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Beginner How long should I learn on alto before moving to soprano?


New Member
I had my first saxophone lesson today (finally!!!) and my music teacher has started teaching me on alto and rightly so. How long do you think it will be before I can move onto soprano? (This is as a second instrument)


Well-Known Member
If you are serious about becoming a highly skilled player on each, I would recommend that first you master the fingering "geometry" of the alto sax throughout its normal range in all keys, and second that you have a command of the tone production and intonation of the alto sax throughout its normal range---however long that takes.

The concept behind my recommendation is the fact that the mastery of one's primary instrument before starting to play doubles provides the optimum transfer of skills that then facilitate the mastery of each double. Another way to look at it is that the investment of time and practice on the first instrument pays dividends as one branches out to other instruments.


ex Landrover Nut
I tend towards the Wyver view, with the proviso that you've got to be adaptable enough to master two different mouthpieces and different breathing requirements at once. It makes you more flexible in the long run.

I've seen a lot of posts here from people who've started on one sax and have great difficulty switching, even though they're keen to branch out. It's as if they get locked in to whatever they started on.

Maybe go with Nick's comments and be prepared to put one away for a while if learning both in paralell is a hassle.


New Member
I got my first alto in 2009 and now am waiting for my soprano to arrive. But I rather like that "5 minutes should be long enough" answer. Good luck

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member

Saxophones are addictive.

You think you'll just try one and before you know it you have a set and are investigating a mortgage to get a Bass and Contra Bass


Well-Known Member
The idea that you should learn Alto first mainly comes from school days - when Alto was the cheapest sax instrument and the Tenor was too heavy for kids in their early teens. Soprano and Baritone were considered rare instruments, and most music is written for Alto sax, with Tenor next.

We would say that it is best to learn the instrument that you want - get to know its foibles, put the work in, and you should be able to make a good sound. Generally the smaller the instrument the more challenging the intonation, but there are challenges for each saxophone.

I started learning on Soprano sax, then gradually started to play Alto sax, which is my favourite overall. If you mainly want to play soprano you should start with soprano as soon as possible, as Nick says. Lots of folks on the forum start with Alto when their real preference is to play Tenor, as if Alto is THE beginner instrument. If you want to play Tenor sax I recommend you get one and then learn to play it. The Alto is NOT easier to play, but it is lighter to play.

Hence, especially if you are an adult learner, learn to play the one you want!
Kind regards


I learned Clarinet 50 years ago. I tried a Tenor 30 years ago and didn't adjust well. It was so different, that I just gave up. It was stollen soon after, so that was a blessing for me. I have recently purchased an Alto and it is very comfortable. The mouth piece and air control is familiar for me. I believe I will do well in this conversion. Good luck.


Busking Oracle
I think you should wait, at least till the feeling subsides and you realise that you actually want a baritone instead!

Dave McLaughlin

I think you should wait, at least till the feeling subsides and you realise that you actually want a baritone instead!
Couldn't agree more! I think it was Stephen Howard who said (though I can't find it on his site just now) that a soprano is what you buy when you can't justify buying another alto or tenor and you can't afford a baritone.
Saxholder Pro
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