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Saxophones Buying a sax for a friend, need any help you can give!

Grace Hawker

New Member
I'm trying to find a good soprano saxophone to give to a friend as a birthday present, so far I've found one on Ebay which is within my price range but I need some advice from an expert, as I've got all the information I can out of the seller!
It's an Earlham soprano, serial number E03450, believed to be 3 or 4 years old and previously used although there is no damage. It has been recently serviced and is said to be in good working condition. It comes with a case, mouthpiece and reed.
The person I'm buying for already plays tenor sax and is at a Grade 6-8 level ABRSM although he chooses to do more improvising than learning pieces. His current sax is second hand so I know he doesn't mind that, but it's also Yamaha which I know has a good reputation, whereas I've never heard of Earlham. I don't want something that he's never going to play because it sounds terrible- he'll want to take it to jazz nights at our local club to play with the band.
I just don't want to get this wrong as it's going to cost me a lot of money, and it's especially important as it's not for me!
I don't wish to discourage you when you are doing such a noble thing "but" a saxophone and mouthpiece to somebody of that level of playing is such a personal thing, even knowing what type of saxophone he prefers does not really help as same name models can play differently.

The only thing that springs to mind is if you could talk to any musician friends of his who may be able to help you by asking him a few leading questions re "you sound really good on that tenor, have you ever thought of taking up soprano, and if so which would you choose". A long shot, but you never know.

Sorry I can't be more helpful.
Hmm, Sorry but I`d not choose an Earlham that`s for sure , it`s one of the generic Chinese names alongside Windsor, Stagg, Odyssey etc and they`re generally at their worst in Sopranos .. I`m certainly not here to push my Taiwanese made Elkhart for sale in the Yardsale but that`s the kind of lines you`d be better off looking into (including the deluxe model , TJ`s Revolution-II , the better Bauhaus Walsteins etc)
Thank you both but I should probably mention he's only 17! He's in no way a professional I just know that he wants a soprano because he has something against altos haha! I'm not sure if he would even know what he needs, I'd take him to find a new mouthpiece at a proper store but he got his last saxophone through a friend of a friend of a friend kind of thing. I appreciate what you said about the Earlham though, thanks.
Hi Grace, you sound like a very well meaning, kind and generous person - but - as above members have already said - You could very easily make a well intended but expensive mistake. Maybe give him a Gift Voucher for the amount towards the cost of the soprano sax of his choice.
To expand on Spike's idea you could just say you were taking him out for the day and go to a local emporium and let him choose a few to play. You don't say what area of the country you are located, if you care to publish that a few members may be able to suggest likely premises. If you do go with him take sandwiches and a drink, if he is as picky as me you may be there a while. Good luck.
It is very difficult and buying from ebay could be a minefield. A trip to a shop with saxes in your price range is well worth considering.

As stated I am sure we can recommend some if you let us know where you are.

Hmm, Sorry but I`d not choose an Earlham that`s for sure , it`s one of the generic Chinese names alongside Windsor, Stagg, Odyssey etc and they`re generally at their worst in Sopranos .. I`m certainly not here to push my Taiwanese made Elkhart for sale in the Yardsale but that`s the kind of lines you`d be better off looking into (including the deluxe model , TJ`s Revolution-II , the better Bauhaus Walsteins etc)

Older Earlham's are actually Taiwanese, but Ads' comment stacks up for these too - they're not very good.

I don't know what your budget is, but I'd like to comment on one thing in the post quoted. I'm neutral in this - I don't know him beyond this site - but I would recommend Ads' sop. Two reasons. I've had a couple of these saxes, and they're very good for not much money. Secondly, it comes with the endorsement of an experienced player, something you will never be sure of on eBay.
You also need to consider straight, curved or the tipped bell ones.

Advice above is good. Sops are a minefield. Sops tend to be very sensitive to mouthpieces as well. Lots of good ones around that didn't suit the original owner/sax.
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I'd advise against buying a surprise present for reasons given above.

Also visiting shops is all very well, but, depending where you are, it could involve an awful lot of traveling and the selection may not be the best... and what they have could be far more than you were thinking of spending...

Here's a suggestion...

If you are artistic, hand draw a nice and fun gift card for the amount you were thinking of spending. If you can't draw for toffees, use a computer.

Folded inside could be a cheque for the amount you were thinking of spending (if you still use cheques...). Then he could put it towards his choice of sax.

Also point him towards this - it has stacks of information which would help him make a sensible and informed choice: - you could write it in the gift card, maybe.

I hope it all goes well. It will be a very kind gift. :)
The only flaw in that plan is he's 17. Give a 17 year old cash and he'll buy a saxophone? It wouldn't happen with any 17 year olds I know and it wouldn't have happened when I was 17. Bodies on the lawn and emties up the path was more likely in my case.

An Earlham wouldn't be on my to buy list and while Ads curvy sop is probably a fine instrument, which is on my to buy list, I'm not sure a 17 year old could handle the wise cracks of " Charlie Cairoli" and the non musical interest a curvy sop generates. Apparently they're not "cool" which fits my image.

A trip to a shop may well be the wisest choice. It may even turn out that he doesn't like playing soprano. We all listen to the solo by Branford Marsallis on Sting's Englishman in New York and want one. The reality turns out to be much frustration, hard work and Emmerdale noises, be that animal or the oboe in the theme tune.

Having said all that, if I opened a present to find a soprano saxophone in it..........I'd be very pleased
Words of wisdom, Colin.

Maybe he should hire a soprano for a couple of months to see how he gets on?

Worth paying to hire if it means he doesn't like it or get on with it and decides a soprano is not for him. He might then want to try an alto, if he still wants to double.
Can we stick to the original question instead of running down, without cause, someone none of knows.
Dunno Colin , when I was 17 everyone was in a band and wanted instruments of some kind - 1980-81 was a boom year for electric guitar sales, it was about then all the crappy Japanese (yes JAPANESE) les paul and strat copies were being sold in mail order catalogs (Satellite, Kay, Columbus etc) and they were Garbage - modern Chinese stuff from Stagg, G4M etc are worlds better than that Rubbish .

Anyway I Diverge - when I was 17, your Axe came first (Guitar, Sax, Minimoog, Bass, whatever) then it was Girls, then Motorbike -- booze was after all that lot.
I understand that you might be under some budget constraints and it is useless to compare a £250 to one vastly more expensive

I have found Earlhams soprano for as little as that

Provided they are well adjusted and perhaps serviced by a good tech they could be a decent but cheap way to get in the soprano world.

Unfortunately the words “ cheap” and “ soprano” used in the same phrase are a oxymoron.

If your budget stretches up to at least £700 I would advise against buying a secondhand Earlham soprano and would recommend a YSS 475 Yamaha the reason being that they are real workhorses of proven resistance to whatever a 17 years old can throw at them.

this is a bit more expensive but maybe he accepts lower offers

Try before you buy, possibly ask a member of this forum who lives near you to assist you in playing the instrument if you cannot.

Good luck!
There`s no way an Earlham is going to fetch anywhere near £250 , Yikes, my Elkhart is cheaper than that as was the Deluxe straight I sold Davesaxboy and they`re proper decent horns !! ...

If you have to have a low end Chinese I`d go for a Venus long before a used Earlham
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