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A beginner's guide to the saxophone

What is a saxophone?

The saxophone is a single reed musical instrument that is considered to be a member of the woodwind family, despite often being made from brass. Invented by Adolphe Sax in the 19th century, the instrument has a conical bore like fellow woodwind instrument the oboe, but has a mouthpiece much more closely related to that of the clarinet. The instrument is played by blowing into the mouthpiece, with different sounds produced by pressing the keys that run along the body of the instrument. Due to its size, players often fix shoulder straps to saxophones so that it is more comfortable to play, particularly while standing up.

Saxophones are most commonly linked with jazz, but they are used in a variety of different music genres, from pop music to ska to military bands, even orchestras. There are four main types of the instrument, the baritone (Eb), the tenor (Bb), the alto (Eb) and the soprano (Bb), with the alto being the most popular. It is considered to be an excellent place to start for people looking to the learn the saxophone as it is a good size for beginners and does not require as much 'blow' as some of its sister instruments. As with the clarinet, once a player has mastered one type of saxophone, it is generally quite easy for them to learn another.

Which saxophone should I buy?

A light gold Alto Saxophone for beginners can be purchased for £189.99. Featuring a lacquered brass body and keywork, the instrument has a light and free-blowing response, making it very playable. The smooth action of its keys generates a bright sound and it offers an even tone from the bottom to the top of its register.

For players looking to continue their move up the grades, the Rosedale Intermediate Alto Sax is available for £299. The instrument has a gold-lacquered finish and rolled tone holes, similar to those that would normally be found on high-end saxophones. It has a balanced action and good response, offering an impressive, focused and complex sound from its lowest notes to its highest.

At the top end of the saxophone scale for advanced saxophonists is the Yamaha YAS875EX Custom EX Alto Saxophone for £2,749. With a gold lacquer finish and mother of pearl keys the instrument has been honed for optimum playing. The keys have been shaped for comfort and speed, while weight has been removed to boost response and projection and minimise resistance.

Those looking to learn the saxophone can get everything they need to begin playing straight away in the Alto Saxophone Complete Package for £229.95. The pack contains not only a saxophone with a hard carry case, cleaning brush and instrument strap, but also comes with ten spare Rico reeds, a music stand and a saxophone tuition DVD.

Other things to consider

Other items often purchased by players include the Odyssey Saxophone Care Kit for £19.99 and the Alto Saxophone Stand for £9.99. The former contains many of the items needed to get the instrument working in top condition, including a polish cloth, two weighted pull-thru swabs, a nylon mouthpiece brush, a multi-purpose duster brush, a cork grease stick and a guide to saxophone care.

Those looking to improve their sound can also experiment with different strength reeds and alternative mouthpieces, such as the Yamaha 4C Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece, which is considered to be good for both beginners and professionals.

Posted on 20 Mar 2009 16:44 to category : Tips and advice

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