I have been thinking about learning to play the saxophone, although because it is a fairly large investment, I am a little hesitant, and was wondering how difficult it would be for someone with prior music experience but no woodwind experience to learn it. I have studied classical guitar for 10 years and am adept at reading music. Additionally I learned how to play drums and self taught myself basic piano. I also took trumpet lessons for 9 months around 10 years ago. How long would it take for me to pick up saxophone? either with a teacher or self taught?

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    This is a fairly impossible question. I learned the saxophone very quickly but I had previously learned the clarinet which shares a lot of the same techniques. Despite both being made of brass, the saxophone and trumpet are very different. Try to find a teacher who offers an introductory lesson. – badjohn Mar 6 '18 at 13:53
  • I would think someone who plays saxophone could give some information that is useful. Some of the questions I've seen on this forum are much worse than this one. – r lo Mar 6 '18 at 16:56
  • @rlo I think that a teacher would be highly advisable. Even if you make some progress alone, you might develop bad habits which cannot be easily unlearned later. I tried the reverse once, as a clarinet / saxophone player, I tried a trumpet. I couldn't get a note out of it. However, that was long ago, I had no YouTube etc to help. – badjohn Mar 6 '18 at 20:50

I want to learn the saxophone. How difficult will this be?

Not very. But it will take a lot of practice and a good teacher.

The alto or tenor saxophone is among the easiest wind instruments to start on. It is rather easy to get a first sound and start to squeeze out some simple tunes. After that comes the same amount of work to reach master level as for any other instrument. The old 10.000 hour rule works here as well.

I highly recommend that you start by finding an experienced teacher and book a limited amount of lessons, say 10 lessons to start with. Having a teacher from the start will allow you to start with the correct basic technique, not having to relearn things later on. It should be able to rent an instrument for a reasonable cost, instead of investing in something you might not use. After these 10 lessons, and at least 15 minutes each day of practice, you will know if you want to continue with the instrument.


You've played classical guitar for 10 yrs. So, how good are you? Can you play grade VII/VIII pieces? You ask how long will it take. How long to reach what level? How far did you get with 9mths trumpet lessons? How much practice time can you find? Are you adept at adapting skills from one instrument to another?

All these questions you can answer. We can't - we don't know you! But putting the answers together may give some inkling.


Please don't do self-taught. Even if you just take one or two lessons with an experienced teacher that knows what they're talking about, it'll save you so much frustration in the long run.

Using the right equipment is pivotal as well. I worked in a band instrument store for eight years or so; one of the main reasons that children (and adults) would quit playing an instrument was that they bought a cheap, crappy horn, and then the student would think that they couldn't do it, when it's the fault of the equipment instead. There are a lot of good brands out there that make good starting horns: Jupiter (serial numbers start with a letter; don't pick any that are before J##### or so), Conn, Selmer, Bundy, Cannonball, Chateau, Antigua, and Yamaha (similar to Jupiter: early ones aren't great, but anything within the last 15 years or so should be fine) are some brands you can trust, although there are plenty more out there. If you're buying used, make sure you find a respected band instrument repair shop (NAPBIRT members) to take a look at the horn for you. If they're honest and know what they're talking about, they'll be able to tell you how much the horn would be in full working condition; if that number minus how much it would take to get it fixed is less than what they're asking for it, don't buy it. I also might suggest buying a Clark W. Fobes Debut mouthpiece. It's a student-level mouthpiece that really helps beginners make great sound.

One last suggestion: if you just want to just play by yourself and learn something new, go ahead and start on the saxophone and I wish you the best of luck. If you want to play with other people and in front of other people, I suggest spending a couple months on clarinet first. I'm a sax player, I started on sax, and if I could do it all over again, I would start on clarinet and move to sax.

Happy tooting!


The clarinet and its relations the saxophones are generally agreed to be among the easiest instruments to play. This is not to demean them, but there's just so much MORE technique involved in piano or violin! With your musical background, you should be a useful member of a band within a year - IF you set off in the right direction by taking some introductory lessons (then at least an occasional one) and IF you maintain regular practice beyond the initial 'spurt' period.

What did your experience with trumpet lessond 10 years ago teach you?

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