Updated: Dec 22, 2022
If you want to start playing the saxophone, one of the first questions is "what is the best saxophone for beginners?" In this article, we'll talk about whether you should start on alto saxophone or tenor saxophone, and then offer a couple of suggestions of specific brands and models to consider when buying your first saxophone.
In this article:
Staring on alto versus tenor saxophone
Best saxophone to buy for beginners (specific brands and models)
Should you go with the budget option or name brand option?
The importance of starting with a quality saxophone
In summary, what is the best saxophone for beginners?
The best saxophone for beginners will be an alto saxophone for young students (middle school and below), whereas adults can start on alto or tenor. As far as the "best" saxophone to buy for beginners, we currently recommend the Jean Paul student models as a budget option and Yamaha student models as the name-brand option. Keep reading for more details on why, and which choice is best for you.
"Best" is a subjective term, so we'll simply offer a couple of suggestions of what we think are good options to consider for beginners when buying a saxophone.
Pricing information for our recommended options may change. We'll do our best to keep this information up-to-date.
Any Amazon links below are Amazon Associates/Affiliate links. This will never influence the recommendations that we give students but does help support the Play platform when purchased through this link.
If you'd prefer to watch our video covering this information, check that out below. Otherwise, continue reading for the text version.
Which is the Best Saxophone for Beginners: Alto or Tenor?
The majority of beginner saxophone students start on alto saxophone. When deciding whether you want to start on alto or tenor, here are some factors to consider:
The alto is smaller and weighs less (an important factor for young students, who will likely do better accommodating an alto)
Alto saxophones cost less than tenor saxophones
Personal preference: which sound do you like better? (we'll list a few artists below that you can listen to see what the differences are in sound)
Examples of Alto Saxophone Players :
Examples of Tenor Saxophone Players:
So if you are an adult student, you can choose either saxophone. Your personal preference in sound, as well as the factors listed above, will dictate which saxophone is best for you as a beginner. It is highly recommended for young students to start on an alto saxophone.
Now let's get into which specific saxophones are best for beginners.
The "Best" Saxophones for Beginners (Specific Brands and Models)
Note that this list isn't necessarily a definitive list and things are changing all the time. Our Saxophone Gear Guide will include all of our current recommendations and we'll update this article as well if our recommendations change.
"Best" Budget Saxophone for Beginners (Alto and Tenor)
Our top recommendation for the best budget student model saxophones for beginners is the Jean Paul student model (for both alto and tenor). The quality of these saxophones is surprisingly good considering the price point, so when it comes to buying "cheap" saxophones, the Jean Paul brand is really the only "cheap" or budget option that we can recommend at this time.
"Best" Name Brand Saxophone for Beginners
Currently around $1,200
Currently around $3,000
If you're looking to get a name-brand saxophone that might last you a little bit longer in your playing career and have a higher resale value, then we recommend the Yamaha student models.
For alto saxophone, that's Yamaha Alto Sax 280, which they abbreviate as YAS-280. This model saxophone has the potential to carry you several years and several levels into your playing career before you may want to upgrade to a more professional-level saxophone. We've heard a number of professionals say like they feel comfortable playing on that even as seasoned players.
For tenor saxophone, we recommend a Yamaha student model as well, except this
model is the 26 (that's the student model that Yamaha makes for tenor). Yamaha also makes the 26 for alto, but it's currently more expensive than the YAS-280, so we've recommended the 280 for alto saxophone.
What's the Difference Between the Name Brand and Budget Options?
And which is the best option for beginner saxophone players?
Aside from the price differences between our budget recommendation and our name-brand recommendations, what are the other differences how do you know whether you should just go ahead with the budget option to get started or whether you should invest in the name-brand Yamaha models that we recommended?
One possible difference between the two will be that you're more likely to be
able to use the name brand (Yamaha) models for longer and they're more likely to carry you farther in your playing without you wanting to upgrade. You might find that you outgrow other student models more quickly. However, that's not to say the budget Jean Paul option won't last you for years and well into your playing career. Simply that Yamahas have a better reputation for build quality, longevity, and resale. This brings us to our next difference.
Another difference between the budget option and the name-brand option is the resale value. A Yamaha, or any other name brand like Selmer, is going to generally have a higher resale value, so that's something to keep in mind if you do want to upgrade later from a student model to a more professional model. It will likely be easier to sell and you'll recoup more of your investment.
The Importance of Learning on a Quality Saxophone
Let's also talk about why it's important to start on a good quality saxophone (quality build and craftsmanship). Simply put, it's really difficult to learn to play a bad instrument, or an instrument of poor quality that presents mechanical resistance or difficulties, so you're just going to be making it harder for yourself to learn if you purchase a cheap knockoff that is not of good quality. You'd be butting up against obstacles that don't need to be there.
We recommend sticking with one of the options in this article, or other name brands that you might see, like Selmer or Yanagisawa. Again that John Paul
Student model recommendation is a nice balance between budget-friendliness and quality.
Once you purchase your saxophone, be sure to check out our next article on how to put the saxophone together and check out our free Saxophone Fundamentals Class which will take you from square one to playing your first song.
What is Play?
Play Online Saxophone Lessons is a flexible alternative to traditional private saxophone lessons. We offer a range of options from on-demand classes, to memberships that allow you to chat with a teacher for feedback, to one-on-one experiences for those looking to accelerate their progress.
Through these different formats, you can choose the option(s) that will best support your goals.