With such an abundant variety of stuff to choose from these days, the saxophone still remains one of the most appealing instruments to play. After all, its mesmerizing tone and application to so many different genres are what still make saxophones not only relevant but quite popular as well.
What’s more, we’ve seen some experimental uses that are now even becoming a standard, making saxophone more than just a marching band or a jazz orchestra instrument. Knowing that it’s an awesome instrument that many beginners want to start with, we’ve decided to make a list of the best saxophones for beginners. What’s more, any of these can also come in handy if you’re an already experienced musician who wants to play the saxophone as the second instrument.
- 1 Best Saxophones for Beginners
- 2 What to Consider When Buying a Saxophone for Beginners
- 3 Conclusion
Best Saxophones for Beginners
When we’re talking about beginner-oriented wind instruments, there’s no way to avoid mentioning Eastar and their awesome collection of products. As far as saxophones go, we’d like to single out Eastar’s AS-III model as a great example for those who are just starting out.
The instrument is made out of copper and is designed in such a way to bring the best possible performance and sonic qualities within its particular price level. AS-III has a pretty strong projection, all while featuring a relatively bright tone that cuts through the mix. Nonetheless, it covers all of the frequency ranges pretty well and can come in handy as both lead and backing instrument in any genre. What’s more, you can easily use it even past your beginner stages, although its main focus is on those who are just starting out.
Lastly, we would also point out the instrument’s great looks, which comes down to some of the company’s great finish methods. Additionally, the instrument comes with a case and accompanying cleaning kit and spare mouthpieces.
- Pretty cheap and worth the price
- Comes with additional equipment
- Decent tone
- Some of the build characteristics could be better
Mendini by Cecilio MAS-30
Mendini, which is Cecilio’s subsidiary, is also very well-known for their instruments that focus mostly on absolute beginners or intermediate players. For this list, we’re bringing their MAS-30 alto saxophone, which comes in the key of E-flat and features F# as the highest note. The instrument is known for its large bore construction, as well as its surprisingly attractive finish. In fact, it comes in a few different variants, although we’d argue that the gold lacquered one works the best.
The instrument’s design makes it really easy for beginners to get a good tone and strong projection. Additionally, the keys are also conceived in such a way to allow for easier action, enabling novice players a pretty comfortable performance.
Considering its low price, it’s more than a great deal when you think of it. Especially knowing that it comes with an additional hard case, cleaning rod, gloves, cloth, and additional equipment, including a Cecilio 92-D electronic tuner and metronome.
- Very affordable
- Great finish quality
- Comes with additional equipment
- You’ll need a better saxophone when you reach higher skill levels
Jean Paul USA TS-400
Now, we’d like to take a closer look at a more serious saxophone. Although noticeably more expensive compared to these previous examples, Jean Paul USA’s TS-400 model is more than worth its price. In fact, we can safely say that it significantly outperforms its price tag.
This is a standard tenor saxophone, meaning that it’s in the key of B-flat. What’s more, it even comes with an additional F# key, allowing you to reach those higher notes and still get a pretty great projection and tone. It also comes with a fixed thumb hook, tapered pivot screw, and mother of pearl key buttons. Of course, along with the TS-400 tenor saxophone comes not only a carrying case (Jean Paul’s TCW-100 model) but a great cleaning kit as well.
Although marketed for beginners who are more serious about becoming professional musicians, TS-400 can easily get you covered in intermediate and possibly even advanced stages of playing. It’s not only a beginner-oriented instrument but a solid backup for professionals.
- Great build quality
- Pretty great tone
- Really good deal for the price
- Additional features
- Nothing for this price level
Yamaha is easily one of the best saxophone brands of all time. In fact, they’re well-known for their vast arsenal of all kinds of instruments, earning their great reputation among musicians of all skill levels and musical styles. When it comes to the company’s beginner saxophones, we’d like to feature Yamaha’s YAS-280 model.
Once again, we have a relatively expensive saxophone, although YAS-280 is a safe bet and an instrument that will serve you for a very long time. This is an alto saxophone with a great accent on reliability and tone. In fact, the tone is really bright, which makes it great for lead players. It even comes in two different finish options, the standard gold lacquered and a silver-plated one.
The instrument is equipped with some awesome features that include an adjustable thumb rest, a neck receiver with a durable screw, as well as an improved mechanism for the low B-C# connection. What’s more, even the lower notes will sound bright on it and will be able to cut through the mix. As we said, it’s a safe bet and it can be a great instrument even way past your beginner phases.
- Really good quality and great deal for the price
- Great tone
- Can come in handy for advanced saxophone players as well
- It may be a bit expensive to some beginners
Selmer SAS280 La Voix II
Continuing on with some of the more expensive examples, Selmer – a subsidiary of Conn-Selmer – is a brand that we just can’t avoid. However, you should bear in mind that their instruments are usually higher-end stuff, reaching a couple of thousand dollars or more. Nonetheless, the SAS280 La Voix II is probably the best option that you can get for a beginner who’s really dedicated to their craft.
The combination of a great design and amazing choice of materials results in a fairly light saxophone that’s extremely comfortable to play on. But aside from a very “balanced” weight, the keys come with a stronger tension, making them useful for faster performances.
What really makes the instrument stand out is its tone, reliability, and overall dynamic response. Once it’s all set up, you’ll be able to keep it in tune, all while experiencing very rich tones that come in handy for pretty much any musical style. And the responsiveness makes it a great instrument for everyone who wants to practice their dynamics. Yeah, it’s definitely a more expensive example. However, once you get it, you’ll be using the instrument for your entire playing career with ease.
- Amazing tone
- Amazing build quality
- Can serve you well even when you become a professional player
- It’s expensive
Conn-Selmer Prelude Student Model AS711
Now going back to Conn-Selmer stuff, we have a more reasonably-priced saxophone that still captures all the necessary qualities in performance and its sonic output. The model in question is AS711, which they designed as one of the more prestigious student saxophones.
In fact, the instrument’s body design is conceived in such a way to enable the most comfortable possible hand positioning. One of the most important things about the AS711 model is that it has a ribbed body and a detachable and reinforced body-to-bow connection, which contributes to the instrument’s sturdiness and reliability. Additionally, it also features a key rocker mechanism with an articulated C#. Of course, it also comes with Conn-Selmer’s specially designed hard case.
Overall, this is yet another example of a saxophone for more ambitious beginners, or experienced musicians who are looking for a great choice for a second instrument.
- Fairly reasonable price considering its qualities
- Really good tone
- Comes with a great hard case
- Nothing at this price level
Herche Alto Saxophone M2
Tuning it down to some cheaper examples, we’d like to take a closer look at Herche and their M2 alto saxophone model. Considering its class and price range, M2 does a pretty great job, especially with its tone that really gives an impression as if this is a more expensive instrument. But at the same time, we’re pretty surprised at how fluid its keys are, making any kind of performance pretty smooth.
Although far from a professional instrument, Herche’s M2 alto sax really does a great job for almost any genre that comes to mind. Sure, you’ll probably need a new instrument when you reach an advanced skill level. However, for a beginner’s and an intermediate player’s point of view, this is a pretty great deal.
- Pretty decent quality for the price
- Really easy to play
- Might not be as reliable when you reach higher skill levels
Jean Baptiste 290AL
Jean Baptiste is one of the leading manufacturers on the market, covering anything from the cheapest entry-level stuff and up to full-on professional trumpets, saxophones, and other brasswind instruments. Since we’re at the topic of entry-level beginner stuff, we’d like to take a closer look at the company’s 290AL model.
Although it belongs in the category of cheaper saxophones for beginners, the 290AL is an improved version of the company’s previous models. Most notably, this saxophone has a much stronger projection. Additionally, it’s much more reliable compared to saxophones of this price level, offering great intonation and overall stability. It’s also pretty responsive and easy to perform on, making it a great choice for beginners.
This is probably one of the best deals at this particular price level. To make things even better, the 290AL saxophone also sports a great aesthetically-pleasing design with its lacquered finish. If you’re a beginner, you simply cannot go wrong with it.
- Great choice for those who want to play saxophone as the second instrument
- Good projection
- It might be a bit complicated to some beginners
Lastly, we’d like to take a closer look into a pretty cheaper instrument, Lazzar’s 360-PR. Considering its price, this is more than a great deal. This is an alto sax with 11 reeds, a pretty simple design, and an overall pretty awesome look. The simplicity is what makes it so appealing to all the potential beginners of this instrument, as well as its great combination of price, qualities, and overall reliability.
Considering all of its features, as well as its pretty low price, this is probably the best choice for those who’re still not sure whether they’ll like saxophone but want to try it out. It’s pretty much a safe bet in this regard, making it one of the best saxophones for beginners.
- Unique design and finish
- Really cheap
- It’s only good for absolute beginners
What to Consider When Buying a Saxophone for Beginners
What Are You Looking to Get From This Instrument?
In the examples above, we’ve explored many different price ranges. While many may not think of this as an important factor, an absolute beginner who’s not yet certain whether they’ll be playing it intensively, in the long run, should probably not spend a lot on a saxophone. However, if you’re not an absolute beginner, or if you already have ambitious goals to go pro someday, spending a bit more on your first instrument can actually be a good investment. This is especially the case with brasswind instruments, like the saxophone. Just bear in mind that you need to get your money’s worth and be sure that it’s a reliable one and that all the mechanical parts are the way they should be.
Different Types of Saxophones
As you may have assumed by now, saxophones come in a few different variants. The main division is on baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones. Of course, there are also the super-small soprillo and sopranino, as well as super-large contrabass, bass, and tubax saxophones. However, you won’t be looking into these if you’re a beginner as they’re fairly specific in their use. So it’s just the four basic types: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.
Being the smallest out of these main four types, the soprano sax gets pretty close to an average clarinet. What’s more, in most cases, it’s even a completely straight instrument and it’s in the key of B-flat. However, they might be a bit challenging to beginners, mostly due to having a smaller mouthpiece and requiring more air pressure in order to make them sound good.
Alto sax is easily the best option for absolute beginners. It comes with the conventional curved shape, it’s a bit larger compared to the soprano sax, although it’s still pretty light. Additionally, you won’t need more muscle work in order to make it sound right. Alto saxophones are pitched in the key of E-flat and can usually reach the high F-sharp note in most cases.
Tenor saxophones are the “standard” and are what is usually associated with this group of instruments. They’re pitched in B-flat, but it’s an octave below the soprano saxophone. Of course, this also comes with a larger mouthpiece, ligature, and reed compared to the alto and soprano. Tenor sax is most commonly used as a lead instrument in jazz music.
While, at the first glance, it might not look like a saxophone, baritone belongs to this group of instruments and is the lowest-pitched one of the four basic types. In most cases today, they’re pitched in the key of E-flat, exactly one octave below alto saxophones.
Construction and Materials
Construction-wise, saxophones can be ribbed or non-ribbed. However, almost all of the modern saxophones feature ribbed construction. In case you’re not familiar, this is about the posts, or the knobs on the body that hold the keys, and how they’re attached to the body. However, student-oriented saxophones, as well as those that replicate vintage stuff, are non-ribbed. This particular trait can make the instrument feel noticeably lighter, which is a good thing if you’re a younger beginner.
When it comes to build materials, saxophones are most commonly made out of yellow brass. However, there are also saxophones with either entire bodies, or just certain components, made out of other materials. These include copper, bronze, or even sterling silver. Using these other kinds of materials can significantly impact the tone, usually cutting off some of the higher ends and making it sound softer and darker.
As for the finish, saxophones are usually lacquered. In some cases, there are pigmented or colored lacquers, as well as the so-called “antiqued” finishes. These days, it’s also not uncommon to have a silver-plated or a nickel-plated finish.
In this day and age, saxophones usually come with an additional key that allows for the high F-sharp note. Although it’s technically possible to play the note without this particular key, its addition makes the process much simpler. A vast majority of soprano saxophones these days come with a high G key, while baritone saxophones also have their additional key for the low A note.
Wind instruments, and especially brasswind instruments, are popular among absolute beginners wanting to enter the wonderful world of music. However, they can be a bit challenging to learn if you haven’t had any previous experience with music. This is mostly due to generally complicated playing techniques, especially using proper embouchure. What’s more, the distribution of all the keys and playing in different tonalities comes as a challenge.
But even with all this said, saxophones are simply too awesome to get overlooked. It’s just about their specific sonic qualities and a pretty wide specter of use. So no matter whether you’re planning to go pro someday or just enjoy your time and have a blast playing your saxophone, you simply can’t go wrong with any of these.