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Trumpet Vs. Saxophone? 8 Things To Know (Before Choosing)

Saxophone and trumpet are two of the most popular wind instruments today.

Choosing between them can be a tough decision, especially if you’ve never played an instrument before.

In this post, we’ll go over a few things to consider before choosing either the trumpet or saxophone:

Differences Between both Trumpet and Saxophone:

Both trumpet and saxophone require a lot of practice to learn. Even though the saxophone can be easier to make sound with, it takes a while to learn. The trumpet requires a lot of lip control and endurance. Some people find that changing notes on the saxophone is more intuitive than trumpet as well.

Is the Trumpet or the Saxophone Easier to Play?

For most people, the saxophone will be easier to play at first.

To make a sound on the trumpet, you have to buzz your lips together while blowing into a small mouthpiece. Compared to the sax, this requires a lot of lip control and endurance.

On the other hand, the saxophone doesn’t require as much facial manipulation to play. Correctly set the mouthpiece in your mouth, then blow a steady stream of air to make a sound.

Some people might also find changing notes on the saxophone to be more intuitive. For the most part, pressing down certain fingerings will always result in playing that specific note.

A trumpet, again, requires much more lip manipulation and control to change the pitch.

Both instruments require a fair amount of practice to learn. Even though the saxophone can be easier to make sound with, it can take some time to learn to play it in tune or with good intonation.

If you decide to learn the saxophone, it’s best to start on the alto or tenor. They’re much more common and beginner-friendly. Soprano and baritone saxophones are more specialized instruments and require more control to play.

Which of the Two Instruments is More Popular?

Generally speaking, the trumpet is more popular than the saxophone.

Trumpets have been around in some form or another for hundreds of years. Historically they were used to signal others in battles or while hunting. Then, they were a key instrument in the development of the symphony orchestra.

Today, trumpets are most commonly used in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, but they can also be heard in almost any other musical genre like pop, rock, Latin, funk, and more.

The saxophone has only been around since the 1840s, making it a relatively new musical instrument. So it hasn’t seen as much wide use as the trumpet.

Saxes are commonly found playing in jazz, rock, pop, and other contemporary genres. And while they’re common to see in school concert bands, the rest of the classical music world hasn’t fully embraced them.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Each Instrument?

You can get to a basic playing level within a few months on either trumpet or sax, but learning an instrument is like learning any other skill.

It won’t come to you overnight and takes some amount of practice.

Regardless of which instrument you pick, here are some tips to help you practice the trumpet or saxophone:

  • Set goals. Learning trumpet or sax can start to feel like a chore if you don’t have something you’re working towards. Set goals to learn your favorite songs or challenge yourself to learn different scales or patterns.
  • Find a good place to practice. This can be a practice room, your bedroom, an office, or anywhere else as long as your environment encourages practicing and is free of distractions.  
  • Set a practice schedule. Nothing is more powerful than a routine. Find a dedicated time to practice your instrument, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
  • Get a teacher. Having a private music teacher can do wonders. They can help identify issues with your playing and be a source of encouragement as you get going on your musical journey.
  • Write notes on your music. This can help you remember important things while you’re playing, like fingerings or other techniques. You can also use a notebook to write thoughts down as you’re playing.
  • Record yourself. There’s nothing more eye-opening than hearing yourself play. It exposes you to quirks and mistakes you might not hear otherwise. Use your smartphone or a recording device.

What About the Price Differences?

Trumpets are generally less expensive than saxophones.

This is because saxophones are bigger and have a lot more moving parts. They’re also harder to build and maintain, which contributes to their higher price tag.

For example: As of this writing, the Jean-Paul student trumpet costs about $199, while the student alto sax from the same manufacturer costs around $500.

Prices will vary depending on what kind of trumpet or sax you get. Beginner-level instruments like those mentioned above only cost a few hundred dollars. Still, if you want to shoot high and get a professional-level instrument, they can cost thousands of dollars.

Different members of the saxophone family will also have different price tags. Alto and tenor saxes will often have similar prices, but sopranos and baritones will often cost more because of their unique sizes and specialized nature.

8 Tips to Help you Choose Between Trumpet and Saxophone

Here are some extra tips to help you decide which instrument to play:

1. Try Playing Both:

You don’t have to know how to play the instrument to make a sound on it.

If you get a chance, try each instrument first before making a decision.

You might be surprised by which one you actually like.

2. Set a Budget:

Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on an instrument.

Different brands and models will come at different price points. If you’re on a tight budget, an inexpensive beginner trumpet might be best.

If you want to save a little extra money, consider getting a used instrument. Both trumpets and saxophones will be cheaper used.

See what used trumpets and saxophones are in your area.

3. Think About What Kind of Music you Like:

Think about what music you like and which one makes more sense for what you want to play.

Do you want to learn a cool sax solo you’ve heard?

Do you want to play along with soundtracks from your favorite movies?

Depending on your answer, the choice of instrument will change.

4. Think of Where You See Yourself Playing:

Do you see yourself joining a community band?

Or an orchestra? How about playing gigs in a bar? In a street band? A church?

Different performing groups are better suited for trumpet or saxophone. If there’s a band or orchestra you want to join, find out which instrument they use more of.

Or, if you’re thinking about starting your own group, think of which one you see yourself playing more.

5. See How Much Time You Have:

Learning an instrument is a serious time commitment.

Like we mentioned, saxophone might be easier for most beginners.

So it can take less time for you to learn than the trumpet.

6. Consider your Living Situation:

Do you share a house with lots of other people?

Or do you have an apartment with shared walls? Trumpet might not be the best choice.

Trumpets can be very loud and bother neighbors on the other side of your wall, while saxophones can be a bit quieter and forgiving than the trumpet.

If you live in the middle of nowhere or have a basement you can practice away from others, feel free to choose either instrument!

7. How Much Space Do You Have?

Building on your living situation, think about how much space you actually have.

Saxophones (especially tenor and baritone) are quite large and take up more space than other instruments.

The trumpet, by comparison, is smaller and more compact than the saxophone, so it takes up less room.

8. Consider Your Physical Limitations:

Trumpets and saxophones each have different physical demands to play.

Buzzing your lips to play trumpet or lifting a heavy saxophone might be harder for some people than others.

Figure out which one suits you best.

Final Thoughts

It’s up to you to decide which instrument you want to play.

The saxophone may be less demanding, but the trumpet has a long history and great music to go with it.

Pick the one that excites you the most, and you’re more likely to stick with it.