Learning Saxophone As An AdultJun 08, 2023
By Jeremy Trezona
One of the most common questions I get as a saxophone teacher is one of the simplest to answer: Am I told old to play saxophone? Of course, the answer is NO!
The truly interesting thing is, I get this question from 70 year olds just as often as I get it from 20 year olds. Unfortunately a misconception still exists that unless you start an instrument in childhood, you can never achieve success.
In this article, I'll debunk the myth that adults can't learn (and thrive) on the saxophone, and share some unique benefits and opportunities adults have whilst learning the instrument for the first time.
Prefer to watch instead? Check out the video below!
Common concerns of adult sax students
In my experience, when adults learn the saxophone for the first time, these are the most common concerns before they get started:
Time constraints. "Between work, family and a social life - will I find enough time to practice?"
Not keeping up. "The adult brain is more inflexible than a child's brain, and has more trouble picking up new concepts such as learning an instrument, right?"
Lacking fundamental knowledge. "I can't remember anything from music class all those years ago, and I've never learnt another instrument. Surely I'm too far behind now..."
Benefits of learning sax as an adult
OK, are you scared off yet? Well, don't be! Learning the saxophone later in life has many, many benefits. These benefits greatly outweigh the perceived con's of learning the saxophone as an adult.
Quality of practice. Remember the concern about time constraints? Well, it's not just about how much you practice - equally important is how well you practice! With age comes maturity, and an ability to stay focussed on the task at hand. 20 minutes of focussed practice is often more beneficial than an hour of unfocussed, meandering practice.
Being conscious of how you practice can lead to big improvements in your ability in a relatively short amount of time.
Performing in public is often a major goal adults set for themselves whilst learning the saxophone.
Physical size. It is comforting to know that as a grown man or woman, you are much less likely to experience any discomfort playing the saxophone than your younger brethren - particularly if you opt to play the larger saxophones like the tenor or baritone!
Similarly, with greater lung capacity and breath support, you are generally better able to produce and sustain richer tones on the saxophone than young children.
Doing it 'for the love'. Children pick up the saxophone for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, many of those reasons stem from sources other than their own desire to play the saxophone! Their parents, their school, their friends, etc.
Adults generally only have one reason to learn the saxophone - they're doing it 'for the love' of the instrument. Perhaps it's a song, a band or simply the tone they're drawn to. In any case, learning the saxophone because you love it is simply the best (and only!) way to learn the instrument if you wish to have sustained success.
Your age or where you live should not play any factor in your enjoyment or ability to learn the sax.
It's great for the brain. Not only does being an adult have benefits when it comes to learning the saxophone, but learning the saxophone can also have benefits for you too!
Many studies have concluded that learning an instrument is great exercise for the brain and improves mood, memory retention and many cognitive functions that generally decline over time.
Plus, did you know that whilst children's brains are more adept at making new connections, adults can generally understand abstract concepts more easily? (Source)
That can certainly come in hand when trying to learn a new instrument and/or musical theory!
Opportunities for adult saxophone players
Many adults simply want to learn the saxophone for their own personal enjoyment, but for those that wish to take their playing a step further and engage with the social aspects of playing an instrument (such as joining a band) - there are opportunities for you if you know where to look!
Community bands. Try typing "community bands [your town or city]" into Google. Chances are if you live in a populated area there'll be a local community band close to you!
Community bands are a fantastic melting point of young and old, and are normally a very friendly and welcome place to hone your saxophone skills.
Unsure if you're at the right skill level to join? Ask the band leader if you can attend a trial rehearsal (perhaps just to sit and watch) to see if it might be up your alley.
Community bands are widespread across the globe and can specialize in many different styles of music.
Friends and family. Music allows us to connect with those around us in a whole new way, even those we’ve known our entire life. Once you master the basics and are growing in confidence, playing with those closest to you is a great way to put your skills to the test and create many happy memories together.
Playing for yourself. Adult of all walks of life understand the necessity to be able to find a passion that transports us away from the pressures of everyday life. Sometimes the simple joy of learning a new skill on an instrument that you love is enough to make the whole process worthwhile. Playing music can be therapeutic and also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Learn sax the way that suits you best
Most adults are experienced enough to know how they learn best. Like with many other skills, the saxophone can be learnt online through the structure and safety of an online course. Online courses allow students to learn on their own schedule and rewatch important lessons as often as they like!