Saxophone or Trombone? (Which should i choose)

saxophone or trombone
Written by Corey Morgan

In order to join a band, the first step is to decide the instrument you want to play. ‘ The trombone and the alto saxophone are two options for beginning musicians, but which is better? For those who are just starting out, the alto saxophone is a better option. With the neck strap, it is simpler to play and generate a sound, and it is less tiring to hold up. Contrary to this, while the trombone is more difficult to learn, it’s also less expensive and requires less maintenance.

Although the saxophone is a heavy instrument, the neck strap makes it easier to carry around when you’re playing. Beginners will find this extremely beneficial in regulating their weight while maintaining proper posture and hand position.

For the trombone, the left shoulder and hands hold the majority of the instrument’s back end, while the arms support the rest. The weight and arm extension requirements for trombone may be too much for smaller players with shorter arms.

There is a lot of effort involved in holding a trombone upright and reaching for the slide positions. To play positions like 6th and 7th, your right arm must extend to support the weight of your left shoulder.

The alto saxophone is significantly easier to play than the trombone when the neck strap is properly adjusted. It’s more pleasant to handle because it’s held closer to the body.

What Are Saxophone and Trombone?

The Saxophone and the Trombone are two of the most well-known wind instruments. It’s possible that they seem same because they’re made of the same metal, brass.

Woodwinds and brass, on the other hand, are two independent sub-categories of wind instruments.

Traditional woodwind instruments are played by blowing air through a hole in the instrument’s body. It’s no longer composed entirely of wood, but rather metal.

Despite this, the reed or fipple’s sharp edge is still used to split the air pushed into it, which is how it makes music.

To make sound, brass instruments respond to external vibrations that have a harmonic similarity applied to the vibratory body. When the mouthpiece is vibrated by the player’s lips, the instrument responds through its tubes.

There are other wind instruments made of wood that are categorized as brass instruments, despite their wood construction. Cornet, serpent, alphorn and the Didgeridoo are all examples of this type of instruments.

Trombone vs. Saxophone – Differences

We’re now ready to see the differences between the Saxophone and the Trombone, so let’s get started. Saxophone and Trombone are basically broad terms that encompass their respective families.

In other words, not all saxophones and trombones are alike. That’s because each instrument’s voice type determines a different subcategory.

Soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones are the four most prevalent sizes. You’re probably thinking of the alto sax when I say “sax” because it’s so well-known. It’s the one that gives the instruments a cool, jazzy, and sensuous tone.

The most popular trombone line-up is the Tenor, Bass, and Alto trombones. Assuming you’re not already aware, the trombone is the instrument that is played using a sliding mechanism.

Saxophone and trombone are two different instruments, therefore let’s compare them.

Differences in construction

Saxophone and Trombone construction is fundamentally different from one another, aside from the obvious differences in shape and size. Finally, the saxophone is made in the shape of a cone, whereas the trombone is shaped like a cylinder.

A wind instrument is said to be a “cone” if its outer diameter is narrower near the mouthpiece and gradually increases toward the bell. Cylindrical designs, on the other hand, tend to be more uniform along the length of their body and only begin to widen at the bell.

The two instruments’ pitch-changing mechanisms also differ significantly. Trombones feature a sliding mechanism, while saxophones have keys that may be manipulated by the player’s fingers.

Acoustics is governed by the same concept in both cases. Changing the lengths of the air’s journey alters its wavelength, which alters the note it produces. The lower the pitch is, the longer the wavelength is. When the wavelength is shorter, the note has a higher pitch.

Differences in Range and Pitch

This is where things start to go apart between them. Saxophone and trombone are only broad names that relate to their families and are further split based on their voice kinds, as was described in prior sections.

Because of these differences, the instruments are difficult to compare and have a high level of dynamism. To begin, let’s imagine that both instruments are tuned to the key of B♭.

All Saxophones are not tuned to the same pitch. The Baritone and Alto Sax are both tuned to the key of E, while all the others are.

Another similarity between the two instruments is that they both get smaller in size as their range increases. While the trombone’s design and construction hasn’t changed much, saxophones have undergone a major overhaul. Also, as their range increases, the curved curvature of the Soprano saxophone disappears, culminating in a straight conical shape.

Which is easier to play – saxophone or trombone

  • Embouchure

When playing a wind instrument, a musician’s embouchure refers to how they place their lips around the instrument’s mouthpiece. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to achieve a flawless performance on a musical instrument.

In order to make the reed vibrate with the air, the embouchure on a saxophone is as simple as wrapping the player’s mouth and lips around the mouthpiece in a certain manner.

Once a saxophonist learns how to do this, it’s relatively simple and reliable. Although it takes a lot of work to get the perfect tone out of your embouchure, it’s worth the effort.

The trombone is a brass instrument with a cup-shaped mouthpiece that requires the player to buzz their lips into it at various frequencies in order to produce different notes.

When compared to the saxophone, the trombone’s buzz can take years to perfect.

  • Posture

As you might expect, the saxophone is a large and cumbersome instrument. Fortunately, a neck strap is included to help distribute the load.

Beginners will find this very useful in carrying the weight while maintaining proper posture and hand positioning. The trombone’s back end rests mostly on the left shoulder and hands, with the arms providing support for the rest.

  • Slides vs. keys

The saxophone is easier to play the right note than the trombone. On the sax, you simply push the right keys, and you’ll usually get the right pitch.

As compared to the saxophone, trombone slide is more complicated and subtle. When extending the slide, the player must have a sense of how far to go with each note and then utilize their ears to make the necessary adjustments.

  • You can play multiple partials on each slide positions.

A delightful aspect of the trombone is glissandos, which are played by sliding from note to note while extending the trombone’s slide.

While trombone glissandos are a fun technique to learn, the player must learn to tongue and position the slide precisely in order to avoid unwanted glissandos.

Additionally, saxophone players must master the art of tonguing, which involves starting each note with the tip of the tongue striking the reed on the mouthpiece.

Tonguing on both instruments necessitates coordination of the tongue and fingers, but with the trombone’s slide, there is greater space for error.

The keys on the saxophone allow it to play at a faster rate. The slide motion on the trombone makes it much more difficult to play fast. That so, learning the saxophone’s intricate fingering system might be intimidating for some. The trombone slide and partials are preferred by some.

Trombone is more difficult to learn and play, according to most people’s experiences. Those who prefer it to the saxophone should keep in mind that mastering the slide’s pitch will require more time spent on ear training.

  • Sax or trombone: sound & expressiveness

The saxophone has a powerful sound that can be mellowed with practice and expertise. Creating a regulated saxophone tone is a process that requires patience and practice.

As long as you get the right amount of buzz on your trombone, it too can generate a powerful sound. Because the trombone’s air pressure and embouchure endurance are more demanding, getting a steady tone will be challenging at first.

Trombone requires a lot more air than alto saxophone playing. Smaller students may find it difficult to increase their lung capacity through training.

The trombone’s tone allows it to communicate a greater range of emotions. Because of its dynamic range and adaptability, the trombone is often referred to as the “next closest” instrument to the human vocal chords.

The saxophone, like the trombone, has the potential to be an expressive instrument, but it will need more work to acquire the same level of expressiveness. Take into account the instrument you prefer in terms of sound quality as well. It’s great to like the sound of your instrument because you’ll be hearing it a lot.

  • Timbre

Of course, these instruments are not the same and each has a distinct sound and feel to it. Since trombones are connected with symphonic orchestra, while Saxophones are associated with jazz, this is why the two musical styles have different associations.

Trombones are noted for their warm, rich, and long-lasting tone. Playing noble and majestic-style music is easy with this instrument’s crystal-clear tone. The sound of a saxophone can be described as “sharp and reedy” in a more technical sense. It may appear to be excessively forceful and aggressive at first, but competent players can tone it down.

  • Price differences

Generally, saxophones are more expensive than trombones, however this is not always the case. The saxophone is likely to cost more than a trombone of comparable quality.

The trombone requires far less maintenance and is far more weather-resistant. The saxophone is more difficult to maintain since it contains a greater number of mechanics and keys, rods, pads, corks, and felts.

The saxophone is more susceptible to damage because to the complexity of its key system, especially if dropped. Trombones are more tough and durable than other instruments, therefore you should treat them with care anyway.

Reeds are an ongoing expense for saxophonists, and the best ones may be rather costly. Trombonists must lubricate their slides on a regular basis, although slide oil is inexpensive and lasts for a long time if used properly. Saxophones are expensive and require a lot of work, so be prepared for that if you decide to buy one.

  • Versatility

Both instruments offer a wide range of playing options and a high degree of adaptability. The trombone, is more versatile than the other. This instrument can be found in a wide variety of ensembles including those that perform in the wind and marching bands as well as jazz and military bands.

Trombone is an orchestral instrument, whereas saxophones aren’t and aren’t often found in a wind orchestra.

Brass and percussion are the primary instruments of many marching bands for both colleges and drum corps. The saxophone, which is a woodwind, is not included here.

The saxophone has fewer group chances in later years than the trombone, but both instruments are quite popular in jazz and classical contexts.

It may not be the greatest instrument for a career in the symphony if you envision yourself playing the saxophone.

Jazz musicians love to play the saxophone. While the trombone has its place, the saxophone is the most common instrument used in jazz and is frequently given the opportunity to perform solos.

This instrument can also be found in rock, pop, and R&B genres.

For classical music, trombone is the instrument of choice; however, for jazz or modern music, the instrument of choice is saxophone.

  • Ergonomics

The Saxophone’s key-operated design allows it to be used by a much broader range of people. When it comes to playing the trombone, smaller players with shorter arms may have difficulty due to the instrument’s weight and arm extension requirements.

That’s because reaching for slide locations while holding the trombone is a lot of work. There should be enough strength in the player’s left shoulder and right arm in order to play in the upper positions like 6th and 7th, respectively.

The saxophone, on the other hand, is a lot easier to play. Most of the weight is distributed evenly across the player’s body thanks to the convenient neck strap. When held near to the body, it is more comfortable to hold for long periods of time, especially with shorter arms.

  • Practicing on a saxophone or a trombone is easier

Trombones are loud instruments, but they can be toned down if you want to play them in your house. If you don’t want your neighbors to hear you practice, you can use a practice mute to lower the noise.

Trombone practice mutes are reasonably priced. Mutes for saxophones, on the other hand, come at a high price. Saxophone mutes can be found at a lower price, but they don’t provide the same level of amplification.

In spite of its size, some may find the trombone to be more convenient to carry than the saxophone. Use caution in entrances and narrow passages because it is a long instrument.

Which instrument should you play?

The saxophone is the more accessible of the two instruments, but this does not necessarily indicate that it is the better one.

A student’s chances of succeeding on a brass instrument like the trombone are slim if they can’t even get a buzz going. The trombone may be a better fit for those who have a natural talent for buzzing.

If you can, go to an instrument fitting where new band members can try out instruments under the guidance of an instructor. Instructors often have insight into which instrument a student is most likely to excel at and thus more likely to enjoy playing.

The saxophone and trombone both have their advantages and disadvantages, and each person has their own preferences and inherent abilities.

The style of music you want to play, as well as your budgetary considerations, should guide your decision-making process.


If you’re still having trouble deciding between the two instruments, keep these considerations in mind: Do you wish to be a soloist and do you have the funds to do so? Saxophone is the best choice.

If you want to be a professional concert musician but are strapped for finances, what options do you have? It’s time to get a Trombone.