How to Play Saxophone [Learn by Yourself]

The saxophone is one of the most popular musical instruments. You can play it with a variety of music genres, and it is not that complicated with the many online tutorials. So what is involved in learning the sax? How to play the saxophone?

To learn how to play the saxophone, you first have to learn the proper positioning of your mouth, hands, and body. Next, you have to learn the basic notes, such as B, A, G, F, E, and D. Then, you can then proceed to learn the major and minor scales, such as G, A, B, C, and D.

You can learn from expert saxophone tutors or learn by yourself. It isn’t too difficult to learn by yourself with the many online resources.

Read on to learn more about how to play the saxophone by yourself and some tips on how to learn quickly.

Also, we hope you find the links here useful. We may get a commission if you purchase something through a link on this page, so thank you!

How to Play Saxophone [Learn by Yourself]

Saxophone playing requires patience and diligence. Initially, you have to learn the correct positioning of your mouth, hands, and body. Next, you need to learn the basic notes. These notes are B, A, G, F, E, and D. After learning these notes, you should learn the scales.

Before learning how to play the saxophone, you must first invest in a durable and quality instrument. A reliable way to check a saxophone is to make sure there are no dents on the neck and that the instrument has a smooth surface down its body.

Try holding the saxophone if the keys fit into your hands. The keys should be easy to utilize. With constant practice and diligence, you can learn to play with an ensemble within two to four years.

how to play saxophone

Basic Steps on How to Play the Saxophone

1. Choose a Good Saxophone

You cannot play a musical instrument beautifully no matter how talented you are if your instrument is faulty. So, you have to choose the most suitable saxophone for you.

2. Learn the Correct Body Position

When you learn to play saxophone, you have to learn the correct position when playing the saxophone to avoid muscle pains or injuries. The easiest position for you to learn is the sitting position. You can follow these steps:

  1. Sit on a chair with your back straight and your neck and shoulders relaxed. Avoid tilting your head on any side or hunching your shoulders.
  2. Scoot over slightly to the front and the right side of the chair with a small part of your left leg hanging. This will leave a space for you to hold the saxophone.
  3. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and keep your back straight with your head in line with your shoulders.

3. Hold the Saxophone Properly

Place the saxophone’s neck strap over your head and shoulder. Hold the saxophone while letting it rest on the right side of your lap. Tighten the strap until there is enough tension between the saxophone and your neck/body.

how to play the saxophone

4. Position Your Fingers and Thumbs Correctly

Your fingers and thumbs have appropriate positions on the saxophone:

  • Your right thumb should be on the lower thumb rest.
  • Position your left thumb on the upper thumb rest.
  • Make a “C” with your hand when playing the saxophone, so you can properly hold it.
  • Wrap your right hand’s fingers around the instrument, resting them on the three bottom keys.
  • Wrap your left hand’s fingers around the instrument, resting them on the three upper keys.
  • Hold the saxophone in place using the lower thumb rest when you play.

5. Position the Saxophone’s Mouthpiece

With your right hand, draw the saxophone’s mouthpiece to your mouth. The mouthpiece should reach your mouth comfortably. If not, the strap may be too long. Adjust the strap so that the instrument’s mouthpiece is positioned exactly below your mouth.

Your mouth should form the “embouchure” position, where you draw your bottom lip over your bottom teeth. The saxophone must rest against your lower lip with the upper lip closed, covering the entire mouthpiece. You could relax your jaw and mouth, careful not to bite the sax with your upper teeth.

6. Practice Blowing the Saxophone

Practice blowing the saxophone without pressing any keys. You should produce a clear, consistent sound. If the sound is too weak, position your mouth correctly and seal the mouthpiece tightly. Keep blowing and finding your mouth’s suitable position until you come up with the right embouchure.

7. Start Playing Basic Notes

With your left fingers, start playing the notes B, A, and G.

B Key

Try playing a B note by placing your left index finger on the second key from the saxophone’s top neck. Blow the mouthpiece as you press the second key firmly but gently.

A Key

Play the A note by placing your left middle finger on the third key while still pressing the second key with your left index finger and blowing on the mouthpiece.

G Key

Play the G note by using your left ring finger to press down the fourth key. Keep pressing the B and A keys simultaneously while blowing the mouthpiece. Take note that your left fingers play the B, A, and G keys.  

With your right fingers, start playing the notes F, E, and D.

F Key

Play the F key by pressing the first bottom key with your right index finger.

E Key

Play the E note by blowing through the mouthpiece and pressing the second key with your right middle finger. Don’t stop pressing the F key simultaneously.

D Key

Play the D key by blowing through the mouthpiece and pressing the third bottom key with your right ring finger. Maintain your pressure on the E and F keys simultaneously.

After you have mastered learning these basic notes, you may want to learn advanced skills, so you can perform professionally on stage.

8. Learn to Play Advanced Saxophone Skills

You can proceed in learning advanced skills by learning the major and minor scales.

Learn the Major Scales

Musical scales are a group of keys or notes that you can play together for a repertoire. You can start with the G Major scale. For this scale, you can play the notes G, A, B, C, and D in succession.

Learn Minor Scales

The minor scales are similar to the major scales; they only sound lower. You also have to master playing the minor scales if you want to play your repertoire later on. Refer to the websites below to learn more about these advanced scales.

learning how to play the saxophone

9. Practice Playing One Song with Your Saxophone

You can now practice playing one of your favorite songs. There are several finger charts online to help you if you don’t know how to read notes. [1]

Master this one song so you can play it when asked to play the saxophone on any occasion. You can refer to these websites for more tutorials:

  1. How to Play Saxophone (saxophone lessons online)
  2. How to Play the Sax (helpful YouTube channel for learning the saxophone)

We’ve discussed the steps on how to play saxophone the easiest way. Let’s now proceed to some tips on how to learn it faster.

Tips for Learning Saxophone Quickly

How to learn saxophone by yourself in a shorter time? You can learn the saxophone faster by following these tips:

1. Be Positive

Having a positive frame of mind will help a lot in learning faster. The reason is that the mind is more receptive when you’re optimistic. You tend to accept failure positively and would be challenged to continue learning instead of wallowing in your mistakes.

When you are positive, you view the learning process as a fun and exciting activity. Therefore, you will be enthusiastic about all the lessons and would learn quickly.

2. Ensure That Your Saxophone Is Reliable

You can learn easier if your saxophone is well-tuned and reliable. If not, you would waste time finding the correct keys. A faulty instrument will hamper your learning curve. Buy only from reputable stores that have a good track record in the industry.

3. Establish Short-term and Long-term Goals

You can quickly achieve something when you set up short-term and long-term goals. Having a goal would motivate you to strive harder and more diligently. It would also set the pace of your learning process.

When you don’t have a goal, you may wander aimlessly for a few days without achieving anything. However, if you have specific and clear goals, your progress will be smooth and continuous. So, you must strictly adhere to your goals.

Examples of Short-term Goals: 

  • After one week, I would be able to play the basic notes of the E scale.
  • In two weeks, I would be able to play the basic notes of the E and G scales.
  • After three weeks, I would be able to play the basic notes of the E, G, and C scales.

Examples of Long-term Goals:

  • After a month, I would be able to play all the different scales.
  • After three months, I would have mastered playing one music piece.

4. Practice Daily

Practice for at least 30 minutes to one hour every day. Playing the saxophone is a skill, like riding a bike. So, you have to practice it daily to acquire the skill. You can learn to play the sax from 2 to 4 years. If you want to shorten this learning time, you could practice for more than an hour every day. Remember to follow the correct procedure while practicing. “Practice makes perfect” only if you are doing it correctly.

Another alternative is to practice every other day, but you have to lengthen the time twice, so that would be one to two practice hours.

5. Learn First the Alto Sax

Some instructors recommend the alto to beginners because it is smaller and relies on the woodwind score, making it easier to learn than the tenor. Although some expert saxophonists say they are the same, you may want to try the alto first. Of course, you could play the tenor saxophone eventually as well.

6. Make Use of Online Apps

There are various free and paid online apps that you can use to speed up your learning process. There are incredible free saxophone lessons on Google Play that you can install on your device. Take7 also provides a free saxophone practice app that you can use conveniently.

You can also visit the websites recommended above and take advantage of their learning tutorials or hire an expert tutor. The internet offers a variety of free and paid learning devices that you can use.

7. Get a Good Teacher

Yes, this may be more expensive than learning on your own, but having a good instructor would allow you to quickly learn the ropes of playing the saxophone. If you don’t have offline teachers in your area, you can always hire qualified online tutors.

There are dozens of certified saxophone teachers online. Choose one that you can jive with and enjoy learning. You can also choose saxophone instructors from the websites provided above.

Conclusion – How to Play the Saxophone

The first step in learning how to play the saxophone is learning the proper positioning of your mouth, hands, and body. Afterward, you have to learn the basic notes, such as B, A, G, F, E, and D.

After mastering the basic notes, you can then proceed to learn the major and minor scales, such as G, A, B, C, and D. Learning how to play the saxophone should be a fun-filled journey for you. Good luck!

Related reading:

Pros and Cons of Playing Saxophone

Best Saxophones – [Alto, Tenor, Soprano, and Bari]

What Instrument Does Kenny G Play? [Kenny G Instrument]

Different Types of Saxophones [4 Most Common and 6 Less Common]

Selmer Reference 54 Tenor Saxophone Specs and Review