When you think of a saxophone, you probably think of jazz music—but you may be surprised to learn that saxophones are actually one of the most versatile instruments available. Saxophone music can be smoky and sultry or clear and bright. It can blend in with an ensemble or stand out as a solo. You can use a saxophone to play jazz, of course—as well as blues, rock and roll, pop, classical music, and more. 

Interested in learning how to play a saxophone? Use the guide below to get started, from choosing the right instrument to finding an online tutorial for your unique skill level and goals. 

What Saxophone Is the Easiest to Learn?

There are four main types of saxophones: tenor, alto, baritone, and soprano. According to most saxophonists, the tenor and alto saxophones are the easiest to learn. Between the tenor and alto saxophones, the differences are minor when it comes to playing difficulty. However, the keys on an alto sax are slightly closer together, which can make it just a bit easier for beginners—especially if you have smaller hands. But overall, either instrument is a great option for beginners. 

Plus, since the finger positions are the same for both instruments (i.e., the finger placement used to play a C on the tenor sax is the same used to play a C on the alto sax), you can switch back and forth fairly seamlessly and decide which instrument you prefer. 

Can You Teach Yourself How to Play Saxophone?

On your own, you may be able to figure out how to put together a saxophone and stumble through some notes, but you will likely get frustrated—and may pick up some bad habits on the way. If you don’t want to invest in in-person lessons, however, there are plenty of other ways to get started, including books and online classes. 

How to Play the Saxophone: 4 Online Lessons

With these online tutorials, you can learn how to play a saxophone in a matter of weeks, whether you’re a complete beginner or want to brush up on your existing skills. 

1. Tenor Saxophone Lessons for Beginners

If you’re new to music in general, this class covers the fundamental elements you need to know before you even pick up your instrument. Once you understand notes, melody, harmony, chords, and rhythm, you’ll learn how to apply those basic elements to the tenor saxophone. In this complete guide to how to play tenor saxophone, you’ll go from setting up your instrument to playing scales and melodies.

2. Alto Saxophone Lessons For Beginners

If you prefer to learn how to play alto saxophone, this class provides a comprehensive introduction to the instrument. In addition to basic instruction on how to set up and play an alto saxophone, this class focuses on learning to express yourself through beginner improvisation, or soloing. The course also provides a virtual jam room, which features a virtual band you can play along with at different speeds. 

3. Saxophone Essentials: Mouthpiece

A good, full sound on the saxophone begins with the mouthpiece. This class focuses solely on mouthpiece technique. In it, you will learn the fundamentals of creating a steady and focused tone on the mouthpiece only—which will then continue through the instrument.  

4. The Ultimate Beginner Sax Guide (For All Saxophones)

No matter what type of saxophone you choose to play, this class can help you get up to speed in a matter of months. It covers basic ear training, saxophone technique, tone and stamina exercises, and more. With this class and ample practice, you can learn how to play some of your favorite pop songs on your instrument.

5. How to Improve Your Sound on Saxophone 

Even if you have a solid saxophone foundation, there’s always more to learn. In this class, learn how to use sound and mouthpiece exercises to improve the quality of your sound. To get the most out of these exercises, make sure to add them to your daily routine. 

Once you’ve mastered the basics of the saxophone, you can move on to the fun part: practicing. Whether you join a band or orchestra or simply gather a group of friends to jam, playing music with others will help you develop your technique and push you to evolve as a musician. 

Jazz Up Your Sax Skills

The Complete Jazz Theory Course

Written by:

Katie Wolf