After being given the opportunity to learn a new instrument it didn’t take much thought to go for learning the Saxophone. Despite the only wind instrument I can play with any confidence being the melodica.

I always like to try new instruments, especially ones that are of a completely different type than I’m used to. I could have gone the easy route and picked up the banjo or mandolin which wouldn’t require a lot of adjustment.

However, I wanted the challenge! It’s always fun to jump head first into a new experience. I always find that playing an instrument gives you much more of an idea of what it’s about rather than just reading up on it!

Rory holding saxophone

How have you got on?

The first few weeks with the Saxophone have been a bit up and down, surprisingly, I’ve progressed more than I expected. I’ve managed to get a couple of melodies and scales down though only some notes are consistent in tone.

I do go from a reasonable amount of progress to honking like a goose at a whim. So, I often go between the mindsets of “I should join a jazz band” to “the saxophone is stupid” within around half an hour.

I like to think that I’ve picked up the general embouchure at a reasonable pace, though I need to learn to relax my mouth a little. Lower notes are often causing an issue because of this. Either coming out as a honk, or playing an octave too high. I’ve come to hate the low G, and pretty much any note lower than that!

What have you struggled with?

The biggest stumbling block inhibiting my playing is trying to understand the number of keys on the instrument! I can guarantee I felt the same when starting any of the instruments I play. The saxophone does seem somewhat overwhelming coming into it with no experience of woodwind instruments.

As with any instrument I take up, I have tried to run a bit before I can walk. Having jumped into trying to play pieces before focusing on nailing individual notes or exercises. I can play a couple of fairly simple jazz melodies, though at about half the original tempo!

Despite jumping the gun a little, this has made me feel a bit more confident with the instrument in these early stages. While I should be focusing on getting clean and clear notes out of the saxophone, I am quite happy with the mild progress.

Coming from playing concert pitch instruments all my life, transposed instruments tend to cause a lot of confusion with me. I want to try to learn the instrument “properly” and not cheat by writing out my own concert pitch fingering chart (like I did when first learning the trumpet). Though it will be hard to start thinking of a C as an A and an E♭ as a C.

Anything else?

Yes, one other grievance with the instrument, is the sheer volume it puts out. With the guitar or keyboard, you can just plug some headphones in. Then when I took up the trumpet I got a mute which, while not ideal for technique, brings the volume down and does allow for consistent practice.

With the saxophone, even after online recommendations of shoving balled up socks or a t-shirt into the bell of the instrument, it is incredibly loud! If I do manage to get a reasonable volume through these makeshift dampening techniques, I notice a very different feel from the instrument. So, it looks like I might have to get used to the idea of my neighbours not being my biggest fan!

Of course, this is all coming from a place of beginner’s frustration, all in all I am enjoying the challenge of learning a new instrument, evidenced by how much I’m playing! I tend to play a little bit each night right now. I’m sure once I get a bit more comfortable with how to play I will have completely forgotten about things like honky low notes, soggy reeds or having to transpose each note!

If you fancy learning to play the saxophone too or any other instruments, make sure you sign up for two free lessons with Your Space Music Lessons. I promise there’s no catch, just a company wanting to help Normans customers! You can sign up here.

 

About the author

Rory joined Normans in October 2017 as a member of the sales team. Primarily he plays the guitar and bass, but he has picked up a few other instruments in over 12 years of playing. He most enjoys performing live and playing jazz music.

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