Differences between playing guitar and saxophone

By Michael Korte

In this article I want to shed some light on my perspective about how the electric guitar distinguishes itself from the saxophone with no expectation to be complete.

Producing a note

Playing a note on the guitar basically goes like this:

Pick up the guitar, put your fingers to the fretboard and pluck a string.

With the saxophone, you first need to assemble it correctly, because it consists of three main pieces:

The biggest part is the body, then there is the neck and the mouthpiece, which again consists of different smaller parts, that I will not go into here.

After you have assembled it correctly, you need some training for your lips if you want to produce a proper tone and not sound like a startled duck.

Also keep in mind, that you need to press and hold certain keys that cover holes in the instrument, if you want to manipulate the pitch.

Sound

Once you got a hang of where to put your finger on the guitar and to not touch other strings with your fretting hand that are supposed to ring out, it is quite easy to make good sounding notes.

A saxophone requires a lot of lip training and in the beginning, you will probably not last very long, but after some time of training it will become easier to figure out how much pressure you should put into each note and how strong you should blow into the instrument.

Usability

A saxophone can be carried around quite easily, but playing it is not as spontaneous as with a guitar, that you just take out of the gigbag or the case and you are ready to go, because before starting to play, you need to assemble the pieces first, which is a matter of 1-2 minutes.

Then it is not suited well for smaller rooms, because it has a pretty loud timbre and it is very hard to play it softly.

Another disadvantage that comes up with saxophones is, that you need to clean it after each time you play it, due to remnants of saliva, which takes about five minutes, if you did it a few times.

Transferability

Learning the saxophone can open a whole new world of instruments for you, because woodwind instruments are generally quite similar and once you got your lips trained, you can get easily used to playing a lot of other instruments, like the bassoon, the oboe and clarinet.

Short term challenges

As a beginner with the saxophone you might need a break after a short time, because your lips can get very exhausted and will feel funny after you played 5-10 minutes, because the muscles in the lips are not used to that kind of “work”.

It will be quite easy though, to play easy songs and you do not have to worry about chords so much, because the saxophone is a melody instrument only: You can only play one note at a time.

As a beginning guitar player, you need to learn to coordinate both of your hands together if you want to play notes and chords.

Long term challenges

If you are starting to improvise and have not dealt with a lot of music theory and chord construction, it might be difficult for you at first, to grasp the concept of chords, because you never saw them laid out. So, hitting the right target note, when improvising or composing melodies of a set of chords, can seem challenging.

With a guitar, you get introduced to the topic of chords quite early on, so hearing about it and trying to hit a chord tone does not seem so distant.

Especially when it comes to learning scales, you need to learn twelve different patterns only for a major scale, starting the scale on every note there is, as opposed to a guitar, where you just learn one pattern and move it across the fretboard.

About the Author:

Michael Korte is a guitarist and kitara oppetaja tampere from Finland, where he introduces adults to the joys of learning a new musical instrument.