If you want to play jazz and classical music, you may want to learn the alto saxophone.
However, you’re probably wondering if it’s a difficult instrument.
Here’s How Hard the Alto Saxophone is to Learn:
The alto saxophone is relatively easy to learn. Its size makes it more forgiving than the smaller soprano but easier to manage than the larger tenor and baritone saxes. Having the right gear and a method book or teacher can make learning the basics easier.
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Is the Alto Saxophone Harder Than the Tenor and Baritone Saxophone?
The alto saxophone is easier than the tenor and baritone saxophones.
Of the three, the alto saxophone is the smallest, but it’s by no means small.
However, the smaller size makes it more manageable to hold. That can make it easier for kids and smaller adults to play, but it can also be easier for taller adults or adults with large hands.
Now, the alto sax can be more difficult regarding the embouchure.
It requires a firmer embouchure than the larger saxophones, so you may need to work on forming your lips to get a good sound.
Is the Alto Saxophone a Good Instrument for Beginners?
The alto saxophone can be an excellent instrument for beginners.
It’s relatively easy to start compared to other saxophones and wind instruments.
Blowing into the mouthpiece will take a bit of practice but not too much. You can usually get a sound after a few minutes of figuring out how to form an embouchure.
Meanwhile, the fingering system is pretty easy to understand since you open a key to raise the pitch and close a key to lower it.
After you review the mechanism set up, you can figure out more fingerings.
Is It Better to Start Out on an Alto or Tenor Saxophone?
The alto saxophone is generally a better starting instrument, especially for kids and shorter or smaller adults.
It’s easier to hold than the tenor saxophone and weighs less.
Also, those factors make the alto saxophone more affordable compared to tenor saxes with similar specs. You can start on the alto sax for less money, and upgrading will also usually cost less.
However, if you’re an adult, you can also start on the tenor if you prefer.
hat’s a good option if you really enjoy jazz music or if you want to play in a band with plenty of alto saxes but no tenor saxes.
What About the Soprano Saxophone?
The soprano saxophone is an excellent instrument to play eventually.
However, it’s not a good choice for beginners, and there are a few reasons for that.
First, the soprano saxophone might be easy to hold, but it requires a firmer embouchure.
It takes time to learn how to form your lips, especially to play higher notes well, which is vital when playing the soprano sax.
Also, the soprano saxophone rarely has its own parts in a concert band or jazz band. When I have seen a soprano part, it’s usually played by an alto saxophonist doubling on the soprano.
So if you want to play in a group, you’ll also have to learn the alto or tenor sax.
How Long Does It Take to Learn to Play Alto Saxophone?
Learning to play the alto saxophone can take anywhere from about two to four years.
The specific timeline depends on how much you practice and how quickly you learn.
It can also vary based on how you define learning to play the alto sax. You could learn the basics in as little as a month, including the fingerings for the first and second octaves.
However, if you want to become proficient on the alto sax and play a difficult repertoire, it will take years.
Be sure you stick with it to see your efforts pay off.
Can You Learn to Play the Alto Saxophone by Yourself?
Learning to play the alto saxophone by yourself is possible, but it’s not for everyone.
If you find that you need external motivation, such as an upcoming lesson, you shouldn’t try to learn on your own.
However, if you can motivate yourself to practice regularly, you can teach yourself the instrument. Before you go that route, you’ll want to invest in a good saxophone method book.
That way, you can follow a set curriculum and make sure you learn new concepts in the right order. It also helps to find some video tutorials of the basics to help you get started.
Another thing that can help you learn sax by yourself is watching professionals’ videos.
Then, you can learn how to hold the instrument and try to emulate the sounds of experienced players.
How to Make Learning the Alto Saxophone Easier
If you want to learn the alto saxophone, you should give it a try.
However, it helps to have some tips you can follow to increase the chances of enjoying the process and thus wanting to continue.
As you learn the alto saxophone, try these tips to see if they make a difference for you.
Get a Good Instrument
One of the best things you can do is get a good-quality alto saxophone.
You’ll find tons of cheap saxophones online that sell for a few hundred dollars, and they’re okay.
However, a lot of those cheap saxophones won’t last very long. They also may be made in a way that can hold you back from reaching your full potential.
Instead, save up for a Yamaha or Selmer saxophone.
If you don’t have much money, you could also look for a used model from those or other reputable brands to get the quality you need to support your learning.
Take a Lesson or Two
Ideally, you’d be able to sign up for weekly private lessons that last for about 30 minutes.
That way, you can get individualized feedback and guidance from a professional.
But a lot of people are either too busy or don’t have enough money for regular lessons. In that case, try to take at least one or two lessons with a teacher.
That way, you can still get some help with the basics of playing the saxophone.
You can also learn about bad habits to avoid, but you won’t have to find time or money for a lesson every week.
Join a Community Band
Once you learn the basics and can play the first and second octaves, you should join a local music group.
Many cities have community bands or jazz bands, and some won’t require an audition.
That means you can show up and play with other saxophonists, even as a beginner. You can learn certain techniques or fingerings from the other players as well.
Another benefit of joining a band is that it offers motivation to practice each week.
Plus, unlike private lessons, you usually don’t have to pay for them unless you’re in college and join the college or university band for college credit.
Follow a Practice Schedule
Whether you join a group or not, you should set a practice schedule that you can stick to.
If you’re busy, you may only get to practice for 15 minutes a day, but that’s fine.
The important thing is that you practice consistently so that you can keep improving your skills. Your schedule could be as flexible as wanting to practice for a certain amount each day.
However, if you have a lot going on, you may need to set aside a specific window of time.
Do your best to stick to your schedule, and consider setting daily or weekly goals to help you stay on track.
Make Small Upgrades
As you learn the alto saxophone, you might find that your current instrument setup is holding you back.
Unfortunately, upgrading to an intermediate or professional saxophone can be expensive.
You can make smaller changes to your setup, such as trying a new reed. You could test reeds from different brands and of different strengths to find one you like.
Another option, if you have a bit more money, is to upgrade your mouthpiece and ligature. Combine the mouthpiece with the right reed to get a way better sound for less than the cost of a new saxophone.
The alto saxophone can be hard to learn at first, but it gets easier with practice.
Be sure you get the best student model alto sax for you, and consider taking some private lessons to start off on the right foot.