Saxophones took the music world by storm when they first appeared in the 1800s in the hands of Adolphe Sax. And while they don’t sound as beautifully melancholic as pianos and violins, they produce a mellow sound that can shift a music piece from being mediocre to being exceptionally phenomenal.
If you’ve decided to join talented saxophone players, you need to know how to buy a saxophone. Luckily, we’re here to help!
Buying Guide: Saxophone Edition
To make the buying process easier for you, we’ll give you a roundup of all the points you should consider before making your purchase.
The first thing you should consider when buying a saxophone is its type. Some good instruments are a better fit for professionals, while others show superiority when in the hands of beginners.
Alto saxophones gained their worldwide fame as the most used type of saxophones for many reasons. For starters, they’re perfect for beginners because their skills can be easily used on other saxophones. As a result, if you decide to use a different saxophone for a change, you’ll adapt quickly.
Secondly, most altos have compact keys that’ll make moving between notes a much smoother process. Not to mention, they’re more on the small side so that you won’t hurt your back carrying them around.
And for the best part, buying an alto saxophone won’t make a dent in your wallet; It’s more affordable than other types. To sum it up, if you’re a beginner who’s still taking their first steps in learning the instrument, you’ll do well with an alto as your first saxophone. And to buy the best alto saxophone out there, check reputable brands like Yamaha, Mendini and Costzon.
Fun fact: Charlie Parker, who’s deemed the greatest saxophonist to ever walk this earth, started his musical journey with an alto sax.
The superiority of tenor saxophones lies in their association with the ever-influencing genre, jazz. They produce a mellow, low-pitched sound that differentiates them from altos.
Tenors are slightly larger and heavier than altos, but nevertheless, they’re still an excellent choice for beginners. This is mainly because their playing techniques are flexible with other saxophone types.
However, a tenor sax shows a bit of inconvenience because of its curved shape, as it’s more susceptible to damage. As a result, before purchasing, you should make sure the saxophone body is durable.
To summarize, you’ll do great with a tenor saxophone if you’re a beginner who’s willing to carry a bit of a heavier weight for the sake of a mellower sound.
Baritone saxophones are more on the professional side, so you’ll be a bit out of depth here if you’re a beginner. With that being said, if you’re skillful, then a baritone sax is somewhere out there waiting for you.
Baritone saxophones have a very low pitch compared to other saxophones, which gained them a colossal role in many rock ‘n’ roll and R&B music pieces. However, they’re still somewhat unsuitable for students because of their large size and wide keys range.
Considering their large size, baritones are also susceptible to damage. Accordingly, you should look for a durably made model, preferably one with a strong floor peg if you plan on playing it sitting.
Without further ado, don’t hesitate to get a baritone if you plan to play expertly in a band and don’t mind denting your wallet a bit.
If the only Sopranos you’re familiar with are the ones on the tv show, then let us acquaint you with the musical ones. Soprano saxophones are the charm of the woodwind family, and while they’re the smallest saxophones out there, don’t let that fool you!
They’re the most challenging to play. Accordingly, only consider buying a soprano sax if you’re an expert and you play in an orchestra or a concert band.
As well as the altos, soprano saxophones are fairly inexpensive. This is mainly because they have smaller sizes. However, don’t let the small size and the friendly price blind you from the fact that they aren’t suitable for beginners.
After choosing a suitable type, you should start considering the saxophone quality level you want.
Student saxophones were made for beginners; therefore, they’re easier to play and produce consistent sounds on. In addition, they cost much less than other quality levels. Accordingly, if you’re still taking your first steps in learning the saxophone, look no further than a student model.
Once you’ve gone through the first years of playing saxophones, you can get an intermediate sax. In addition to its higher quality sound, it also has more features than the student models, which means you’ll get to improve your playing skills along the way.
Although intermediate saxophones are a little costly, they’re worth the investment because they provide richer sound, finer intonation, and quicker response.
Professional saxophones draw the line between experts and amateurs as they provide the highest quality levels out there. In addition to their superb responsiveness, they also produce top-notch tones that ought to make you reminisce about John Coltrane’s days.
A professional sax will bring out the best of your talents. Not to mention, manufacturers meticulously designed it to show a high-degree craft as it includes decorative engraving and carefully adjusted keys that’ll remind you of vintage instruments. In short, it’s a great horn to own.
Since each performer has their own musical and aesthetic needs, we’ll give you a brief about the available metal finishes for saxophones. While they may not make a huge difference, you should still consider them.
Most saxophones are made of lacquered brass, mainly student and intermediate ones. As a bonus point, brass horns tend to be lighter than other horns. Consequently, if you want to purchase a good horn that isn’t too heavy, settle on a lacquered brass sax.
Black Lacquer Finish
As well as the characteristic appearances that resemble vintage saxophones, black lacquer saxophones also offer fuller and richer tones to musical pieces. However, they’re heavier than most modern horns. So if you’re looking for elegance, get a black lacquer sax.
Silver plating provides instruments with a more focused sound and fuller tone. With that being said, it adds a little weight to the sax. As a result, sterling silver-plated, shiny saxophones are better suited for professionals, much like their gold-plated peers.
If you want to be heard, then nickel plating is your solid choice. It breeds music that can’t be ignored because of nickel’s hardness. That’s why it’s a favorite among confident jazz performers. Moreover, when nickel covers the entire horn, it deems it resistant to scratches.
Copper and bronze platings are quite the opposite of nickel plating. They give the saxophone a darker, almost haunting tone that breeds a mellow ring while darkening the horn’s timbre. In addition, they add to the instrument’s weight.
New or Used Saxophone
Since most beginners are unsure at first whether they’ll carry on with playing saxophones, they may opt for a used horn instead of getting a new one from a music store.
However, if you plan on doing that, you should make sure you’re buying from a trustable teacher to avoid purchasing a stolen horn. Most secondhand instruments will work fine with you, but they may need sooner maintenance. And the best part is that you can buy horns in good condition and at a very good price.
But, of course, if you’re a professional performer, you’ll do better with a new saxophone. So while it may be too expensive for your first sax, you won’t be shocked at the prices of newer models if you have some experience in the field.
To Wrap Up
Performing music is an art, and every artist should have the right equipment. That’s why we’ll help you choose a suitable sax. If you’re still at the beginning of your journey, you’ll do great with student altos and tenors. Then, when you outgrow them and gain expertise, you can head for an intermediate or a pro model.
We hope you have enough information now!