Mastering the Basics: How to Play the Saxophone for Beginners

words Al Woods

Saxophone tips Beginners

Image by ANTONY WARMBOLD from Pixabay 

If you’ve ever loved to learn how to play the saxophone, it’s never too late to start!

The saxophone is an incredibly versatile and soulful instrument that provides a unique sound in any ensemble or solo performance. Many aspiring musicians want to learn how to master this iconic instrument with beginner saxophone songs. But how to begin?

Whether you play tenor, soprano, or alto sax, we’ve listed top tips to make sure that sound coming out of the horn is smooth and sweet!

Is Saxophone Playing a Tough Skill to Learn?

Playing a musical instrument requires a great deal of skill and dedication. This is probably true when it comes to learning the saxophone.

The saxophone may look complicated, but it’s relatively easy to play. Essentially, the long brass tube has keys along the outside that control the pitch of a sound. The actual sound production comes from a combination of breath and reed on each mouthpiece. 

Saxophone playing takes practice; well, most instruments do. It can take years to refine this skill alone, so it’s no surprise that the sax isn’t always easy for everyone to learn. However, with dedication comes progress!

Tips for Learning to Play the Saxophone as a Beginner

Ready to get started on your saxophone journey? Here are some tips for success:

Select a quality instrument and equipment

If you’re excited to learn how to play the saxophone, invest in quality equipment. While cheaper options are available, they tend not to provide as great an experience and may impede your progress. So if budget is a concern for you upfront, consider purchasing a used instrument from a name brand trusted by professionals instead of settling for lower-quality value brands or cheap new models on sale.

Knowing which type of Saxophone fits best with what kind of song can help narrow down your research when shopping around:

  • Tenor saxophone – Beginners who prefer the sound of jazz or rock and roll genres;
  • Alto saxophone – Beginners wanting smaller sizes;
  • Soprano saxophone – Offer classical/jazz musicality but require stronger skill levels than beginner saxophone players have; lastly
  • Baritone saxophone – The largest should be obtained after some practice playing other wind instruments.

Prices largely depend upon model variations, so always shop around wisely before making any decisions!

Get into the right playing position

As with any instrument, learning the proper way to hold and play the sax is essential for achieving a good sound. Here’s how to get into the right playing position and start being a complete beginner.

Holding the saxophone correctly

The most important thing when playing the sax is to ensure your posture is correct. This means sitting up straight and your back supported by a chair or bench. You should relax your arms at your sides and hold the sax with both hands.

Positioning of hands and fingers

Your left thumb should rest lightly on top of the thumb while your right thumb rests comfortably behind it. Then, your index finger should be on the first key. The second finger should be on the second key. And lastly, the ring finger should be on the third key.

Make sure not to grip too tightly, as this will affect tone quality and intonation when playing different notes.

Breathing Techniques

When inhaling, draw deep breaths in your diaphragm rather than just your chest. In this sense, it will give you more airflow, which makes it easier for you to hit higher notes. Don’t forget to exhale completely before taking another breath.

Practice with easy songs

When starting out, selecting simple songs with the same key is important so as not to overwhelm yourself or discourage your progress. Some good examples of playing music include:

  • Careless Whisper: George Michael
  • Chattanooga Choo Choo: Glenn Miller
  • Isn’t She Lovely: Stevie Wonder
  • Summertime: George Gershwin
  • Surfer Girl: Beach Boys
  • Moon River: Various Artists
  • The Sound of Silence: Paul Simon
  • Baker Street: Gerry Rafferty
  • Superstition: Stevie Wonder
  • Hit the Road Jack: Ray Charles

All of these songs incorporate popular melodies that anyone can easily recognize and sing along with.

Find Sheet Music or Tutorial Videos

When learning new pieces of music, it is always helpful to have some sort of reference material, such as sheet music or tutorial videos, available. This is to understand what notes need to be played to recreate the original piece properly.

With the internet, you can find quality online saxophone lessons to help you develop your skills. You can choose different styles and genres depending on what kind of playing you want. The best part is that most of these resources are freely available, so all it takes is a bit of research.

Choose an Experienced Saxophone Instructor

Whether you’re playing for fun or aiming to become an advanced musician, the best way to get there is by seeking out expert instruction. An experienced instructor can help you reach your goals easily by providing precise advice and guiding you through the basics.

Choose somebody with qualifications that match your current skill level. You can ask for referrals and customer feedback. Additionally, look for a saxophone lesson online and chat with some saxophonists.


So, now that you understand the basics of learning to play saxophone, it’s time to try! 

Developing your skills as an individual is vital to improving and becoming a better player. You can confidently nurture your musical talents with perseverance, dedication, and some guidance (if needed). Everyone starts out as a beginner saxophone player at some point – so take this journey one step at a time.


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