Buying Your First Saxophone

When you decided to take up the sax, you made a great decision. The saxophone is one of the easiest woodwinds to play and is one of the best looking instruments ever invented. Although the sax is considered a woodwind, saxophones are made of brass (with varying degrees of copper) with a gold lacquer or other (silver, black, gunmetal) eye-catching finish. From one octave to the next, the fingering is the same, so you can learn to play very quickly. Also, unlike other woodwinds, you can be producing a respectable tone on the sax almost from the beginning. Of course, there are a few minor drawbacks to the sax: it is bigger and clumsier to carry to school than a flute or clarinet and costs quite a bit more – but what fun it is to play.

Alto vs. Tenor Saxophones

Saxophones come in a variety of musical ranges; most common are soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. Beginners should start on either alto or tenor sax, with alto being easier to blow and carry and cheaper to buy or rent. Tenor is a mellower, lower pitched instrument, while alto has more of a cutting lead instrument sound.  Once you learn to play the alto sax, you can easily move to tenor, and other range saxes.

Great Sax Brands

There are scores of saxophones out there, but the most recognized brands, known for both beginner and professional models, are Selmer , Yamaha , and Jupiter . There are other great sax names such as P. Mauriat, that do not produce beginner models.
 Tip:  Give us a call at 1-800-472-6274 if you don’t see the instrument recommended by your teacher.  We have many models that we don’t show on our website and we guarantee the lowest possible price and fast free shipping on all saxophones.
If a brand new saxophone from one of the professional woodwind makers is out of your price range, we have several other choices. We often have used saxophones on our site, all of which are checked out to play like new.

Also, we have a great exclusive line of saxophones from Jean Baptiste , a brand known for high quality student and intermediate brass and winds, at value prices, for over 80 years.  The current crop of Jean Baptiste saxophones are made for us in China by makers that we have sought out and nurtured over a ten year period of testing and improvement. Having found a sax maker who could produce saxophones that consistently met our high standards for good sound, consistent intonation, sturdy construction, and playability; we worked to improve the instruments even more. Every Jean Baptiste instrument is tested and adjusted for tone, comfort, and optimum playability by our expert staff of brass and woodwind technicians in New York to make sure that your saxophone will provide you with years of playing enjoyment and reliability.  Generations of teachers have scrutinized, play tested, and approved the Jean Baptiste horns favorably comparing them as a budget-friendly alternative to other horns costing up to twice as much!

Best Beginner Alto Saxophones

Here are three of our most popular beginner alto saxophones. All of them have the features demanded by knowledgeable teachers and players, including drop forged keys, ribbed key construction, quality pads, and stainless steel springs.
Jean Baptiste 286AL Student Alto Saxophone Outfit: The Jean Baptiste 286AL is a top value in a student alto sax – both cost-effective and very high quality. This model comes in a gold tone lacquer finish and features a high F# key, post on rib construction for strong solidly anchored keys, adjustable key felts, metal resonators, and stainless steel springs. The Jean Baptiste 286AL is particularly easy to carry because of its lightweight deluxe padded case with backpack straps and comes complete with swab, neck strap, cork grease, and mouthpiece assembly.

Selmer Prelude AS711 Student Saxophone Outfit: Selmer is one of most respected lines of professional saxophones ever made. The Prelude AS711, made in China, benefits from Selmer’s experience in saxophone design. With strong ribbed construction for key mountings, a bore designed to increase sound projection, a design for comfortable hand position, and dark gold toned lacquer body and keys, the Prelude Alto Sax is a very satisfying instrument.  Includes case, swab, neck strap, cork grease, and mouthpiece assembly.

Yamaha YAS23 Student Alto Saxophone Outfit: The Yamaha YAS23 Alto Sax is pricier than the models shown above, but it is one of the most teacher-recommended student horns. Incorporating many of the features that distinguish Yamaha’s professional saxophones, the YAS23 features a power forged nickel plated keys with refined shape and dimensions. The Yamaha YAS23 comes complete with case, mouthpiece assembly, neck strap, cork grease, and swab. We can often save you money on an “A” quality used YAS23 Alto Sax.
Consider a Value Priced Step-Up Saxophone
The Jean Baptiste 728AL Saxophone is step-up instrument that may, in the long run, be a better value than a beginner horn because it will satisfy a player for many years. All handmade, the 728Al has better sound projection and fuller sound than beginner instruments. Featuring a high F# key and a low Bb, long lasting leather pads, ribbed construction, metal resonators, and a floral hand-engraved bell design, the Baptiste is designed with the advanced player in mind. It includes a lightweight hardshell case, mouthpiece assembly, neck strap, cork grease, and swab.

Tenor Saxophones

Each of the above alto saxophones is also available as a tenor. The corresponding models are Jean Baptiste 686TL, Selmer Prelude TS711, Yamaha YTS23, and Jean Baptiste 728 Advanced Tenor Saxophone .

Why Buy Your Saxophone from Sam Ash Direct?:

Sam Ash has been serving student and professional sax players for over 87 years with experiences staff and instrument technicians to make sure your instrument is perfect. At Sam Ash Direct you always get the guaranteed lowest price and fast free shipping to the lower 48 states.  We also have a guaranteed trade in policy that makes it cheaper to buy a student saxophone from us than to rent one from other dealers.  Trade in your sax  within the first year after purchase and we will apply 50% of the original purchase price to the new instrument (which doesn’t have to be a sax).  Trade in your sax within the second year after purchase and we will apply 40% of the original purchase price to the new instrument (which doesn’t have to be a sax).  Another great reason to buy from Sam Ash Direct is our 45/60 day return/price protection policy and 24/7 customer support – we make sure that you’ll be satisfied with your sax.

Recommended Accessories for your Saxophone:

  • Music Stand – important for practicing with proper posture and developing proper breath control and tone.
  • Reeds – Sax reeds come in different strengths, usually from 1.5 (softest) to 4.5 (hardest).  Beginners should buy several #2 strength cane reeds to start, as the harder reeds are for experienced players with more developed embouchures.  Reeds break, so you need to start with extras.  Fibracell reeds don’t break often, but are not appropriate for beginners.
  • Pad Guard – A pad guard will help extend the life of your sax’s pads, particularly in humid areas and reduce the cost of maintenance.
  • Reed Guard – This is the best way to store your reeds when not playing. If you leave the reeds in the mouthpiece you are more likely to break them and they will not dry out properly.
  • Music Lyre and Flip Folder – if you intend to play in a marching band, you’ll need a music lyre and flip folder to hold the music as you march.
  • Mouthpieces – All of the models recommended here come with suitable mouthpieces for beginners. As you develop your playing style and facial muscles to control the sound (after about 6 months) you should consider trying different mouthpieces to help improve your sound.
  • Cork grease, cases, and cleaning swabs – you need these from the beginning to make it easier to assemble your instrument, store it, and keep it clean.  Fortunately, these come with every saxophone we sell.

A Bit of Saxophone History

The saxophone was invented by Belgian instrument maker Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax. In 1841 Sax relocated to Paris and, there, in 1846 he patented the first saxophone. Since then, this relatively new (compared to the flute around for at least 1000 years and the clarinet, already popular in Mozart’s time in the 18th century), has become a fixture in jazz and early rock music – although the sax is also found from time to time in the orchestra for such pieces as Ravel’s transcription of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. At one time, most of the finest saxophones and many of the best student models were made in the USA. Today there are hardly any American made instruments (no student models at all) and most saxophones come from Taiwan, Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and, for fine professional instruments, France. Quality ranges from excellent to poor and it is up to the individual dealer to select the good ones. With Sam Ash’s more than 87 years of experience and staff of experienced woodwind repair technicians we are uniquely equipped to select and prepare the best horns.
Guide To Buying Your First Saxophone
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