If you love the sound of the bass line or other low parts, you may want to learn the baritone saxophone.
However, it’s not the easiest instrument out there:
Here’s How Hard it is to Learn the Baritone Saxophone:
The baritone saxophone is hard for beginners, and most teachers recommend against it. However, learning the instrument is significantly easier if you have experience on the alto or tenor sax.
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Is the Baritone Saxophone Harder Than the Alto, Tenor, and Soprano Saxophones?
The baritone saxophone is harder than all of the other main members of the saxophone family.
It’s larger than the other saxophones, requiring more air to produce a sound.
Many bari saxes even have a low A key, making the tubing longer. Plus, the larger design can require you to stretch your hands a bit to reach some of the keys.
Due to the increased weight, you also have to work harder to hold the saxophone.
It’s not uncommon for baritone sax players to wear a harness rather than just a neck strap to distribute the weight across your torso.
While each saxophone has aspects that make it difficult, the baritone is quite hard to play. Sure, you may get some sound out easily, but improving your playing on the larger instrument will take work.
Is the Baritone Saxophone a Good Instrument for Beginners?
The baritone saxophone is not a good instrument for absolute beginners.
You should start on either the alto or maybe the tenor saxophone if you’re an adult or a teen.
Bari saxes are too big for kids to handle, and some may not even be tall enough to reach the mouthpiece when playing.
The instrument is about three and a half feet tall, and you usually play it sitting down.
Some shorter adults may struggle to reach the mouthpiece without holding the sax at an awkward angle.
Combine that with how much air you need to get a good sound, and you should play other saxophones first.
Is It Better to Start Out on a Smaller Saxophone?
It’s much better to start on a smaller saxophone and transition to the baritone later.
However, you don’t want to choose too small of a saxophone because that can also be difficult.
The soprano saxophone requires a firmer, smaller embouchure, which can be difficult for beginners. While it’s a bit larger, the alto saxophone is still a decent size for most beginners.
Younger kids may want to spend a year or two playing the clarinet before switching to the saxophone.
When you’re big enough to hold the alto sax, you can start to learn it, and it will be easier for you to hold and get a sound on.
How Long Does It Take to Learn to Play the Baritone Saxophone?
The time it will take for you to learn to play the baritone saxophone depends on how much prior experience you have.
If you’ve played the alto or tenor sax for many years, you should be able to pick up the bari pretty quickly.
I was able to get a decent sound on the bari saxophone the first day I got it. But I’d started playing the saxophone over a decade before I got to try the instrument.
You’ll probably need to practice for a few weeks before you can play anything fast. While the fingerings are all the same, you have to get used to the larger mechanism and how to move your fingers.
Of course, you also need to consider how much time you can practice per day.
If you can practice for an hour or two, you’ll improve much faster than someone with only 20 minutes of daily practice time.
Can You Learn to Play the Baritone Saxophone by Yourself?
Some people can learn to play the baritone saxophone on their own.
The people who will be most successful taking this route are people who’ve played other saxophones for a while and have taken private lessons on those other instruments.
You can easily transfer many basic techniques between saxophones, such as fingerings and how to breathe.
As long as you know those things and haven’t developed bad habits, you should take to the bari sax.
However, maybe you haven’t had private lessons on the alto or tenor saxophone. If you’ve only ever learned stuff in a band class, you might not have as solid of a foundation.
Since the bari sax is so large and requires more air, I’d suggest taking a few private lessons. Then, you can make sure you’re not making any silly mistakes.
How to Make Learning the Baritone Saxophone Easier
The baritone saxophone may be difficult at first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you want to play a bass line in an ensemble, you should learn this instrument.
Luckily, you can do a few things to help learn the bari sax and play it well.
Master the Alto or Tenor
Most beginners should learn the alto saxophone first due to the size.
However, if you’re an adult and love the lower sound, you can start on the tenor.
Both instruments have plenty of beginner method books available to help you learn the first few notes. You can take private lessons or join a beginner band class to learn as a group.
Alto and tenor saxes are more affordable and easier to find available for rent. That way, you don’t have to spend thousands on an instrument you may quit soon.
After a year or so of playing either saxophone, you should have the basics down.
At that point, you’ll know if you like playing the saxophone, and if so, you can start to learn the baritone.
Obtain a Bari Sax
When you’re ready to learn to play the baritone sax, you’ll need to look for an instrument.
Sadly, not many music stores have these saxophones available for rent.
You can look on the used market to save a bit of money, or you can buy a new one. If you’re in a school group, you might even be able to borrow a bari sax.
Regardless of how you get an instrument, make sure it’s from a reputable brand, like Yamaha, Selmer, or Jupiter.
You can find a lot of cheaper models online, but they have a tendency to break, and they can hold you back from your best sound.
Use a Chair
When playing other saxophones as a soloist or practicing at home, it’s common to stand.
However, many bari sax players sit, even when they aren’t playing in a group.
The instrument is so large and heavy, that holding it while you stand can make it harder to play. When you sit, you can rest the saxophone on a floor peg to help with some of the weight.
Make sure you use a chair without any armrests so that the instrument can sit on the right side of the chair. Then, you can focus more on breathing and getting the right fingerings as you practice.
Do Some Breathing Exercises
I’d also recommend practicing some breathing exercises with and without your baritone sax.
You can practice exercises like the 4-7-8 exercise where you inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.
Another option is to turn on a metronome and take a big breath. Try to breathe out as slowly as possible, and count how many beats your breath lasts. Then, you can work to increase the time each day.
Apply that exercise to your saxophone with long tones.
Play a B in the middle of the staff and note how long you can hold it before needing a breath, then work on extending the length of that note.
Practice in Short Bursts
The bari sax requires a lot of work to play, and you may not have much stamina yet.
At least for a while, keep your practice sessions to about 10 to 20 minutes at most.
You can practice multiple times per day, but give yourself breaks in between. That way, you can keep from getting lightheaded from all of the air you have to use to play.
Breaks will also give you the chance to stand up, walk around, and stretch to loosen any tense muscles.
Don’t be afraid to stop before you planned, especially if you’re in pain because over-practicing could do more harm than good.
The baritone saxophone is a beast, and it can be hard to play at first. ‘
Fortunately, you can learn the instrument after starting on the alto or tenor sax.
If you know the basics, switching to the larger saxophone won’t take that much time.