The saxophone is an instantly recognizable instrument that is famously associated with jazz and blues music. The instrument has a long and well-known history that has seen it become entwined with concepts of free music and musical liberation. While the sounds and music of the saxophone may be liberating, learning the play the instrument is a long process, with many professional standard saxophones being too difficult for beginners to play due to their heavyweight and complex designs. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on building up stocks of beginner saxophones, to encourage more players to take up the instrument.
But what are the best beginner saxophones currently available in the market? This article hopes to provide insight into this question to help guide you in the purchasing process, which for newcomers can be slightly overwhelming. Features we consider important to the purchasing process include weight, key, warranty information and materials. You must take your time to research before committing to a purchase.
Top 5 Beginner Saxophones Review 2020
This article has been put together from information from manufacturer websites as well as customer reviews to give you some of the best insight to help you in the purchasing process. The article begins with a comparison table of the reviewed products, followed by five in-depth product reviews which include key features, pros/cons and product descriptions. The reviews are followed by the buying guide and FAQ section, with the conclusion outlining the top three beginner saxophones currently available to purchase.
YAMAHA YAS-280 – Editor’s Choice
- Weight: 13 lbs
- Key: Eb to high F#
- Warranty: 5-year limited
- Materials: gold lacquer finish
More features: two-piece bell, 280 style neck, 4C mouthpiece, case included, polyester key buttons, adjustable thumb rest
The YAMAHA YAS-280 is the editor’s choice for the best beginner saxophone due to the high-quality design which makes it so easy for beginners to learn to play the instrument. Although it comes at a premium price due to Yamaha’s world-leading product design, the YAMAHA YAS-280 alto sax is known to be good enough for professionals and presents a great value purchase.
What makes the YAMAHA YAS-280 so easy to play in quality manufacturing. Examples of this are the adjustable thumb rest and polyester key buttons which enable easy not acquisition. The gold lacquer finish of the instrument gives the classic alto sax appearance and will appeal to those wanting to purchase an authentic-looking saxophone.
One of the features that make the YAMAHA YAS-280 have a professional edge is two-piece bell and 280 style neck. The detachable bell makes life much easier when it comes to repair and maintenance as you can gain easier access to the more difficult areas to clean inside the bell. 280 style neck adds to the authentic feel. For any beginner wanting to replicate some of the most famous jazz musicians, having this neck style is essential.
Another great feature of the YAMAHA YAS-280 is the generous warranty agreement. A 5-year limited warranty agreement compares well to other alto saxophones in the market. Do make sure you read the small print so that you are aware of what aspects are covered under the warranty.
- High-quality design
- Professional feel
- Authentic look
- Premium price
Eldon ETS420LN – Best Tenor
- Weight: 4 lbs
- Key: Bb to high F#
- Warranty: not specified
- Materials: yellow brass, clear lacquer
More features: fully ribbed construction, nickel silver power forged keys, adjustable thumb rest, case and cleaning kit included
The Eldon ETS420LN is known for being one of the best tenor saxophones for beginners. Containing a fully ribbed construction, this tenor saxophone is constructed from brass with a yellow lacquer finish to give a classic authentic appearance. Weighing at 4lbs, the instrument is also not too heavy for younger players.
One of the best design features of the Eldon ETS420LN is the inclusion of adjustable nickel silver components. From the right-hand thumb hook to the forged keys, these parts are highly durable and can withstand high pressure over a long period. There is also a bit for professional players as the high F3 key provides alternate fingerings.
The detachable bell of the Eldon ETS420LN has a wonderful engraving which gives the instrument that extra edge over cheaper tenor saxophones. The fact that the bell is detachable makes it easier to be serviced without needing to bring the whole instrument. The Eldon ETS420LN comes with a lightweight carry case which has shoulder and backpack straps. This ensures the Eldon ETS420LN is very easy to transport and even carry on public transport which is great for beginners who have to travel to practice sessions or performances.
In addition to the case, the Eldon ETS420LN comes with a mouthpiece and ligature set, neck strap, cork grease and a polishing cloth. It provides you with everything that you need to maintain the instrument to a high order. Although it is available at a premium price, the Eldon ETS420LN is a great choice for beginner tenor sax players.
- High-quality construction
- Detachable bell
- Premium price
- No specified warranty
Levante LV-BS4105 – Best Baritone
- Weight: 13 lbs
- Key: Eb to high F#
- Warranty: not specified
- Materials: brass, clear lacquer finish
More features: soft case and cleaning kit included, A key included, leather pads, adjustable thumb rest
For those wanting to provide a band or orchestra with booming low saxophone tones, the Levante LV-BS4105 is the perfect choice for the best beginner baritone saxophone. Featuring a body, bell and neck that are all constructed from brass, the Levante LV-BS4105 is premium priced saxophone that requires significant investment. The investment delivers the best quality baritone sound.
Every part of the instrument is expertly designed. From the adjustable thumb rest to the engraved body, the Levante LV-BS4105 delivers outstanding musical engineering. In terms of sound quality, when buying the Levante LV-BS4105 you will put at ease because every instrument is sound workshop tested. From the moment of purchase, the beautiful rich deep tones of this instrument are ready to be shown off. As it is a baritone, the keys of the Levante LV-BS4105 range from high F# to A key.
Purchasing the Levante LV-BS4105 comes with a full mouthpiece and ligature set in addition to a cleaning set that includes swabs, gloves, resin and oil. You will not need to go out and purchase any other maintenance equipment which makes the Levante LV-BS4105 convenient. Other great features of the Levante LV-BS4105 include an adjustable playing stand and a flight case with wheels. The case with wheels is a real bonus as very few beginner saxophones come with such a storage facility.
Investing in the Levante LV-BS4105 is an investment in quality over a long period. In appearance, feel and sound quality, this instrument delivers exceptional levels of performance, making it one of the best selling baritone saxophones for beginners.
- Exceptional sound quality
- Flight case with wheels included
- Full cleaning kit provided
- Very high price
- Unspecified warranty
Eastar AS-Ⅱ – Budget Pick
- Weight: 9.1 lbs
- Key: Eb to high F#
- Warranty: 1-year limited
- Materials: brass, golden lacquer
More features: leather strap included, leather pads, mother-of-pearl keys, case included
The Eastar AS-II is the best budget pick for beginner saxophones. Available at a bargain price, this alto saxophone is perfect for any beginner starting on the saxophone. The alto sax is the most common beginner saxophone due to its tonal range and classic appearance. To have an alto available at such a low price is hugely appealing for prospective saxophone players.
Despite the affordable price, the Eastar AS-II is built to perform beautiful sounds. Before it leaves the factory, it is subject to professional tone adjustment to ensure there is high sound quality, ensuring pressure is removed when transitioning from a low to the high gamut. The material of the instrument is brass, with a gold lacquer to give that distinctive appearance of an alto sax. The body of the Eastar AS-II also has multi-layers of paints which ensures it will not fade over time.
One of the best aspects of the Eastar AS-II for beginners is the practical design. The key stick gasket is full-bounding which allows for better durability and feel when pressing. The instrument is applied with sufficient lubricant to prevent the link from rusting or becoming rigid. These measures maximize the chances of the Eastar AS-II having no significant maintenance issues shortly after purchase. It is still good practice to regularly clean and applies oil to also give a saxophone a long life.
The Eastar AS-II purchasing package comes with a carry case, mouthpiece and ligature set, leather strap and cleaning kit including oil and grease. The Eastar AS-II has a 12-month product warranty which does not compare well to other beginner saxophones.
- Bargain price
- High-quality sound
- Easy to maintain
- Short warranty
- Heavy for young children
Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK – Best Soprano
- Weight: 3 lbs
- Key: bb
- Warranty: 45-day trial, lifetime limited
- Materials: yellow brass, black lacquer
More features: leatherette pads, case and cleaning kit included, golden keys, steel springs
The Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK is one of the best soprano saxophones for students due to its affordability and ease of playing. The instrument comes equipped with a molded case, full ligature and mouthpiece set as well as a complete set of cleaning and maintenance equipment. For those not familiar with soprano saxophones, the Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK may look more like a clarinet with its straight design and black lacquer finish. But tonally, the instrument provides high-register sounds.
The construction of the Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK is primarily made from yellow brass which ensures the instrument has an enhanced tonality compared to other saxophone composite materials. The addition of advanced sensitive response and springs made from premium steel, provide incredibly fast springs from the keys which makes it even easier for beginners to transition between notes.
One of the best aspects of purchasing the Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK is that it comes with a 45-day free trial. This allows you to play and test the instrument over 45 days and if you do not like it, you can send it back free of charge. This is fantastic consumer protection and is hugely appealing.
There is also a hassle-free lifetime warranty. If there ever any manufacturing issues with the Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK, Kaizer will send the replacement parts free of charge. The Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK is a fantastic choice for those wanting to learn the soprano saxophone. It is perfectly suited to beginners playing in an orchestra or school band. It is a great value thanks to the affordable price and decent quality design.
- 45-day free trial
- Lifetime warranty
- Less quality construction
- Breaks down easily
Benefits of purchasing a saxophone fit for starters
Choosing the type of sax
The following are the types of sax you can choose from:
Soprano saxophone basics
As the third smallest in the family, soprano saxophone has a high pitch of Bb and is widely used today by the different shapes and sizes of genres and musicians. Compared to its sibling instruments that have curved bells, this saxophone is straight and pitched above the tenor saxophone.
With the smaller bore that the soprano saxophone has, the tone can be less forgiving but this should not put away any beginner as a tuner is always there to help.
The size of this saxophone is smaller compared to other saxophones, meaning that any musician can use it even today. This is the reason for its success since it was introduced in the 1840s. the versatility and ease of soprano saxophone make it appealing to the larger and smaller players as well as the Jazz and Marching bands.
Alto saxophone basics
This is the most commonly played the saxophone among the professionals and students as well. the dynamic range of this sax is nimble and small, making it popular among the genres ranging for the Pep band to the Jazz band.
The alto saxophone has been made famous today by its affordability in terms of price and the appeal by some popular Jazz musicians. The alto saxophone is pitched at Eb and is higher than the tenor or baritone but deeper than the soprano saxophone.
Just like all the other saxophones, several keys have to be pressed in an order to make sound, also known as notes. The concept is similar across other saxophones, but a small difference is with the fingerings.
Alto saxophone is in the smaller series of saxophones but it is not small like the soprano saxophone. If you are looking for an instrument to play as a small player, this could be the one for you because all the keys are reachable and can easily make a note by pressing them.
Tenor saxophone basic
This sax is pitched at Bb but has a full octave below the soprano sax. It is also larger. It is widely used in both Orchestra and Jazz. It is suitable if you are a beginner and looking for an instrument that is smooth to learn but not typical.
The tenor saxophone is slightly bigger than the alto saxophone. For a smaller player, this can be the difference between the choices. The alto or soprano will be suitable for a smaller player with a smaller reach and not the tenor or baritone.
The size of the instrument will affect its pitch and intonation – a larger instrument will play deeper and heavier tones compared to a smaller instrument. To determine which sound that you prefer, you need to understand that the size of the instrument affects the sound.
If you like the high, wailing pitch of jazz sound, get an alto or soprano. A tenor sax will be suitable for the smooth and luxurious Blues tones.
Baritone saxophone basics
This is one of the largest saxophones available today and is pitched in either low A or low Bb. The low tones of this sax give great support for the thunderous throes of the Orchestra and the classical Jazz music.
This sax is used for the different types of genres but you may need special harnessing if you are using it for the marching bands because of its weight and size.
This is one large saxophone when it comes to size compared to all the other saxophones mentioned above. Most sax players start with the alto and tenor, but if you are determined and patient you can always start with a baritone.
Before deciding to settle on one particular saxophone, understand that all of them have the same fingerings which means that if you can play one sax, you can also play all the other models.
The following factors will help you in choosing a saxophone; your favorite musician, the sound you like most and the type of music genre you would like to play.
Consider purchasing a saxophone that is within your budget. If you cannot afford a brand-new saxophone you can always purchase a used one at a cheaper price. The saxophones reviewed above range from $240 to $3300.
Choose the best beginner saxophone by the following features
The following features will help you in choosing the best beginner saxophone;
Weight is an important factor because the saxophone is normally attached to a strap which is around the player’s neck. If you cannot carry a heavyweight then a lighter saxophone is for you. On the other hand, you can be alright with buying a heavier one if you can handle it.
Alto saxophones range from 4-6 pounds while the tenor saxophones such as the Eldon ETS420LN range from 6 to 8 pounds. The difference in weight is caused by the metal thickness and the additional keys which vary from one sax to the other.
Listen to the sound
Consider the sound that you want the instrument to produce before purchasing a specific saxophone. There are different sounds produced by different saxophones. They include soprano, alto, tenor and bass.
Materials plus finish
The material used to make the sax is an important factor to consider. Most saxophones are made with yellow brass, others can be made of copper, bronze and sterling silver which are expensive than the yellow brass. The types of finishes include the different metal and lacquer platings such as nickel, gold and silver.
Mouthpiece and reeds
Normally you wouldn’t be concerned by the reeds and mouthpiece when buying your first saxophone. But it is good to understand that these parts play a very important role in the overall sound. The good news is, you can always change them if you want.
The following are the mouthpiece factors that influence sound:
Tip opening size – this is the distance between the reed’s tip and the mouthpiece’s tip.
Chamber size – this is the hole size in the mouthpiece.
The baffle – this is a roof of a special kind in the mouthpieces.
The strength of the reed – this simply refers to the reed’s density.
The look of a saxophone can be an important aspect to consider. The famous curved neck shape is mainly associated with alto or tenor saxophones, while the baritone saxophone such as the Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK a straight appearance similar to a clarinet.
Most of the saxophones come with accessories. The basics of being a rod and cleaning cloth. You will be lucky to get a good replacement reed or carrying bag. The Levante LV-BS4105 even as a flight-proof case with wheels. As a beginner instrument, it is important to get good quality accessories because playing, tuning and maintaining your saxophone requires a lot of things.
Note that the standard mouthpieces included may not bring the best sound in your new saxophone. It is worth investing in a small premium if you get something of higher value in the package.
It is important to have the assurance of any purchase that you make. A warranty will surely give you satisfaction. The saxophones reviewed above have warranties ranging from one year to lifetime. The Kaizer SSAX-1000BKGK even has a 45-day free trial, where you use the saxophone for 45 days and if you do not like it, you take it back.
Dos and don’ts of a saxophone playing
The following tips will help you in playing your saxophone;
Practice your breathing – playing the saxophone not only requires breath but also the flow of the breath should be constant. This usually doesn’t come naturally, therefore you need to train your diaphragm and throat. The throat should be open all the time and you should breathe through the diaphragm.
Practice often and consistently – for you to be able to play the sax well, it is important to play regularly and if possible, practice every day.
Stick with a position – choose your preferred position and stick to it. It can either be holding the instrument to the right side of the legs or between your legs.
Don’t forget the dynamics – play your saxophone with dynamics to engage your listeners as it is a great way of adding storytelling and drama in your playing.
Choose the reeds carefully – good quality reeds are important to improve the sound of the sax and they are less likely to splinter in their mouth.
Take good care of your saxophone – this can be achieved by regular cleaning.
A used saxophone for a beginner player is alright. But you need to be careful when buying one. Make sure that the saxophone has not been refurbished and that the horn is not dented. Make sure that you see the serial number when purchasing the sax so that you do not buy a stolen sax.
It doesn’t require much to maintain a saxophone. The best way to maintain your saxophone and ensure that it serves you a long time is to clean it regularly. After every playing session, remove any moisture and using a lint-free cloth, dry it thoroughly.
Occasionally, apply a small amount of oil in the pivots. Sticky keys and leaks are expected and you will need a professional in case of any repairs. Do not remove any parts of the sax not unless you are an expert.
The saxophone is a very complex instrument. The fingerings, notes and rhythms can be learnt on your own but you may need a professional to help you with the intonation, tone quality and style.
Hopefully, this article has been a helpful guide in assisting you in purchasing the best beginner saxophone to suit your needs.
Our verdict on the top three best beginner saxophones is:
- YAMAHA YAS-280 – comes first in our rankings due to the authentic look and world-leading Yamaha design which is known for its attention-to-detail and ease to operate.
- Eldon ETS420LN – finishes second in our rankings due to its lightweight feel which makes it perfectly suited to younger players.
- Levante LV-BS4105 – comes third in the rankings due to the exceptional baritone saxophone tones as well as the extra features of a flight case with wheels.
When looking to buy the best beginner saxophone for your needs, you must take your time and do plenty of online research to maximize your chances of purchasing a good value instrument.