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Hi,

I'm thinking of learning to play the saxophone, I've always liked the sound and the range and until recently have played guitar for 11 years but due to a wrist injury I have had to give it up.

I've never played a wind instrument before only having played guitar and a bit of violin. My question is just how hard is it to blow, I know reeds and mouthpieces make a difference but it's hard to get many answers by just browsing.

The reason I ask is that I'm not famed for my giant lung capacity and will probably black out after blowing up one or two kids party balloons lol. My questions are basically just how hard is it to blow and is it an endurance that comes with practice. Ive heard people saying that the lighter reeds are easier to blow and people progress to heavier ones but what exactly is the benefit to a heavier reed? I'm guessing a change in tone or sound but why is it more desirable to have a heavier one.

I'm looking around for teachers that will possibly let me loose on one before I commit to renting a sax to see just how well I fair. I'm not bothered about how well I play just about whether I CAN play without having to stop for a breather every 2 notes.

Thanks very much for your help guys, I'd love to take it up and I love the instrument just have a few doubts about whether I can play it :)
 

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if you start with weak reeds (size 1 or 2) it should be fine. Saxophone isn't as much about air volume. It requires pressure.
 

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I suspect the party balloon problem is due to hyperventilation rather than lungs running out of air. I really don't think it's going to happen with sax. Bagpipes maybe, sax no.

The obvious thing is to borrow an instrument for the first week or two - if you drop dead your relatives will then not have lost money ...
 

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until recently have played guitar for 11 years but due to a wrist injury I have had to give it up.
I doubt if your lung capacity will present much of problem as there are lots of tiny little schoolgirls successfully honking away. As Evan Murphy has already said, it's more about pressure than shear volume of air. However, I'm slightly concerned that saxophone playing may, I hope not, but may, exacerbate your wrist injury. Like playing the guitar and many other musical instruments you need, (will develop), very strong hands, wrists and forearms to play the saxophone. I think your idea of trying out a saxophone to get feel of if it might suit you is a very good one especially if the experience tells you whether the playing position will stress your wrist.
 

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You should be able to blow it. As Alley Cat says, there are a lot of 4th graders who can do it. And it will help your breathing. The wrist injury could conceivably be an issue. Check it out, work with a teacher to give you some tips, see what happens. Yeah, don't drop a lot of coin right away, but otherwise there is nothing to lose by trying.
 

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I doubt if your lung capacity will present much of problem as there are lots of tiny little schoolgirls successfully honking away. As Evan Murphy has already said, it's more about pressure than shear volume of air. However, I'm slightly concerned that saxophone playing may, I hope not, but may, exacerbate your wrist injury. Like playing the guitar and many other musical instruments you need, (will develop), very strong hands, wrists and forearms to play the saxophone. I think your idea of trying out a saxophone to get feel of if it might suit you is a very good one especially if the experience tells you whether the playing position will stress your wrist.
That sorta jumped out at me, too. Now granted, it's just a generalization....because I for one, had wrist surgery 10 years ago to remove torn cartilege...and to this day, sporadically it hurts like hell to turn a doorknob or my car ignition. I can't hit a punching bag....and if I make a hand-save on a hard shot while tending the soccer nets....I usually end up incapacitated for weeks (and cursing myself).

Yet, blowing sax, playing drums, or playing bass does not cause that pain whatsoever.

So, I DO think it wise that you give 'er a test spin first, just to make sure you can physically handle it (your wrist, that is).

Lung capacity and proper blowing technique is something which develops over time (or rather...it should....some players have horrific air support and they've been playing for 25 years. But, if taught correctly, it should). You WILL get winded in the beginning...and as time goes on you will find that your endurance increases and the production of airflow will get better....

Here's my suggestion...for starters, starters.....leave the sax out of it. Go buy a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece and some reeds....say 1.5, 2, and 2.5 strengths. Go find some vid clips on "how to properly blow into a saxophone mouthpiece".....and start there.

Then add horn.....

(We can talk about pros and cons of stronger and weaker reeds and such, but that is actually getting beyond things at the moment....as it has to do with much more than reeds, it has to do with physical attributes/design of the mouthpieces as well, in addition to desired tone. Interesting subject, but all of that is sorta in the future and not of immediate concern...)

Welcome to the Forum, BTW.

 

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Diaphragm breathing and breathing exercises will be your best friend, and don't listen to people who say that you get a better sound from harder reeds. It can be a personal choice, though in some cases there is a "macho" aspect to playing hard reeds, ie some people use them to appear tough. Others use them because they suit them. I use soft reeds because they suit me (I used to use very hard reeds).

However if you do choose to use softer reeds, while they may seem easier at first, you do possibly need to work extra hard on your embouchure and breathing, but eventually this pays off with great range of notes, dynamics and tonal flexibility.

Breathing exercises:

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-diaphragm-breathing.html

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-breathing.html
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys for all your responses. You make a very good point Alley Cat I never thought about the young school kids being quite capable of doing it so if they can do it I should definitely be able to. JayeSF I had a similar injury about 6 months ago I tore my cartilage and damaged the rotating joint in my wrist during a boxing match, despite having boxed for 2 years without injury. My wrist luckily is generally fine but being my left one it's my fretting hand so I have to twist it right round palm upwards to play guitar, especially so my fingers can span the amount of frets I'm used to being able to play and even after 5 minutes of my wrist at full rotation seems to give me two days worth of ache. It seems at the moment though my wrist is quite happy with being positioned vertically or close to it so I'm hoping saxophone will be ok.

So this is my plan now that I know I should be able to play it well enough and that its more about air pressure than volume, and also the fact that like JayeSF said my breathing will develop over time I'm now looking for teachers who happen to have a spare sax that they let students have a go on. I don't know how many will actually allow it, I have always imagined that its a bit rude to turn up to a teaching session and say "I haven't bought one but can I have a go on yours".

Anyway so I'll find a teacher, try one out if I take to it I'll get the Yamaha 4c mouthpiece and reeds and start with that while I look for a fair to decent horn.
Also I'll be able to practice breathing exercises like Pete Thomas said. I do agree maybe reed and mouthpiece choice is getting ahead of myself somewhat, the only reason I thought about it is because I heard that harder reeds were difficult to blow, and since most people I have read about progress to harder ones I didn't know whether it was personal choice or a necessity.

Once again thanks for all your help and I'll keep you informed of how it goes. Right now to the task of finding a teacher who has a spare sax :)
 
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