Saxophone Buying Guide


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Glossary of Terms

First Saxophones

Most students begin playing the saxophone on an alto saxophone or tenor saxophone. Band directors will usually recommend that students with smaller hands try the alto sax first, while students with larger hands and better breath production may be encouraged to try the tenor sax. First saxophones should have nickel plated keys and a clear lacquer finish for durability. Beginner saxophones should have an adjustable thumb rest for comfort. Make sure to get the correct strength reeds and a padded neckstrap for the beginning saxophone student – it will make the sax playing experience easier, and therefore more rewarding.

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Step-Up Saxophones

Alto Saxophones and tenor saxophones are still the most common intermediate saxophones, but this is the time a player is likely to try soprano saxophones and baritone saxophones as well. The difficulty in playing a soprano sax, and the sheer size of the bari sax make them unlikely candidates for a starter saxophone. Any type of step-up saxophone should have a clear or black lacquer finish, and refined tone holes for better intonation. Upper level saxophones usually have a high F# key for ease in reaching altissimo notes. Most intermediate saxes have hand engraving, gold lacquer keys, and include a superior quality mouthpiece.

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Professional Saxohpones

Professional saxophones, when properly crafted, are a work of art. Pro saxes included gold or black lacquer, as well as silver plate or brushed matte finishes. Upper level saxophones include a high F# key (look for a low A key on a professional bari saxophone), and have improved tone quality owing to the annealed bell, body, and bow. Hand engraving and mother-of-pearl key buttons lend an elegant touch to pro saxophones. Look for contoured independent palm keys, for ease of playing.

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