1. Set the right goals
Setting initial goals is very important as you start up your saxophone journey.
You need to know what you want to achieve and how well you want to play the saxophone, this will trigger motivation and new ways of behaving.
Objectives likewise assist with adjusting your concentration.
Eventually, you can’t really develop something that you don’t expect to be developed.
If you’re not sure about your goals you can read our article to give you more guidance.
2. Choose your reed wisely
Reeds are like human vocal cords. Whenever an individual sings the vocal cords vibrate to create a specific pitch, the reed acts the same way that why it’s so important to choose the right reed when you practice.
Choose the reed that is appropriate to your level, beginners would most likely be advised to start with 2.5 – 3 on an alto saxophone for example.
Choosing a good quality reed is also important as it has a better build, a more stable pitch, and lasts longer.
Check our article about selecting the right reed to get help with the selection.
3. Get lessons from a professional
Definitely one of the most important tips for beginners is to find a professional saxophone player that can give you the right advice based on your wants and needs.
Get at least 2-3 practices with a professional with kickstarting your saxophone journey.
Follow the link to find the saxophonists and saxophone teachers online that will fit your needs.
4. Wet your reed well
This might not be news for the most but not wetting your reed correctly can have a big impact on the way you play and the amount of time you practice.
When the reed is not entirely wet, it is more difficult to produce the right sounds from the saxophone.
Due to dry reed the actual act of practicing becomes more tiring and less enjoyable, This can affect the mood and motivation that would finally result in fewer pick-ups and fewer practiced hours.
5. Choose one Position
Depending on the type of the saxophone you should hold the right position and then stick to it.
Choosing the comfortable position allows you to play for extended periods without getting tired so practicing is far more enjoyable and comfortable.
This only can help you to advance your skills much faster as your practicing intensity rises.
The best way to practice the saxophone would be sitting in a chair, which supports your body in an upright position, and most importantly don’t rest the saxophone on the chair.
Playing position varies based on the saxophone type.
The soprano saxophone should be held in front of the body, The tenor and the baritone saxophones are to be held to the side of the body, while the alto saxophone can be positioned either way.
Many players prefer to hold the instrument in front as it’s a fits with the standing position better.
6. Strengthen the posture
As we talk about holding a saxophone in a certain position, it is important to mention strengthening the posture that you hold while playing the instrument.
While positioning your sax is important having a bad posture can affect your health negatively and make practicing very uncomfortable and even impossible at times.
Good posture can help you avoid any physical injuries and allows for much better breathing, releasing the pressure on your diaphragm.
Straight posture allows you to have more controlled breathing and makes playing more enjoyable and less stressful for your body.
Depending on your body and the saxophone you play the posture can vary.
However, the key is to keep your body upright, make sure your nack strap is correctly adjusted and doesn’t hurt your neck or shoulders, your body is not bent to adjust to the saxophone,
the mouthpiece is adjusted to your height and is not out of reach, and finally your body parts don’t hurt when playing the instrument for more than 15 minutes.
See our article about Important Saxophone Health Effects to get more information about the potential injuries and health risks associated with playing the instrument.
7. Get a comfortable neck-strap
A good Saxophone neck-straps will allow you to concentrate on your practice without fear of dropping the instrument,
adding a strain to the arms and hands’ muscles, and avoiding getting a shoulder or neck injuries.
Having the right nack strap will make your practice far more enjoyable and will naturally prolong your practicing time, which will result in achieving your set goals faster.
See our article to learn which saxophone neck-strap would be the best fit for you.
8. Print out a fingering chart
Get yourself a cheat sheet and get the fingerings down as fast as possible. Having the fingering chart by your side will help you find the notes easier helping you to progress faster and learn new tunes easily.
You can download the fingering chart free from here
9. Play scales
When you get the fingering chart you can practice playing scales to adjust your fingers to the instrument.
Playing scales will be an ideal practice if you’re new to the instrument and want to advance fast.
Try playing scales for at least 5-10 minutes per practice at the beginning stage to test your hand placement, instrument position, posture, etc.
When you remember the scales you can also practice any time without needing to make a sound not to disturb those around you.
10. Do Breathing exercises
Playing the saxophone requires a ton of training and practice to reach excellency.
For each practice, it is essential to do a warmup that contributes to keeping your muscle memory sharp and expanding your lung capacity to play longer.
Breathing exercises come in handy if you want to achieve that.
It is also important to consider that each style of playing might need a slightly different exercise to warm up your lungs, here are 3 basic styles and relevant exercises:
- Breathing Exercise for slow speed: Do a deep inhale for two seconds and fill your lungs fully.
Exhale the air with a hissing sound while pushing down with your diaphragm during 3-4 seconds (Repeat 10 times)
- Breathing Exercise for Medium speed: Do a deep inhale for two seconds and fill your lungs fully, exhale the air with a hissing sound while pushing down with your diaphragm during 5-7 seconds (Repeat 10 times)
- Breathing Exercise to Expand your lung capacity
Do a deep inhale for two seconds and fill your lungs fully.
Inhale deeply for eight seconds to fully fill your lungs,
Hold the breath in your lungs for two seconds,
Take a sharpinhale and hold all of the air without exhaling any for one second,
Take a second sharp inhale and hold for one more second, then
Take a third sharp inhale and hold for one count
Exhale slowly for eight seconds (Repeat five times)
11. Fix the embouchure
saxophone embouchure is the way a player places his/her mouth, more specifically lips and teeth, on the mouthpiece to play the saxophone.
Embouchure needs to be mastered when beginning to play the instrument and is always evolving as you gain more experience.
There’s more than one way to do this and not a single “correct” one so if you want to get into more details take a look at our article: How to Produce Good Sound From a Saxophone
12. Play in a space that motivates
A motivating surroundings might not be at the top of your thoughts when picking up a new instrument, however, as you continue to play the saxophone you’ll realize how much of an impact the surroundings can have on the mood and motivation.
Inspiring surroundings that with much light and open space help you get motivated and enjoy the music, this immerses you into the experience and helps you to practice long hours advancing your skills.
13. Practice where you don't disturb others
Also, it’s important to choose a place where you know you don’t disturb others to play more freely and express yourself fully with your instrument.
Play where you don’t disturb others – find somewhere else where you feel totally at ease and able to play as loud as you like.
Check out our other article to get some more tips on how to practice saxophone quietly
14. Make a plan for practice
As you set your overall goals, it is important to plan out your individual practices as well.
You need to know what, when, and how you practice. This increases the chances that you don’t miss the practices and helps you achieve your objectives to achieve your goals.
Plan can be assembled in a spreadsheet that will have a date, where you are planning to practice (as surroundings matter), and the skill or music you are planning on practicing.
You can do it monthly and then look back on your achievements and alter the future month plans based on it.
15. Play with your friends
Playing in nice and inspiring surroundings might be quite motivating, however, as you progress with sax playing skills, it’s a good idea to find friends around you that might enjoy playing music with you.
Having a small jamming session with your friends, where you don’t stress and play music, gives you even more motivation and rises the desire to play new music, discover new techniques, and invent your own style, tempo, and playing vibe.
16. Record yourself playing
This is the best way to get a better understanding of how you sound and what you can do to advance.
When recording yourself, you subconsciously try to make the recording as perfect as possible so you play with more seriousness and attention.
The out of your comfort zone feeling that you get during the recording is what helps you advance and discover your own sound.
Interestingly enough, this also helps with stage fear and gives you more confidence in what you do.
17. Play for the audience
After you make some progress with the playing try to on stage and play for the audience, it can be even one song that you can perform in an open mic session in the local bar, or maybe you can just go out in part and try to play there.
If you realize that you have a stage fear you can start playing in front of your family or friends and work on your self-confidence from there.
Making this step is important as it creates momentum for your advancement, you will start feeling more confident in your playing and further advance your playing.
18. Practice with Consistency
None of the other tips matter unless you practice and you need to practice with consistency.
Thirty minutes of daily practice is way better than 10 hours in one day.
Picking up an instrument every day will get your body and mind adjusted to the fact that now you’re playing the saxophone and you will get a habit of playing. Having a habit of practicing every day will bring you closer to your final goal than anything else.
19. Take Care of Your Saxophone
Make sure you keep your saxophone in a good shape so it can serve you well.
The saxophone might not be one of the most demanding instruments in terms of maintenance, however, it certainly doesn’t fall into the easiest category either.
Make sure to swab the instrument after each use, clean it from the dust ofter, and once every six months or so bring the sax to a professional to check
20. Play with the background music
One of the best tips to enjoy your practicing is the background beat.
Background music is great when you have some understanding of the instrument and can play along with the tune you select.
Having a background beat makes your practice riches and more enjoyable, you get in the groove and feel as if you’re performing on stage.
This technique is very popular among professional saxophone players as well.
So make sure you have your top beats ready for you to practice on and keep sharpening your skills. You can check out some of the top saxophone music of our choice from here.
21. Don't obsess over one tune
One mistake that most beginners make is practicing one tune that they imagined they would play right after picking up the instrument.
It might be quite satisfying to get the first few notes down, however, in the beginner’s state, it’s far more important to get your position, and posture down, followed by correct embouchure, breathing techniques, and basic fingerings.
Without learning these basic skills and adjusting yourself to the instrument,
the tune you always wanted to play will always be out of your reach and you won’t really play it correctly making the whole experience quite redundant and tiring.
Try to get the basics down and then try various easy tunes to practice your skills and only then switch to something more complicated and mesmerizing.
22. Practice tongue articulations
White not being near the instrument you can still practice the tongue articulations that will help you develop your technique. Other than doing breathing exercises you can do T – exercises that is to repeat t-t-t-t-t as evenly as possible, gradually work up the tempo.
This helps with tongue flexibility and enables you to freely play more complicated tunes without much strain on your tongue in the future.
23. Get a sax stand
Playing saxophone needs consistency and in order for you to practice every day you need to make a habit of it.
In reality, having to put the instrument out of the case assemble it, and put it back in its case after the practice can be very daunting.
The issue can be easily solved with the sax stand, as James Clear, author of atomic habits states, you should make the desired habits easy to do.
Having a sax stand will get you to pick up a saxophone every time you see it and will make the whole practicing process smoother and more enjoyable.
If unsure which sax stand is right for you, you can check this article for more information.