Clarinet Versus Saxophone for Beginners - Should students start on the saxophone or the clarinet?

Some music teachers do not encourage saxophone for beginners. The saxophone is not only an expensive band instrument, it also is heavy and takes a long time to learn. Many band teachers prefer for all future sax players to start on the clarinet. A child can handle the smaller clarinet much more easily, yet many of the skills needed to play it will transfer over to learning to play the sax.

Other band teachers, however, allow beginner saxophone lessons, but they almost always require kids to start on the smaller alto saxophone than on the larger tenor. The baritone saxophone is saved until a student has played the saxophone for several years.

Oddly enough, switching from playing the clarinet to the saxophone is generally considered easier than learning on the saxophone and then switching to clarinet. The keys are similar and the mouthpiece and embouchure are almost the same, too.

The only way for beginners to learn to produce a smooth beautiful tone on the saxophone is to listen and practice. The beginner needs to get the desired sound in his mind first. Some players may expect a new expensive mouthpiece or more expensive reeds to be the deciding factor, but unless they take the time to practice, this won't help that much. It takes time to become familiar and comfortable with the placement of the mouthpiece between the lips and teeth.

The best mouthpiece on the saxophone for beginners should have a medium tip opening. The reed should be somewhat stiff so that the lips and mouth will have to work hard to make a nice sound. Otherwise the muscles of the mouth will not be developed in strength and precision.

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