The saxophone is a fun and versatile woodwind instrument and a great way for kids to start learning about various styles of music, including classical, pop and jazz music. In this article, we’ll offer a short guide to getting your child started on the saxophone.

This post will take you through the essential things to know before buying a saxophone for kids, including the best books and music, gear and accessories for young beginners.


Getting Started


With the wealth of products available, getting started with the sax can feel like a bit of a minefield. To avoid making any costly mistakes with gear, the best place to start is by finding a good local saxophone teacher.

Directories of local teachers are often provided by music shops, music school and university music departments, as well as there being a whole host of online services with searchable listings.

A saxophone teacher will be able to give you advice on buying or hiring a good instrument before the first saxophone lesson, taking away much of the guesswork in choosing the right equipment and books.


Books and Music


Some popular tutor books for saxophone for kids are ‘Sax Basics’ by Andy Hampton, ‘Learn As You Play Saxophone‘ by Peter Wastall, and ‘A New Tune A Day’ by Ned Bennett.

Hal Leonard has a fun series of books called ‘Easy Instrumental Playalongs’ which feature well-known pop, film and TV tunes. There are also more and more online sources of sheet music suitable for beginners at sites such as Musescore and Sheet Music Plus, and a wide range of YouTube tutorial videos featuring popular songs.


Saxophone for kids: which type should I buy?


The saxophone family features four instrument sizes: soprano, alto, tenor and baritone.

The tenor saxophone and baritone are too big for most children and the soprano saxophone is regarded as the hardest of the four instruments to keep in tune.

For this reason, almost all young beginners will start on the alto saxophone – it is the easiest saxophone for kids to start out on and a perfect introduction to the musical instrument.

Check out our guide to choosing a beginner saxophone for up-to-date information on the best makes and model.


How old does my child need to be to start playing the sax?


This will depend on your child’s height and size of hands, but around age 10-11 years is a good guideline.

If they really can’t wait to start but an alto sax is too big or heavy for them, there are options such as the Alphasax, a student saxophone for a smaller saxophonist. It features a much lighter construction with fewer keys.

Most children of around 8 or 9 years are able to start on this sax, but it is worth seeking advice from a teacher first.


Essential Info about the Mouthpiece and Reed


Think of the mouthpiece and reed as being like the engine of a car – yes, the body of the vehicle matters, but without the engine, you’re not getting very far.

Exactly the same is true of the mouthpiece and reed – the small piece of plastic and cane that you blow into to make a sound. The reed is fixed to the mouthpiece by a ligature which allows it to vibrate and make a sound.

Although your beginner instrument will come equipped with a basic mouthpiece and one or two reeds, the quality of these can be very poor.

Seek advice from your teacher, but you will certainly want a few quality reeds of the right strength and possibly an upgraded mouthpiece too – the Yamaha 4C is the industry benchmark and makes obtaining your first sound much easier.

Each time you play, setting up the mouthpiece and reed correctly is vital, so ask your teacher or check out some online tutorials to check this is correct.

As for reeds, there are a few trusted brand names out there which are a great place to start. Vandoren and D’Addario are two of the leading manufacturers. Both produce reeds suitable for beginners such as Vandoren’s ‘Juno’ and D’Addario’s ‘Rico’.

These reeds come in a range of strengths which gauge the stiffness of the cane. A reed strength of around 2 is normally a good starting point for a saxophone for kids, but individual brands can vary a lot so check out a reed comparison chart to be sure.


Getting the best from your gear


Saxophones feature lots of moving parts which need to be serviced at intervals of one to two years to maintain peak performance.

Specialist woodwind repairers are best-placed to carry out this maintenance – your local music shop or music teacher should be able to recommend one.

To keep repair costs to a minimum, make sure you handle the sax carefully and keep it in a good protective case. Supervise your child’s playing for at least the first few weeks to check they are handling the instrument with care.

For hygiene, it is important to clean out your saxophone regularly with a pull through cloth (you will need a large one for the body and a smaller one for the neck and mouthpiece).

Wash and disinfect the mouthpiece and reed in warm (but not hot) water from time to time to keep germs at bay.


Neck Straps and Harnesses


Even though the alto saxophone is one of the smaller saxes it is still quite heavy. When playing, the weight of the instrument is carried by a neck strap or harness.

A saxophone for kids is very unlikely to come with a quality, comfortable strap, but fortunately, there is a huge range of products available, many of them with ‘junior’ models designed with a young saxophone player in mind.


A few things to consider


Strap or Harness?

With a neck strap, all of the weight of the sax is concentrated around the neck.

This is not normally a problem for older children, but youngsters may find these uncomfortable.

Harnesses use a variety of solutions to distribute the weight around either the shoulders, abdomen or even clip to the belt loop of a pair of trousers.


Padding and Elasticity

For comfort, make sure you choose a padded strap. The wider the material the more evenly the weight will be distributed. Here are some of the best neck straps which use flexible material to reduce the feeling of heaviness.


NeoTech SoftSax

A market leader for many years, this strap claims to make the sax feel 50% lighter. It does this through the use of a Neoprene neckpad with an elasticated stretch backing, and comes in a range of sizes and colours.

Protec Stressless

Featuring thick, ridged padding, this strap uses a separated neck pad to alleviate pressure on the spine. Smooth seatbelt-type fabric on the straps allow for quick and easy adjustment.

BG Comfort Elastic

A comfy cotton neckstrap offers exceptional comfort, plus the elastic connection to the strap help to absorb impact from movement. Compact and stylish, it features a chunky and easily-gripped slider for height adjustment.

Snap hook or metal hook?

Snap hooks tend to be made of plastic rather than metal and feature a spring-loaded clip to ensure that the saxophone does not become detached.

Although these may not wear as well in the long term as metal hook, they are much safer for young children and reduce the risk of scratching the instrument.


Why choose the saxophone?


The alto saxophone is a great option for kids who want to get into playing a wind instrument.

Its ergonomic design and simple system of fingering make for quick progress once the breathing and mouth position are mastered.

Practising in the first stages should be little and often (every day if possible!) to ensure steady progress.

The saxophone‘s versatility means it offers a wealth of opportunities for playing in different genres of music.

Playing in groups such as wind band, marching band, big band and jazz ensembles is also a great way to socialise and meet new people. Good luck on your journey and we hope you have lots of fun playing the sax!

Explore our saxophone section to learn more about the jazz saxophone or check out our complete guide to the saxophone for beginners.

Discover Jazz
Discover Jazz

The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!