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What You Need to Get Started
on the Saxophone

What you should buy as a beginner

You will need the following saxophone equipment to start playing. While there is a whole world of accessories and nerdy saxophone gear, we'll stick to the basics of what you need to start playing.

Checklists:

Essential Equipment

​These supplies are needed in order to start playing the saxophone (click each for detailed recommendations):
 

Maintainance Supplies

​These won't stop you from playing right now if you don't have them, but should be ordered soon:
 

  • Saxophone end cap 

  • Cork grease 

  • Cleaning swab​

  • Pad dryer

  • Mouthpiece cushions (.8 mm) 

To see a walk-through of each of these supplies, check out our YouTube video going through each item.

Disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links, meaning we may earn a commission on some purchases made through these links. This will NEVER influence the recommendations that we give students but does help support the Play platform when purchased through this link.

Saxophones

Buying a Saxophone

Note: we recommend that beginner students generally start on alto or tenor saxophone (versus soprano or baritone). Learn more here on which saxophone is best for beginners.

Jean Paul Alto Saxophone - Saxophone Buying Guide.jpg

Buy New: Jean Paul Student Models (starts at $599)

Lower-cost new saxophone option
 

Jean Paul saxophones have earned a reputation for great value for the price. You can currently expect to pay $599 for an alto, which is much cheaper than a new saxophone from our other reputable brands listed below.

Yamaha Alto Saxophone 26 - Saxophone Buying Gudie

Buy New: Yamaha Student Models (starts at $1,200)

Higher cost, but more reputable new option

 

The Yamaha 280 for alto and the 26 for tenor are our favorite brand-name options for beginner saxophonists.

The alto is around $1,200 and the tenor is around $3,000.

Yamaha-YAS-23-265727A-5.jpeg

Buy Used: Yamaha 23 Student Model (starts around $850)

A great name brand saxophone at a lower price point


Consider a used Yamaha 23 from Get-a-Sax for $800-$850, or find a used model for sale near you for a similar price. If buying from another seller, make sure they will either allow you to play-test the instrument (if in-person) or have other guarantees to its condition or have a very clear refund policy, etc.

Renting a Saxophone

Many local music stores offer instrument rental. We recommend calling different music stores in your area to ask if they offer saxophone rentals and to get pricing information. 

Cost:

Based on our research, you could expect to pay around $50/month for a saxophone rental.

Mouthpieces

Recommended Mouthpieces

While there are many, many mouthpieces on the market to try, let’s just start with the basics. Beginners should start on a plastic or hard rubber mouthpiece, not metal or any other material. (By the way, a hard rubber mouthpiece will look and feel very similar to plastic).

 

Although we recommend beginners start on alto or tenor saxophone, some students may have inherited a soprano or baritone, so we've included recommendations for that as well.

Saxophone mouthpiece with check mark - using the mouthpiece you have

First Choice: The Mouthpiece that Came With Your Saxophone

If a mouthpiece came with your saxophone (and is made of a plastic-like material), then that is most likely good enough to start with and you won't have to spend any additional money.

Yamaha 4C Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece.png

Alto, Tenor, and Soprano: Yamaha 4C Mouthpieces

Yamaha 4C mouthpiece (see links here for alto and tenor, and they make soprano and baritone versions as well).

Back of Yamaha 4C Saxophone Mouthpiece.png

Baritone Saxophone: Yamaha 5C Mouthpieces

If you're one of the few beginning on baritone saxophone, you would be more likely to find Yamaha's 5C model for Baritone instead of the 4C, and that will work. 

Reeds

Reeds

The reed recommendations below are tailored to pair well with the mouthpiece recommendations above (classical mouthpieces).

A note about reed sizing: Unfortunately there isn't a sure-fire way to know what reed size you should start on. I've provided some suggested starting points below, but ultimately you'll rely on how it feels to know if it's the right size. If it feels too easy and feels like you're "blowing the speakers out" or you're getting a lot of cracked notes, try sizing up. If it's really difficult to play, then try sizing down. In addition, as you continue to play, you'll size up. 

Vandoren Alto Sax Reeds Blue Box.jpg

Cane Reeds - Vandoren Tradtional (Blue Box)

Cane reeds (a wood-like texture) are the traditional option for saxophone reeds. Sizing: Kids 10 and under should start on a 1.5, kids over 10 should start on a 2. Adult beginners should start on a 2 but may be ready to size up to a 2.5 shortly after you start playing.

Be sure to select the correct size when you check out!

Legere Plastic Saxophone Reed Box Image

Plastic Reeds - Legere Signature

Plastic reeds may not have as warm of a sound as traditional cane reeds (in my opinion) but offer better handling in dry environments or outdoors, and offer a bit more durability. They are also lower maintenance than a cane reed. Sizing: If you already know what reed size works best for you in cane reeds, use this size conversion chart to find your Legere size. If this is your first reed or you're not sure what size to get, adult beginners should start on 2.25 and kids should start on a 2.

Saxophone Reed Humidity Vitalizer Pack.jpg

Humidity Control and Reed Storage

When using cane reeds, you will need to pay attention to how they're stored in order to manage the effect that humidity has on their playability. I recommend purchasing one of these inexpensive reed vitalizer / humidity control packs and making your own DIY reed storage box as outlined here.

Ligature

Ligature

You can keep it simple when it comes to a ligature. If your saxophone came with a ligature, that should work just fine. All the ligature needs to do for you right now is securely hold the reed to the mouthpiece. If you do need to upgrade, here's what I recommend:

Daddario H Ligature for Saxophone.jpg

D'Addario H Ligature

This is a good ligature for the price point.

Neck Straps

Neck Strap

Our only rule on neck straps is that they do not stretch. With a stretchy neck strap (like those made of neoprene), the saxophone will move and “bounce” while playing, which may hold you back a bit in your playing. 

Daddario foam saxophone neck strap.jpg

Upgraded Standard Neckstrap

This neck strap is likely a big upgrade from what came in your case. It's comfortable but doesn't stretch.

BG Saxophone Harness.jpg

Harness

A harness helps to take the weight off your neck and distribute evenly. Because the weight is being distributed differently, I have found that a padded harness isn't necessary, so you can save a few dollars by getting a more basic model.

Note: They make different versions for men and women, so be sure to select the option you want. They also make a kids size.

Build Your Own Maintenance Kit

Your saxophone may come with some of these items, but probably not all of them. Maintenance and cleaning is highly important and cost-saving, and will primarily keep your key pads in good condition (the leather or leather-like circular pad under each key)​.

 

Dirty or degraded key pads can cause anywhere from frustration (sticky keys causing you to play wrong notes) to costly repairs and overhauls.

​This kit will cost about $40-$80 to build depending on what you already have.

Key-Leaves-Cork-Grease.webp

Required: Cork Grease

Apply cork grease whenever your neck cork feels dry to the touch. Swipe the cork grease tube around the cork like you're applying a light layer of chapstick, then rub in with your hand.

This product works for all saxophones.

Saxophone Pad Dryer by Key Leaves

Recommended: Pad Dryer

Dab and dry your key pads before you put your saxophone back in. the case (especially the G# key, bis Bb key, and palm keys)

This product fits all saxophones.

Saxophone Cleaning Swab

Required: Cleaning Swab

This is a poofy piece of cleaning cloth attached to a weighted ribbon. Lesson 4 of our Saxophone Fundamentals Class shows you how to use this.

This product fits alto. Shop the tenor version here.

Saxophone Mouthpiece Cushion on a Saxophone Mouthpiece

Recommended: Mouthpiece Patch (.8mm)

A mouthpiece patch or mouthpiece cushion will provide a more comfortable surface on the top of the mouthpiece for your front teeth, will absorb the vibrations that might irritate the top teeth, and will protect the top of the mouthpiece from the teeth.

This product fits all saxophones (can be cut down to fit).

Saxophone End Cap

Required: End Cap (if not included with your saxophone)

This is included with almost all saxophones, but if not, you'll need to buy one. It protects the octave key post when your saxophone is in the case (place the end cap in the end of the saxophone before you put it away).

At this time, the Key Leaves Gap Cap is our recommended product, as this will have the most universal fit and allows for air flow which supports saxophone maintenance.

NOTE: This product fits alto. Shop the tenor version here.

Maintainance Supplies
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