Learn how to buy a saxophone – music advice & buying guide for beginners

Do I  buy a Yamaha, Yanigasawa, Keilworth, Jupiter, Trevor James or Selmer? Alexander Classique, Rico Royal, or Vandoren v12 reed? What about buying from a music store or a mail-order service? Whether you’re a student, enthusiast or it’s your musical hobby, here are some beginners saxophone buying tips to get you started:

Alto or Tenor?
Let’s talk about these two since they are the most popular followed by soprano and baritone.

The most commonly played  Saxophones are alto and tenor. When I was in a secondary school band it seemed that’s the way it was. It make sense when you think of the size difference, a tenor sax in it’s original factory case is somewhat heavy to carry, making it very difficult for a small teenage girl to lug it home from school every day.

For a small person, boy or girl it’s not a bad idea to start on the alto sax, it requires less air and the notes are closer together making it easier for small hands to control. Of course this is a generalisation and if you’re small and set on playing a  tenor sax from the start then do it.

Soprano or Baritone?  One voice higher than the alto is the soprano, and because it’s smaller it does require less air support. This is the good news, the bad news is that good intonation (tuning) will be harder to achieve for the beginner, especially in the higher register. Same thing applies to the baritone sax as far as being difficult to play in tune in the upper register, and the low register requires lots of air… it’s a big horn.Saxohone Reeds: Beginners will start with a #1 or #2 reed.  As you get into a more opened mouthpiece and your air support becomes more powerful you’ll most likely get a harder reed, maybe #3 or #4. They come in half sizes as well. Again, this requires a lot of experimenting with reed strengths and mouthpiece combinations. You’ll know whalso en the right one comes along.

Horns:  Selmer Mark VI come recommended. If you can’t get that however, generally speaking the older and more expensive the better. Also recommended: Selmer Paris Mark VI.
To begin with, it is best to buy a Cheap Horn. This is because:
1) You (for whatever reason) might not use it for very long
2) You’re unlikely to get a great tone in the first year or 2 no matter how expensive the horn is
3) It is the reed and the mouthpiece that are the most important part of your set-up rather than the horn itself.

Finding used horns should also be easy. Most music shops offer a good selection of and there are plenty of stores nationwide that specialise in classic professional horns. Also Ebay is a good place to find a used horn, as are online saxophone retailers.

Advantages of  buying a new saxophone     :
A new saxophone has special appeal. You know this saxophone is ready to play and has no wear, tear, or any defects on it at all. The plating is perfect and and the pads are new. It has a sophisticated design based all of the modern production techniques. A new saxophone also offers support from the factory and/or the music store where you purchased it. This new saxophone also holds it’s value fairly well for the first few months of ownership. Sometimes it’s possible to even get a new saxophone at a very good price. The psychological effect of owning a new saxophone also can’t be underestimated. For beginners and young students, that can be mean a lot. When you are first starting out, the look of the saxophone that matters, rather than how it sounds that matters.
Disadvantages of buying a new saxophone:
Buying a new saxophone can be costly. New horns can be up to 10 times as much as a used saxophone. Also, there are a lot more used horns available for purchase than new horns. If you want a new professional model, you must understand that there are less than a dozen true professional manufacturers out there. Another problem found on many horns is a lack of consistency in quality of manufacture. With mass production, the artistic aspect and attention to detail put into producing a musical instrument is often lost. This approach is seen as laborious and slow, quality is sometimes compromised, all in the name of quantity.
Advantages of buying a used saxophone:
A used saxophone can be an affordable option. Also, the materials and craftsmanship of older used horns is usually very good. Older saxophones tend to have a a lot more engraving and decoration than any other kind of horn. There is more likely to be plating (instead of lacquer) and have much stiffer brass.
Disadvantages of buying a used saxophone:
The hardest part of buying a used saxophone is determining its true worth and condition. Without this prior knowledge, the person selling is at an advantage if you don’t know what to look for or what you want. Buying horns over the Internet poses another level of complexity since you are relying on a written description or electronic photographs.
This raises another difficult topic regarding buying a used horn from a private individual (and sometimes even music shops). A horn will almost never be in perfect condition when you go to see it. It is very rare that you’ll find a horn looks and plays perfectly. Most of the time, the horn has been sitting for a period of time (usually years) and will leak fairly badly. This horn may also have some minor rod or key damage that keeps it from playing properly. As these ocurrances are regular, you must see if you can get enough of an idea about the horn to decide if you want to buy it. This is yet another case of where bringing someone along to try it is a good idea. Naturally, when buying online, being able to feel and try it out is impossible. That is why it is especially important to only purchase from reputable dealers or people who have clearly documented the positives and negatives.
HOMEWORK:

Make a list of the ‘must have’ and ‘would like to have’ requirements in your first Saxophone. The ‘must have’ is the most important as this is where you will not compromise and be secure in walking away from something that doesn’t feel right. With the second category be prepared to be more flexible, especially in negotiating with a private seller. However, be wary of online adverts or auctions that don’t clearly detail any damage along with pictures.

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o I  buy a Yamaha, Yanigasawa, Keilworth, Jupiter, Trevor James or Selmer? Alexander Classique, Rico Royal, or Vandoren v12 reed? What about buying from a music store or a mail-order service? Whether you’re a student, enthusiast or it’s your musical hobby, here are some beginners saxophone buying tips to get you started:

Alto or Tenor?
Let’s talk about these two since they are the most popular followed by soprano and baritone.

The most commonly played  Saxophones are alto and tenor. When I was in a secondary school band it seemed that’s the way it was. It make sense when you think of the size difference, a tenor sax in it’s original factory case is somewhat heavy to carry, making it very difficult for a small teenage girl to lug it home from school every day.

For a small person, boy or girl it’s not a bad idea to start on the alto sax, it requires less air and the notes are closer together making it easier for small hands to control. Of course this is a generalisation and if you’re small and set on playing a  tenor sax from the start then do it.

Soprano or Baritone?  One voice higher than the alto is the soprano, and because it’s smaller it does require less air support. This is the good news, the bad news is that good intonation (tuning) will be harder to achieve for the beginner, especially in the higher register. Same thing applies to the baritone sax as far as being difficult to play in tune in the upper register, and the low register requires lots of air… it’s a big horn.Saxohone Reeds: Beginners will start with a #1 or #2 reed.  As you get into a more opened mouthpiece and your air support becomes more powerful you’ll most likely get a harder reed, maybe #3 or #4. They come in half sizes as well. Again, this requires a lot of experimenting with reed strengths and mouthpiece combinations. You’ll know whalso en the right one comes along.

Horns:  Selmer Mark VI come recommended. If you can’t get that however, generally speaking the older and more expensive the better. Also recommended: Selmer Paris Mark VI.
To begin with, it is best to buy a Cheap Horn. This is because:
1) You (for whatever reason) might not use it for very long
2) You’re unlikely to get a great tone in the first year or 2 no matter how expensive the horn is
3) It is the reed and the mouthpiece that are the most important part of your set-up rather than the horn itself.

Finding used horns should also be easy. Most music shops offer a good selection of and there are plenty of stores nationwide that specialise in classic professional horns. Also Ebay is a good place to find a used horn, as are online saxophone retailers.

Advantages of  buying a new saxophone     :
A new saxophone has special appeal. You know this saxophone is ready to play and has no wear, tear, or any defects on it at all. The plating is perfect and and the pads are new. It has a sophisticated design based all of the modern production techniques. A new saxophone also offers support from the factory and/or the music store where you purchased it. This new saxophone also holds it’s value fairly well for the first few months of ownership. Sometimes it’s possible to even get a new saxophone at a very good price. The psychological effect of owning a new saxophone also can’t be underestimated. For beginners and young students, that can be mean a lot. When you are first starting out, the look of the saxophone that matters, rather than how it sounds that matters.
Disadvantages of buying a new saxophone:
Buying a new saxophone can be costly. New horns can be up to 10 times as much as a used saxophone. Also, there are a lot more used horns available for purchase than new horns. If you want a new professional model, you must understand that there are less than a dozen true professional manufacturers out there. Another problem found on many horns is a lack of consistency in quality of manufacture. With mass production, the artistic aspect and attention to detail put into producing a musical instrument is often lost. This approach is seen as laborious and slow, quality is sometimes compromised, all in the name of quantity.
Advantages of buying a used saxophone:
A used saxophone can be an affordable option. Also, the materials and craftsmanship of older used horns is usually very good. Older saxophones tend to have a a lot more engraving and decoration than any other kind of horn. There is more likely to be plating (instead of lacquer) and have much stiffer brass.
Disadvantages of buying a used saxophone:
The hardest part of buying a used saxophone is determining its true worth and condition. Without this prior knowledge, the person selling is at an advantage if you don’t know what to look for or what you want. Buying horns over the Internet poses another level of complexity since you are relying on a written description or electronic photographs.
This raises another difficult topic regarding buying a used horn from a private individual (and sometimes even music shops). A horn will almost never be in perfect condition when you go to see it. It is very rare that you’ll find a horn looks and plays perfectly. Most of the time, the horn has been sitting for a period of time (usually years) and will leak fairly badly. This horn may also have some minor rod or key damage that keeps it from playing properly. As these ocurrances are regular, you must see if you can get enough of an idea about the horn to decide if you want to buy it. This is yet another case of where bringing someone along to try it is a good idea. Naturally, when buying online, being able to feel and try it out is impossible. That is why it is especially important to only purchase from reputable dealers or people who have clearly documented the positives and negatives.
HOMEWORK:

Make a list of the ‘must have’ and ‘would like to have’ requirements in your first Saxophone. The ‘must have’ is the most important as this is where you will not compromise and be secure in walking away from something that doesn’t feel right. With the second category be prepared to be more flexible, especially in negotiating with a private seller. However, be wary of online adverts or auctions that don’t clearly detail any damage along with pictures.

Amazon Marketplace

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