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What should a beginner buy? It's all now very different

YorkshireSax

New Member
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14
It's not that long ago that if we wanted a new saxophone (or any instrument) we'd be wandering down to our local music shop or jumping in the car to find a specialist retailer. I know that's how I've done it in the past when I was ever buying a new acoustic guitar. All the wise advice out there says that you need to see, hold and use the instrument before deciding and making a purchase.

It's all now very different though due to this awful virus that is causing so much sadness and upheaval to our lives. Trips to music shops to test instruments are just not possible and it's difficult to judge when they will be allowed again or even when we choose to think it's safe to do. In normal times I'd be jumping on the train and having a day in London taking in sax.co.uk while I was there. I really can't see me wanting to do that for many, many months, and this from someone who used to love going down to London.

I've recently started learning the alto again but I'm sure the sax I'm using (a second hand Gulf bought six years ago) has seen better days and is holding me back and not giving the reward for my hard learning effort.
So I'm looking for another alto, with a maximum budget of around £800, and it's a very difficult task due to the current situation. Never before have online reviews, both written and audible on Youtube, been so important and I've spent many an hour scouring the internet for all the information I can get. The phone has also been busy with me speaking to several retailers asking them for their opinions too.

Originally my list included five saxes but I'm pretty sure I've now narrowed it down to too. The Trevor James Classic II and the Elkhart Deluxe. There is one particular Youtube video by Ched Taylor where she plays both these saxes back to back and the Elkhart, to my ears, just seemed to have a far nicer sound. That is rather tipping my choice towards the Elkhart.

I know there are far more knowledgeable and experienced saxophone players on this forum than I will ever be so it would be good to get some thoughts and maybe advice on this post.

Thanks
David
 

brianr

Senior Member
Messages
1,027
If your current sax is playing well enough to allow you to keep playing, then dont panic, and dont be in a rush.

I feel that you really need to try before you buy, so dont be tempted to buy anything on line, with it being posted to you.

A fairly healthy budget, but IMHO, DONT buy new !!!!

You will not get a top sax for that figure and if you were ever to sell it, you would have a big loss.

My advice would be to buy second hand, and I would suggest a Yamaha.

Your budget will allow you to get a very good second hand student Yamaha model.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
Subscriber
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1,959
Good luck with your decision. It is indeed a difficult time if you want to get your hand on different saxes to try them out. It's a very individual thing, choosing an instrument. I'm sure you'll get some views and opinions on the two Saxes you mention and perhaps some alternative suggestions to consider! If you have a search around the forum, there are understandably lots of queries relating to first or upgrade Saxophones, so you might be able to get some info from there.

I'd just make the general comment that the sound you get from a Sax will be a very personal thing, and your perception that the Elkhart sounded better played by someone else on a Youtube video might not necessarily follow that it will sound the same when you blow it.

If I were you and lived in Yorkshire, I would consider looking at Hanson, but you may have already considered this.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Subscriber
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5,624
In your situation I would be looking for a second-hand Yamaha from a very reputable seller.
I would give Hanson a call, and maybe Woodwind Exchange.

According to their websites, John Packer and Headwind, Bristol are both selling new Yamaha YAS280's for under £800.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,556
Some of this discussion has been going on on OP's introduction thread:


So folks should probably read that or things here might get redundant.


As to the kernel of this one - yes, it is damn sad, quite honestly. And even WHEN shops were open and all...it was STILL damn sad simply because there are so FEW musical instrument shops anymore. Independent dealers are almost nonexistent in the US, really. And ones which remain and sell used usually pricetag them so high that people are dissuaded from purchasing them in person.
(This isn't a statement as to why this might be - I understand that there's no way for an individual proprietor to compete with a massive online retailer, so we need not take the conversation there. I am simply saying...it's just sad....not having as much opportunity to walk into a shop (independent or perhaps regional chain) with a good # of horns hanging on the wall....

From the point of view of a person buying new.....I think almost all online retailers have a return policy, so in a sense what you are getting is a 'free trial...your money back if...."

Yes some might argue it's a bit of an abuse of a return policy....which I agree with.

I am against this sorta policy, myself, because it impacts ME, as a sole proprietor selling refurbed instruments. Occasionally folks expect me to basically give this same sorta 'trial', and that isn't sustainable for a small independent operation such as myself.
Plus, fickleness of new owner, and buyer's remorse, etc, also leaves me completely exposed despite the fact what I delivered to them is exactly what was described.

But, for a person buying new from a large online store....if the de facto trial period is there - use it (if necessary) and shed no tear.

So 'risk' factor is very, very low in this circumstance.
Worst case scenario...you get a new horn, you play it for a week, you decide you don't like it....you return it. At most you may be out return shipping plus a restock fee if applicable. But basically, that'd be the small cost of trying a new horn for a week.
 
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OP
Y

YorkshireSax

New Member
Messages
14
Thanks for the replies.

At the moment I'm full of enthusiasm and practicing regularly every day. I even bought a Roland Aerophone GO that allows me to practice/play while my good lady is enjoying her more peaceful and quiet activities. I have to say the GO is really serving a purpose there. An there's never a bum note!

The problem though is that the Gulf is very much an unknown quality regarding its quality and set up and at times I do think it's holding me back and also not giving the pay back for the effort I'm putting in.

The next problem is the one regarding being either able or willing to venture out into the current scary world to physically see saxophones. I spoke to a sax retailer today who said that due to the nature of the products they sell it is going to be a long time before they envisage customers being allowed to visiting their shop.
Interestingly this retailer did also suggest that I was welcome and perfectly within my rights to purchase, test for a week and then send it back if I wasn't happy with it.

Regarding used saxes. In the last four months I've sadly lost both my elderly mum and dad and there's part of me that wants to treat myself to a nice sax in memory of them. Dad loved jazz. There's something about having a used one that, in my view, will dilute that emotional attachment as it's already been owned by someone else. So on this occasion I've decided it's going to be new.

So yes, £800 would get me a new YAS 280 but while there are many people that recommend them highly there are others that just seem to pull back from that fulsome endorsement and suggest looking elsewhere.
I reckon the bottom line is that any of the saxes that I'm looking at would do me fine and for quite a while during which time I'll either progress as a player or hit the buffers, either from a talent or enthusiasm point of view. If I don't then it may well be that I then make another purchase to take me into a higher level of saxophone ownership.

Please keep contributing to the discussion though as I always believe that you can't have too much information on which to make a decision.
 

Mostlytenor

Member
Messages
69
Given that you are up in Yorkshire, I'd just like to echo the suggestion to try Hanson in Marsden. I've got an alto and tenor from them and I rate them highly. They have som secondhand instruments also including Yamahas.
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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5,791
I have never heard anything except good things about Yamahas so I wonder why some are saying otherwise?

Saxes are temperamental things and don't travel well, so even a top of the range sax may need some set-up adjustments, which a decent shop will do before giving it to you.

We have no idea yet of how things will develop. In the UK we're expecting a 'lockdown update' next week. I suspect it will be some minor modification of rules and permitting a wider range of businesses to operate. I agree that it might be some time before anything vaguely like normality is resumed.

Judging the sound of a sax based on the highly compressed audio of a Youtube video played back through a typical PC is not going to be reliable. You need to play / hear them for yourself.

Ergonomics vary from sax to sax - less so with modern instruments, but there is variation. For me, the issue usually revolves around the palm keys. Another reason why you need to test instruments.

I've had saxes from Hanson and they're good people, but not so good at e-mails.

My current saxes are one new one and three used: one bought through the Café and two from Curly Woodwind in Liverpool. I've been to Woodwind Exchange in Bradford and they have a lot of instruments, but I'm unsure how much of a set-up service they provide.
 

CliveMA

Member
Messages
336
Regarding used saxes. In the last four months I've sadly lost both my elderly mum and dad and there's part of me that wants to treat myself to a nice sax in memory of them. Dad loved jazz. There's something about having a used one that, in my view, will dilute that emotional attachment as it's already been owned by someone else. So on this occasion I've decided it's going to be new.
I went with a new Yamaha for very similar reasons. My Mum always encouraged my music and bought me my first saxophone. Now I have time to take practice more seriously, I wanted a new sax to remind me of her encouragement, in honour of her memory.
 
Messages
68
I'd also add that whatever the horn is, being airtight is of utmost importance.

And if you still feel you're being held back, have the action adjusted to your liking.

For what it's worth I also bought a Yamaha when I started. They are well made, consistent and reliable, the VW Golf of saxophones.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Subscriber
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5,624
For what it's worth I also bought a Yamaha when I started. They are well made, consistent and reliable, the VW Golf of saxophones.
Exactly. That is why so many of us are recommending Yamaha in these circumstances - it's the least risk option in the current situation where the OP can't try out saxophones. And buying from a reputable dealer with a good returns policy reduces the risk still further, even though dealers will charge more. Also, any competent repairer can repair a Yamaha, and they keep their value better than most Chinese instruments.

But it's not just about reducing risk. The "student" Yamahas are outstanding instruments.
 

eb424

Member
Messages
409
Istarted (lol as though i
I'm experienced now always on here looking for help) with a Hansons series V also as a step up from a JP blues 141. They are great people and great saxes at Hansons if a little frustrating at times contact wise. Bang for buck new I think you will be hard pushed to get a better value sax. I loved the look, intonation, quality, and tone. I moved on to the tenor and still have the sa6 upstairs for a rainy day. 5 years free servicing and warranty you can't go wrong if your close to them. The only issue is upgrading.. Much as I say about Hansons and how good they are when (Not if) the time comes and you want an upgrade as they are not well known horns its difficult to px so you may be limited to going back to them but they have a bit of choice.. Definitely worth a call they dont only sell there own and it looks like they have a buy back scheme... Good luck on your journey...
 

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,891
As has been said above: decent second hand Yamaha from a reputable source, decent (doesn’t mean fancy) mouthpiece, again Yamaha or Selmer and a comfortable strap Cebula are brilliant.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,169
My current saxes are one new one and three used: one bought through the Café and two from Curly Woodwind in Liverpool. I've been to Woodwind Exchange in Bradford and they have a lot of instruments, but I'm unsure how much of a set-up service they provide.
Woodwind Exchange, are they still trading (not thinking about now in Covid times), its just that I haven't heard their name mentioned for ages, there website has gone unless they have changed their name.
When all of the current problems are over this would have been an ideal place for the OP to have gone to pick a horn.
I've had 3 saxes from Stuart all 3 a positive experience.
 
OP
Y

YorkshireSax

New Member
Messages
14
Thanks for all the replies. I do keep seeing suggestions to buy used and I really have ruled that out for the personal reasons I mentioned in post 6.
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,791
Woodwind Exchange, are they still trading (not thinking about now in Covid times), its just that I haven't heard their name mentioned for ages, there website has gone unless they have changed their name.
When all of the current problems are over this would have been an ideal place for the OP to have gone to pick a horn.
I've had 3 saxes from Stuart all 3 a positive experience.
Don't know - I last went to them about 3 years ago, I hadn't heard of their demise - the web site was never more than 'this is our address' kind of thing.

EDIT: seems to be there: WOODWIND & BRASS SPECIALISTS
 
OP
Y

YorkshireSax

New Member
Messages
14
There is another option.
To get around the lockdown and testing issue I could hire.
I've been in touch with ukSaxHire and can hire a YAS-280 for effectively £16/month with the option to buy it if I liked it. It's certainly a risk free option.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
Subscriber
Messages
1,959
There is another option.
To get around the lockdown and testing issue I could hire.
I've been in touch with ukSaxHire and can hire a YAS-280 for effectively £16/month with the option to buy it if I liked it. It's certainly a risk free option.
That is certainly a good option. Just check that the instrument you recieve will be brand new, would be all I'd add.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,169
Don't know - I last went to them about 3 years ago, I hadn't heard of their demise - the web site was never more than 'this is our address' kind of thing.

EDIT: seems to be there: WOODWIND & BRASS SPECIALISTS
Thanks I went on Google search and it listed the website as woodwindexchange.com which I now realise is the wrong, would have been a shame if they had have gone out of business.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,556
The problem though is that the Gulf is very much an unknown quality regarding its quality and set up and at times I do think it's holding me back and also not giving the pay back for the effort I'm putting in.
I am not gonna try to convince youyou should just keep playing the Gulf....it isn't a good horn, really. But I am just curious as to how you are ascertaining that it is 'holding you back' and is not 'giving back what you put in' to it ?

I mean, providing a sax is not leaking and the adjustment/regulation of important stuff is OK....even a cheapie should play well enough. Of course, the one major knock against cheapies is....they don't keep their regulation well....this is why they were cheap. And since you cannot get it to a tech you cannot determine how well regulated it is. But I just mention because it is hard to tell from your replies whether:

a) the Gulf is actually HARD to play

b) you just have this idea that because it is a cheapie, it is not performing correctly.

Only reason I am going down this road being - you seem to be inclined to wanna walk into a shop and playtest some, and seem a bit uncomfy about just buying one online without ever having touched it.
If that's the case, and the Gulf works, then as others have said, perhaps better to hold onto the quid until you can purchase a horn in the manner you wish to.

 
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