David J Abbott Woodwind Instrumentalist Woodwind Instruments
Music Lessons Student Files Bands  
Music Lessons
Teaching in Schools
Choosing an Instrument

click here to email
to enquire about music lessons

Music Lessons

Selecting the right instrument from the hundreds available in music shops and on the internet can be a daunting task! The following notes should help to narrow the choice down and answer some of the most commonly asked questions. I am more than happy to help new and existing students select and acquire an instrument. Please click here to email me with your requirements. Please remember to include a telephone number so I can call to discuss options with you.




Where to Buy

Having decided which instrument you want to play, your budget will probably determine the make and model you choose. Rather than list good and bad instruments here I recommend a visit to the web sites of the following specialist woodwind suppliers whose help and advice I have valued highly for many years.

As a general rule of thumb, if these shops don't stock an instrument I probably would not buy it. Trusted and respected instrument repairers have frequently warned me against buying many of the cheap instruments that dominate internet auction sites and some local second-hand outlets.

Nearly new or recently serviced second hand instruments can make a good buy. The retailers below have lists of second hand instruments on their web sites. Be wary, however, when buying secondhand instruments elsewhere. If the instrument needs a major service and repadding it may cost £200 or more to overhaul.


Wood, Wind & Reed

  Wood, Wind & Reed
106 Russell street
Tel: 01223 500442
  Dawkes Music www.dawkes.co.uk


The Woodwind and Brass Warehouse
Reform Road
Tel: 01628 630800



John Myatt Woodwind and Brass www.myatt.co.uk


57 Nightingale Road
Tel: 01462 420057


For instrument repairs and servicing and excellent advice I highly recommend


Steve Lock (Instrument Repairs & Servicing)


Utopia, Manningtree Road
Tel: 01473 328038




For saxophonists, the first decision you need to make is the size of saxophone. Unlike violins, saxophones do not come in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 sizes. They do, however come in a variety of sizes, the most popular of which are:

alto saxophoneAlto Saxophone
The alto produces a bright clear sound and has been used in jazz styles (e.g. Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond) and modern styles (e.g. Dave Sanborn). The alto is by far the most popular student instrument and is best suited to children's small hands. It is also more manageable for children to carry about. Due to its popularity it is generally the least expensive option.
tenor saxophoneTenor Saxophone
A little larger (and heavier) than the alto and consequently less suitable for younger students (i.e. under 12's). The tenor creates a darker, richer sound which has been extensively used in jazz and soul (e.g. Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins and Michael Brecker). Although a little more expensive than the alto, the tenor can make an ideal student instrument.
soprano saxophoneSoprano Saxophone
No, it's not a metal clarinet! Since it is a smaller instrument it doesn't need to be curly. (Curly models are available but the cheaper instruments tend to have more tuning problems). The soprano's higher and generally sweeter sound has been popularised by Kenny G. Although smaller than the alto, the soprano is more demanding on the lip and more expensive to buy.
baritone saxophoneBaritone Saxophone
The baritone is a bit of a monster weighing in at 15kg in a case. It consequently suits those with large biceps, budget and car boot space! Although not often used as as student instrument (which is a shame because it can sound fantastic!) the fingering on all saxophones is almost identical. It is therefore relatively easy to adapt to the different saxophones having learnt to play on a more manageable one.

Where to buy Saxophones


For all beginner flute students I recommend:

  • a standard concert flute (i.e. not a piccolo, alto or bass flute or a keyless flute. Although it is possible to learn on a piccolo, alto or bass flute, these instruments can be more demanding and expensive for a beginner.)
  • with closed holes (open hole flutes suit professional players but are less forgiving for students)
  • with offset G (most students flutes have this)
  • with split E mechanism (most modern students flutes have this)


Where to buy Flutes



clarinetI recommend a standard Bb clarinet for most beginner students. The modern plastic student instruments (e.g. Buffet B12) have a good tone, are easy to look after and are lighter than the traditional wooden instruments.

Clarinets in Eb and A and bass clarinets are more specialist instruments.

The Lyons C clarinet is a recent invention. Its lighter and simpler construction can make it an easier instrument for younger students. However, students will inevitably need to transfer to a Bb instrument and school bands rarely have appropriate parts written out for the C clarinet. As a consequence it is rarely seen.


Where to buy Clarinets