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How Do I Choose the Best Beginner's Saxophone?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

Choosing the best beginner's saxophone essentially involves a balance between the cost and the quality of the saxophone. Cheaper saxophones sometimes lack the quality in craftsmanship that a good-sounding horn requires, and a more expensive saxophone can mean a hefty financial hit if the beginning saxophonist decides to drop the hobby. Important points to evaluate when picking a saxophone are the cost of the instrument versus the quality of the instrument and the general behavior of the person receiving the beginner's saxophone.

Shopping around for a deal can mean big savings on instruments. Comparing prices in music stores in your town and online can help you get an idea of the price ranges for instruments of various quality. Pick the price that you want to pay for a beginner's saxophone, and find the best deal for your budget. You can also buy a used saxophone.

Good deals on used items may be listed in the local classifieds.
Good deals on used items may be listed in the local classifieds.

Opting for a used beginner's saxophone can sometimes help you get a higher quality saxophone at a bargain. When buying a used saxophone, the best way to ensure that it is in good working order is to buy from a musical instrument repair shop. If you are buying a beginner's saxophone from a friend or a classified ad, you must take careful steps to ensure that the saxophone works well. If you can, take the instrument to a saxophone repair specialist to verify that your potential saxophone does not have a hidden need for major repairs.

Beginner's saxophones may be purchased at a music shop.
Beginner's saxophones may be purchased at a music shop.

Basing your decision on the nature of the person who is receiving the saxophone can also help you choose the best beginner's saxophone for him. If the saxophone is for a child who has a tendency to break or lose things, opting for the cheaper option may be better until you know you can trust him. A cheaper saxophone may also be a good idea if the beginning saxophonist is not fully committed to learning to play the saxophone.

Part of choosing the right beginner's saxophone is getting the right kind of saxophone. Sometimes, this is dictated by the needs of a musical group, but it can also depend on the size of the person playing it. The smaller types of saxophones are often better suited for children first learning to play the saxophone. Most saxophonists play more than one type of saxophone, so a student saxophonist can move up to the bigger sizes when he grows into them and becomes proficient with his instrument.

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Discussion Comments


@Emilski - I wouldn't necessarily say you need to start with the smallest saxophone and move up. All of the saxophonists in my band started with the alto saxophone, but I began with the tenor saxophone, which is one step larger. I was a pretty small kid, too, when I started, but it didn't stop me from learning the instrument.

Tenors are one of the main instruments in jazz music, too, and I think starting on that horn helped me to excel past people who started on alto and then switched to tenor. It really all depends on the student, though. He might decide he wants to play soprano saxophone from the start, and that's okay, because that will be the type of saxophone he will excel at more than likely.

As far as other costs go, you'll have to buy reeds, and I wouldn't skimp too much on those. Cheap reeds will make a cheap sound, and if he doesn't like the music that's coming out, he might be less inclined to keep playing.


@Emilski - For beginners, Yamaha is usually considered the front-runner in quality versus price. It is the kind of horn I started with, and it worked really well and took a pretty good beating over the years.

The main indicator of a beginner saxophone will be that it is gold with silver guards over the holes. If you find horns with a solid brass or silver color, they are probably intermediate or professional horns, and likely more expensive anyway.

The things to check beforehand on a horn are that the rods, the pieces running up and down the horn, are all connected and not missing any screws. Second, checking the pads is very important. A saxophone works by opening and closing the various holes, and each of these holes has a soft pad above it. Making sure these are still soft to the touch and not hard or brittle is important, otherwise you'll have to get them replaced very soon.


So, my son is at the age where the kids can start to join band. He acts like he would really like to play the saxophone, but I don't know anything about them really. When I was in band, I played the trombone, so I don't even really know anything about woodwinds.

What should you look for when you are picking out a beginner saxophone, and are there any brands that are notably better than others? Besides the price of the instrument itself, what other costs should I expect? If it is cheaper to go with a used instrument, what are the best places to look, and are there any good indicators of what horns will be better than others?

I think there are lots of different kinds of saxes, too. The article mentions starting out small. Is this usually the best choice?


I have played the saxophone since I was in grade school, and I would probably have to agree with starting small and then working your way up.

The biggest problem is that saxophones cost a lot more than the beginner versions of most other instruments. I think most beginner saxophones run in the neighborhood of 700 or more dollars. Fortunately, if the person takes good care of it, it will last a long time and still play well. I still have the first saxophone I ever had, and it plays just fine.

I think about the time someone gets to high school, it is a pretty solid bet that they are committed to the instrument, so it might not be a bad idea to upgrade.

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