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Beginner Sax Help for a beginner re Soprano Saxophones please

Beanie

New Member
Messages
3
Sorry for the basic questions, I know nothing about saxophones but my 7 year old son has just started having lessons. After over a year of begging for lessons he is loving it at the moment and is currently borrowing the teacher's alto saxophone.

however, this is far to big and heavy for him, it's pretty much down to his knees and when I asked the teacher what I should be looking for when buying a saxophone he said a curved soprano would be best. Having read some of the posts on here I understand it is not the easiest but the alto is just too big for him and he is desperate to play the saxophone (aside from a desire to play the double bass :eek:).

We have a budget of around £200-250 which initially seemed like a lot but having looked it seems like nowhere near enough.

The question is what would you suggest, we're quite happy to go with second hand and in fact I would rather get something a bit better that is secondhand than pay the same amount for a new model that is not as good.

So what would you recommend?

I would like to put out a WANTED add but as a new forum member it seems that I can't until I have a few more posts under my belt so feel free to pm with anything suitable.

Thank you in advance for listening to the ramblings of a newbie.:)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
Hi Beanie

Firstly go with what the teacher says. Plenty of kids start on clarinets, which are, if anything, harder to play. Killing this sort of enthusiasm is dumb. And if you don't tell your son it's difficult, he won't even think of it.

Earlier this year I saw a young girl (I'd guess about 9) play sop in a music school recital. First year of lessons and already really promising. However ff he hasn't got his adult front teeth, it may be a little difficult, but I guess the teacher is wise to this.

Couple of points on soprano, based on my experience over the last couple of weeks (and a couple of weeks a year ago).
1 - they can sound really nice. But won't at first.
2 - they seem to be more sensitive to mouthpieces than the bigger saxes, be prepared to experiment a little, and don't expect the stock mouthpiece to play well. A good, reasonably priced starter is the yamaha 4c.
3 - they're more sensitive to leaks (pads sealing on tone holes) than bigger saxes. This leads to playing difficulties. If you're buying second hand, or new cheap chinese, expect to pay for a set up. And minor bumps can easily disturb the keys. In my mind this is part of the reason for sops having a reputation as being difficult.
4 - although the sax is a lot smaller, the keywork isn't much smaller than on an alto, so there may be problems with reach at first. However he'll have no problems with most of the keys.

But don't let this put you/your son off.

On the double bass, it's not as bad as you think. They make kiddy sized ones, and it's not a loud/piercing instrument. Rather this than drums (says he who has a son learning drums, double bass and electric bass)... Rent a kiddy sized one and change them as he grows. Biggest problem with them is the size, and getting it in the car for lessons or to play at school...
 

Beanie

New Member
Messages
3
Thanks for the reply. That's really interesting. I know what you mean about something being harder once you know it is! I guess it's just from reading so many posts on here and also some of the vendor websites saying that sopranos aren't suitable for a starting instrument, it's all left me rather confused and as it is not an instrument I know anything about it's hard to know which way to go!

I think you are right, I shall go with the teachers' advice and see what happens. Do you have any recommendations for something that might be suitable within our budget?
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
Thanks for the reply. That's really interesting. I know what you mean about something being harder once you know it is! I guess it's just from reading so many posts on here and also some of the vendor websites saying that sopranos aren't suitable for a starting instrument, it's all left me rather confused and as it is not an instrument I know anything about it's hard to know which way to go!

I think you are right, I shall go with the teachers' advice and see what happens. Do you have any recommendations for something that might be suitable within our budget?
One of my students started at 8 on a curved soprano for the same reason. I agree with your teacher. Weight on the neck is another reason.

He has a Venus, that is sort of OK. It still works after three years of mistreatment.

In your budget there should be this:
http://www.studentmusicsupplies.com/soprano-saxophone-16-c.asp

I have their alto for a review and it is a really solid instrument. Robbie is a member of the forum and I think there is some discount for us. They have an approval policy too

edit: I have a Jericho (the more expensive model), not an Academy. You may ask Robbie for an opinion.


An alternative is John Packer. I played them a lot. They are a bit more expensive but you can hire one.
http://www.johnpacker.co.uk/Catalogue/Woodwind/Saxophone/Soprano-Saxophone/Student
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I think you are right, I shall go with the teachers' advice and see what happens. Do you have any recommendations for something that might be suitable within our budget?
Sorry, I can't add anything to Aldevis' excellent advice.

The JP in the yard sale that you're thinking about looks like a good buy. But like anything bought unseen, there's risk involved. If you decide to try that, suggest you get an agreement that the sale is subject to a check by a tech/music teacher, otherwise returnable for full refund (or your tech fixes.... ).

Suggest you ask the teacher about local technicians and make contact. You never know when you're going to need one. and they (technicians) do vary, so recommendations are very helpful.
 

Jobylou

Member
Messages
322
Regarding my JP in the yard sale, I bought it direct from John Packer on 10th June this year. It really is as new, I can't find a mark on it. I have PM'd my email address to Beanie and will happily answer any questions :)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
Regarding my JP in the yard sale, I bought it direct from John Packer on 10th June this year. It really is as new, I can't find a mark on it. I have PM'd my email address to Beanie and will happily answer any questions :)
OK, please keep that to the yard sale. I guess the rest of the guarantee is transferrable.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi there!

If you want to play sax any one sax can be learnt and mastered - alto has been a common recommendation for school kids, but not a particularly good one IMHO. I started on soprano, and have done fine. Generally the smaller the instrument the more room for error - tone and intonation, but that is almost it.

I would certainly consider the JP sax mentioned above. I would also recommend a Bari Esprit sax mouthpiece - costs £14 and has a lovely mellow sound which would help produce a good sound on the soprano. Top curved sax players include Jan Garbarek and Jack Wylie of the Portico Quartet. I love mine - also has its own special stand and so on.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
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8,010
I'm not trying to be contrarian, but there is another option that can be thrown into the mix so that all points of view are represented. That is when a youngster has not yet attained the size to play a certain instrument, that student can take piano lessons for a year or two until large enough to handle the instrument.

The piano is ideal to learn to count and read music without having to worry about tone production. Regardless of the band instrument chosen, those youngsters with a background in piano tend to progress much faster. As a music educator, I would never advise a youngster whose hands are too small for the clarinet to start on the Eb soprano clarinet, or a small flute student to start on the piccollo. Those instruments are challenging even for accomplished players, let alone a beginner on the instrument. The soprano sax is not quite as difficult as these woodwinds mentioned, but the principle is the same. The most important consideration, in my view, is that every music student be given the optimal chance for success.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
around here, kids who's hands are too small for Bb clarinet usually start on the C clarinet. Surpriing how much difference a single tone makes to the size.

Another advantage of learning piano (or any keyboard) is that it teaches chords...

One thing against steering the kids to another instrument is that it may be seen as a con where parents don't want he kid to learn the instrument of choice. (And we're facing this at the moment). We encouraged our kids to listen to the different instruments, try them out and pick one who's sound appealed most. The 'con' was that the youngest wanted to learn electric bass guitar, but the music school said he was too small and that learning double bass first would be a better route, as there are lots of kiddy sized double basses, and if he ever wanted to play jazz or an in an orchestra, the double bass skills would be called for. Double bass to bass guitar is an easy transition as the tuning's the same so the chords are the same. But... 2 years in he's decided it was a con. Sadly, even though he has a short scale electric bass and is still too small for a full sized one.

One other aspect is not telling the kid it's difficult, whether verbally, or non-verbally because of ingrained prejudice. Kids are tryers and can overcome many obstacles with their enthusiasm and have a try attitude, but we train it out of them...
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
One other aspect is not telling the kid it's difficult, whether verbally, or non-verbally because of ingrained prejudice. Kids are tryers and can overcome many obstacles with their enthusiasm and have a try attitude, but we train it out of them...
Totally agree about the piano, I wish I had learned it as a kid. Enthusiasm is really essential. I really don't like teaching saxophone to children that would rather play drums, but parents wanted a sax. It will be better in the long run (who wants a drummer in the family?) but the risk of pushing them away from music is quite high.

One of my students started on soprano at 8 (he is 11 now). Really tiny hands, and he liked my curved soprano when I did a short introduction at school. After one year he asked me "is it true that soprano is the most difficult saxophone because it is out of tune?". Being unaware of it, he always played in tune.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
What put me off learning the trumpet as an 11 yo was that I would end up playing classical music in an orchestra of some sort. I was never told that it was possible to play trumpet in any other environment - jazz or rock group, for example. Since discovering that I didn't have to learn to play classical music to get on in music I have successfully learned 3 instruments (sax, trumpet and trombone).
 

Perera

New Member
Messages
24
Just a word of caution on the piano - I can definitely see the benefit of learning this instrument - it helps anyone to conceptualise and visualise notes - which is definitely useful in developing music-reading skills and understanding of chords and scales - even when I was learning the various flat major and minor scales on my sax, my teacher would laugh at me for wiggling my fingers about as though I were playing a piano as that was the easiest reference point for me to work out what notes would go in which scale - but I absolutely loathed being made to play the piano. All I really wanted to learn at the time - was the clarinet. I'd shown good aptitude for the recorder and could make reasonable sounds on my friends' clarinets and even flutes, but because I wasn't committed to the piano, my parents decided it wouldn't be worthwhile investing in an instrument I actually wanted to learn. So fast-forward many many years, and finally as an adult I bought myself my first alto saxophone and never looked back. I couldn't be more committed and have got from beginner to grade 3 in less than 18 months (my previous piano playing did help me with the theory aspects) - but there's definitely a lot to be said for kids knowing what they want to play and in many ways, they know which instruments they would suit best. I wasn't co-ordinated enough to play the piano, but I also know quite a few people who don't have the lungs and breath control to play a sax!
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,555
I haven't read all the replies, so it may have already been mentioned.... you can also buy a musical instrument without paying the VAT provided your child is receiving their lessons in a state school, or from an LEA approved music teacher.
 
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