When you’re starting out, learning the alto sax can feel daunting – but hopefully you’re excited too!
When you start learning how to play alto saxophone, you might feel wonder how you will ever get your fingers round all those keys. Some beginner players struggle to get a sound out of the sax to begin with! If that’s you, you are not alone.
As a beginner player, it’s essential to have a clear pathway so you can get your skills in place and learn faster. And have more fun playing!
Read on to discover more about:
- The challenges of learning alto saxophone
- How to get a great sound as a beginner player
- Tips for learning alto sax online
The Challenge of Playing Alto Saxophone
When you are learning to play the saxophone, of course you need to get the basics right – such as learning notes and scales.
But it’s also important to think about the style of player you want to be. What kind of sound do you want? Which saxophone players inspire you?
By spending time on this alongside your saxophone skills, you will learn bring your own style and emotion into your playing.
We see this inside our Sax School Community, where our members all work on developing their own style. Recently, seven different alto saxophone players from around the globe collaborated for a rendition of “She’s Like The Wind” from the hit movie Dirty Dancing.
This collaboration was not just about playing music together. It was designed as an exercise in inspiration and motivation. Each player brought their own interpretation to the song, and shared insights into how they achieved their own unique sound.
Solo practice is often lonely. But collaborations, whether in person in a Community Band, or online, offer a refreshing change and valuable experience. It’s a great opportunity to learn from other musicians and develop skills in listening to other players.
Importance of Community in Learning
When you are learning something new such as how to play alto saxophone, being part of a community of other learners is invaluable. You can share tips, ask questions, encourage one another and connect with musicians who are on the same journey. It’s a great way to stay motivated.
Developing your sound on saxophone
When it comes to your sound on saxophone, there are a lot of factors which affect the quality of your tone.
As saxophone players, we spend a lot of time talking about embouchure. This refers to how you shape your mouth and lips when blowing into the instrument. Every person has a different facial structure which shapes these variations. But as a saxophone player, it’s important to spend time developing strength and stamina in your embouchure muscles. This takes time, but it’s well worth it. Inside Sax School we have loads of exercises and workouts to help you do just that.
2. Breath Control
Breath control plays another vital role here. When you start learning how to play alto saxophone, you might find you feel out of breath quickly. But regularly practicing long tones and slow melodies will help you to improve, so you can play with more expression and feeling.
3. Connection with your music
All the great sax players you love have an emotional connection with the music they are playing – and that comes through in their performance. As a learner player, you can develop this too.
4. Your own sound
Of course, as a sax player you will want to develop your own style of playing. But it’s essential to listen to a wide range of other sax players so you can learn from them and bring elements into your own unique sound.
Your choice of songs or genres. Do yo prefer jazz standards, or contemporary pop tunes? This will affect how you approach melodies, and even how you play improvised solos.
Not just saxophone. Don’t limit yourself to only listening to other saxophonists. You might find valuable inspiration in unexpected places. Listen to vocal performances or instrumental solos played on completely different instruments. Did you know that the saxophone is said to be the instrument closest in sound to the human voice? When you’re learning how to play alto saxophone, you can learn a lot from a great singer.
Focus on tone production. Long tones exercises, slow melodies, overtones, even exercises using just your mouthpiece are great for this. Don’t forget your tuner to make sure your intonation is on point.
Seek to develop an original sound. Don’t be tempted to try to copy other players. Your sound will be unique – so embrace it.
Essential Gear for Alto Sax Players
Mastering the alto saxophone is not just about technique and practice. The gear you use can have a significant impact on your sound.
Of course, a great saxophone will be easier to play and produce a better sound. Buy the best saxophone you can afford, and make sure it is well maintained.
Here are some of the essential gear you need to get, along with your alto sax:
- Mouthpiece: Your mouthpiece has a huge impact on your sound. Make sure your mouthpiece is the right size and type for you. It’s a great idea to try a few different models in your local music store.
- Reed: Like your mouthpiece, your reed can make a big difference to your sound. A reed which is the wrong strength can make your sax very difficult to play – so choose the right reed for your level of playing experience.
- Ligatures: This often-overlooked part significantly impacts how freely your reed vibrates against your mouthpiece.
- Neck strap: A comfortable neck strap or harness will make sure you have correct posture while you are playing – as well as avoiding back and neck problems down the track.
How to play alto saxophone – tips
Here are some essential tips to get you on the right track as you learn how to play alto saxophone.
How do you make your practice sessions more effective?
Put aside regular time to practice your saxophone. Twenty minutes every day will be more effective that trying to practice for 2 hours in a session.
Get a great practice routine which includes all the essential elements to develop your skills.
Inside Sax School there are practice plans, workouts, exercises and great songs to learn, so your practice time will be fun and effective.
Use a tuning app such as Tonal Energy to help you develop your intonation. A metronome will help you develop your sense of time too.
Find inspiration in your musical journey
All artists need inspiration. And musicians are not any different. Whether you are just starting, or have been playing for years, it’s a great idea to look for inspiration in great saxophone players. Listen to recordings or go to gigs, and keep your ears open for new music to inspire you.
Additionally, join online communities to help keep your motivation levels high. Join forums where fellow learners share progress and provide fresh perspectives. Sax School Online has a worldwide community of learners in over 80 countries, sharing, collaborating and encouraging each other every day.
Benefits Of Online Platforms Like Sax School
The digital revolution has revolutionized how we learn music. The rise of online platforms like the renowned Sax School offers a unique approach to learning alto saxophone. We offer online saxophone lessons and other free resources for beginner saxophone players, as well as more experienced players who want to level up their skills.
As a Sax School member you can learn anytime, online, at a time and place that suits you. As well as a huge library of video lessons, we have regular live sessions online, where you can get direct feedback and advice from our professional tutors.
Our worldwide Community means you are never alone and you can connect with thousands of other saxophone learners just like you.
Ready to learn how to play alto saxophone?
Start today with Sax School with a free 14 day trial. Explore our Starter Pathway, perfect for beginners. Try our Practice Plans to help you make fast progress. Join a live session and chat to our tutors, and discover a worldwide community of saxophone learners to share your journey.