Parent's Guide to children
playing the Saxophone
AGE GROUP BOYS AND GIRLS 9 - ADULT
The saxophone, like the clarinet is an instrument in the
woodwind family. This instrument is usually made of brass and is played
with a single-reed mouthpiece.
has found its home in popular music, big band music, rock and roll,
blues and jazz.
What age should my child
start saxophone lessons?
The saxophone is a popular
instrument in school programs so your child will have the opportunity to
participate in band with their friends. Due to the size of the
instrument and the required lung capacity the recommended age to start a
child in saxophone lessons is 9 years old. It is also important to
consider the weight of the instrument, stretch of the child's arm and
size of their hands/fingers when considering this instrument.
Their arms must be strong enough to support the
instrument and their hands big enough to reach the keys.
Saxophone lessons will teach your child the proper position for holding the
instrument. They will focus on embouchure (the way you shape your
mouth while playing), sound repertoire, finger placement, and music
reading. Many teachers choose the classical repertoire
because it will give students the fundamentals needed to play the style
of choice in the future. The theory taught to play the saxophone is also very
similar to the clarinet and the flute. Many times young players
will learn on the clarinet, because it is smaller, and then switch over to
saxophone to broaden their musical talents.
for private music can be done at anytime, as long as space is available, and
your session will be prorated. Registration can be done in person,
by phone, by mail or fax. In addition, some organizations will
allow you to register on line. Normally these programs are
very popular and space can be limited so don't delay registration or you
may miss out! Music programs are usually 16 -20 week sessions. You
will also find that there are instructors who will come right to your
home to give lessons. The best place for your child to start instruction
is through a school program.
practice is necessary?
As with anything,
improving in music takes practice. One of the major problems with
children and music is the drudgery of practicing. There is no set
time, however your child must spend quality time each
day reviewing what they were taught. Practice must be concentrated and focused. Set the same
time every day to practice so that it becomes part of a routine or
habit. For young children 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity and
they spend more time watching the clock then practicing.
Instead of setting a time frame, use repetition as your gauge. For
example have your child play each piece 3 - 5 times per day.
The child does not pay attention to the amount of time they are
practicing but knows that they are on the third time and almost
finished. Ideally, your child should have a place to
practice without distractions and it should not disrupt the household.
If the home is small then you should consider the instrument chosen. A very
large instrument or a noisy instrument could be very disruptive and you
may not have the room for it.
Depending on the
instrument and the skill level of the child lessons will run either 30,
45 or 60 minutes per week. Lessons are scheduled on an individual basis.
Your registration reserves you a time slot for the duration of your
instruction period. It is imperative that you arrive promptly for
your lesson. They will normally give you only one make-up lesson
per session and any other that the child misses will be a forfeiture of
Formal and informal
recitals are an important part of the music program. They will offer
your child the opportunity to perform, listen and learn proper recital
etiquette. These recitals are not mandatory but it is to your
child's advantage for them to participate.
The cost of music lessons has four components:
- cost of the
- cost of
- competition or
The cost for saxophone lessons
would depend on whether your child is taking private or group lessons,
the length of the class and the qualifications of the instructor.
Music sessions will run
for 16 -20 weeks. As a general indication, most instruments
will be $25 - $40 for a 30 minute lesson, $35 -$50 for a 45
minute lesson and $50 - $60 for a 60 minute lesson. Some
organizations offer family discounts and group rates. Many
students enjoy taking lessons with their family or friends.
The saxophone is fairly
easy to start and your child will be able to make some sound right away
and will play some basic tunes in a few weeks or lessons.
The Cost of the
The cost of the
instrument would depend on whether you rent or purchase the instrument.
If you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial
basis that will automatically turn into a year contract if the
instrument is not returned. You can pay the cost all once at the
beginning or they will automatically bill your credit card on a monthly
basis. If you choose to purchase the instrument you have the
option of purchasing a new or used instrument. A used instrument
will be substantially cheaper and many times are like new. Cost
information for purchasing or renting a clarinet is provided below.
Initially, the materials
required will be a method book.
Some music stores will include the book with the rental of the
instrument. In addition, some musical accessories are needed. You
will probably need to purchase a mouthpiece since generally the ones
supplied with the Sax are not very good. In addition, you will
need reeds in size 1 1/2 or 2, a neck strap, stand cleaning cloth
and cork grease.
recitals are a wonderful way for your child to show their abilities to
the world and it is extremely exciting for them. However, many
recitals and competitions often have entry fees. You will need to
discuss with child's instructor their philosophy on this subject.
come in sizes?
Saxophones come in several different sizes:
- Soprano may be
either straight or curved. This instrument is difficult for
beginners because the
(playing in tune) is more challenging than Alto or Tenor
- Alto may also be
curved or straight. It is the instrument recommended for
- Tenor is larger than
the Alto and has a larger mouthpiece.
- Baritone is the
largest of the Sax family.
The alto saxophone is
advisable for beginners because of its size and shape make it manageable
for children. Other factors making the alto a popular first
saxophone is that is generally less expensive. The Alto Sax is most often used in school band
programs and it is popular even in the
I do rent or buy a Saxophone?
your best option is to rent a saxophone from your local music store. If
you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial basis
that will automatically turn into a year contract if the instrument is
not returned. It will cost you approximately $50 - $60 per month.
dedicated students should purchase a saxophone at some point in their development.
several different types of horns.
Regardless of which type of
saxophone you settle on, you will need to choose among three instrument
quality levels: student, intermediate, and professional.
now producing starter instruments that are affordable, comfortable and
are capable of producing pleasing tone quite easily. If your child's
commitment to the saxophone is uncertain, a student model is the choice
for you. A student model will cost between $300 to $1,000. After a
few years if your child stays with the instrument and has improved you
can then move to the next level.
models fall between student and professional instruments Though
the key work and action may feel similar to a professional instrument,
it will not produce the full tone of pro model. What you are
paying for as you go up and down in models is materials. Higher
priced instruments use more expensive materials. Intermediate
horns will run you from about $1,000.00 to $1,500.00.
These instruments are made of materials that are of the highest quality
resulting in advanced playability as well as a significant step-up in
tone, response, and intonation. A pro horn can range any where from
$2,500 to $8,000.
If you plan to purchase
a used instrument, which will cost substantially less, seriously
consider buying one from a reputable dealer that will stand behind the
You will also need a
method book, reeds, a neck strap, stand, cleaning cloth and cork grease.
You can expect these items to cost approximately $20 to $30 dollars.
In addition, you may consider purchasing a mouthpiece since generally
the ones supplied with the Sax are not very good.
The best mouthpiece for beginners should have a medium tip opening. The
reed should be somewhat stiff so that the lips and mouth will have to
work hard to make a nice sound so that mouth muscles develop properly.
A beginner will normally
use a number in size 1 1/2 or 2 reed. You should purchase several reeds
at a time. Reeds need to be replaced often, they will last about
2-3 weeks. To help increase the life span of the reed your child
should rotate it so that it has time to dry. Once the child's Embouchure
improves the reed that they need will change to a higher number. A
higher number will make it easier for them to reach more difficult
instrument that your child begins with may not necessarily be the one
that they stay with forever. They are however, learning the
basics of music theory and harmony that can be easily converted to
You will know when your
child is ready to enter competition when he/she feels extremely
confident and is willing to play in front of people. This is the best
sign that your child is ready to go out and be judged for their
Rewards work very well
for children. Be sure to grant an occasional simple reward to help
encourage practice. Stickers are a great way to show approval.
Praise also tends to be a great reward; there is no substitution for a
pat on the back for a job well done.
Instruments are very
delicate and should always be protected from heat, cold and quick
changes in temperature.
It is important to
properly maintain your instrument at all times.
Parts of the Saxophone:
three parts: main body, neck joint, and mouthpiece assembly.
The body of the saxophone is the main part with the keys, bell and bow.
The neck joint connects the body to the mouthpiece assembly which
consists of the mouthpiece, ligature, reed, and the cork.
mouthpiece is a plastic or metal piece with a cylindrical shape that
goes around the cork. The cork is a piece of cork around
the end of the neck that creates the seal for the air.
The ligature is a round, metal piece with a screw(s) that
tighten to hold the reed onto the mouthpiece. The reed is a thin
piece of wood that creates the vibration. The neck is a curved piece
containing the octave mechanism (it has a goose neck appearance on the
tenor but is more of a 90 degree angle on the alto, most sopranos do not
have this piece).
The neck strap, used
to support the heavier instruments, clips to the back of the instrument.
||Two or more
different pitches sounding at the same time
EVERY GOOD BOY DOES
||A rule to
remember the lines of a staff by using the first letter of each
for two players.
||A rule to
remember, from bottom to top, the spaces on a musical staff.
||Time set aside
for your child to review what the teacher has taught them during
their normal lessons.
written for one player, often with a piano accompaniment.
||The five lines
and four spaces used for writing music
||The letters A
through G. These are used to name the notes on the staff
in a LINE - SPACE - LINE - SPACE order.
||A small piece
of shaved cane that is the actual tone generator for the
of the mouth around the mouthpiece and the reed.
instrument in which sound is produced by blowing through a
mouthpiece against an edge or by a vibrating reed, in which
pitch is varied by opening or closing the holes on the