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Thread: Oboist thinking of taking up saxophone. Any advice?

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    Default Oboist thinking of taking up saxophone. Any advice?

    Hello all!

    I'm a fairly experienced (amateur) oboist, obtained my ABRSM Grade 8 some years ago and have been playing regularly in orchestras. Oboe is the only woodwind instrument I know, but my father recently mentioned wistfully, while listening to some jazz, how nice it'd be if I could play the saxophone.

    That put some ideas into my head. I've always thought saxophone was an extremely cool (and not to mention glamorous) instrument. So, does anyone have any technical experience or advice about learning saxophone as an oboist? Or just in general, any advice about converting from double-reed to single-reed playing? How hard is it to adjust your embouchure? Will it mess up my fingering memory for oboe? Any particularly difficult adjustments that need to be made? If you're already familiar with one woodwind instrument, how long does it take to get to an acceptable/publicly tolerable playing standard on another?

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Hi, playthestatic - Do you like the saxophone yourself, as much as your father? If you really love an instrument, I'm sure the problems will be surmountable. Sorry I can't help you myself, but there are many wind players on this forum who I'm sure can give you the advice and encouragement that you need, and answer the questions that you asked. Best of luck!
    Last edited by Ingélou; Nov-10-2014 at 21:16.
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    You are an amateur musician. You can play as many instruments as you like. You talk about grade 8 as if it is something wonderful. It isn't. You have only just started to learn the oboe. Grade 8 is the beginning of learning not the end. So playing the sax will not cause a problem with your oboe playing. It would be different if you had a job as professional oboe player as their embouchures are completely different to what you have when you are just beginning to learn the oboe.

    Many amateur players play more than one instrument.

    I know of at least two amateur players who play all the saxes and oboe and cor anglais as well. One of them is a music college graduate so much much better at playing the oboe than you are.
    Last edited by Jaws; Nov-10-2014 at 22:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    Hi, playthestatic - Do you like the saxophone yourself, as much as your father? If you really love an instrument, I'm sure the problems will be surmountable. Sorry I can't help you myself, but there are many wind players on this forum who I'm sure can give you the advice and encouragement that you need, and answer the questions that you asked. Best of luck!
    Thank you for your encouragement! I'll be sure to have a think about whether I do actually want to commit to another instrument, that's a very good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    You are an amateur musician. You can play as many instruments as you like. You talk about grade 8 as if it is something wonderful. It isn't. You have only just started to learn the oboe. Grade 8 is the beginning of learning not the end. So playing the sax will not cause a problem with your oboe playing. It would be different if you had a job as professional oboe player as their embouchures are completely different to what you have when you are just beginning to learn the oboe.

    Many amateur players play more than one instrument.

    I know of at least two amateur players who play all the saxes and oboe and cor anglais as well. One of them is a music college graduate so much much better at playing the oboe than you are.
    Thank you for the time you have taken in typing this reply, and of course, the previous one, which I can't seem to find now. I don't actually think that Grade 8 is anything wonderful, I find it quite bizarre that you would deduce something like that from my post! I'm actually quite an insecure player who's always looking for ways to improve on my, indeed, very substandard playing. I know I am barely close to professional standard. I just thought saying that I had, at some point in the past, taken Grade 8, would give some idea of how far I've come with the oboe (not far at all, you're completely right, of course).

    I couldn't help noticing, however, that you seem to have formed a very confident opinion of exactly what my standard is without actually having heard me play, or even spoken to me before, or seen anything I've posted, other than the initial short post I made about wanting to learn the saxophone. While I may not be a music college graduate, as your no doubt very talented friend is, I am a philosophy graduate, and I learned about this thing in epistemology called "justification". These are reasons or solid evidence behind your making of a particular assertion, and I'm not so sure you were justified in this case at all in making any assertions about the exact standard I am at. Something to think about, perhaps, just as you have given me much to think about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by playthestatic View Post
    Thank you for your encouragement! I'll be sure to have a think about whether I do actually want to commit to another instrument, that's a very good point.



    Thank you for the time you have taken in typing this reply, and of course, the previous one, which I can't seem to find now. I don't actually think that Grade 8 is anything wonderful, I find it quite bizarre that you would deduce something like that from my post! I'm actually quite an insecure player who's always looking for ways to improve on my, indeed, very substandard playing. I know I am barely close to professional standard. I just thought saying that I had, at some point in the past, taken Grade 8, would give some idea of how far I've come with the oboe (not far at all, you're completely right, of course).

    I couldn't help noticing, however, that you seem to have formed a very confident opinion of exactly what my standard is without actually having heard me play, or even spoken to me before, or seen anything I've posted, other than the initial short post I made about wanting to learn the saxophone. While I may not be a music college graduate, as your no doubt very talented friend is, I am a philosophy graduate, and I learned about this thing in epistemology called "justification". These are reasons or solid evidence behind your making of a particular assertion, and I'm not so sure you were justified in this case at all in making any assertions about the exact standard I am at. Something to think about, perhaps, just as you have given me much to think about.
    Sounds like you're on the right track! Go for it - and always take people on the internet with a pinch of salt, real life persons are more likely to give you good advice. Maybe talk to a wind/reed player for shows - they can generally play lots of instruments pretty well and might have some useful conceptual adn practising tips. Good luck

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    Completely aside from all that technical stuff, the sax is reputed to be much easier to master than is the oboe - or the clarinet for that matter. This fact, if it is such, is capable of causing a quandary. At some point you may hold your sax in your hands and think: "I am going to play this thingy". Oboists (and horn players) are seldom so sure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by playthestatic View Post
    My father recently mentioned wistfully, while listening to some jazz, how nice it'd be if I could play the saxophone.
    I play clarinet and flute in addition to the saxophone (I should say, I have played clarinet and flute; I don't mess with them anymore), and there are differences, but you adjust to them.

    If you're going to be playing jazz/blues/rock, it shouldn't be a problem. Especially for rock/blues; just learn the pentatonic scales and a few blue notes, and you're good. I know a trumpet player who picked up the saxophone and is a casual player, but he can fool people.

    If you're wanting to play classical saxophone, that will require a more focused development on your embouchure and technique that may affect your oboe playing.

    Just my two cents.

    Also, if you do decide to start learning, there's a fun book by Michael Segell, The Devil's Horn. He tells the history of the saxophone intermixed with his own experiences of learning the horn. It's a lot of fun and easy to read.
    Last edited by Manxfeeder; Nov-11-2014 at 00:43.

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    It should not be a problem.

    I can play both instruments although I mostly play bassoon now. That is the hard wind instrument.

    Doubling is very common among wind players. When I was in college I played in a pit orchestra for a musical where I had to double on the tenor sax, bass clarinet and english horn. The one wind instrument I can not play is the flute. No matter how much I try I can not get a decent sound out of the instrument.

    I have known many wind players who actively play on both instruments. When I was with the 75th Army Band our oboist played the tenor sax in the marching band.

    Sax is easier than the oboe. The fingerings are slightly different. One the fingering that is easier is that one has only one register key that one plays with the left thumb when wanting to play an octave higher.
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    I know a number of oboists, myself included, who double on sax. It doesn't affect my embouchure or tone, as I'm careful how I practise, and honestly, unless I'm playing in a show, I don't play the sax much at all. Going from tenor sax to oboe in a pit band is always very interesting!

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    sax fingers like flute. to switch from oboe, anchor your top teeth atop the mouthpiece and remember the bottom lip may not have to be as tight as you are used to. too much mouthpiece in the mouth = a honking sound, too little is weak. too much reed above the mouthpiece tip is a yuck tone and too far below is useless. you'll progress best if you align the reed tip even with the mouthpiece tip and then adjust as you wish.

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    I started with clarinet and then switched to oboe. Oboe is my primary now, but I also can play the saxophone. So, I'm sure that my clarinet playing made sax a lot easier. I think it is fairly easy to get a good tone on saxophone if you are already used to playing a woodwind. I don't think you should have too much of a problem with playing sax. It is a much more forgiving instrument than the oboe! As far as fingering memory, I've never had any problems with that.

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