Switching to sax from clarinet

by Julia

I am considering switching from clarinet to saxophone. I would like to ask your opinion.
I am a beginner on the clarinet - I know all the fingerings, I have a good sense of rhythm and I can read sheet music well, but I can't play the high notes (beyond upper G) and I can't play fast pieces because I'm just too slow moving my fingers. I've been practicing, but so far I haven't gotten fast enough.
I'm also getting frustrated because my mouth gets tired really quickly and the pitch of the note I play comes out all wrong. I end up having to clean the clarinet very often.
I've heard that saxophone is easier to play. What exactly is easier, compared to the clarinet? Is it easy to play fast pieces? To blow good-quality sounds?
My other concern is this: from what I understand, the saxophone is best suited to playing jazz, and it's not as versatile as the clarinet. I am not a big fan of jazz, though I like some songs. I know I could still play most of the clarinet pieces with the sax. But what kind of music, besides jazz, would be good to play on a saxophone?
Also, I first picked up playing the clarinet in a band, but now I mostly play on my own. I've found that playing solo is not as fun as playing in a band. Is the saxophone better suited to solos?
I would appreciate your advice on this! Thanks!

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Nov 22, 2007
answers from an experienced sax player
by: Chris

I will start off by saying that about four years ago I was in a similar situation. I had always wanted to play the alto sax. My older brother was a bass clarinet player and he took lessons from an all around woodwind musician. My mom signed me up for lessons, but the teacher said that I would become a better saxophonist in the long run if I learned the clarinet first. After almost a year of clarinet lessons, he said that I was finally ready to pick up an alto sax. Learning to play the clarinet first is very helpful experience to have in the long run of playing the alto sax.

I will go over some of the pros and cons really quickly.

Pros, the sax is an instrument that you can have a lot of fun with in the long run. There is some fun opportunities with playing it in high school.

Cons, The sax recieves a lot of criticism from brass musicians, the sax is highly competitive in high school, and professionally. The sax can't normally be played in symphony orchestras.

My first word of advise is to learn the high notes on the clarinet. The fingerings are almost identical if not exactly the same as saxophone fingerings. It will be much easier to learn the fingerings on an instrument you already know how to play.

The first question I will answer is what about the sax is easier. The sax is hands down one of the easiest instruments to learn how to play, however it is a harder instrument to master. It might take a clarinet player three years to learn how to play well, but after that it doesn't take very long for them to become great. A sax player could take 1.5 years to learn how to play, but 6 years after that to become great. Reason for this is how the music is written, playing in tune, and style. advanced Sax music demands a lot technically from musicians.

Your second question is what kind of music is good on the sax. The sax is best suited to jazz, (and I would definitely recommend that you give jazz a shot because it's lots of fun) but it is one of the more versitile instruments in the band. I would say that the only thing the sax is limited to is playing in orchestras. I have played in marching bands, symphonic bands, and many jazz ensembles, and the sax is great in them. Solo music for the sax is written in almost every genre.

That brings me to your last question. Is the sax better suited for solos? YES! the sax is probably the best solo instrument there is, because it can be played with a certain sound that makes it interesting and fun to listen to that other instruments don't have. The clarinet is definately not a very interesting instrument to listen to solo, except for at certain kinds of classical and European folk music.

I hope that this advise helps you, and if you decide to play the sax, good luck, and have a lot of fun!

May 01, 2008
not sure
by: Anonymous

the saxophone isn't extemely difforent then
the carinet, i think.
i'm a beginner on the alto, and i havn't
tried a clarinet. The saxophone can play
clasical and pop as well as jazz.
with the note switching speed, i'm not
sure if a sax would be much easier. I
started a few weeks ago and i'm not having
any truble with that.

Jan 25, 2009
Different music makes the difference
by: Anonymous

I have played the clarinet six years, and although I cannot attest as to whether one is easier to play, I can say that on average sax music is easier. In school band music, clarinets are often given very quick parts; sometimes taken from string parts in re-arrangements.

I have heard that the sax is a little easier to blow into, so this might help your embouchure (lip) issues, but the only real solution to this is practice. If you like classical music, or orchestra music I suggest that you stick with the clarinet. Whatever you do make sure that your instrument is in good repair, as one little problem can make playing the clarinet or sax nearly impossible.

Jun 13, 2009
Comment to Chris's comment on the clarinet
by: Anonymous


To say "The clarinet is definately not a very interesting instrument to listen to solo" is really a subjective opinion. In other words, that's what you think!!! The clarinet is a beautiful and interesting and fun instrument to listen to solo or in an orchstra. What's awesome about the clarinet is it can play classical and jazz!!!


Jun 25, 2009
for sure
by: siaras

the clairenet is fun but the alto sax is alot of fun and easy but expensive

Sep 27, 2009
by: Anonymous

Saxophone fingerings are definitely much simpler than clarinet, but as you mature, it would be good to learn some techniques like growling and bending. Those would require some practice.

I've been playing clarinet for 2 and a half years, not that long but I can play pretty fast (faster than I can sing) and I know all of the fingerings except for the ones above the very high D. I've recently picked up a tenor saxophone from school (six weeks ago), and it is so much easier than clarinet. I can play some things better on tenor than on clarinet.

I strongly advice you to continue to play clarinet, just practice about 20 minutes a day and you will be amazing in no time. After you think you've got a good hold of it, try playing the tenor saxophone (because they are both B flat instruments so it would be easier to learn), then try the alto (which is E flat), both have the same fingerings.

Nov 08, 2009
Clarinet to alto sax transition tips please?
by: Clarinet girl

Ive been a clarinet player for 9 years now and im going through the exact same thing. My band instructor wants me to try out the alto sax. I've aso been wondering because now that im a very good clarinet player how easy exactly playing the alto sax will be? Are the fingerings similar is the ambatur much different etc... Im hopeful because ive always wanted to give this a go and now that i can i just wanna know some helpful tips before i go diving into this. Much appriciated
Clarinet girl

Dec 25, 2009
The transition from clarinet to saxophone is easy.
by: Anonymous

The transition from clarinet to sax is an easy one. It's very difficult to go the other way.

You'll find that the resistance (air pressure) in playing the sax is very relaxed. There will be a tendency to overblow. You'll need to be sensative to the overtones, especially in the lowest and highest notes. There can be a tendency to play the sax poorly. The saxophone is a very beautiful instrument, if play property. And it does take practice.

The biggest difference is the key fingerings. You'll find that the sax fingering is the same as the flute, oboe, bassoon, essentially all the other woodwinds. It'll take a little time to figure out. But, not a big hurdle. It's really easier than the clarinet.

The one big caution I will give you is this....do not give up playing or practicing the clarinet. If you focus your full attention on the sax, you'll find that you will loose your clarinet chops. The sax is played with a more relaxed embouchure vrs the clarinet. You'll find that if you focus fully on the sax and then pick up the clarinet, you'll get the feeling that you haven't played in a 100 years.

I find that the sax in much more versatile instrument. You'll have alot more opportunities to play. The best scenario is to be proficient on both.

Good luck!

Nov 04, 2010
Should I Play?????
by: PC Clarinetist

I'm in my eighth grade band and I am second chair clarinetist should I give the tenor saxophone a shot.

Jan 15, 2011
Alto Sax/Clarinet/Flute
by: Anonymous

Well for one as a beginner there's a lot to learn and I can tell you, because I'm experience Clarinet player and also experienced Flute player for about 20 plus years. First of all the B Flat clarinet needs more finger excersices to improve on you clarinet motions and this process does take a long time and the time it takes to be really well with your fingers and yes there are going to be some set backs on playing the clarinet. On the other hand the saxophones have the fingerings that are very much close to the Flute fingersings. The clarinet in my opinion is a little harder to blow than the alto saxophones are and here's one great point for the sax is that the saxophone is much easier to learn then the clarinet, is because the clarinet had those open key holes that are hard for some and not hard for others. Being an experienced woodwind player of the Flute, B Flat Clarinet and Alto Sax, I find that the clarinet mouthpiece is harder to blow through then an alto saxophone. If I where you I would try the Alto Saxophone and you my like the Sax or maybe not but I would give the Alto Sax a try.

Sep 19, 2013
1st Chair clarinet to Alto Sax
by: Anonymous

I play first clarinet in my band and have played since the 4th grade. I can play all the way up the the highest E. I was wondering if i should try a different instrument. The sax has crossed my mind but does anyone else have another option that would be easy to pic up?

Mar 05, 2015
Suggestions for instruments to pick up quickly.
by: Anonymous


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