If you are wanting to know how to buy a Saxophone then there are a couple of rules of thumb to know. Your Saxophone is after all a fairly big investment; of your time, your future as a saxophonist, and your finances. It can be as expensive (sometimes even more expensive) as a car! Serious consideration and time is needed to make the right purchase. With an outline and the right assistance, though, it can be done fairly easily.
First of all, consider your budget. As with any large purchase that you make, be sure to have the money set aside or the credit available to make the purchase without causing stress to the seller. With a store, this is not usually an issue, but many great saxophones pass directly between players. Plan ahead and save yourself the headache and embarrassment.
You may currently be borrowing a school instrument or using a family or friend’s saxophone, or you may have a cheap or low-quality horn right now. That’s a great starting point. Try to make a list of the characteristics that you like and don’t like. Perhaps you have a hard time reaching some of the side keys, or the lower range of the horn has a tone that you don’t enjoy. All of this is important: you need to know what characteristics are at the top of your list.
With this list in mind, it’s time to start playing saxophones! If possible, try to bring your teacher or another player with you. Allow yourself plenty of time if you’re going to a store. Try to bring good reeds and all of the mouthpieces that you’d want to use with you – you’ll be playing quite a bit! Also, it’s OK to bring some sheet music or exercises to play on each horn you try. A tuner is also recommended to make sure the horn is in tune across every key. Many older saxophones develop intonation issues over time that cannot be corrected by a repairman.
Try to push the limits of the horn. Some examples of this are trying to play as quietly as possible across the complete range of the horn, as well as loudly across the whole range. Try every fingering combination you know to see how every note feels. There are many times when much older horns are difficult to play due to the key spacing, especially for the pinky and spatula keys. Although your fingers will adjust over time to small differences, if it is truly uncomfortable it may not be worth it.
The following is a short checklist of characteristics to check when looking at a new or used saxophone:
- Look over the metal and lacquer (if present – most new saxophones are lacquered for protection). Is there noticeable wear or discoloration? Are there any bent spots or deep scratches? Is there rust on the exterior of the horn?
- The spring tension of the keys should be noticeable. The keys should pop right back up after you depress them.
- Every key should completely depress, covering the tone hole and make a clear sound when you play a corresponding note. You may need to pay for it to be repaired after the purchase if it isn’t addressed right away.
- Using a book light or snake light, try to look at key pads themselves. The indentation from the key meeting the tone hole should appear to be centered on the pad.
- Key noises should be noted – any really loud clanking or metallic sounds would be heard during a performance, and may not be what you’re looking for in a saxophone. A repairman may be able to correct those odd sounds.
So, that’s how to buy a Saxohone. The most important advice I can share with you is to take your time. Listen. Have fun!