How To Play Saxophone

How to play saxophone – in 6 easy steps.

For some reason or another, the saxophone is surrounded by mystery and intrigue.  Public perception has somehow been moulded into the popular belief that the saxophone is difficult to play.

The saxophone is not difficult to play !!


How to play saxophone – Step 1.


You will need a sax !  Captain Obvious moment here…. however it does amaze me how often I am asked, “will I need a saxophone ?”.  Buy, rent, beg, borrow or steal one (stealing is not recommended) – but yes, you will need access to a saxophone.  A good beginners saxophone is a Yamaha Alto Saxophone.

Alto saxes are a great place to start for many reasons:

  • The physical size of an Alto sax suits males and females, old and young,
  • Alto saxophones are numerous and easy to find, rent or buy,
  • An alto sax is usually cheaper in price than other saxophones, and they tend to hold their resale value should you wish to sell,
  • They are very versatile and can be used across all musical styles and genres, from school bands to professional engagements.


How to play saxophone – Step 2.


Unpack and assemble you saxophone.  This is an easy step.

Simply open the saxophone case, take out and put on your neck-strap, take out your mouthpiece and attach the reed, take out the neck and attach the mouthpiece, carefully take out the main saxophone body and attach the neck, clip your fully assembled saxophone to your neck-strap.

Some care is required here.  Saxophone reeds can break easily.  There are fairly complex spring/pad/key mechanisms on a saxophone that need to be handled with care.


How to play saxophone – Step 3.


If possible, stand up.

Stand strong, but relaxed.  Your feet should be shoulder width apart.


How to play saxophone – Step 4.


Your left hand goes on the top part of the sax.

Form your left hand thumb and fingers into a “C” shape – as if you were manipulating a hand/sock puppet.

There is usually a little black (sometime white) thumb placement button on the back of your sax for your left thumb to rest on.

Carefully place you left thumb on the thumb rest button and your fingers on the front keys of the sax.  There is no need to grip tightly !

Your right hand goes on the lower part of the sax.

Again, form your right hand into a “C” shape.  There is a thumb bracket to put your right thumb UNDERNEATH.  It is used to balance the saxophone and pivot it on the neck-strap clip.  It is NOT used to hold up your sax, as tempting as this may feel.  the neck-strap takes all the weight of your sax.

Similar to your left hand, place your right hand fingers gently on the keys at the front of the lower part of your sax.  As per your left hand, there is no need to grip tightly.  Gentle, but firm will do the job nicely.


How to play saxophone – Step 5.


Now it’s time to actually blow into your saxophone.

Carefully pivot your saxophone so that the mouthpiece goes an inch or so into your mouth.

You may need to adjust the length of your neck-strap so that the mouthpiece naturally pivots into your mouth.  You do not want to have to reach your head up or down for this.  Adjust your neck-strap accordingly.

Your top teeth will rest on the top of the mouthpiece.  Do not bite !

Curl or fold your lower lip over your bottom teeth.  Your bottom lip will be between your bottom teeth and the reed on the mouthpiece.

While keeping your cheeks and lips tight, exhale your breath and blow into your sax.  It may sound great, or it may sound like a duck being strangled.  Either way – keep experimenting with positioning of the mouthpiece (maybe put more of the mouthpiece into your mouth, maybe put less in your mouth) and how hard you are blowing.

When learning how to play saxophone, it does take a bit of air to make a musical note.  You shouldn’t need to blow as hard as you can, but in the same breath ( pun intended ! ) it’s not a whisper either.


How to play saxophone – Step 6.


Once you’ve got a sound that resembles music rather than murdering feathered quackery, try moving your fingers.

Keep your RIGHT hand fingers slightly away from the keys at this stage.

Only press the keys on using your LEFT hand fingers.

First, try just pressing the pointer / index finger key.  Then add your middle finger key.  then add your ring ringer key.

Just try these three fingers first of all.  Keep blowing !

Hopefully at this point you should have some form of sound that is not totally offensive to yourself and those around you 🙂


Saxophone Lessons


Obviously at this point a simple written article on a how to play saxophone website such as this is not going to be able to take you much further in actually learning how to play saxophone.

A saxophone teacher of some sort – live, one-on-one, or online saxophone lessons – or at the very least some kind of guidance is highly recommended.

If you need a hand with saxophone lessons, check out our membership program or please let me know 🙂





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