Saxophone Buying Guide

Although all musical instruments are special in their own way, there’s just something about the saxophone. Its rich, golden sound is not only pleasant, but flexible. This makes it a perfect fit for solo play and ensemble use alike. It’s also appropriate for a variety of different music styles as well. If you’ve fallen in love with this incredible instrument yourself, it only makes sense that you’d want to own a sax of your own at one point or another.

However, deciding that you’re ready to get serious enough about playing the saxophone to buy an instrument and actually making a wise purchasing decision are two very different things. Let’s take a closer look at what you should be considering before your begin the shopping process in order to maximize your chances of making a truly good choice.

What Type of Player Are You?

When it comes to the saxophone, what type of sax you buy will have a lot to do with what type of player you are. Are you just getting started with the sax or have you been playing long enough to be considered an intermediate at least? Are you at the level where you’re considering going professional at some point? Where and how do you play the sax – in a school band, as part of an indoor ensemble, as a solo artist?

Most beginning saxophone players will start out playing an alto saxophone or alternatively a tenor sax. This is especially the case for people that play as part of a school band or marching band. Altos are not only smaller and easier for young people to handle, but they’re less expensive as well. Tenors are slightly bigger, but still quite affordable, even on a budget. However, more experienced players may eventually decide to upgrade to a baritone or soprano saxophone.

If you’re unsure as to which of these options is the best fit for you, consider asking an instructor for advice. Alternatively, you can ask someone at a local music shop for some pointers.
What Are You Looking for in a Saxophone?

As is the case with most musical instruments, it’s important to consider what your personal set of needs really add up to when it comes to the sax. Let’s take a closer look at some important things to consider.

Sound Quality
If you’re a beginning saxophone player, then it’s likely that a student saxophone will more than get the job done. Once you’ve begun to level up in regards to your skill and have learned more about what your unique needs are, you can begin to think about what you’d like to achieve in regards to tone.

Intermediate saxophones strike a great balance between the tone found in beginning horns and the more polished, costly professional varieties. However, they’re still affordable even if you’re on a strict budget. If you’re serious about playing the sax or are anything other than an absolute beginner, it might be worth considering an intermediate horn when it comes to your first instrument of your very own. The resale value on intermediate horns is much higher as well.

Finish and Aesthetic
Of course, the look of your saxophone isn’t going to be as important as the sound and its ability to play well, but it’s still something to consider. Colored or tinted saxophones almost always come with a clear lacquer finish. However, there are metal-plated varieties to consider, too.

Just keep in mind that lacquer isn’t going to affect the tonality of your sax while plating will. Silver plated saxophones generally have a lighter, brighter sound while their gold-plated cousins sound warmer and deeper. Many players consider the sound of the gold-plated saxophone to be more desirable, but these varieties are also going to be more costly, of course.

Brand Name
A musical instrument is an important purchase, especially for serious musicians. That said, it’s important to make sure you’re buying yours from a manufacturer that is known for producing excellent quality and adhering to high standards. Yamaha, Jupiter, King, Conn, Cannonball, and Selmer are all good options to consider. If you’re considering a promising option from a brand you’re not as familiar with, make sure you do your homework on it before buying to make sure you’re getting a good value for your money.
Brand name becomes an especially important consideration if you’re buying a used saxophone instead of a new model. Better brands really stand the test of time and some feature sound quality that even improves with age.

What Kind of Budget Are You Working With?

Naturally, budget is going to be a major concern when it comes to buying a saxophone, as prices can vary drastically. However, you can generally trust that the price of a given saxophone will be directly related to the construction quality, the sound quality of the instrument, and the length of time for which you can expect it to last. Beginning saxophones can start at just a few hundred dollars while professional instruments can cost many thousands of dollars. Invest in a higher quality instrument only if you know you’re really serious about the sax and plan on playing it for a long time.

It’s always important to make sure you’re getting the highest possible quality level for the amount of money you’re spending regardless though. One way serious players on a budget do this is by buying used if they can find good quality options for sale. Just make sure you properly understand the history of a given instrument before you put your money down.

Sometimes buying from an online saxophone dealer can result in excellent savings if you choose the right place. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the options you’re considering, you might want to consider handling or playing different saxophones in person and merely finalizing your purchase online.
Getting a great deal on an amazing saxophone presents a challenge to be sure, but it’s far from an impossible feat. Just make sure you understand what you’re looking for in advance and you can’t go wrong.