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Saxophone, anyone?

(27 Posts)
Erebus Wed 06-Nov-13 22:44:12

DS, 14, has decided he'd like to have a go at learning the sax. He's got grade 1 piano. Does anyone have any hints & tips about how to proceed? I'm hoping he can get lessons at school, but can one rent instruments? How much? I gather that the sax is considered to be the 'easiest' woodwind as it's the most recently developed but I appreciate it won't be a stroll in the park!

onebananatwobanana Thu 07-Nov-13 09:18:34

My DS plays the sax and loves it. You can rent but not sure how much as I'm sure it varies from region to region. He takes lessons in school, but the real joy is jazz band, big band opportunities. It is a more contemporary instrument so its easy to watch pop music on you tube with great sax can see why a teenage boy would be inspired!

He needs to practice regularly to keep his embouchure (lip muscles) strong.

Have fun!

LittleSiouxieSue Thu 07-Nov-13 10:17:36

I would have a little concern that he only has grade 1 piano. Why did he give up? Not sure sax is easy either. As you are now half way through the term, surely everyone else has started lessons so he must have already missed some? I would make enquiries at the school rather than Mumsnet!

MrsSteptoe Thu 07-Nov-13 12:23:10

DS loves playing sax. He started about a year ago, and he's now 10. I wouldn't worry at all about your DS giving up piano. Mine gave up on piano and guitar - maybe your DS, like mine, is a single-line instrument guy. Lots of kids are. Lots of musical instrument stockists do sax hire. I dreaded DS starting sax as I thought it would be a disaster. In practice, it turned out to be precisely the right instrument for him - I didn't expect that! If the school has started lessons already and he can't pick up mid-term, try a private teacher for a while. Try to find one who's committed to teaching, not some chancer who just thinks they can make a little scratch on the side by teaching an instrument that they play themselves (to varying levels of expertise). If you read through a range of ads on the internet, you'll start to get the feel for the way that real teachers (who may or may not be performers) "look". DS's teacher teaches woodwind at a specialist music school about 10 miles away as well as being a jazz performer. Ideal combo in my experience (slightly more extensive than I'm discussing here) but admittedly expensive. Hope all that helps.

LittleMissGreen Thu 07-Nov-13 15:33:45

DS learns through school. Our county do free hire to students.

dils Thu 07-Nov-13 17:33:28

My ds now 13 has done sax for 5 years and is great at it now, doing G5... But it is not an easy instrument I think.

It can be really hard to get anything more than, or even, a squeak at first and is hard to listen to at first. So be prepared for a slow start but then picking up pace as he plays more and more. I agree that being in a school band is great and crucial really as this is fun, when scales are not. And even when not able to do much, they can join the corus and bang a tambourine, in the hard bits.

Also can be quite cool as they hit teenage years- go for it I'd say

Erebus Thu 07-Nov-13 19:35:37

Thanks, all. Needless to say, DS didn't quite get around to seeing his tutor teacher today about it (she's a music teacher).... but as for being half a term in, surely that's no problem, they all start or carry on from where they left off (I am assuming 1:1 lessons) at school.

bigbluebus Thu 07-Nov-13 21:12:59

When DS started playing the trumpet, we were given the option to buy/rent instruments through school from Normans.
However, not being sure if DS would stick at it, we went to a local music shop where they had some 2nd hand, good quality instruments, which they rented out at a reasonable cost for 3 months. At the end of that period, we had the option to return the instrument or buy at the sale price minus the rental money already paid.

I would look into when they hold the lessons at school, given your son's age. At DSs school, the instrument lesson was held at the same time every week during school time, meaning that he missed the same subject lesson each week. For this reason, we found him a music teacher outside of the school, which wasn't any more expensive that the supposedly subsidised lessons at school.

LittleSiouxieSue Thu 07-Nov-13 22:40:36

Lots of schools do not offer 1:1 lessons if you are a beginner. They put children in a little group lesson, unless you are very lucky in a state school. You may be lucky and find the visiting teacher has lots of time and few takers!

Marmitelover55 Thu 07-Nov-13 23:41:25

I hadn't realised that all state schools don't do 1:1 lessons! My DD1 is in year 7 comprehensive and is learning the flute (having done it for one year in primary). Very impressed with teaching so far 1:1 is so much better than the small group lessons she had in primary. Sport don't know about sax though - only a lovely instrument

Marmitelover55 Thu 07-Nov-13 23:42:06

*sorry not sport!

Bemused33 Fri 08-Nov-13 08:28:29

Dd started playing the sax in January (aged 9) she loves it! Is now grade three. It's a great instrument.

titchy Fri 08-Nov-13 09:04:52

You'll need to contact your county music service rather than school as they will provide the lessons. They will probably only be able to offer a small number of instruments at your particular school, demand dependant of course but they may offer provision outside school if there is no teacher available for your school.

Erebus Fri 08-Nov-13 14:22:21

titchy - not sure about that. I looked on their website and there's no 'parents, contact us here' option; just school sign-ons etc. The tuition service at school is provided by them, however.

I will wait to see what DS discovers for himself.

Lancelottie Fri 08-Nov-13 16:38:06

Why assume he's 'given up' piano, Little Sue? DD only started it recently (at 11) and it could be a while before she gets to the heady heights of grade 2.

Erebus Fri 08-Nov-13 20:28:40

Development: He did speak to his teacher today who has more or less said 'Tell your mum to write it in your log book, meet with the sax teacher on Monday, he can organise rentals, pay £160 tuition for the rest of the year and off you go'...

I can't believe that getting him into it can be this straight forward! But if so, yes!

That just leaves the nagging to practise, but we're not going there. DS has an added impetus to learn as it'll be his 'new skill' for his D of E.

I'll let you know if it actually will be this easy!

losingtrust Sat 09-Nov-13 18:15:02

My DD started it Sep (now 9). She is finding the tonguing a little difficult but getting there. Your DS can read music which is an advantage and will be bigger than DD as they are quite heavy so on balance much easier than piano and easy to start playing tunes so he should enjoy it.

losingtrust Sat 09-Nov-13 18:16:44

I bought one through the school to save VAT and it was £200. They are about £10 per month to rent one. Our local music service provides lessons and have sax groups on Weds and Sat.

Ferguson Sun 10-Nov-13 20:29:10

Hi -

Glad things are moving for him - Yes, it is a fantastic instrument!

Has he stopped piano, or only got to Grade 1 so far? (not that it matters either way.)

Has he done any recorder? The fingering for saxes is virtually the same as recorder, so a bit of recorder knowledge can be a help.

Our DS started alto sax aged 10, having done a few years of piano, and a year of trombone (which he only did as we had been told he was too young for sax, which turned out not to be true!)

We bought a Yamaha student Alto, through the local secondary school, as that got rid of VAT. He had lessons through school, and when he went to grammar school he went straight into their jazz big band, which also played for their musical show every year. He took several Grades, but you DON'T have to do every one, and can skip a few here and there. To do the higher Grades you need to have Grade 5 Theory, so keeping on with piano is an advantage. Aged around 12 he got into the county jazz band, which played concerts around the county. Eventually he got Grade 8 Distinction, and also Music 'A' level (that needs a lot of theory, and the ability to compose bits in the style of Mozart, Bach or whoever.)

You need to consider whether you want Alto sax (E-flat), or Tenor (B-flat) and is considerably larger. (There are also the smaller Soprano, and much larger Baritone [Lisa in 'Simpsons'], but they are not usually for beginners.)

Associated Board are the 'standard' Grades, the alternative is Trinity; was 'Guildhall Trinity' but I think the Guildhall bit has been dropped.

Once he can play a bit, there is a brilliant library of a hundred jazz improvisation books with CDs, to teach scales, theory, and all the famous jazz sax soloists. This should link to them HERE

CowsGoMoo Sun 10-Nov-13 21:29:46

My Ds started sax 4 years ago at 10 years old. It is a wonderful instrument and now he is 14 all the girls think its cool too! He is doing Grade 5 (He is also Grade 5 classical guitar) At 10, he found the sax heavy and we got him a padded support rather than the plain webbing one that came with his sax. Once we knew he was serious about the instrument we invested in a wonderful Yamaha (£1200) sounds so much better than his rented one. Getting a sound out of it at first was interesting and a little hard at first but plenty of practice every night got that sorted pretty quickly.
I love listening to ds play now, he plays some amazing jazz and is part of the jazz/blues scene at school.
When ds started we were told that it was best to start with the clarinet, perfect his embouchure then try the sax. I play the clarinet so he did a bit of practice on that but pretty much went straight to the sax with no problems.
Good luck to your son. Hope he enjoys playing

Aquariusgirl86 Sun 10-Nov-13 22:07:09

I play sax and my mum is a woodwind teacher. Saxophone is one of the easiest in my opinion ( I play flute and clarinet too)
You can hire them from music shops or do hire purchase. Some teachers lend them out.
Think you'd have trouble getting lessons through school if it's not September though

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Nov-13 22:50:22

DS is planning to move onto / add the sax to his repertoire once he's taken his Grade 5 clarinet in December (he hasn't take any other exams, but we thought taking Grade 5 would be a good one to mark where he has got to, especially if he changes his 'first instrument' IYSWIM). He plays a lot of jazz - similar to Ferguson - and fancies the cooler (and louder) sax.

His teacher - out of school, though first encountered through school - teaches both so there shouldn't be a big problem in combining or swapping. Plan is to hire through the school music service - more expensive because his comp is an academy, but still a cheap way of doing it - for a little while, then consider buying. We did the same with the clarinet.

Erebus Mon 11-Nov-13 19:17:10

DS starts next Monday using a sax borrowed from the Head of music at school!

I'll let you know how he gets on.

Ferguson Mon 11-Nov-13 20:13:00

A couple more things occurred to me -

If at any time you are thinking of buying a sax, go for a recognised brand; BEWARE of some cheap makes, as their metal keys and rods are not strong enough, and can bend.

MOUTHPIECES vary, and there are several makes, with different characteristics, and slightly different sizes. Similarly with REEDS, which range from soft to hard, and need to be replaced every few months (depending on how much you play). Try to keep the instrument, the mouthpiece and reeds clean, and dry them after playing. A good music shop should be prepared to let you try different combinations of mouthpiece and reeds, and be able to offer advice before you buy. Don't be afraid to 'haggle' on prices!

Now here are a few tunes (sorry about the adverts):

People always think of jazz as noisy and fast, but it doesn't have to be! Listen in particular for the Count's sparse piano figures; Freddie Green's four guitar arpeggios (spot the odd one out!), and his steady slow 'chug' throughout; and the rise and fall of the saxes, with the baritone rising above them:

Count Basie - Lil' Darlin':

Two rather different treatments of the same 'standard' tune: Which do you prefer?

Amy Dickson - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes:

Coleman Hawkins - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes:

More typical of Count Basie's swinging band; this is one of his 'classic' bands, with Sonny Payne on drums. [I saw them many times in the '60s.]

Count Basie - Corner Pocket:

Ferguson Mon 11-Nov-13 20:17:52

Just seen your latest 'post' -

GOOD LUCK! and Enjoy!

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