More often than not, first-time saxophonists have some experience playing the clarinet. In most band classrooms, students must first learn the clarinet before they can switch to saxophone. This is because the fundamentals of playing a single-reed instrument are stricter while playing the clarinet, as with the saxophone one can (and should) be looser with those guidelines to achieve a good sound. Whether your student has clarinet experience or is interested in beginning their musical journey with the saxophone, here are some things to keep in mind when considering if your student is ready for saxophone lessons in Seattle:
No Tone Holes
For young students interested in the clarinet, the biggest bar to their ability to play it is the tone holes on the instrument and whether a student’s hands are big enough to cover them. With the saxophone, that is not a concern at all! The saxophone has keys that are easy to press and do not require complete coverage by one’s fingers.
This one tends to be more obvious, but it is very important to consider when deciding on any instrument to learn: the saxophone is bigger than most woodwind instruments, and some students are not big enough to comfortably and properly hold it for their prospective saxophone lessons in Seattle. Here are three reasons why:
Their fingers must be able to individually reach slightly farther than a clarinet. For reference, I recommend that students do not begin learning the clarinet until ages 10-11 – which is the same recommendation I offer for young prospective saxophonists.
Saxophones require a neck strap, which connects at the back of the saxophone and relies on one’s neck strength to hold the instrument in place. It can be challenging for some students to maintain proper posture if they are struggling to even hold up the weight of the instrument. It is an easy temptation to slouch with this extra weight. If you feel that they will constantly be fighting this, your student may not be ready.
Saxophones are quite long compared to some other instruments. If your student is on the short side, they might have difficulties holding up the instrument properly. This is due to the fact that the instrument will be off to one’s right side when playing.
Price should always be considered when deciding on whether you and your family are ready to start on any new instrument. Thankfully, student instruments tend to be all-around affordable. Compared to other wind instruments, saxophones tend to be around the middle to high end of the price spectrum.
There are a lot of keys, rods, and other contraptions on all varieties of saxophone that stick out and are easy to accidentally break. As with any other instrument, each one of these bits has significant importance. Depending on which part gets broken, it may even be impossible to make any sound on the instrument. Be sure to impart unto your student the importance of taking care of the instrument, being careful to not bump it against the legs of the chair (this one is easy, as part of the instrument hangs next to their chair) and to slowly assemble/disassemble it every time they play it. As mentioned above, your saxophone was not cheap! Be sure to make sure your student understands that they need to take extra special care of the instrument. This also includes swabbing the instrument for moisture after every single usage!
Saxophones come in a wide variety of sizes, and generally students start with an alto or tenor saxophone. Alto and tenor saxophones have different functions in band, particularly due to the fact that the tenor plays lower than alto, as it is larger. Sometimes, a student as young as 9 may be able to comfortably hold an alto saxophone! This is not often the case, but I have seen it before.
Learning the saxophone is awesome! But considering all of the above factors, I generally advise that students be at least 10-11 years old. If you feel that your student meets all of the recommendations I’ve offered, even if they are younger than the recommended age, then they are likely ready to enroll in lessons with a Seattle saxophone teacher.
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By Brian Schappals