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What is the best saxophone to start studying?

When choosing our first saxophone there are several things to consider:


1- THE TYPE OF SAXOPHONE

The saxophone family is large, but there are 4 types of saxophones that are most commonly used: the soprano, the alto, the tenor and the baritone. Of these 4, the alto and tenor saxophones are the most commonly used in music in general, and of these 2, the one most commonly used to begin studying is the alto saxophone, as it is smaller and lighter than the tenor saxophone. The keys are also a little closer to each other, and a little less air is blown in as the main tube is shorter, making it easier to produce the sound. Another characteristic is that the alto is more economical in relation to the tenor. If we take 2 saxophones of the same brand and model, the alto is usually 30% cheaper than the tenor.

For young children, approximately 5 to 8 years old, it is advisable to start with the soprano curved sax, since even the alto saxophone can be too big and heavy, and with the keys too far apart in relation to the size of their little hands. This saxophone is a variant of the traditional straight soprano saxophone, but with the curved shape similar to the alto saxophone. When children are very young, the keys that are played with the palm of the left hand (also called C1, C2 and C4) are removed and put away until the child is old enough to be able to play without these keys hindering the fingering. It is generally recommended that this action be carried out by a technician, as in addition to disassembling the keys, the holes must be covered with a cork or similar material to measure.


2- BRAND AND MODEL

Now that we know that the alto saxophone is the most appropriate to start studying (unless you are a small child) let's see which are the most recommended brands and models.


The most popular brand in this area is undoubtedly the Japanese Yamaha, since other prestigious manufacturers such as Selmer Paris or Yanagisawa, specialize only in professional instruments. Yamaha offers instruments of excellent construction quality, very easy and comfortable to play and very well tuned. The sound is their weak point in the student series, as they tend to be quite bright and without much body, but it is understood that the instruments with better sonority are those of the professional ranges. Yamaha's current studio model is the YAS-280, which is manufactured in Indonesia or China. Formerly manufactured in Japan, the models were renamed from the YAS-21 in the 1970s to the YAS-23, YAS-25, YAS-275, among the best known models. A Yamaha YAS-280 is around 950€/1000€, being probably the most expensive of the studio alto saxophones.

The company Conn-Selmer (commercial group that was buying the old and legendary American brands) offers the AS-650 and AS-501 models of similar quality to the Yamaha, and that is around 920€/940€.

Another brand that offers good overall quality is Jupiter, which since the 90's has established itself as a competitor of Yamaha in studio instruments, with models such as JAS-567, JAS-569, or the current JAS-500, which is around 860€. They were formerly manufactured in Taiwan and currently in China.

On the other hand, the French firm Buffet Crampon, specialized in professional clarinets, offers a series of studio saxophones made in China, which provide a good sonority, but are a little inferior in the quality of its construction, with respect to those mentioned above. The Buffet 100 series is around 850€.

Below these prices, there are a huge number of brands and models, all made in China, where you have to be a little more careful when choosing because the qualities are very different. The most recommended brands are Wisemann, Roy Benson, Stagg, SML or Harlem, which manage to maintain a very good quality standard within a price range that goes from 400€ to 600€. From the Harlem brand, the Harlem SSC-310 curved soprano saxophone also stands out, being one of the best studio sopranos on the market.

Beyond these brands mentioned, we recommend avoiding most of the saxophones of Chinese origin that cost less than 400€, because they are usually of very poor quality and easily decalibrate, making the study of the instrument becomes uphill, and we spend money on constant repairs and adjustments. In addition, the life of the pads of these saxophones is usually short because of their low quality, and a complete change of pads can cost the same or more than what we spend on one of these instruments.


3- BRAND NEW OR SECOND HAND?

All the prices mentioned in the previous point refer to those of new instruments. Obviously we will find in the used market, several of these saxophones at half price, but there are some factors to take into account when looking at any of these second hand instruments. For example, if it belonged to someone you trust who bought it new with the intention of learning and abandoned it after a few months, giving very little use to the pads. Or if it is an instrument that has been recently repadded, and has not had any major dings or repairs. Trust with the seller, or the review by a technician, is very important in these cases.


But beyond these particular occasions, it is not advisable to buy a second-hand studio saxophone if we are not sure of the general condition of the instrument, because if after a short time we will have to spend money on new pads, adjustments, cork or spring changes, we will end up spending the same as a new instrument. In addition, if the instrument has suffered big dents, even if they have been repaired and are not noticeable, it may not tune correctly (dents on the necks, or slightly bent main tubes) or it may be very difficult to adjust even when we put new pads (uneven or deformed toneholes, bells a little out of place).

On the other hand, it is common to buy a second-hand professional instrument (Conn, Martin, King, Buescher, Selmer, Keilwerth, etc.) because the cost of a tune-up by an experienced technician is worth it, as the value of the instruments can go from 3000€ to 9000€ (or even more for Selmer Mark VI or SBA instruments from certain periods), and they increase with the passing of time.


4- CONCLUSIONS


From the age of 9 it is best to start with a new alto saxophone.

Alto saxophones that we recommend between 1000€ and 860€ are Yamaha YAS-280, Jupiter JAS-500Q, Conn-Selmer AS-650 or AS-501.

The alto saxophones we recommend between 600€ and 400€ are: Harlem AS-200, Harlem AS-400, Wisemann DAS-350, Roy Benson AS-202, Stagg 77-SA or SML Prime.

Between 5 and 8 years old, we recommend starting with a Harlem SSC-310 or a Roy Benson SG-302 curved soprano saxophone.


We hope this article is helpful in purchasing your first saxophone!!!!


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