There are four types of saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor and bari(tone). Three of them are used in school band – alto, tenor and bari(tone). The alto saxophone is the most popular, and the smallest of the three woodwind instruments. Since the alto saxophone is a woodwind, yet made of metal (brass), the instrument blends well with all instruments in the band, and is used for various parts, including the melody and counter-melody. The tenor sax is bigger than the alto, and oftentimes plays the same part as the trombone and/or baritone, especially in the first few years of band. The largest saxophone of the three, the bari, is usually rented directly from the school, and not through a music retailer. Due to its size, it plays the “bottom” part of the music in the ensemble, usually matching the tuba player. It’s also the lowest wind instrument in the jazz ensemble.
For beginning band students, the alto or tenor sax are the best ones to learn to play on, and there are many great reasons to play saxophone in school band:
♦ The saxophone has a sound that is hard to miss – it’s rich, exciting, and full of color and tonality.
♦ Some of today’s popular music, both streaming and on the radio, has saxophone in it.
♦ Sax is used for all kinds of music, including jazz, R&B, soul, rock, pop, and lots of other styles of music. However, it is not used in the orchestra, because when orchestras were first formed, the saxophone, as a musical instrument, did not exist.
♦ It’s relatively easy to get a sound out of a saxophone, so at least in the beginning it’s not hard to play. The fingering system is very easy to understand and tone production is much easier than with most of the other woodwinds. Like all instruments, though, it takes practice to be really good at it.
♦ Saxophonists can have lots of fun playing in groups – duets, trios, quartets, etc.
♦ The saxophone is a great jazz instrument, so students looking to play in jazz band in middle school may be interested in this instrument.
♦ Once you learn to play one saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, bari), you can play any of them. The fingerings are exactly the same from saxophone to saxophone.
♦ The saxophone’s fingerings are also almost identical to the flute, so it’s fairly easy to learn the flute if you have mastered the sax.
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