If you want to learn an instrument, you may wonder if the saxophone is an easy option.
No instrument is easy per se, but the sax has some aspects that make it easier than other instruments.
1. Key Layout
One of the things that makes the saxophone easy to learn is the key layout.
It can be overwhelming at first because you have to use both hands to trigger keys, and the pinkies each trigger multiple keys.
However, the layout is pretty straightforward when you look at the saxophone. The more keys you close, the lower the note; the higher the note, the more you open.
That design can make it relatively easy to figure out fingering if you have yet to officially learn it. Compare that to brass instruments, which are a bit trickier to understand simply by looking at them.
You may notice a pattern with those fingerings as you learn more notes. The fingerings are the same between the first and second octaves, which is super nice.
2. Octave Key
A more specific way the keys make the saxophone easy to learn is the presence of an octave key.
It would help if you used your embouchure and air pressure on brass instruments to make higher pitches.
However, the only thing you need to do on the sax is move your left thumb to the octave key. That will open a small tone hole on the neck of your instrument, and the small hole raises the pitch an octave.
You don’t have to learn and memorize how the harmonic series works. You won’t have to worry about lip slurs or other exercises to master playing up and down in octaves.
Now, you do have to position the neck on the sax correctly so that the octave key is in the right place.
That way, it will work properly, but that’s easy enough on most instruments.
3. Less Muscle Strength
Getting a good sound on the trumpet can take a lot of work.
You must build up your lip muscles, especially if you want a good tone in the high register.
While you need some lip muscle strength for the sax, it’s much easier for a beginner. You can get a decent sound within your first week or so if you have a good mouthpiece and reed combination.
Now, getting an even better saxophone sound will take practice.
However, it will take less work than it would take to get a similar sound quality on a trumpet or another brass instrument.
The saxophone embouchure is one of the easiest of all wind instruments.
You must fold your lower lip over your teeth and place the mouthpiece between your lips at a 90-degree angle with the reed on the bottom.
Close your lips around the mouthpiece and blow to get a sound. That can be odd if you’re used to playing brass instruments, but you may find the saxophone is easier if you’re still new to brass.
When playing brass instruments, you must buzz your lips and press them against the mouthpiece in the right spot. If you compare a sax embouchure to a clarinet embouchure, it’s similar, but clarinets play at 45 degrees.
The flute and double reed embouchures are also more complicated if you’re comparing other woodwinds.
Flutes have no resistance, double reeds don’t have any mouthpiece, just two pieces of cane wrapped together.
5. Multiple Sizes
Another advantage of the saxophone is that you can choose from multiple sizes. Most beginners start on either the alto sax or the tenor sax.
The alto saxophone is better for kids, teens, and adults with smaller hands. However, the tenor can be suitable for taller beginners with larger hands.
You can learn other saxophones later; they have the same fingerings and use many of the same fundamentals. Many other instruments only come in one size that may not be the most comfortable for you.
Many serious saxophonists play more than one size, and you can make larger instruments work even with small hands. As a beginner, though, it’s nice to have the option to start on a more comfortable instrument.
6. Playing Position
How you hold a saxophone to play it is relatively easy, especially compared to the trumpet.
If you play the alto or soprano sax, you hold the instrument vertically right in front of you.
When playing the tenor or baritone sax, you hold it to the right since those saxophones are longer. Either way, these playing positions are much easier than holding a trumpet up at the right angle.
The angle of your saxophone matters a little bit but less. You’ll place your hands on either side of your saxophone with your left hand on top, even if you’re a left-handed player.
Some other instruments can be tricky to hold, from the trumpet to the flute to the violin. If you want something relatively easy, give the saxophone a try.
7. Easy to Find
When you’re a beginner, you need to get your hands on a good-quality instrument to help you learn to play.
Luckily, the saxophone is common enough that it’s pretty easy to find something.
You can usually go to a local music store and find new and used saxophones available for sale. Many music stores also offer rent-to-own programs, so you can pay off the sax over time or return it if you decide to quit.
You can also do that if you’re looking to buy a saxophone outright.
Along with music stores, you can check Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and other resale sites or buy a sax from the manufacturer.
8. Neck Strap Support
Saxophones can be heavy, especially the low saxes, like tenor and bari.
Fortunately, you can use a neck strap to take some weight off your hands.
Many bari sax players use a full harness to distribute the weight throughout their torso rather than just their neck. A baritone saxophone may even come with a floor peg to offer more support.
Having the extra support can make it easier to play the sax. For one, your hands don’t have to clutch the instrument to keep it from dropping.
Now, you may still need to support some of the weight, particularly with your right thumb. Still, it’s a lot easier to hold than, say, a tuba, where you don’t usually have any external sources of support.
9. Easy Upgrades
Most beginner saxophones are made with the understanding that you need help getting a sound.
However, the sax you buy or rent doesn’t fit your needs.
Instead of swapping it out for another model, you can make small changes. An easy option is to use a different reed; softer strength is usually enough to fix your problem if you can’t get a sound.
You can also look at reeds from other brands or get a more supportive neck strap or harness. You could get a new mouthpiece and ligature to use if you have more money.
Of course, you can upgrade other instruments similarly, such as with a new trumpet mouthpiece, but the saxophone has more options.
10. Various Materials
Beginner saxophones tend to use brass as the main material. They might have a clear lacquer, but some models have gold or silver plating, so you can choose a model with the materials you like.
Different materials can offer unique sounds, so keep that in mind as you try a sax. You can also look at mouthpieces of different materials, such as rubber or metal.
When it comes to neck straps, you can find some that also use different materials. Some neck straps are pretty basic, while others might have foam padding.
11. Smaller Range
The saxophone has a relatively small range compared to other instruments.
Beginner models tend to go up to a written F6 or F#6 and down to a Bb3, for a range of two and a half octaves.
As you advance, the small range can become difficult because you may need to learn altissimo fingerings. However, the range can benefit beginners since it’s less overwhelming.
Also, since you have an octave key, you can learn unique fingerings for all the notes. Many of them repeat with the addition of that octave key.
Depending on how fast you learn, you can learn the entire standard range of the sax within a year. Then, you can focus on learning the altissimo fingerings, but you don’t have to.
12. Alternate Fingerings
When you first learn the saxophone, you’ll learn basic fingerings.
However, the more you advance, the more you’ll need to play fast, technical passages that can be tricky.
Fortunately, the saxophone has many alternate fingerings that you can use.
The most common is the three fingerings for written Bb or A#. You can play that fingering with the first two fingers of your left hand and one of the right-hand side keys.
But there’s also a special key on the left hand that can help you play that note. Another option is to use the first finger of your left hand and the first finger of your right hand.
Some passages make regular fingerings nearly impossible, and alternate fingerings come in handy. You don’t get that option on many other instruments.
13. Classical and Jazz
The saxophone fits right in with both classical and jazz music.
Now, it’s not a standard orchestra member, but some pieces call for it.
You’ll be able to play classical music as a soloist or in a saxophone quartet. The bari sax is also a good alternative to the cello or bassoon when playing continuo parts in Baroque music, but you’ll have to transpose the music.
Of course, many people think of jazz when they think of the saxophone. Alto, tenor, and baritone are all part of a classic big band, and you can play the sax in smaller combos.
If you like all kinds of music, the saxophone is great. You can learn classical and jazz solos and even play solos from famous pop and rock songs on the instrument.