can buy, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is for beginners. While all saxophones have the same fingering system and key layout, the small size and high pitched tone of a soprano sax makes it more difficult for beginners to get any sound out of them. Achieving good tone and intonation is usually harder for those starting out on this sax. That being said, the soprano will offer a rich, full sound tuned to Bb, making it great for orchestras and concert bands alike.

Alto

Tuned to Eb, two and a half steps below the soprano and two and a half steps above the tenor, the alto is by far the most common starter sax in the family. The key layout is a little more compact, and it requires a little less air to get a good sound, making it the most popular among new players. It’s also relatively cheap compared to the bigger, deeper saxes, and there’s a fantastic wealth of classical music for new players to learn from available for the alto sax.

Tenor

Associated mostly with jazz players, the tenor sax is tuned to Bb and features the iconic curved body most people picture when they think of the instrument. The tenor sax isn’t as heavy as bass or baritone saxes, making them the second most popular choice for new students, but with the large curve, it’s still quite susceptible to knocks and bumps if you don’t have a high quality gig bag.

Bass and Baritone

One octave below the tenor at Bb, the bass sax is a large, deep bass which is almost always played sitting down. These are less common in pop and jazz music because of the depth of tone, but are still commonplace in orchestra halls.

Unlike the bass, the baritone sax is more commonplace in jazz and pop, while still enjoying a place in the orchestra due to their honking, deep and distinct sounds. Tuned to Eb, two and a half steps higher than a bass. These are often played standing up, with saxists using a shoulder strap to hold the instrument stay in place.

With all this in mind, it’s likely that you’ll go for an alto or tenor sax as your first choice. Because knocks and bumps can greatly affect the sound your sax produces, it’s very important you invest in a high quality gig bag which is light enough that you can transport it with ease, but sturdy enough to ensure that your sax is in the safest hands. We stock a wide variety of gig bags perfect for both students and professional saxists alike, so visit our woodwind bag section today and see if we can’t help you.

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