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Saxophone for Little Kids?


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Can small children play a saxophone? In general, what is the typical age range/size for taking beginning lessons?

My niece is 4yo and converted to a Jazz Enthusiast about 6 months ago. She was 'baptised' into the Order of Old Souls in Young Bodies when she attended her first live Jazz Concert around new years and has been talking about jazz and a Sax ever since.

 

I'm thinking of maybe renting a saxophone and signing her up for lessons this summer but I can't find anything like that in our area.

If the saxophone isn't okay for young kids, can you recommend a jazz instrument that is?

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Short answer from a saxophonist- No, a 4 yr old cannot play saxophone in any reasonable sense.  Soprano saxophone is the hardest saxophone to play and get a good, in tune, sound out of and is the only one that is physiologically possibly compatible with a small child, and you'd be looking at a curved soprano to make that even an option, which start at several thousand dollars and aren't usually available as a rental. Straight sopranos are pretty heavy, require a decent reach, and are still pretty expensive.

 

Alto is the most common on the rental market, and it's fairly heavy even out of case, requires a large enough hand size and reach that many kids struggle with it at 10-12 years old, and simply isn't a good fit for a preschooler. The weight is all in front, so saxophonists are prone to back injuries (I ended up in the sports medicine center in grad school because of a slipped disc caused by twisting the wrong way with my tenor). It's just a difficult instrument for a young child to start on for physical reasons, despite an alto sax being one of the easiest instruments to play.

 

My suggestion for now-flute. Flute has almost the same fingerings as saxophone, and Jupiter has a flute designed for Suzuki flute students that has adjusted fingerings and is shorter and less heavy, so is playable by most 4 yr olds and there are teachers experienced at teaching young children. Most Jazz sax players also double flute, and it's a common instrument used in jazz orchestrations. If you find a good flute teacher who is willing to teach a young child, she/he should be able to integrate jazz and improvisation pretty early on. One really nice thing about flute is that since it's a C instrument, fake book playing is quite easy and almost any vocal score will fall in playable range within a year or two of instruction, which is a nice spring-off for improvisation, since you can usually buy the commercial score to get the changes and then improvise over the recording.

 

Here's a nice list of Jazz flute recordings for listening.

 

http://www.jazz.com/dozens/the-dozens-twelve-essential-jazz-flute-performances

 

 

Another option is recorder-again, the fingerings are similar, and so is the embouchure, but it's much better sized for a young child's hands, can be taught at home, and there are a lot of resources. It's not a standard Jazz instrument, but is a standard Orff instrument, which means that there are a lot of resources for teaching improvisation using recorder (since improvisation is a focus of the Orff approach-which may explain why I gravitate towards orff methodologies in my music teaching).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you this was extremely helpful. I'm not musical in the least--Hubby is the Jazz enthusiast around here who exposed niece to Jazz and then took her to the concert and where she got her program signed by the saxophonist after wards. Now every time she comes over, they listen to jazz for a little while and she talks about a saxophone constantly. We'll have her over a lot this summer and I though that lessons might be perfect for her to pass the time.

 

I will look into the jazz flute and into Orff teachers. Thank you so much! this was super helpful!

 

Short answer from a saxophonist- No, a 4 yr old cannot play saxophone in any reasonable sense.  Soprano saxophone is the hardest saxophone to play and get a good, in tune, sound out of and is the only one that is physiologically possibly compatible with a small child, and you'd be looking at a curved soprano to make that even an option, which start at several thousand dollars and aren't usually available as a rental. Straight sopranos are pretty heavy, require a decent reach, and are still pretty expensive.

 

Alto is the most common on the rental market, and it's fairly heavy even out of case, requires a large enough hand size and reach that many kids struggle with it at 10-12 years old, and simply isn't a good fit for a preschooler. The weight is all in front, so saxophonists are prone to back injuries (I ended up in the sports medicine center in grad school because of a slipped disc caused by twisting the wrong way with my tenor). It's just a difficult instrument for a young child to start on for physical reasons, despite an alto sax being one of the easiest instruments to play.

 

My suggestion for now-flute. Flute has almost the same fingerings as saxophone, and Jupiter has a flute designed for Suzuki flute students that has adjusted fingerings and is shorter and less heavy, so is playable by most 4 yr olds and there are teachers experienced at teaching young children. Most Jazz sax players also double flute, and it's a common instrument used in jazz orchestrations. If you find a good flute teacher who is willing to teach a young child, she/he should be able to integrate jazz and improvisation pretty early on. One really nice thing about flute is that since it's a C instrument, fake book playing is quite easy and almost any vocal score will fall in playable range within a year or two of instruction, which is a nice spring-off for improvisation, since you can usually buy the commercial score to get the changes and then improvise over the recording.

 

Here's a nice list of Jazz flute recordings for listening.

 

http://www.jazz.com/dozens/the-dozens-twelve-essential-jazz-flute-performances

 

 

Another option is recorder-again, the fingerings are similar, and so is the embouchure, but it's much better sized for a young child's hands, can be taught at home, and there are a lot of resources. It's not a standard Jazz instrument, but is a standard Orff instrument, which means that there are a lot of resources for teaching improvisation using recorder (since improvisation is a focus of the Orff approach-which may explain why I gravitate towards orff methodologies in my music teaching).

 

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we have a friend who started at 4 or 5 on an "alphasax" she did through to grade 3 on it and then switched (At 7) to a normal one for grade 4 and on.  If you search youtube for "annabelle alphasax" you will find her to get an idea of the sound

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