If you’re interested in picking up the Saxophone as an adult – like I did – good choice! Whether it’s as a first instrument or as an addition to ones you already know, it can be a bit of a minefield trying to figure out which Saxophone is the right one to choose.
Generally, choosing an instrument from the perspective of an adult beginner gives you a bit more freedom than from the perspective of a child: Like how grown-ups can choose to eat ice cream for dinner, they can also choose to spend a bit more money on an instrument… or maybe go for one that isn’t as traditional.
The first hurdle is choosing which Saxophone you want to learn. Generally, the Alto or Tenor Saxophones are the most popular and more ‘standard’ choices. Though Soprano or Baritone are not totally off the table I’m steering clear of these. If you are a beginner and dive straight in here…why? You are making life hard for yourself.
Both are transposing instruments, with the Alto being in Eb and the Tenor in Bb. Alto Saxophones are the smaller of the two, meaning they are much lighter, and their range is of a higher pitch than the Tenor. Tenor Saxophones are the opposite of this. They are larger, heavier and they produce lower pitches than the Alto. Tenor Saxophones also tend to be more expensive than Alto Saxophones.
At the lower end of the budget scale, the best options would probably be offerings by Sonata or Elkhart.
The Sonata SAS701 or the Elkhart 100AS Alto Saxophones are great sub-£500 options, favored by many younger players and schools. They are the ideal choice for someone who might not be completely confident that they will stick with the instrument.
Similarly, the Elkhart 100TS Tenor Saxophone is a great option if bound by a lower budget. Though with Tenor Saxophones being generally more expensive, this model is fairly close to the £500 mark.
In this price range, options open up a bit for both types of Saxophone.
The Trevor James Classic II Alto Saxophone is a great mid-level Sax. Even better, it comes in standard Gold Lacquer, Black, Black with Gold Keys, or – it has been rumored – in Pink! This goes for the Trevor James Classic II Tenor Saxophone too, though the gold lacquer model is the only one that falls under £1000, for any other finishes the price does creep up a bit.
Jupiter’s JAS-500-Q Alto Sax and JTS-500-Q Tenor Sax are both viable mid-range options. While Jupiter have suffered from some bad publicity based on their older products, their modern products are of a much better quality. While some historical opinions still remain, these saxophones are built to last and sound great at a manageable price.
Following this, we have the first Yamaha options. For the Alto Sax their lowest priced model is the YAS280. A bit more expensive than other options, but being such a reputable household name, the money goes into buying a product that you know will be of a high quality and hold its value.
The Tenor equivalent to this, the YTS280, is slightly over the £1,000 mark – at £1,096 at the time of writing – but the same high quality craftsmanship and materials are used, making it an excellent choice that would progress with you.
At this price point you start to move away from Student and into the realms of Intermediate and Professional models.
Yamaha’s first post-£1,000 options are the YAS480 Alto and the YTS480 Tenor intermediate saxophones. Both offer a notable step up from the previous Yamaha model. With a little more resistance than its predecessor, these might be slightly more suitable for players with a bit of experience behind them to be able to get the most out of the instrument.
Following this, the Yamaha YAS62 Alto and YTS62 Tenor are closer to professional level instruments. They have been designed to ensure the smoothest response to your playing, and to make the instrument as ergonomically friendly as possible. These models would be a great choice for anyone wanting to make a real investment in their playing and want an instrument that won’t need an upgrade.
While there are great saxophones above this price range, such as models from Yanagisawa and Selmer, as well as higher end models from Yamaha and Trevor James, I would assume that a beginner, even with a large budget, might not want to be spending up to the £3,000 mark on a first instrument!