If you want to join a jazz band, the tenor saxophone is a great instrument.
However, it’s not easy to learn, especially for beginners.
Here’s how Hard the Tenor Saxophone is to Learn:
The tenor saxophone is hard to learn, thanks to its size. You need to use a lot of pressure to move the air through the body and form a nice, firm embouchure. The size also makes it tricky for younger beginners to hold comfortably.
Is the Tenor Saxophone Harder Than the Alto or Baritone?
The tenor saxophone is a bit harder than the alto saxophone due to its larger size.
You need to use more air to get a better sound out of a tenor than an alto.
Its size can also make it more difficult to hold, even when you use a neck strap to offset the weight. However, those features also make the tenor slightly easier than the baritone saxophone.
The baritone saxophone weighs more than the tenor and requires even more air for you to play it well.
Almost all saxophone players switch to the bari after playing the alto and/or tenor for a year or more.
As you advance, you may find the order of difficulty reverses. Generally, the baritone sax plays the bass line, which tends to be easier than the alto sax melody and even the tenor sax harmony or countermelody.
Is the Tenor Saxophone a Good Instrument for Beginners?
The tenor saxophone isn’t ideal for beginners, especially kids. The instrument is just a bit too big for kids to play unless the kid in question is naturally quite tall.
However, adults wanting to learn the saxophone may have an easier time learning on the tenor. You’re tall enough and have large enough hands to comfortably hold and play the tenor saxophone.
Adults and older teens might also be better at managing their airstream.
You need to be very good at that if you want to get a nice sound throughout the range of the tenor saxophone.
Is It Better to Start Out on an Alto or Tenor Saxophone?
For most beginners, the alto saxophone is the better instrument to learn, at least for now.
First, it’s smaller, so easier to hold and carry when going to lessons or rehearsals.
The size also makes the alto sax easier to get a sound out of since you won’t need to push your air through as much tubing as if you played the tenor saxophone.
Alto saxophones are also almost always cheaper than tenor saxophones with similar specs.
You may want to start on the alto even if you’re an adult and can hold a tenor saxophone. Then, you can learn the basics of the instrument.
After you learn the fingerings and how to form a good embouchure, switching to the tenor saxophone is quick and easy.
What About the Soprano Saxophone?
The soprano saxophone is the smallest of the four most common saxophone sizes. Because of that, it can be easy to think it would be the easiest to play for beginners.
Unfortunately, the small size requires a more focused airstream and embouchure. It’s not as forgiving as the alto or even the tenor saxophone.
You’re better off learning one or both of those other saxophone sizes first. If you like playing the higher notes, you can add a soprano saxophone later.
How Long Does It Take to Learn to Play Tenor Saxophone?
The time it takes to learn to play the tenor saxophone depends on a few factors.
In general, you can expect to practice for at least two to four years to reach an intermediate or advanced level of playing.
However, one thing that can affect the timeline is how much you practice each day. The more you practice, the faster you can expect to advance.
Now, that only applies if you practice using good practice techniques. If you practice too much, particularly as a beginner, you could lead to a repetitive stress injury, such as tendonitis.
The injury could keep you from playing, derailing your ability to improve.
Can You Learn to Play the Tenor Saxophone by Yourself?
You can learn to play the tenor saxophone by yourself.
If you want to do so, you should invest in some beginner tenor saxophone method books, such as the Rubank Method.
Good method books will have a structure with progressively more difficult lessons. The lessons will help you learn when to learn what so that you don’t miss any important techniques or notes.
You should also look up video tutorials online to teach yourself the tenor saxophone.
The right videos can teach you how to assemble your saxophone without damaging it and how to hold it while you play, among other things.
Now, none of these tips will be as effective if you’re not self-motivated. You need to be willing to set aside the time to go through a method book and watch videos to actually learn the tenor sax.
How to Make Learning the Tenor Saxophone Easier
Learning to play the tenor saxophone can be very fulfilling, even if you never plan to make it a career.
However, learning the instrument takes time, and it’s not easy.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to make the process a bit easier. Consider the following tips to increase the chances of learning to play the tenor sax well.
Try the Alto Saxophone First
One of the best things you can do, especially if you’re younger or shorter, is to learn the alto saxophone.
As mentioned, it’s smaller, easier to hold, and more affordable.
You can learn a lot of the alto saxophone basics, from how to read music to the fingerings for each of the notes. All of the saxophones use the same fingerings for the same written notes, regardless of the range.
Once you get a little older and have a growth spurt, you can try the tenor saxophone. If you’re an adult and are simply just short, you can use the alto to build some endurance before switching to the tenor.
Use a Suitable Model
Whether you start on the tenor saxophone or switch to it, you need a good instrument and accessories.
You can find a lot of cheap tenor saxophones online, but avoid the temptation to buy any of them.
Instead, save up for a model from a reputable brand, such as Yamaha or Selmer. If you can’t afford a new one, you could look at the used market and save a lot of money that way.
Another option is to go through a local music store’s rental program.
Many music stores offer a rent-to-own program where you can return the sax if you don’t like it or pay it off after a few years of rental payments.
Find a Private Teacher
You can learn the tenor saxophone by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should.
If you have the time and money, consider taking private lessons with a teacher.
A teacher can review your playing and help you correct any bad habits or other mistakes. They can also check on your saxophone to see if mechanical issues are holding you back.
If you can’t afford ongoing lessons, at least take a lesson every so often. That way, you can still receive personalized guidance, but you don’t have to break the bank.
Play With Others
Maybe you can’t afford to take lessons, but you do know other people who play some sort of saxophone.
Ask if you can form a group where you play together once a week.
You can meet up with the other players and jam using a random key. Another option is finding saxophone ensemble music that you and your friends can read through.
When you play with others, you can learn from people who are better than you. That way, you can get some tips to improve without having to shell out a ton of money for lessons.
No matter what else you do, you need to practice the tenor saxophone regularly.
You don’t have to practice for multiple hours per day, and you shouldn’t do that as a beginner.
However, try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes per day for practicing. When you practice a little bit each day, you can learn more new techniques more quickly.
Then, you can implement what you learn into any solos or ensemble parts that you need to learn.
You can increase your practice time to learn even more as you advance.
The tenor saxophone can be an easy instrument to learn.
However, it’s more difficult than the smaller alto saxophone, which is a better choice for most beginners.
You can always transition to the tenor sax later.