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Saxophones New sax questions

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Hello everyone. I'm sure that all these questions have been asked a million times already, but I would appreciate any feedback. I'm thinking of learning sax after years of playing other instruments (bass, guitar, cornet to name a few) and I have a few newbie questions.

Not sure quite yet whether I'll go for tenor or alto - the decision may come down to price considerations. My intention is to buy a good second hand instrument (I live near Allegro in Oxford) but if I can't find something I like, I'll have to buy new (and therefore probably alto).

1) My budget will be around £450-£500. Is this a reasonable budget for a second hand instrument?

2) Is it a reasonable budget for a NEW alto? I am thinking of brands like the Trevor James classic horn - would that make a good starter horn or would it just frustrate me?

3) How much of a difference to the sound does the price (well quality anyway) make? How long do people generally play their student models before feeling they need to move on?

4) Can users recommend any good student brands? I am aware of Yamaha YAS-275 (but new they are still very expensive, even though regarded as student instruments).

5) How important is high F#? I note that some saxes do not have this.

Thanks for your time, I'm sure I'll have more questions.

Pete
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,894
Hi Pete

Welcome to the cafe, can I suggest you introduce yourself on the Doorbell section of the forum, you may get more response on there.:)

I am new to sax myself and started on soprano, I rented for a while and then bought a secondhand TJ rev11. It has been fine for me so far and my tutor though it ok too. I don't think I can help much further except to say I am sure you will love it and happy hunting.

Jx
 

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
Subscriber
Messages
305
IMHO (and I am not an expert by any means), there are a few options to consider.

You mention Yamaha. They're one of the best known names; even people who have never played a sax have heard of them. That's not without good reason; they're pretty good. It also means that when people want to buy their first sax, it's the first name that comes to mind. When the novelty wears off, many people sell them. That means there's a lot of second-hand ones out there, and the depreciation on a new one is severe (good if you're buying)! A new YTS-275 might set you back about £1100, but you can get a good 5-year-old one on eBay for about £600 (and that will hold its value - 20-year-old YTS-25s still fetch over £400). £600 may be a bit over your budget, but you have a fair chance of getting a decent YAS-275 alto for £500.

Lots of people around here speak highly of the Bauhaus Walsteins. Two or three years ago, that would have been a no-brainer, but they've put their prices up since then. Their bronze instruments look fantastic IMHO. A new BW would stretch your budget (the cheapest alto at Curly Woodwind is £515), and there aren't many second-hand ones about, but they're worth looking out for.

Check out what Stephen Howard has to say on cheap far-eastern saxes.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Tenor/alto - let your ears decide, there's a big difference in sound.

1 - Budget - yes, but be careful.
2 - TJs seem to be OK, haven't played one, but quite a few people here have/do. J Packer also.
3 - Assuming the horns set up properly and doesn't leak, biggest influence on sound is you, followed by mouthpiece. And you'll spend a lot of time developing your sound. Horn is a small component. Better horns have better keywork, better finishing, better fitted parts, better pads. Time to move on? Depends on you. TJ/Packer should keep you goign for a couple of years at least.
4 - If you're patient and shop around you could find a yamaha in your price bracket. Easier would be Bauhaus Walstein. Both of these would keep you going a long time.
5 - High F# - for me not that important, especially on a beginners horn, but most of the cheapos do have one, cos it's a seleable feature.

Keep your eye on the yardsale, often some good bargains there.

As always others may have different opinions. A good guide is Steven Howards Haynes Saxophone Manual. Has a good section on buying as well.
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Thank you both for your replies. I would definately prefer a 2nd hand instrument if possible due to the depreciation issue, however since I will have to buy from a dealer really (I have not got the experience to know whether a second hand instrument is any good, and at least if I buy from a dealer I have someone to go back to if the horn doesn't work as advertised!) availability will be a factor. I would rather run to a slightly more expensive sax like the Bauhaus Walstein than buy a heap of junk and I dare say I could scrape the extra money together if necessary.

I guess underlying all my questions is this - is there an element of "Emperor's new clothes" with sax buying - that is to say can you REALLY tell the difference between a sax like a Bauhaus Walstein or Trevor James and something like a Yanagisawa in terms of a) sound quality and b) what it feels like to play. More importantly (for the time being) could I tell the difference? This isn't meant to be a provocative question - it's a genuinely sincere one. Intonation is very important to me; for example, my cornet is horribly out on the low G# and as a young player it drove me nuts!
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
There's an Elkhart alto in the yardsale, fits bang into your price range...
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Thanks Kev for your replies - I was typing my earlier message after you had already answered my questions, so apologies if it looks like I've asked the question after the fact. Bauhaus Walstein does sound like a good bet then. I'll see what is available in my local dealers when I have the brass in pocket.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
Remember that the type of music your into could determine which sax you get. If you like rock and blues and like to play with guitarists then I'd say a tenor would be better. Again, its very subjective, but listen to tunes you like that have the sax in and then find out if it's an alto or a tenor. If your not too familiar with how to identify them, the alto is straight from the mouthpiece to the downward bend, and the tenor has a slight curve. (This part of the sax is called the crook, or the neck) Sorry if you already know this
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Good point Taz. I'm really not sure as yet what I like the sound of best. I enjoy the sound of alto played well (I really like the sound Candy Dulfer gets, for example), have listened to Art Pepper and the guy (Desmond?) from Dave Brubeck quartet and like them too, but I've enjoyed listening to tenor. Plus I've had a go on a friend's alto and tenor and enjoyed the tenor best (from an ease of playing point of view), but that's not to say I wouldn't really like alto if I got a decent tone out of it. I probably wouldn't play the instrument in a rock setting - I think I'd go for a dinner jazz (not sure if that's really what it should be called) style of sound,
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Allegro do have a brand new Bauhaus Walstein Alto at £499 and Tenor at £599 = best prices around from what I can see.
Get along soonest. I play both and enjoy both!
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Unfortunately I have to wait 25 days before I'm going to be able to go! I have a bonus due from work which is going to pay for my instrument but it's not in my hands yet. Tantalising!
 
Messages
509
Good point Taz. I'm really not sure as yet what I like the sound of best. I enjoy the sound of alto played well (I really like the sound Candy Dulfer gets, for example), have listened to Art Pepper and the guy (Desmond?) from Dave Brubeck quartet and like them too, but I've enjoyed listening to tenor. Plus I've had a go on a friend's alto and tenor and enjoyed the tenor best (from an ease of playing point of view), but that's not to say I wouldn't really like alto if I got a decent tone out of it. I probably wouldn't play the instrument in a rock setting - I think I'd go for a dinner jazz (not sure if that's really what it should be called) style of sound,
my advise would be try a few,before you decide, and also find out about hire schemes, which most music shops seem to run these days.
on the question of what you are likely to want to play, if its "dinner jazz" i would go for a tenor.
you can noodle away playing subtones and you wont scare the punters while they are eating.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Unfortunately I have to wait 25 days before I'm going to be able to go! I have a bonus due from work which is going to pay for my instrument but it's not in my hands yet. Tantalising!
Go talk to them, if it's what you want, ask them to put it aside until the bonus comes in. Worth a try...
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Originally Posted by zebrafoot
Unfortunately I have to wait 25 days before I'm going to be able to go! I have a bonus due from work which is going to pay for my instrument but it's not in my hands yet. Tantalising!
Go talk to them, if it's what you want, ask them to put it aside until the bonus comes in. Worth a try...
That's a good suggestion. Actually, have just talked to my long suffering wife and she seems the think that I should go and talk to the shop right away. I'm a bit nervous that I'll like tenor best and that when I get there there won't be a suitable model, but only one way to find out!
 
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AndyG

Member
Messages
324
Or you may like so many you can't decide which to get....have fun, and with your wife's blessing !!!..... Lucky you
 
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Moz

Senior Member
Messages
855
Go tenor; alto saxes are horrible [exits left, sits back and wait for the hurricane to hit!]. :)
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Go tenor; alto saxes are horrible [exits left, sits back and wait for the hurricane to hit!]. :)
Coward.

You could have added, "It's not the instrument, it's the players."

Then you'd have needed a Nuclear Shelter. >:)
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Lots of older blokes either get a motorbike or buy a tenor sax, which is the most forgiving of the saxes to play - hence the reaction of many amateurs, who describe the Alto as "horrible" or similar. The correct word is "too challenging" - hence why there are not too many well known alto players but enormous numbers of tenor players.

As a dedicated alto player, it can produce a great sound - like Candy Dulfer, Gilad Atzmon, Matt Wates Martin Speake and other contemporary players, and is primarily a lead instrument, moreso than a tenor, which maybe has a more general useage. A classic jazz sextet will have alto, tenor, trumpet, piano, bass & drums, and quartets can feature either alto or tenor with rhythm section.
Try both out and see what you think, with an open mind.

Too often most folks start on Alto (just how it has been - especially when folks learn in their teens, when tenor is probably too heavy) -when they are just learning to play sax and probably sound poor. When folks graduate to tenor their sound has already improved on alto and they start to produce a nicer sound (as tenor is a more forgiving instrument) which is a confidence builder. Hence alto becomes more of a second choice. When tenor players switch back to alto they usually make a brighter and sharper sound which is not that pleasing to the ear. Hence the view that Moz expounded before he ran off.........

At Allegro both the saxes that I mention are individual items, but trying them, if possible, will give you a clear idea of one of the best saxes under £1000 currently available, and well worth seeking out.

Hope this helps
Tom
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,281
Is alto really that bad then?
No its not,a lot of players cut their teeth on alto,some of us its their main horn,there are some great alto players.
For jazz listen to Phil Woods and Peter King.
For smooth jazz listen to Gerald Albright and as you said Candy Dulfur.

Go to the shop and try all you can in your range both alto and tenor, then decide.


Brian
 
Saxholder Pro
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