One of the purest forms of music can be delivered to you via a saxophone. It is the core instrument used in many music genres, especially jazz. It brings together the entire essence of the tune/song/music.
Though buying a saxophone can be a daunting task, you will be able to get the right one as long as you know what you are looking for. Luckily, this saxophone buying guide is here to help. Read on, and you will find out all you need to know about the process.
Table of contents
First things first, you need to know the basics of a saxophone. This includes the construction, the materials used for making it, and the parts that are included. Let’s go over all of them one by one and in detail so that it’s easier for you to identify.
There are two different construction types of a saxophone: ribbed or non-ribbed. You will find that most of the saxophones available are ribbed, and this is preferred by professional players. The posts of these instruments are the knobs coming out of the body so that the user can hold the keys; the main difference between ribbed and non-ribbed lies between these posts. The posts that stand individually have been soldered onto the plates on the sax.
The primary purpose of the ribbed ones is to tighten the bond between the posts and the body so that the instrument stays adjusted for a longer time. Non-ribbed saxophones are not a bad thing either; they make excellent instruments for beginners to learn various tunes on. Plus, they are lighter than the ribbed ones, making sure that the grip is tight. Therefore, if you are a beginner, then you may want to consider going for a non-ribbed one, but if you care for professional ones that stick for a longer time, then you may want the ribbed one.
The primary material used for saxophones is yellow brass, but there are other materials available as well. The other materials include the likes of copper, sterling silver and bronze. You will find the brass ones to do the job and cost less than the other types of materials.
When a saxophone is made from something other than brass, a difference in the tune arises. Usually, the tone gets darker and a little more soulful. Also, you need to be very careful while handling such saxophones. They can get damaged a bit more easily. Usually, such materials are required and wanted by professional players who want to add a different tune to their sound.
When you talk about the finishing of a saxophone, you will find that the standard finishing used is clear lacquer. However, there are now many different colors and finishes that they are available in. The finishing does not have an impact on the sound of the instrument.
The most important part of a saxophone is the neck, which is the removable tube located at the top. You can upgrade the neck of your saxophone to get the desired sound. Changing the neck will cause a drastic shift in the sound and will also improve the responsiveness of the product.
Types of saxophone
Alto is a medium-sized sax and one of the most common types used. The reason behind this is the size and ease of use that the instrument provides. The mouthpiece of this kind is small, due to which there are only a limited number of intonations that can be employed. The alto includes that classic curve at the bottom which traditional saxophones have. The best use of this type comes in jazz, contemporary and classical music.
Check out our picks for best alto saxophones
A bit larger in size than the alto, the tenor still lands in the medium-sized range of saxophones. This type is also considered to be a common one used by musicians for similar reasons as the alto, that is, its ease of use and size. The main difference lies in the size of the mouthpiece; the tenor has a larger mouthpiece which allows for a few extra intonations to be applied. Therefore, it is preferred by intermediate or professional musicians. It is mostly used for jazz, classical and rock genres as it is considered to be highly versatile.
Check our picks of best tenor saxophones
Soprano is the smallest type of saxophone, yet there are three different versions available. You will find most sopranos to be straight, lacking that classic curve, but they are still one of the hardest instruments to play. As it has a high pitch, musicians usually prefer to use it for jazz. Smaller instrument means less material in production, so the soprano saxophone usually the cheapest type of saxophone, that does not mean it is suitable for beginners. Soprano sax is recommended for intermediate and advanced players.
Check our picks of best soprano saxophones
You guessed it; the baritone is the largest of the family. You will see that it is not used too regularly due to its size and weight. Making intonations through this saxophone is not easy, so it’s best if you don’t buy it as a beginner.
This type is used in a wide variety of music genres due to the tune that it offers.
Check our picks of best baritone saxophones
New vs. used
The next step that you need to go through is deciding whether you want to purchase a new saxophone or an old one. Though the thought of a new instrument may send goosebumps down your arm, it is not so easy to go and buy one as you need to keep a check of your budget as well.
The best way to decide between the two types is by listing down the pros and cons of both.
- It’s new, and you will immediately bond with it as your first brand new instrument.
- It has had no wear and tear, and there are no chances of you getting a damaged piece.
- The looks, feel, and design are all brand new.
- You will probably receive a warranty with it.
- Buying a new one can prove to be quite pricey.
- If you purchase from a mass manufacturer, then you may find problems with the quality.
- You can buy a good instrument at a reasonable price.
- You will have many choices in quality and design.
- Older ones will be more detailed and carefully crafted.
- You can never be sure of what you get if you buy one on the internet.
- You will know that it has been used by someone else and is not new.
When it comes to buying a saxophone that fits you the best, you need to pay attention not only to the sound quality, the material, or the finish. It is also important that the instrument (the handles of the saxophone) is ergonomically designed. Not every horn adapts to any hand size or shape. Therefore, keep in mind that you should be able to connect all the flaps with the fingers of your left hand without pressing the palm of one of the side levers. 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 with the individual flaps and levers closer together, and for those with bigger hands, they can be further apart.
In addition to the actual instrument, there are numerous accessories which are somewhat obligatory. Most importantly, you need to find sheets to start your exercises, preferably easier ones more suited for beginners.
Also important is to find a good mouthpiece for your saxophone. Default ones are usually not that good with few rare exceptions.It is advised to keep your instrument always clean, you should get appropriate polish and cleaning tools. If not already delivered with the saxophone, you should think about a suitcase with a shoulder strap.
If you are a beginner, then you need to make sure you buy a saxophone that is easy to use and can provide the essential tunes. You don’t want to be spending too much on a fancy one, and you want something you can learn on. Also, buying a new one will have a positive psychological effect on you as you will know that your first saxophone is brand new. The more complicated the saxophone is, the more difficult it will be for you to use, so choose wisely and get help if needed.