Choosing a Student Saxophone
Choosing a student saxophone can be a minefield as there are so many choices of the instrument out there. Where should you begin? There has actually never been a better time to take up the saxophone.Even good quality instruments are cheaper today than 10 years ago. However, there is still a lot of rubbish on the market, so choose carefully. (BEWARE of CHEAP INDIAN AND CHINESE INSTRUMENTS)
Firstly, decide which saxophone you want to play.
The soprano is generally not recommended for beginners because although it is small and light,
it requires experienced and controlled embouchure (muscles used around the mouth to support the mouthpiece) to produce good quality sound. It is also quite difficult to play a tune.
Most players start with the alto, as it is a manageable size, and cheaper than a tenor! I would say listen to altos and tenors being play, and if you are, more draw towards the tenor, and then go for it. If you are not sure, start with the alto.
NOTE Children should not start to play the saxophone until they have their second set of front teeth fully formed, as there is a chance of dental problems caused by pressure on the growing teeth.
If you already play a little, then it is not too hard.
As with choosing any instrument, it is worthwhile seeking some guidance.
If you already have a teacher, it is worth asking their advice. not much fun to arrive for your first lesson to find that the teacher does not like the one you have bought!
Your next decision is how much you want to spend and do you want to rent, buy new or secondhand?
To buy a new Alto Saxophone it will cost you from $300($300) and upwards.
For a new Tenor Saxophone, you’re looking at $450($700) and up.
A used saxophone can start a little cheaper but make sure that you buy from a reputable shop or take a professional with you who knows what to look for.
The problem is that you have a piece of cane that used to be growing in the sun-drenched waters of France being asked to work a very hostile environment (your MOUTH!) and to behave the same way every time you get the instrument out of the box.
Because a piece of cane is just like a very thin piece of wood it changes whenever the temperature or the humidity changes or when it becomes just too waterlogged to work anymore.
So what can you do?
Depending on how much you play and what kind of playing you do, the reed could last a few days or a few weeks. You will have to resign yourself to the fact that you will be buying boxes of reeds from now until eternity.
Nevertheless, making sure your reed does not have last night’s dinner or the latest shade of pink lipstick does help the reed last a little bit longer.
Reed Strength Reed strength is indicating by a number (or designation) printed directly on the reed. Typical strengths are 2 or 2-1/2 (or a designation such as medium or medium-hard). The strength needed depends on the individual player and the player’s mouthpiece.
A reed should provide resistance in order to achieve control and a good tone. However, a reed which is too strong will not respond adequately and may be breathy sounding or too hard to blow.
A good private teacher can help decide which reed strength is best for you. Student saxophone players often start on a 1 1/2 strength reed and professionals often play on 2-2 one/2.
However, it really depends on your mouthpiece. Reed Rotation Use a reed holder which can hold four reeds. Number the slots of the holder.
Each time you rehearse or practice, use the next reed in the holder. For lessons, auditions, or performances, use your best reed. Replace one reed at a time in your rotation rather than all of them at once.
A reed should replace if the tip chipped or split, it sounds bad or is hard to play several rotations in a row; it is more than three months old.
Always keep new, extra reeds in a safe place. The time to buy more reeds is when the supply of extras runs low.
However, you must use swab (a piece of cloth weighted to pull it through the instrument) to remove the water that builds up after playing.
The other part that does need some attention, preferably once a week, is the mouthpiece.
You should use a bottle brush or toothbrush to clean the mouthpiece in warm water,(and use antiseptic mouthwash if you have some lying around) so that bacteria do not start to build up and start to smell!
Cleaning the outside of the saxophone is relatively straightforward.
Just good specialist cloth from your saxophone shop (I like the e-cloth) and wipe down the keys after playing.