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How/where to buy a saxophone?

Suzanne in ABQ

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Our college daughter, an accomplished pianist, guitarist, and singer, has added saxophone to her repertoire.  She has been playing for a couple years (in college band and community band), using borrowed saxophones.  She would like one of her own, and we told her we would match whatever she puts into it.  She only has about $1400, so we're looking at a maximum of $2800 purchase price.  I would like it to be closer to $2000, if that's reasonable.  


Problem is, I have no idea how to buy a saxophone!  There is no dealer of brass instruments in our smallish city (Albuquerque, NM), that I know of.  So, I'm looking online.  She doesn't want a student model, so I'm primarily looking at intermediate and lower priced "professional" models.  I'm seeing some, though, that are called "professional", but only cost about $300.  I was hoping to be able to use the descriptive terms "intermediate" and "professional" to help guide me, but I see that I can't count on that.  


I don't know what to look for in a mid-range saxophone.  

Is there a brand to lean towards?  I'm guessing Yamaha would be good, but others might be just as good, or better.  (Ravel? Mauriat? Allora? Antigua?)  

Is there a brand to avoid?  

Is there a reputable source for used instruments?  

What price point should I expect for an intermediate or low-end professional model?  

She plays primarily marching band types of music, or orchestral arrangements, but she would like to learn to play jazz.  Is there a good sax that can transition, or be used to play multiple types of music?


I'd appreciate any words of wisdom you can share.



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Does she get lessons? She should ask her instructor.


A Saxophone is a woodwind instrument, it isn't brass. Woodwinds are flutes and reeds, the Sax has a reed. Is there a place that rents instruments in your area? I would look around for someone that does repairs for woodwinds in your area and see if any of them have advice.


Don't blindly pick a brand, some of the brands tend to be better at one thing than another and some specialize in certain instruments and might have junk in another category.

Edited by Slartibartfast
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My 24 year old nephew who plays piano, electric guitar and saxophone in college says Selmar has a richer warmer sound in general, while Yamaha has a brighter sound. He is using a Yamaha yas62 silver for college band.


This is the Selmar we have looked at in stores. It was $2,300 in store. My hubby plays clarinet and can play saxophone. It is an intermediate http://www.musiciansfriend.com/woodwinds/selmer-sas280-la-voix-ii-alto-saxophone-outfit/463725000420000


Yamaha link http://www.musiciansfriend.com/woodwinds/yamaha-yas-62iii-professional-alto-saxophone



My nephew plays classical in his college orchestra and he also plays jazz for college concerts (subgroup of the orchestra).

Edited by Arcadia
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There's a lot of good info here:



For the price range you're looking at, I wouldn't buy without having her play the instrument, or at least without a written, guaranteed trial period to make sure it is going to work out for her. Just because it's a good instrument, doesn't mean it's the right instrument for her.


Be warned that there can be hidden costs in buying used saxophones unless you know what you're looking at. Frequently pads need to be adjusted and/or replaced.  And if it were to require a complete pad replacement it can add significantly to the price. Costs would depend on your location but to give you an idea:



If you buy from a reputable music store or dealer, cleaning and pad adjustment/replacement should already have been done. If you buy from someone privately, just be aware that there may be additional costs to get it into good playing condition. If you don't know where to start, I'd suggest emailing a high school band director in your area. Tell them what you're looking for and find out who they use to repair woodwinds. (Skip telling them how much you want to spend.) They should be able to point you to someone if you hope to buy locally.







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Yamaha, Selmer, and Yangisawa are three of the best brands. I prefer Selmer, and have a 1952 Selmer alto. I also have a Grassi tenor which is an amazing horn, but Grassi isn't the easiest to find (it's an Italian brand, and I got lucky-the dollar was strong against the lira and one of my favorite shops wanted to start importing them, so gave me a deal to play test it for them. I loved the horn and have played it ever since). I mostly play classical alto and Jazz tenor, but with different mouthpiece/ligature/reed combinations can do both with either horn.


My suggestion-find someone who knows instrument quality to go with you, and look at pawn shops and other used markets that cater to musicians. It is well worth paying a teacher's lesson fee for a few hours to save $1000 or more. Take a mouthpiece and a few reeds to be able to play all the options. The pro who goes with you should do likewise. Shops that deal with gigging musicians often will take instruments in trade, and you can get good deals. You want the altissimo key, for sure, unless you're looking at a horn made before about 1960 (I have a 1952 Selmer Paris-beautiful tone and a beautiful instrument, which I bought in 1989, so those old horns are still out there). Usually such a shop will have done some of the most major repairs as well, but, again, that's why you take a pro with you. It can also be worth it to hunt in a larger city and try out a lot of instruments. It's a major purchase-but, with good maintenance, can be a lifetime one. I have had all my professional horns over 20 years now.

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Thank you for your tips and suggestions.  It's a lot to think about.  Those articles will be very helpful, Pippen.  I had found a few, but nothing as detailed.


I hadn't thought to seek out a professional one-on-one shopping guide.  I am acquainted with the leader of a local jazz band.  She may be able to direct us.  Also, I wasn't familiar at all with the brand names.  It's good to know that Selmer is a good brand.  I think my daughter would like the richer tone, compared to the brighter Yamaha, but I dont know. I'll mention it too her.  


I do know that saxophones are woodwinds -- I was using the word "brass" very broadly, as in "made of brass - no strings" kind of way.  The only instrument dealers we have are Guitar Center, and a violin manufacturer.  


I hadn't thought to look in pawn shops, but I'll take the probable need to refurbish into consideration.  


I wish we could just go somewhere and have her try out a bunch of different instruments.  But, I just don't see that happening until summer, when we can get over to Los Angeles.  


I appreciate your responses.





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