New Member
My name is Uma and I have been learning for the last couple of years. Mostly with books and YouTube vids. I don’t have a music background and really struggling to understand music theory and reading sheets :/ Is it this normal for older beginners? Looking forward to connecting with you and learning from you :)


Seeker of truth and beauty
Welcome to the Cafe, Uma. I think some struggle is normal for any beginner. There is lots of good advice available here. Have you thought about finding a teacher? With the current situation, it would have to be online, but I think you would find that very helpful. Best of luck. Nice to have you here.

Hammie 1982


Struggling to read music when starting out is absolutely normal. The reason for this, its a foreign language! One that im learning myself! Best thing to do is get yourself a finger chart and a learning book (stage 1) and play every piece of music in the book a bunch of times!

learn the first few notes and the position they hold on the register and sheet music, aim to add another note periodically! The more you can do that, the quicker you can learn what each note sounds like and where to pick them out!
Best of luck with the learning, best of luck with the Sax!

Neil H


I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Welcome to the Café.

Everybody struggles to some extent with music theory and with reading sheets. What happens is that the reading gradually gets quicker and more accurate over time.


Formerly JayePDX
Best thing to do is get yourself a finger chart and a learning book (stage 1) and play every piece of music in the book a bunch of times!
learn the first few notes and the position they hold on the register and sheet music, aim to add another note periodically! The more you can do that, the quicker you can learn what each note sounds like and where to pick them out!
This isn't bad advice, although I think there is a better alternative, which GC noted above...

When self-learners hit a wall, so to speak...whether it be reading/notation, ability to count/keep time, tone production, etc.....I think that is where the self-teaching materials begin to show their limits.

In situations like this, I actually suggest taking lessons one-on-one with a teacher. Whether it be in peerson (hard nowadays) or via skype or zoom or similar platform.
This is where having a teacher can be really helpful, and get you over the hump much faster and more thoroughly as well. Because each student has their strengths and weaknesses, and a teacher can tweak the lessons to address the needs of the particular player.

Just a thought.

Keep it up. Welcome to the Forum.


Busking Oracle
Hi Uma and welcome to the cafe. First of all, there’s some great advice as usual, but, what hasn’t been mentioned is playing by ear. Some people, myself included, just can’t get to grips with reading dots. I’ve been playing sax for 16 years and I still don’t know the name of any of the notes I play. AsI me to play a C.... not a chance! Play a note for me and I’ll hit it first, maybe second time. I don’t know why I can’t remember what the notes are called but it appears that no matter what I do, it just doesn’t stay in my head.
Im sure that if I could read music, my progression would have been measurably quicker but I’ve enjoyed playing the way I do and that’s what counts.
I hope you enjoy your journey and find plenty of helpful advice in the cafe.


Hi Uma, welcome to the Cafe.
Most of the problem, I think, is that once you're an adult, or thereabouts, you can't be fobbed off for weeks on end with Hot Cross Buns, Row Row Row Your Boat, and other simple melodies designed to grind the fundamentals of reading etc into your skull. So you go out into the world without any filters on, if you know what I mean.
I'm also mostly self taught and set out working from books and YouTube. Some of the books I bought are only beginning to make sense, others I've just about got enough knowledge now to realise I don't have to trouble my pretty head about for at least another 10 years... (I'm looking at you Gary Campbell).
The people here a very kind to beginners like us - ask whatever you like, and I'm sure you'll get great help.

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Hi welcome

I'm a firm believer that getting to grips with the basics of reading music notation is not that tricky... however (before I get shot by those whose experiences would indicate otherwise...) I think people learn in different ways and what works for one may not work for another. I do think that there are limitations to written texts and to videos. That is where a good teacher comes in: they can pick up on what does / does not work for you and help you accordingly.

I've helped out a few people over the years get to grips with the basics of music. What I've learned in my amateurish way is it can be quite odd things that cause the blockages. One person for example didn't understand that the note names A, B, C, D, E, F, G just keep repeating as you go up and down. They got it when I sat at a piano and asked them through it.


I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Hi Ina and welcome to the café. I think it's brave to try and learn all by yourself. I couldn't... But then maybe I was lucky to have a conservatoire just around the corner. Not perfect, but good to get started and cheap.

I can't say I had a musical background, but remembered the basics of notes reading from my primary school days, decades back. And I used modern technology, apps to help me train reading the notes that are significant for saxophone. I'm not very good, but it gets me going. Then you should get the parts in your fingers and know them by heart.

Good luck and keep visiting the forum. It's a great place.

Hammie 1982

Sorry I should have said, get some lessons too!
I started lessons recently and there’s so much to learn you’ll never manage on your own fully!
Reading music is a very small portion of playing it! There’s many many many pitfalls and without lessons you’ll fall into quite a number of them


New Member
Hi Uma, welcome from another cafésaxophone newbie!

I completely agree with a lot of what’s been said. I can’t completely put myself in your shoes as I learnt from an early age, but I do have a clarinet that I play completely for fun which I have found my way around without knowing what note any of the keys refer to. I can make an educated guess by ear, but I’ve never played anything on it from sheet music.

If I wanted to take it further, I would spend a bit of money on getting some lessons, to help me find my way around the instrument better, develop my tone and start playing from sheet music. Learning notation can speed up the learning process, but it can also open the doors to you to a whole load of repertoire possibilities that you may not have considered or been exposed to before. Don’t forget the dreaded scales and arpeggios either (which I hated as a kid), as they can be incredibly useful for improving your fingering control and speed.

Most importantly though is to enjoy the journey and celebrate each accomplishment you make along the way!

Good luck!
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