What type of saxaphone for a beginner

by Matthew
(Carmel IN)

My son (who is about to start sixth grade) is getting ready to play the Alto Sax in the band. Any recommendations on the type. There is a store the school recommends which rents and or sales them. In the economy model that is recommended they have (yamaha, accent and another brand I cannot remember). However these are about twice as expensive as another store which had a Baptiste or something like that. At this level does it matter and why the big price difference?

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Jun 09, 2010
Saxophone engineering
by: Malcolm Lappin

The three qualities to look for when buying a saxophone for a beginner are: how easy it is to play in tune; how easy it is to blow; how easy it is to get a nice and pleasing tone; and how robust and reliable it is.

The experienced saxophonist, choosing a new saxophone, will find a supplier who has the facilities to allow a trial blow of a range of saxophones before choosing. Such a player may well be interested in vintage saxophones.
These beautiful saxophones are not easy for a beginner to play, and are best avoided for the first few years of playing.

The classic advice to a beginner is: find a teacher; ask the teacher to help you find a saxophone; then start weekly individual lessons with the teacher.

If you have to choose without the help of a teacher, then the standard advice becomes: buy a Yamaha or Yanigasawa. They have good intonation (it is easy to stay in tune when playing them), are easy to blow, and are robust and reliable.

A saxophone is a piece of precision engineering. If it is not right, it will not have consistent intonation, so the beginner will find some notes are out of tune. The quality of the engineering, in terms of the build-quality, will also decide the robustness and reliability of the instrument. Some cheap imported saxophones are very good, but many are very lightweight, and need careful handling: even grasping the instrument carelessly can bend rods or keys and nessitate a specialist repair.

Yamaha and Yanigasawa are noted for the quality of their engineering: that is what you pay for.

My advice to a beginner would be: buy a Yamaha or Yanigasawa; don't buy a cheaper instrument unless you know other people (plural)who have been pleased with one; get individual lessons; practice every single day. When you stay with friends apologise but insist that you have to blow for 15 minutes.(But take a kitchen-timer so that you stick to your word!)

Practice: long notes; scales; some sight-reading (hymns or children's somngs at first); and the piece you are learning for your teacher. Get a metronome and use it (on your scales, for example). Use the kitchen-timer to make sure you cover all of these in you rpractice session. Remember: build up the practice time slowly; relaxed fingers; breathing deep into the abdomen; no biting. It would be a good idea to buy Paul Harvey's book,"The Saxophone", read it carefully and often. My final instruction is: look in the mirror every morning and say three times: "I am learning the saxophone. My ambition is to be a saxophonist. Nothing will stop me."

Good luck, Malcolm

Oct 07, 2010
Buy a Yanagisawa
by: Anonymous

Don't buy anything from China unless it's a 769 Jupiter. These aren't bad and are the cheapest saxophone that play reliably and in tune.
If you can stretch a bit further buy a Yanagisawa A901. It will pay off, trust me. It'll give your son the best chance at sticking with the saxophone.
Yamaha are only just okay but are getting worse, so the older the better.
French Selmer are the king but are only marginally better than the Yani and are three times the price.
Good luck.

Dec 25, 2010
Student Saxophones
by: Mike

Any student model saxophone needs to be so good even a child can play it. Contemporary economy Saxes come in two classes: decorative or functional. You will notice a big price difference between the two. Decorative Saxes can be hung on the wall or used to discourage young players. Only a trusted store or saxophonist can tell the difference. Even a high quality sax can be damaged to the point where it will not play properly.
I feel for the dilemma you are in. When I started there was only the equivalent of Ford, Chevy and Citroën. Now there is everything from Kia to Mercedes and many companies have many models made in different countries. And some models aren’t even cars; they’re donkeys.

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