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Saxophone for Beginners

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Gold saxophone resting on music book

So, you want to learn how to play the saxophone. Now what? Knowing where to start, or even how to start, when it comes to learning a brand-new type of instrument can be difficult. That’s why I’ve put together this handy guide which explains everything a beginner needs to know, along with some learning tips I can recommend from my own experience of the questions that come up time and again.

Your Saxophone Questions Answered

Which is the best saxophone for beginners?

A quick look around the internet will tell you there are four types of saxophone;

• Soprano Saxophone
• Alto Saxophone
• Tenor Saxophone
• Baritone Saxophone

They all have different ranges from High (Soprano) to Low (Baritone), just like singers. The smallest saxophone is the Soprano. For beginners, the question of which saxophone to play is a simple one.


The biggest consideration when learning to play is posture. Given that the alto is the second smallest after the soprano, it follows that it is the second lightest making this a suitable choice. Although the soprano is a lighter instrument, the playing posture is more complex to adopt correctly, making the alto the obvious choice. I definitely wouldn't recommend starting with tenor or baritone - their larger weight and size make it harder to develop correct technique

Beginner choosing an entry level saxophone

How Much Does a Saxophone Weigh?

The saxophone is a heavy instrument. Each model varies in weight, although an average weight rating for an Alto Saxophone would be around 5.9kg to 6.1kg (13 pounds to 13.5 pounds). Although this sounds quite heavy, it is perfectly fine when playing with good and well-informed technique. A Tenor Saxophone weighs substantially more and therefore is not recommended for beginners.

Should I Rent or Buy a Saxophone?

A common question asked by beginners, and one that has a simple answer. I'd always recommend renting a saxophone first - it allows the student to make sure the instrument is right for them before committing to purchase an expensive instrument. If you're ready to buy I've got the perfect recommendation for you!

Renting a Saxophone

Here in London, UK there a wealth of shops and companies to choose from with very competetive rates. I've included two options below. Wherever you are based, you will be able to find somewhere to rent from! I recommend starting the process sooner rather than later as the process takes some time with ID checks.

Rent a Saxophone from John Packer
Hire a Saxophone from Howarth's of London

Buying a Saxophone

If you're keen to get your hands on an entry level saxophone to call your own, there are many options out there claiming to be the best saxophone for beginners. Buying is an investment, and its one of those situations where the quality of the instrument really makes a difference to your ability to play and learn. I would recommend starting with buying the Yamaha YAS-280. There are MANY cheaper instruments than this, but they really arent worth buying, and very quickly maybe even inside of a year if all is going well, you will have to scale up to an instrument of this category anyway. Cheaper instruments to not stand up to wear and tear, and many saxophone repairers will not want to put in the work to fix a cheap instrument with diminishing returns on services. The YAS-280 will last a lifetime if you treat it well and is good enough to do all the way to Grade 8 standard. Below ive provided a link:

Buy a Yamaha YAS-280 from

Can you Recommend a Saxophone Book for Beginners?

There are two music books for beginners I work with. These are Abracadabra Saxophone by John Rutland, and Andy Hampton's Saxophone Basics. Both books are aimed at children, but either are suitable for adults too. Children and adult beginners have a similar pace of learning, as adults progess faster than children in some areas, but slower in others meaning the material is equally appropriate for both.

There are entry level saxophone books aimed at teaching adults specifically but they tend to be a little dry. Please get in touch if you want a recommendation for a book aimed at adults.

Saxophone book for beginners Entry level saxophone book

How Often Should I Practise Saxophone?

There is no hard of fast rule for how often or how long you should practise the saxophone. Everybody has their own learning style and lifestyle around which to fit practise. The thing to remember when designing a practise strategy is that research shows it is not the duration of practising material that counts, but the act of revisiting and recollecting the techniques or concepts. The more times you can revisit the material in a week the better, so I recommend 4 times per week of short duration perhaps 5-10 minutes per session, just to top and tail the new techniques. This is particularly important at the beginning, when the student is learning new movements and techniques they have never performed before.

If you're a parent wondering how to help your child practise better, please visit the SaxTeacher UK Tutorial Hub for further tutorials on how to help maximise your child's saxophone practise!

How do I Assemble my Alto Saxophone?

When you're starting out you need the confidence to make sure you're getting the instrument set up right. Just have a look at our short tutorial video on how to put together the saxophone, and all your questions will be answered:

How to assemble an alto saxophone

How Loud is a Saxophone?

A question I get asked frequently! Perhaps you've been wanting to take up the saxophone for a while, but you're worried that the saxophone might be too loud to practise at home. Maybe you live in a flat, and are concerned about the neighbours hearing. In any case you want to get an idea of how loud the instrument is before committing to getting one.

On balance I would say that the saxophone it is quite a loud instrument. It was created to have the power and projection of a trumpet, but the facility of a woodwind instrument. While it isn't quite as loud as a brass instrument, its maximum volume isn't far off, and unlike a guitar or electric keyboard cannot be easily turned down. However, this doesn't mean it isn't possible to play at home.

Another answer to the question, 'How loud is a saxophone,' is simply - as loud as you want it to be! Although it's comfortable to play the saxophone at a loud volume, it has a beautiful sound at lower dynamics, and this can be practised at home. I can vouch for this as I have spent countless hours practising at home with housemates and neighbours! It is important to practise at loud volumes as well to develop correct technique, so a regular visit to a practise studio is recommended if you are being mindful of houw loud you are playing at home on a regular basis.

There are various accessories that are sold to mute or soften the sound of the instrument. I wouldn't recommend any of these as they change the sound too drastically and will affect your technique.

In short, practising sax can work in almost any home environment. Don't let worrying about how loud the saxophone is become a reason to not start playing!

How do I Clean my Saxophone?

This is the subject of our next tutorial! Stay tuned for our next release!

How do I Book Private Saxophone Lessons?

Just visit our Saxophone Lessons Page to find out more, or click the link below if you're ready to get in touch and start taking private saxophone lessons!

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