If you have an interest in playing the saxophone, there are some things you should consider about what you get. The first choice is to decide whether to rent an instrument through a music company or to go and buy one. If you are a parent who is considering renting an instrument, here are some things to consider:
- It gives your child (or yourself) the chance to decide to buy an instrument without committing to purchasing one.
- You have the ability to play on a brand new instrument without buying a new instrument.
- You don't have to pay the high cost of a saxophone up front.
- Most rental companies have insurance on the horn from an damages that occur (and trust me they do occur!).
- If you pay the rental fees until you own the instrument you pay twice or more of what the horn is worth new.
- The instrument loses it's value quickly; student models over saturate the saxophone selling market so the value goes down.
- Buying a used horn is much cheaper.
- You have the choice of what kind of horn you want to buy.
There are many brands of instruments. I'll go through the majors ones and explain their popular models. Be aware that many of these companies that make instruments change their models frequently so the exact model listed might not be currently made. However they usually make a model that will be equivalent. These will be general descriptions but in a future entry I'll be more specific.
Selmer USA: These horns are student models. They are very durable and are good for young students (5th or 6th grade). Later on once they get a more advanced instrument, these horns make get instruments for marching band. The models to look for are the AS300 for alto sax and 1244 for tenor sax.
Selmer Paris: These horns are professional grade horns. These are much more fragile and are not suggested to be used for young students. These horns are a dark tone and varied tone by the model. There are lots of customizing features for each horn like the type of brass and springs. The brands to look for are Model 72KBSTD (alto sax), 72KBLTD (alto sax), Model 74KBLTD (tenor sax), Series II- Model 52, 62, 72, (alto saxes), Series II Model 54 (tenor sax), Reference 54 (tenor sax- highly recommended), and Reference 36 (tenor sax). There are also vintage Paris models that need to be mentioned. The Selmer Mark IV and Mark VII are classic vintage instruments that are still desired. They have a dark, meaty sound that hasn't been replicated by newer made instruments. The Reference 54 is a replica of the late Mark VI but most say that although the Ref 54 is a nice horn, it doesn't replace the classic Mark VI. The Mark VII came after with larger tables and keys. It's not as desirable as the Mark VI but still has a great sound.
Yamaha: Yamaha has student, intermediate, and professional. The student models are highly desirable because of their durability. In my own opinion, I find these horns to be more durable than the Selmer brand. Many music stores rent these horns to students. They have a great sound, even for a student model. The models to look for are YAS-23 (alto sax) and YTS-23 (tenor sax). If you get these horns used- BEWARE! Depending on the previous owner, check and make sure the horn works properly. If you can't tell yourself, take it to an instrument repair shop and have them look it over. These horns are notorious of being abused. The intermediate horns to look for are YAS-52 (alto sax- no longer in production), YAS- 475 (alto sax), YTS-52 (tenor sax- no longer are in production), and YTS-475 (tenor sax). The professional models are very high quality horns and compare with the Selmer Paris. These horns are YAS- 62 (alto sax), YTS-62 (tenor sax), the custom Z series for tenor and alto sax, and the custom series for alto and tenor sax.
Cannonball: I highly suggest not purchasing these horns. They tend to be out of tune, have a less desirable tone, and are heavy. They tend to be cheaper to buy, but you get what you pay for. The models are the Excalibur for the students and Big Bell series for the pro line.
Yanagiawa: These horns have a great professional line but only a mediocre student/intermediate selection. If you intend to buy a lower model you're better off getting a Yamaha for the same or less money. The models are Silver Sonic for both tenor and alto. The pro line is very high quality but for a very high price. If you have the money to spend, go for it. The models are A-991 (alto sax), T-991 (tenor sax), A-992 (alto sax), T-992 (tenor sax), A-9930 (alto sax), T-9930 (tenor sax), A-9937 (alto sax), and T-9937 (tenor sax). Those are called the bronze series.
Conn: The vintage Conns are cool instruments but not for every day playing. Most of the instruments that Conn made were not of good quality. Even after Selmer bought out Conn, the quality never got any better. I highly suggest not to buy Conn.
Lastly but not least my disclaimer about buying instruments from Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Kmart, etc... DON'T BUY INSTRUMENTS FROM THESE PLACES! The instruments are built extremely cheaply and break easily. These instruments don't play in tune, are headaches for band directors, and can't be repaired. Most instrument repair shops won't even take in these instruments. They are known not to last very long- meaning they break within a short period of time of purchase. Please save yourself the headache of yourself and the band directors and purchase a real horn!