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Saxophones The more $$$ the easier to play?

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88
In another thread, @CliveMA posted this video of Chez Taylor reviewing the Yamaha YTS 280, YTS 62 and 875 EX. @CliveMA describes Chez Taylor’s conclusions as she “finds substantial differences in tone, volume, intonation, ease of full-tone low notes, ease of subtone, ease of high notes, ease of altissimo with the 875 having everything feel like "part of her" and the 280 "having to really work hard" on all aspects.”(@CliveMA , I hope you don’t mind that I quoted you as I think your description is spot on).

Do you agree with this? That saxophones of different price levels within a brand play “easier” and ”better” as it gets more expensive? I‘m curious about this because what beginner doesn’t want to have an easier to play sax? But then, according to Chez, and at least for the Yamaha brand, you need to go straight to the top to get the easiest sax to play? So aren’t beginners screwed then? They’re beginners and aren’t very good to begin with, and have to struggle to play because they bought a student sax instead of a top pro sax?

I‘ve watched many other so-called review videos and most, if not all, say that the difference between well-respected student saxes and pro saxes is not that great, and often comes down to preference. Also, most people will say that a well respected student sax, like the Yamaha YAS or YTS 280 can take you very far. So Chez Taylor’s video confused me. Why would a student want to go for a student sax if it can impede the ease of play? Other than because the student cannot afford the most expensive saxes? I actually thought student saxes are easier to play. So I guess for me, I’m curious if I should scrimp and save for a 875EX or 82Z and forget about the 62, for example. I’m just using Yamaha as an example.

If anyone can enlighten me, I’d be interested to learn.

Here’s the video for your reference:

 
Last edited:

swhnld

Member
Messages
61
Yes, there is difference, but there is also a difference in the player.
A professional playing 4 hours per day will notice a bit less resistance a lot more then someone playing for 30 minutes a day, as they need a lot of stamina to play 4 hours compared to just 30 minutes.
So similar to for example tennis, for one game per week a metal racket is fine, but the pros will have one from carbon fiber.
Another difference is capability, a student saxophone or tennis player will not be versatile with bending sounds or curve the balls.
So although a student might notice a difference in weight, for what they can achieve, paying 10 times more is not smart nor needed.
Conclusion, a student can better start on a decent study model, maybe drop it sometimes and get it fixed again, and if they keep playing upgrade over time then start with the most expensive one parking it in the attic after 14 months because they went to the next hobby.
 

DavidUK

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,631
I think a student would find little difference in ergonomics between 280 and 875, perhaps more in sound. A pro might elaborate on small differences in both areas as though they were wide chasms as they are more attuned to minute differences than a beginner.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
Subscriber
Messages
2,089
I don't think it's a very useful review, in my opinion.

I can fully understand that a Pro Player would naturally be more attracted to the more expensive Sax. If a 4 Grand Horn didn't provide some considerable improvement, slickness etc over a £1200 horn, it would be obscene!

I reckon Chez could absolutely blow the hell out of all of those horns and make them sound great. I think on a Comparison, you sort of have to find differences and though I don't doubt the comments She made, I think they might have been emphasised a little to benefit the review. Though I have to agree with her, it is difficult getting those Altissimo notes out of a 280 (I can quite easily blame the horn for that...)
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Messages
5,859
I firmly believe that a student should get the best instrument that they can afford, but I doubt if most of us would think that there is such a big difference between those saxes as she did. I suspect what played the biggest role was how close they were to the saxophone that she was used to. And at the end she liked and sounded great on the 480, which is a much cheaper sax than the 875.

Also she said at one point that although she preferred the 875 over the 62, she wasn't sure that the difference justified paying twice as much.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,892
I personally don't put much stock in anyone picking a few new and unfamiliar saxophones from a display, tooting a few notes on each one and then giving an in depth review. Any saxophone different from the one someone has played for hours a day for several years is going to feel and sound different. Making a snap judgement that it is better or worse in some regard ignores the fact that it may be that it is just "different" from what that player is used to. A more valid test would be to take one home and play it for several hours a day for a few days and put it through its paces.

I once had the opportunity to play and review 8 different pro alto saxophones one afternoon at the request of a store owner who wanted my feedback. What I found over 4 hours of playing them back and forth was that in almost every instance, my first impression changed---sometimes dramatically. A few I really liked the sound and response at first came to be a bit thin sounding after a while. Some of the ones that felt less responsive at first and made me work a bit harder with the breath support grew to be my top picks. Once I learned to do what those saxes asked of me, they began to "sing" and had a richness to the sound the others lacked.

Each had its own intonation quirks as all saxes do and I found myself having to consciously avoid lipping the notes I was used to on my own sax, because by doing so, the unfamiliar sax would start to seem "out of tune". My last comment is: the most suitable saxophone for someone just starting should not be judged by the "nuances" of altissimo response or ease of "subtone" that would make a difference for a seasoned professional player. It needs be sturdy and dependable, have a good scale and have ergonomics that fit a student's size hands, but most importantly it needs to look "cool" so the student will practice more. The rest of that "stuff" can wait. ;)
 

CliveMA

Member
Messages
514
I can only personally comment on my YTS-62iii. I'm very happy with the 62 and think it was the right choice for me.
For me, it was in tune from low Bb to high F# right from the first play with the supplied Yamaha 4C (compared with tuner). That amazed me as my Selmer SBA alto I found quite hard to play though it had a lovely tone. The 62iii keys feel really comfortable. Chez found subtone hard on the 62 but found the fulltone easy. I certainly find its low note fulltone easy even at whisper dynamics. I can't subtone. I have never tried altissimo so can't comment. I play romantic ballads and love its tone which is similar to my old SBA but more full and somewhat brighter.
 

CliveMA

Member
Messages
514
I agree with the idea it can take weeks to get to know an instrument or mouthpiece. That is why I think playtesting briefly in a shop is so inadequate as to border on delusion.

While my tenor is easy to get to know, I'm still getting to know my YSS-82Z soprano after two months daily play with my preferred Selmer Concept mouthpiece. I really enjoy playing it but it has a lot of subtleties to discover and refine compared with the Jupiter sop it replaced.
 

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
Subscriber
Messages
4,513
Yes, there is difference, but there is also a difference in the player.
What you wrote there and below is spot on, in my opinion. I myself sometimes play for several hours and I've only played three altos since I started (only over two years ago) but there's little difference to me, physically. A student or new player, like me, doesn't have a technical facility that requires the absolute perfection of response, just as most of us would gain nothing from owning a fine-tuned race car.
 

Mark Hancock

Member
Subscriber
Messages
316
In my fairly limited experience, I'd say today's moderately priced saxophones (over about 1500 euros) are just as easy to play as the pro model. Even some of the modern budget models could be.

Last year I switch from a mid-priced Thomann Taiwanese produced model which I played every day for over about 18 months, to a Yanigasawa TW02, and for a couple of months I had them both (along with a vintage 1947 King Zephyr, which I owned for about 25 years), so I quite often played them side by side, to which was the "keeper". The Thomann sax and the Yani were almost identical to hold and to play. The only difference in playing that I could notice was that the Thomann could produce a bigger richer sound in the bell notes than the Yani.

So the difference in playing ease - for a beginner, to intermediate player (in my opinion) is minimal.

However!!!! looking very closely at the keywork and build quality is another thing altogether. In that regard the difference was more noticeable to me. The Yani will outlast the Thomann (which also had very good build quality), and will surely remain easy to play for longer. I'd go with the generally accepted wisdom - get the best one you can afford.
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,875
It's a law of diminishing returns sort of thing. The quality fo the engineering and thus reliability etc improves as you pay more (or you would hope so). As you go up the price scale, you would expect to see less impact and beyond a certain point, most of the price change reflects the level ornamentation, engraving, metals used for neck or bell (e.g. solid silver) rather than improvements in engineering quality.

There are always exceptions, but is a £3,000 instrument 'better' than a £500 one? Probably. Is it 6x better? Almost certainly no. The odd £500 can be exceptionally good. One of the reasons for the £3,000 price tag is it should be good...
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
12,941
Expensive instruments are made to massage the ego and empty the wallets of players with deep pockets. imo.

My G4m still punches way above its weight 5 years on. I do my own maintenance and regulate often.

Having said that, it's nice to own nice things, but a tool is just a tool no matter how fancy the handle or the price tag. ;)
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,281
I personally don't put much stock in anyone picking a few new and unfamiliar saxophones from a display, tooting a few notes on each one and then giving an in depth review. Any saxophone different from the one someone has played for hours a day for several years is going to feel and sound different. Making a snap judgement that it is better or worse in some regard ignores the fact that it may be that it is just "different" from what that player is used to. A more valid test would be to take one home and play it for several hours a day for a few days and put it through its paces.

I once had the opportunity to play and review 8 different pro alto saxophones one afternoon at the request of a store owner who wanted my feedback. What I found over 4 hours of playing them back and forth was that in almost every instance, my first impression changed---sometimes dramatically. A few I really liked the sound and response at first came to be a bit thin sounding after a while. Some of the ones that felt less responsive at first and made me work a bit harder with the breath support grew to be my top picks. Once I learned to do what those saxes asked of me, they began to "sing" and had a richness to the sound the others lacked.

Each had its own intonation quirks as all saxes do and I found myself having to consciously avoid lipping the notes I was used to on my own sax, because by doing so, the unfamiliar sax would start to seem "out of tune". My last comment is: the most suitable saxophone for someone just starting should not be judged by the "nuances" of altissimo response or ease of "subtone" that would make a difference for a seasoned professional player. It needs be sturdy and dependable, have a good scale and have ergonomics that fit a student's size hands, but most importantly it needs to look "cool" so the student will practice more. The rest of that "stuff" can wait. ;)
Yes I agree with your point about learning how a particular horn needs to be played differently. The video is about how each horn responds to her playing technique - unchanged each time.
A racing driver will often say that an easy to drive car is often a slow one, whereas the fast one will try and kill you at every corner. I’m not sure what that means as far as a sax goes but it works in my head..
 

brianr

Senior Member
Messages
1,047
My G4m still punches way above its weight 5 years on. I do my own maintenance and regulate often.
With much respect Colin, the need to “regulate often” is exactly why buying cheap is not the best route for the majority.
You obviously know what you are doing and can “maintain and regulate”.

In my experience cheap saxes do have issues with going out of regulation, and a person who doesn’t know how to maintain/regulate is left with a sax which doesn’t play well.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,591
A lot of good comments, I can add nothing new....except for when I saw the title of the thread, I though it was referring to Gig Pay. To which I'd say heck yeah, getting paid more $ definitely makes a Gig easier to Play :cool:

The main points here, as I read 'em, are:

1) Most players are not high-level pros. High level pros with oodles of practice and performance time under their belts can likely quickly ascertain a variety of qualities of ANY musical instrument which an amateur or semi-pro cannot.

2) There most certainly IS a difference between (many) upper-shelf horn models and their lower-shelf cousins. Oftentimes tonality, oftentimes action/feel, sometimes precision of build.

3)....2) is NOT to say that one maker's 'intermediate' horn is clearly 'below' the other maker's 'pro' model. Matter of fact, I know a number for players who, when having the budgetary ability to buy a single brand's 'top' model...actually chose the 'one-rung down'/'intermediate/etc. model after a few playtests, because the latter just clicked with them more...

So, yes....nothing 'wrong' with buying a 'pro' model horn if a beginner has the $. But the question becomes, can a beginner ascertain the difference and make an informed decision ? Or are they really operating more on a modus operandi of "well...per the company, the Super Duper is better than the Sorta Super, so I guess I'll take one Super Duper".

It is THERE that the convo shifts to "do you need to spend that $, if the horn is going to provide nothing more for the player at this stage of the game ?"
 
OP
C
Messages
88
I'm glad everyone's kind of in agreement. I don't want to pay for a high-end horn as a beginner/re-learner. I'm comforted to know that I can do well (and not notice much difference) with a good mid-level horn. :)
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,591
A racing driver will often say that an easy to drive car is often a slow one, whereas the fast one will try and kill you at every corner. I’m not sure what that means as far as a sax goes but it works in my head..
Your comment just conjured up an image of .....a Sax Pit Crew.

Wouldn't that rock ????
 

h4yn0nnym0u5e

Member
Messages
215
A racing driver will often say that an easy to drive car is often a slow one, whereas the fast one will try and kill you at every corner. I’m not sure what that means as far as a sax goes but it works in my head..
Maybe as an example, ease of altissimo? For an experienced player, it gives them the extra range they want; for a beginner, it's hard to get the darn thing to stay on the note they're fingering...

If money is no object, it probably makes sense for a beginner to have an instrument that doesn't need frequent attention, with good intonation and little tendency to emit notes other than the one being fingered. It'll probably be a bit on the dull side, but once they have chops they can move in whatever direction they want.

You can learn to drive on a VW Polo, it might be a bit easier on a Golf, but a Scirocco would probably be a bad idea...
 
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