Trumpet vs. Saxophone (What’s The Difference?)

The trumpet and saxophone are two wildly different instruments, right?

We are sure that this is something that you would have no issues agreeing with. They both look different.

If you listen to them, they sound completely different too.

The question isn’t really whether they are different instruments here.

Instead, we are going to pit trumpet and the saxophone and find out just how different they actually are.

Type of Instrument

Obviously, with both the trumpet and the saxophone, you are meant to blow into a mouthpiece and the instrument makes a sound. However, the classification of the instruments is completely different.

The trumpet is a brass instrument. This means that it will be the vibration of your lips that changes the way that the air moves through the trumpet. To play the trumpet, you need to know how to tighten and loosen your lips to create the sound that you want.

Saxophones, on the other hand, is a woodwind instruments. This means that they have a small piece of wood, known as a reed, on the mouthpiece. It is the vibration of this reed that causes a sound. 

There is a little bit more in terms of differences between woodwind instruments and brass instruments, but we will cover them throughout this page.

This is because these differences do tie into the inherent differences between the two instruments.

Ease of Play

Both the trumpet and the saxophone are going to take years and years to master.

If you want to make a sound ‘today’, then a saxophone is how you get there.

Due to the whole reed structure, anybody could blow into a saxophone and make a sound that sounds vaguely musical. It wouldn’t be a completely crisp sound, but it would be a sound nonetheless.

Blowing into a trumpet? Unless you get lucky, you probably won’t hear anything outside of an off-key squeak. 

We are not saying that the saxophone is easier to learn than the trumpet. It isn’t. You still have years of practice ahead of you.

However, it is going to be a whole lot easier for a beginner to get started with the saxophone.

May take a few lessons before somebody makes something even vaguely recognizable as a note with a trumpet. 

How to Play Them

Both of these instruments will be held and played in a slightly different way.

Trumpet

Let’s start with the trumpet. When you are buying a trumpet, you must purchase a standard model or a left-handed model. This is because it will influence how you play it.

With a trumpet, you will hold it straight in front of you. So, the trumpet is going to extend forward from your mouth.

If you have a normal trumpet, then it will be supported by your left hand. If you have a left-handed model, then it would be supported by your right hand.

The supporting hand will reach around the trumpet and one of your fingers (normally the ring finger) will be placed into a slide. Your free hand will be on the valves on the trumpet. 

Sound is played by blowing into the mouthpiece (in a modulated way) and depressing and releasing the valves on the trumpet.

Saxophone

The saxophone will be held upright. You will need to support it with both hands.

Your right hand will be placed on the buttons on the saxophone. As you blow into the trumpet, the reed will vibrate which will send modulated air through the saxophone. Pressing the keys will help to change the pitch of this airflow. 

The Price

The cost of these instruments is incredibly different. Although, this is to be expected.

For a beginner, the price of a trumpet can start at a few hundred dollars. A decent beginner trumpet may set you back $1,000.

Sure. It is probably a hefty price point if you are starting the instrument for the first time, but it is nothing in comparison to a saxophone!

For a beginner saxophone, and we are talking down the lower end of the market, you can expect to pay around $1,000. Read more about the price of a Saxophone.

If you want something that is halfway reasonable, then it is going to be costing you a minimum of $1,500.

At the upper level for a beginner, you could be spending $2,500. This is a stark contrast to a trumpet where it would cost you $2,500 to buy a trumpet that is worthy of being used in a performance setting.

That being said, if you are a beginner, both of these instruments can be easily rented.

This means that you may not have to spend over a thousand dollars before you have taken to the instrument.

If you are thinking long-term, however,  then the saxophone is going to be a far greater expense.

Although, saxophones do tend to hold their secondhand value well in comparison to trumpets if you did wish to sell them on.

The Construction Materials

We have talked about the differences between both of these instruments, so let’s now start talking about some of the similarities.

Both trumpets and saxophones are made from brass. Well, mostly. It will be a brass alloy and there will be various metals mixed into that brass to try and change up the tone of the instrument.

However, as a beginner, this isn’t something that you need to know about. The same applies when it comes to the actual coating of the brass. 

There will be a small amount of leather added to the saxophone. This will help all the holes to be sealed up nicely and tightly.

You do not get anything like that on the trumpet. The only place that brass isn’t used on the trumpet will be on the spit valve which uses cork. 

We know that this sounds confusing when you realize that despite both being made from brass only the trumpet is classed as a brass instrument.

However, the brass and woodwind distinction is more of a traditional distinction. A lot of it does have to do with the inclusion of the small reed that vibrates on the saxophone.

Styles of Music

We have some more similarities for you here.

Both the saxophone and the trumpet are ideal for the same type of music. 

Both of the instruments are going to be featured in orchestras, so if you do enjoy classical music or classical music with a more modern spin, then both the trumpet and the saxophone are ideal instruments to play.

Most people will know of the contribution that both of these instruments have to jazz too. If you play either the trumpet or saxophone, then you would quite easily be taking center stage in a jazz band.

These instruments are key to the sound and nearly every single jazz composition will feature one or the other.

Enjoy playing the blues? Well, we have a difference there. The saxophone is probably going to be more suited to the blues.

We suppose that the trumpet can work to an extent there, but the saxophone does seem a little bit more traditional there.

The trumpet, to most people, signifies happy music. We can’t imagine that there will be many people on stage singing “my baby done me wrong” before launching into huge fanfare with a trumpet, right? They want something solemn, and the saxophone does that.

In terms of pop music, both are featured. They are not going to make as much of an appearance as other instruments such as the guitar, but they are going to be there.

You can probably transcribe most pop songs to work on either the trumpet or saxophone.

However, if you have long-term aspirations to play pop music, then neither one is going to be right for you.

Which Instrument Should a Beginner Play First?

Whichever one you prefer the sound of.

Whenever you are learning an instrument, you shouldn’t take stepping stones. If you love the way that an instrument sounds then, no matter how difficult it is to play, you start by playing that instrument.

There is no sense in learning the saxophone to jump to trumpet if your whole goal is to play the trumpet in the first place.

If you aren’t sure which one is right for you, then watch a couple of YouTube videos where only a trumpet or a saxophone features.

Listen to the intricacies of their sound. This should give you an idea as to which route to go down.

Remember; it is going to be a lot easier to learn the saxophone at the start.

However, once you start getting into the intricacies of things, and you have overcome that trumpet barrier where you need to learn how to modulate your lips, then both instruments have an equal amount of difficulty.

It will still take years, if not decades, to master both the saxophone and the trumpet. 

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