Which saxophone should I never buy?

Buying a saxophone: used or new?

You want to learn the saxophone and are still unsure which saxophone to buy? So that your first instrument does not turn out to be a bad investment and that you have fun playing and practicing for a long time, we give you some important tips that can help you when buying your new woodwind instrument.

Before you deal with the material or a specific company, you should first think about the pitch of your new saxophone. This is mainly divided into soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass instruments.

Table of Contents:

The right pitch
Tenor and alto saxophones are usually suitable for beginners. Children can usually start at the age of nine with the somewhat higher and softer sounding alto saxophone, young people can also dare to try the somewhat heavier and more complicated tenor saxophone. Adults are spoiled for choice. The best thing to do is to try out different pitches and then make a decision based on the prepared sound and handling. For example, a loan instrument or the hire purchase of an instrument can be helpful.

A question of price
If you want to play a good instrument that is properly made, you can hardly avoid it at a certain price.

A high-quality saxophone is very important, especially for beginners, as it produces the tone as it is played, so the intonation is clear. This supports beginners on the one hand in developing good hearing, on the other hand it is important because beginners are not able to compensate for incorrect intonation like advanced players with good hearing. A saxophone that is badly tuned in itself therefore carries the risk of getting used to the wrong intonation for beginners.

You can get good entry-level saxophones from the manufacturers Yamaha, Jupiter or Convair, for example. The price there is between 500 and 1,500 euros. There are also some companies that offer a range of special beginner models, such as the Juniper JP-567 GL-F Student. Nevertheless, you should never do without advice from your specialist dealer or your music teacher.

If your budget is not that high, a used saxophone could be a good alternative. But care is required when buying a used!

Pitfalls with the used saxophone
If you prefer to buy your sax “vintage”, you should consider a few things. Some of the most common saxophone problems come with age. This includes the upholstery wear, insufficient lubrication, misalignment of axles and bearings, worn out springs, a porous cork on the S-bend and dents that have a negative effect on the sound.

Therefore, you should check the condition of the potential saxophone carefully before buying. Check whether the mechanics are complete and well made, move easily, freely and quietly and do not rattle, whether the columns do not move or the ribs do not loosen. Also make sure that the valve cushions cover and that they are soft and not brittle or torn. It is also important that the mouthpiece fits tightly to the S-bend and does not wobble. Also make sure that the S-bend is easy to assemble, is not deformed or has dents and does not wobble. It should also match the appearance of the rest of the instrument. For example, if it has a different paint finish, this is a sign that it is not the original bow.

When it comes to sound, the material of the body and the surface processing, i.e. the finish, are decisive. Many saxophones are made of brass, but a lighter sound is produced by silver and a warmer sound by bronze or copper. Corpi made of nickel silver have a voluminous sound and an easier response. When it comes to the finish, you should use gold, silver or nickel. Each manufacturer offers different options for surface finishing, depending on the series. The best thing to do is to try out for yourself which finish suits you best. Gold makes the sound of the sax darker and rounder, a silver finish leads to a lighter sound, nickel also makes the sound brighter, but not as strong as silver, and a lacquer finish makes the saxophone sound duller.

Important accessories
There are a lot of accessories for the saxophone. You can do without some of them, other accessories are mandatory, as you would not be able to play at all without them. This includes, for example, the leaf or leaflet. There are very different degrees of hardness of reeds, at the beginning you should choose a reed that is not too hard, otherwise you could have difficulties getting a decent tone out of your sax. The harder the blade, the more difficult it is to make it vibrate. However, the reed should not be too soft either, otherwise it will close the mouthpiece and thus not be able to vibrate. The right strength is therefore of great importance in order to produce a good sound. Hard blades are marked with a large number, soft with a small number.

Another accessory that you can't do without is a decent tether. However, a strap and a case are usually included with a new saxophone.

Bite plates made of silicone are also advantageous, as they ensure a better hold of the teeth on the mouthpiece and prevent tooth marks on the surface of the mouthpiece. Bite plates are therefore an essential protection against damage for mouthpieces that should be returned in case of doubt. Since the mouthpiece and the reed have a great influence on the sound and response of the saxophone, it makes sense to test several mouthpieces for a few days at home. Good music houses usually offer this service for free or for a deposit.

So that you have something from your saxophone for a long time, it is also very important to wipe the moisture from the instrument after every play and to clean the sax regularly. For this you need a swiping wiper for alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and an additional wiper for the S-bow. Soprano saxophones with a straight construction can be cleaned with a stick wiper. You can protect the upholstery of the sax against moisture with the help of so-called pads. After cleaning, these are simply inserted into the saxophone body and remain there until the next time you play.

Some accessories are also necessary for practicing. This definitely includes a metronome, a tuner can also be helpful, and you should also think about a music stand. If you want to put down your saxophone in between, a saxophone stand is useful.

Ergonomic features
When it comes to buying a saxophone that fits you perfectly, however, you don't just have to pay attention to the pitch, material or finish. It is also important that the application, i.e. the handles and levers of the saxophone, are ergonomically designed. Not every application fits every hand size or shape. Therefore, in the store, make sure that you can close all flaps properly with the fingers of your left hand without pressing one of the side levers with the palm of your hand. With the right hand, you should see how well you can reach the individual handles of the side flaps.

Saxophonists with smaller hands should opt for an instrument in which the individual keys and levers are closer together; if you have larger hands, they can also be further apart. In addition, make sure that you are holding your hands correctly in the store, if you are still unsure, ask a specialist salesperson or perhaps take someone with you who has been playing the saxophone for a while.

Checklist for buying a saxophone
You should definitely take the following things with you when you buy:

  • if available, the mouthpiece you are currently using
  • You need cork grease, especially with new instruments
  • a tuner to check the intonation
  • Lots of reeds to make sure, for example, that it is not the reeds when the saxophone sounds musty
  • a flashlight to see if everything really covers everything
  • and at best a person who knows a little more about the matter than you 🙂

Keywords: wind instruments