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Saxophone Vs Piano (9 Important Differences To Know)

Saxophones and pianos are some of the most common instruments played in this day and age.

Countless songs feature these two instruments, and they’re also very popular with those of us who love playing instruments as much as we adore listening to them. But which one is better to learn?

Saxophones and pianos are exceptional musical instruments that bring a lot to the table. While they both have a lot to offer, the piano is the best to learn first due to its relative simplicity and nearly effortless upkeep. The saxophone is a great secondary instrument to learn after the piano.

The rest of this article will explore the argument between saxophone vs. piano, so you can better understand the two instruments.

Read on to learn more about which instrument best suits your personal needs!

Saxophone Or Piano: Which Is Harder To Learn?

Learning how to play any instrument is incredibly rewarding. Hence, you will have a genuinely gratifying experience whether you learn the saxophone or the piano.

But out of these two options, which one is the most challenging to learn?

It is harder to learn the saxophone than it is to learn the piano, especially for people who have never played an instrument before. The saxophone is a lot more complex than the piano because it requires you to memorize fingerings, practice breath control, and learn proper embouchure.

On the other hand, the piano is a lot simpler in terms of playability.

Wind Instruments Are Often Harder To Learn Than the Piano

With a piano, you only use your hands. However, since the saxophone is a wind instrument, you must blow into a mouthpiece while simultaneously using your hands to change notes.

Essentially, playing the saxophone requires a lot more hand-eye coordination and multitasking than the piano.

It’s also quite challenging to learn how to play with a reed. It gets easier to play as your experience with the instrument grows, but it does take some getting used to.

The Piano Makes Music Theory More Approachable

Another thing I’d like to point out is that the piano makes learning music theory a lot more approachable if you’re new to the concept of playing an instrument.

At its core, music theory is the understanding of music as a whole; how we play music, how we communicate with music as a language, and how we interpret music.

The piano makes it much easier to introduce music theory fundamentals to new learners because it’s less challenging to comprehend as an instrument.

You don’t have to worry about memorizing complex combinations to make a note with the piano. Each key plays its own note, and it’s all in order.

Sure, you can play combinations of different individual notes to create chords, but you don’t need those combinations to play singular notes on the piano.

Conversely, with the saxophone, you need fingering combinations to play just one note, which can be tricky to comprehend as a beginner in the field of instrument playing.

Overall, the piano is a lot simpler to learn than the saxophone. With the piano, you can start with the basics and gradually increase complexity from there.

However, with the saxophone, it’s harder to grasp those basics, and it will often take longer to do so.

Which Takes Longer To Learn?

The saxophone takes longer to learn than the piano. Playing the saxophone is more complex than learning piano basics, as it involves many different components. You need to learn how to master each of these components before you can multitask with them.

An introduction to piano basics will generally take less time than it does to learn the fundamentals of the saxophone.

Learning how to play the saxophone requires you to learn how to:

  • Play with a reed
  • Play with the proper embouchure 
  • Hold the saxophone 
  • Use fingering combinations to play different notes 
  • And much more

This is barely scratching the surface! However, in general, you can assume that it will take longer to learn how to play the saxophone than the piano, because you would have a more uncomplicated start with the piano. 

Now, I’m not saying piano playing can’t be complex. In fact, it’s incredibly complicated once you graduate from the basics.

As you progress, you will find it requires much more coordination as you integrate a broader range of material into your playing.

  • Still, when you’re just starting out, it’ll probably be easier to make quick progress on the piano in relation to the progress you will make with a saxophone.

The amount of time it takes to learn an instrument depends on how much time, effort, and practice you put into it.

When it comes to instrument playing, you will only receive as much as you give in return!

With the right mindset and a practice approach that works for you, you can make great strides at your own pace.

How Easy/Hard Is It To Practice Each Instrument?

In terms of practicing, where do these two instruments stand?

The piano is generally easier to learn than the saxophone and requires less time to comprehend the basics. Still, it’s hard to practice either instrument without the proper space to do so.

Pianos and keyboards take up a lot of space while saxophones are very loud and can disturb your housemates.

With the right environment, the proper mindset, and a consistent schedule that meets your personal needs, practice can be a breeze.

It just takes some time to get the hang of things when you’re first starting out. 

Differences In Sound and Range

Pianos and saxophones are very different in terms of sound and range. Let’s explore this further.

Saxophone Sound Vs. Piano Sound

The saxophone emits a smooth, warm, and vibrant sound that blends well with other instruments.

It’s perfect as a part of an ensemble or even as a solo instrument.

On the other hand, the piano has a much lighter sound than the saxophone. While it’s possible to play with volume and intensity on the piano, it’s easier to do so with the saxophone.

The piano sounds beautifully alone or within an ensemble.

Saxophone Range Vs. Piano Range

The piano has a much better range than the saxophone.

While a skilled saxophone player can typically play three octaves– with the most experienced able to play around four– the piano can play seven different octaves! This is virtually impossible with a saxophone.

Saxophone Vs. Piano Cost Comparison

Let’s take a look at how saxophones and pianos compare in terms of cost.

Instrument Costs

As far as the cost of the actual instrument goes, a piano will be a lot pricier than a saxophone.

While keyboards are cheaper and generally cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars, a piano can cost much more. You can expect to pay at least $3,000 for a decent upright piano.

A grand piano, however, can range anywhere from $10,000 to $90,000 for the priciest models!

In comparison, a good alto saxophone typically costs between $1,000 and $5,000, with some professional models pricing even higher than that.

While the baritone saxophone variant is more expensive than its smaller alto counterpart, it still won’t compare to the cost of a grand piano.


The piano requires virtually no additional accessories.

However, while the saxophone is a cheaper instrument, it does require the purchase of accessories like neck-straps, cleaning supplies, and reeds.

You will spend most of your money on reeds, which must be replaced every few weeks.

Upkeep Expenses

Piano upkeep is less expensive than a saxophone’s.

It’s recommended that you get your piano tuned once a year. Aside from that, there aren’t many other upkeep expenses besides any repairs you might need.

Saxophones are handled a lot differently than pianos and are often moved around a lot.

As a result, they are prone to wear and tear and might need a few trips to the repair shop here and there. These repairs might add up to more than the cost of annual piano tuning.


In terms of material, you can expect to pay about the same cost for both the piano and the saxophone.

The price of sheet music doesn’t really vary from instrument to instrument but the cost will change as the format of that sheet music changes.

It really just depends on the quality of the material, whether it’s a part of a book, etc.

Cost Of Lessons

As with material, you can also expect to pay similar amounts for both saxophone and piano lessons.

There isn’t really an average lesson cost for either instrument. The cost of your lessons depends on the individual instructor you select and how often you choose to have classes.

Which Instrument Is More Popular?

While both instruments are incredibly popular, one might be slightly more popular than the other.

The piano is more popular than the saxophone because it’s been around for longer and is a lot more versatile. The saxophone is a relatively new instrument, while the piano has been around for centuries.

Tips For Choosing to Learn Saxophone Vs. Piano

Here are my tips for choosing to learn the saxophone vs. the piano:

  • Don’t overthink it. Choose the instrument you are most drawn to or feel most comfortable with. You are capable of learning both– so choose the one that feels the most fun.
  • Consider your musical goals. For example, if your goal is to play with school ensembles like concerts and marching bands, then the saxophone might be your better option.
  • Learn both! If you can’t decide which one to learn, I recommend starting with the piano and learning the saxophone once you’re more comfortable with the concept and lifestyle of playing an instrument.

Final Thoughts

The saxophone and the piano are both incredible musical instruments!

While they certainly have their fair share of pros and cons, overall, both options are an excellent choice if you’re interested in learning how to play an instrument.

Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand what it would be like to learn the saxophone or the piano.

You can now make an informed decision that meets your personal needs!