Saxophones Saxophone vs Clarinet

Yuna229

New Member
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Portugal
#1
Hello, I have recently decided I want to learn a new instrument, but I'm divided between Clarinet and Sax. I have the Conservatory with Piano, but now I wanted to learn something that's manageable to carry around and with which it's easier to play in groups. I never played any wind instrument, so I have no idea how I am on that level, but I think I don't have a lot of breath (although, yes, I know, that can be improved). So I don't know which to pick; I do not have a clarinet, I would have to buy one (what are the prices and brands? Is it ok to buy one on second hand?), and as for the sax, I can borrow one from someone I know, although nor for long in case they do not want to sell it for a lower price.
My main question is for the music style. I love both of them, and I think both work on the styles I like, but, well, I'd rather ask here, you have more experience than me, that's for sure. I really enjoy Gypsy Jazz, Classic Jazz, Classical Music (especially Modernism and Late-Romantic), and some more (I guess I can name a few of my favorite artists, even though they don't all play the clarinet or sax; Miles Davis, Simentera, Cesária Évora, Benny Goodman, Buena Vista Social Club, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ibrahim Maalouf, Lhasa de Sela, No Blues, BGKO, Ali Farka Touré, Voz de Cabo Verde, Grappelli, Reinhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Debussy, Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, Schubert, Borodin, Ravel, Satie, etc)

So, coming from piano to wind, which I have never touched before but would love to be able to make those jazz, gypsy, some arabic, melodies, and also the smoothness of Debussy, what are the pros and cons?
Thank you!
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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#2
Well, the forum isn't called Cafe Clarinet ;)

Sorry, couldn't resist!

Welcome to the forum. Plenty on here who double up and I'm sure they can give you more useful advice! Just the Saxophone for me. It's a very versatile instrument, as I'm sure you are aware.
 

nigeld

I think I need a different ligature
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#3
Welcome to the Café.

I don't play clarinet, so I'm biased towards saxophone.
I think the saxophone is the easier of the two to learn.
With a saxophone, you can play classical arrangements in small groups (e.g. saxophone quartet) and jazz in small or large groups.
 

spike

Old Indian
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#7
Welcome to the Café Sax Yuna,
A tip from from me:
If you do decide to buy a clarinet make sure you get a wooden one, they burn better.
But do remember to keep the case and display it on the dashboard of your car.
You can safely store all your valuables in there and they won't get stolen,
not only that you can park in a disabled bay and you won't get a ticket.
 

BigMartin

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#8
Which do you most love the sound of? It's going to take you along time (probably measured in years) to get any where near the sound you want, so you'll need plenty of motivation in the early stages.
 
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Location
Devon, UK.
#9
having spent time this year learning both, I can say that IME sax is significantly easier. That said, I still prefer the sound of clarinet and the music I listen to doesn't generally lend itself as well to sax, hence I still stick to clarinet.
 
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Location
Southampton, UK
#10
If you think you may be in it for the long run, I would start on clarinet. You can pick up a Yamaha 26II from around £75 (I have bought two in the past, each at £50). They, as long as they are checked, would be both perfect to learn on, and very small to carry around. You will need some money to buy a mouthpiece.

If you enjoy it, you can add a sax (which inevitably will be much more expensive) easily. As said above, if you start on sax, with a greater financial outlay initially, it is harder to add in clarinet later. You can always sell the clarinet on for about the same you paid for it!

More of a head than heart answer from me then....

Chris
 
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472
#11
. ...I really enjoy Gypsy Jazz, Classic Jazz, Classical Music...
Clarinet is far more common than saxophone in all those genres (depending on what you mean by classic jazz).

would love to be able to make those jazz, gypsy, some arabic, melodies,
Clarinet is more common in arabic music too.

and also the smoothness of Debussy,
It might be a while before you can tackle the Premiere Rhapsodie. :)
 

Colin the Bear

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#12
For portability you can't beat a clarinet. If you're short of wind, clarinet takes less air. More pressure but less volume. Clarinet has a greater range and covers both alto and soprano and then some. Cheaper to buy. Cheaper reeds and easier to maintain. After clarinet saxophone is a complete doddle. The clarinet has more fingerings than a saxophone. So coming from clarinet to sax you already know all the fingerings and lose the complicated part.

The universal trainer, the recorder was my way in to woodwind. The fingerings are basically the same and if you decide it's not for you, you haven't lost much money.

My advise would be to start on recorder and add clarinet(s) and or saxophone(s) later.
 

BigMartin

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#13
the recorder was my way in to woodwind. The fingerings are basically the same
??? Recorder fingerings are horrible.

But, IMO, fingerings are the least of your worries. In my experience, clarinet tone production and articulation need much more work just to maintain a basic level of technique than saxophones (with the possible exception of soprano/sopranino which I haven't spent that much time with). But if clarinet is what you love, you'r more likely to put that effort in.
 

pknight11

New Member
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27
#14
If you do decide to go with a sax, I would recommend an alto. Easier to transport, and a lot of the classical music arranged for sax (much of it written originally for oboe) is arranged for alto. A tenor would be the second choice for a learner (this is where I started 54 years ago), but it is larger, heavier, and may require more air. Whatever you do, don't try starting on a soprano. It may seem attractive due to the small size, but it will require much more work to get a satisfying result, even with some competence on larger saxes.
 

Jeanette

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#16
Whatever you do, don't try starting on a soprano. It may seem attractive due to the small size, but it will require much more work to get a satisfying result, even with some competence on larger saxes.
Not sure I agree with this, having started on Soprano :)

Choose the one you most like the sound of, the one that feels comfortable in your hands. A lot of work is needed and if you don't totally love it you'll soon give up.

Jx
 
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Location
Dartmoor, SW UK
#17
As somebody who learnt on clarinet and doubled on sax I'm not sure about the people who say saxophones are easier to play - I think it's just down to what you get used to. I had classical lessons then ended up playing a lot of trad jazz, so clarinet was ideal for that. I was encouraged to double on alto sax later when I was playing in a wind band where we did a fair bit of swing/big band music, but clarinet was always my "first instrument".

Clarinet and sax are certainly quite different to play in my experience - the embouchure is completely different (clarinets are played at the sharp end of the "bend" range with a tight embouchure and sax works best played at the flat end with a loose embouchure, although I got away with playing my alto sax like a clarinet for years in a wind/swing band). The core fingering is pretty similar, although some of the "extra" keys and alternative fingerings are different. And of course the saxophone, being conical bore, overblows in octaves, so the fingering for a given note in lower and second octave is the same, whereas clarinets overblow a 12th.

As has been said, pick the one you think will be more to your tastes, then perhaps learn the other one later.
 

pknight11

New Member
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#18
Not sure I agree with this, having started on Soprano :)Jx
Just curious. When/how did you start playing sax? I began in school at age 10, and I doubt that there are any schools in the US where students are allowed to start on a soprano. Nowadays, most school directors try to force newbies interested in sax to start on clarinet. It is less expensive, and it is generally believed to be easier to move to sax later on than to move to clarinet later on, as people have stated here. Those who start as adults have much more flexibility in choosing an instrument, of course.
 

AndyWhiteford

Senior Member
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Location
Glasgow UK
#20
Yuna, judging by your influences - i.e. gypsy jazz, classic jazz, classic, Arabic and Cabo-Verdean music et.al. ,-
i'd say start on clarinet - I might argue that it is a more versatile instrument in terms of the number of these genres it can fit into,
and many of your influences seem "acoustic" rather than "electric".
plus - a clarinet is cheaper and more portable. If you have music reading skills from piano studies, so much the better. you'll pick up clarinet a lot quicker.
 
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