Trumpet OR Saxophone

by ReverbLxnd in Trumpet

If you are wondering which is harder to learn, trumpet or saxophone, read this. If you are a complete beginner to both saxophone and trumpet, here are a few differences you might want to keep in mind while deciding which to start with.

Can you learn trumpet and saxophone at the same time?

That is a very common question that I have been asked all the time, especially by jazz listeners who want to pick up an instrument.

So can you learn a brass instrument, like the trumpet, and a woodwind instrument, like the saxophone at the same time?

In a nutshell — yes. You can learn both the trumpet and saxophone at the same time. But if you are a complete beginner to both, I would recommend that you pick one and get comfortable with it first.

Yous should only bring the other instrument in knowing that you have enough time to practice both and that you are able to focus when you practice.

Trumpet and Saxophone Compared

I have a bunch of suggestions and recommendations with regards to today’s topic. But let me start with my story.

I started playing trumpet in my early teens in the early 2000s and only took up saxophone in my early twenties. I actually started playing these instruments because I really loved jazz — if we’re being honest.

And I still do, to this day.

I came across the idea that playing the saxophone will ruin your trumpet embouchure, in my late twenties, from a band teacher I was taking lessons with at the time.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s not true that playing the saxophone will ruin your trumpet embouchure. But if you are a beginner on both instruments at the same time, pick one to start with and get really good at it.

Get to the point where you are playing the range of the instrument you picked comfortably.

If it’s a trumpet, you are, for instance, not pinching your lips together to get the notes. If it’s a saxophone, you are, for instance, not biting and so on and so forth.

You need to get to a point where it is not stressful at all for you to play.

Had it not been for this idea, I probably would have picked up the saxophone much earlier.

I know what you are thinking when I say choose one to start with. Which one? It is really up to you. It’s the one that you really like better.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

#1 — The trumpet takes longer to learn than the saxophone

People often ask how long it takes to learn and play comfortably on either instrument.

I can’t answer that for you.

Nobody can.

It depends on how much you practice and how focused your practice is.

I would say that if you are a beginner on both,

#2 — The trumpet embouchure takes a lot more work than the saxophone embouchure

One one hand you’ve got woodwind and on the other, you’ve got brass. They have different embouchures — it’s a completely different way of thinking.

When you’re playing the saxophone, the reed is helping you to produce the sound, along with your breath support, articulation, etc. With the trumpet there’s no reed, it all you and your lips.

You are buzzing your lips using air and vibration to make an embouchure.

I made a fantastic in-depth guide on how to form a trumpet embouchure in just 4-steps and another guide on how to form a saxophone embouchure. Compare both of them to see how the step-by-step processes differ.

#3 — It’s easier to build up your range on the saxophone than on the trumpet

If, for instance, you decide to pick saxophone to start with, you’re going to feel that it’s so easy to build up your range.

You can probably get an octave on the saxophone within a couple of months, maybe even sooner than that, provided you start with a good foundation.

Maybe even two octaves, who knows.

Later on, when you pick up the trumpet, you get really discouraged because you can only play three notes, or maybe even less than that, for weeks on end.

It takes a lot of patience, a lot of focused practicing, and you really, really, have to start with a good foundation to play any kind of brass instrument because it’s very easy to make a bad sound or to result to bad habits.

And there’s no shortage of bad habits on the trumpet, like pinching, like cutting off your throat, in order to try to get a sound out and try to push your range.

I really want you to consider that.

#4 — There is more built-in air resistance in the trumpet than in the saxophone

The other difference is air resistance.

When you are playing the trumpet, there is built-in air resistance. So when you take a breath, you’re going to be able to last longer than you would on the saxophone.

The air resistance on the saxophone is much less, especially when you get to the tenor and the bari.

Breath support can be quite different.

If you start on the trumpet, and then you go to the saxophone, you’re going to feel like you’re losing all your air.

That’s another consideration to keep in mind.

#5 — A saxophone needs more meticulous care than a trumpet

This one doesn’t have anything to do with playing, it more about instrument care.

Woodwind instruments need more meticulous care than brass instruments.

You have to swab out your saxophone ever so often, you clean your mouthpiece once a week, you never leave the reed on the mouthpiece, you have to inspect your instrument often for loose screws, springs that have popped out, cracked or detached pads and so and so forth.

For a brass instrument, it’s mostly self-care.

It’s actually pretty simple to take care of your trumpet. It just takes a couple of tools, and cleaning your trumpet, for instance, is only required, at least, once a month.

If you don’t take care of your brass instrument, the slides are going to get stuck, the most important part—the valves—will have all sorts of problems.

The second article I wrote on this blog is about how to oil trumpet valves, you need to check that out if you are having a problem with sticky or sluggish valves.

That will also answer some of the questions such as what kind of oil you need for trumpet valves.

If you clean your trumpet, at least, one a month, oil the valves, at least, a couple of times a week, and lubricate the slides and do a couple of other things, you should only need to have a repair person check it out about once a year, probably even less than that.

The saxophone is a different story altogether.

You definitely need to take in for repair, at least, twice a year because there are so many more intricate parts.

It’s way more delicate than a brass instrument.

You definitely have to be much more careful when handling it as well.

#6 — A trumpet needs more daily practice than a saxophone

If you are playing both instruments, you have to make time to practice every day, especially the trumpet.

If you miss one day of practice on the trumpet, you’ll know it. If you miss more than two days of practice on the trumpet, your audience knows it.

I’m not just saying it. It’s true.

You’ll find yourself resulting to bad habits to get things to work if you don’t practice daily.

So you’ve got to make sure you’ll make the time and make the effort to practice both every day.

You should, primarily, focus a lot on tone for both. You’ve got to remind your body what’s the embouchure of the instrument that you are playing and so on and so forth.

Playing only your favorite songs is not sufficient practice.

On the saxophone you can get away with a lot but you can’t on trumpet. The trumpet is less forgiving.


I've been a musician and brought in my stuff for mixing and mastering, I've been my own producer where I wrote, recorded, mixed and sold my own stuff. Now, I'm *mostly* an audio engineer, where I only record and mix for clients. I'm currently based in Berlin, Germany, where I operate ReverbLand out of. Got a question? DM me on Instagram or Twitter @reverblxnd everywhere, or shoot me an email [email protected]. I'd love to hear from you.

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