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Sax Reviews - How To Buy a Sax?
Buying a Sax for the 1st time?
A student buyer or first time buyer will want to go with the safe list; Saxes and Mouthpieces that you keep running across in reviews and online searches with high marks, a private teacher's referral and possibly your band teacher or first chair player at school might have a good suggestion also.
There are a few different student Saxes that anyone can learn on. If you see a couple of good articles on a given Sax, then it is probably safe buy.
I also think in terms of resale value and encourage purchases that will work well while that sax is in use, and generate income for a possible sax upgrade later. Check out eBay to see what people are asking for Yamaha's or Bundy Saxes and compare it to new prices. These Saxes should hold value and sell much faster when you want to upgrade that Sax. Also know that eBay sells anything, but known Saxes that are reselling for good prices is the bottom line. New Saxes selling on eBay with no other information to be found online regarding that Sax maker/Sax name, outside reviews from a different site, - very scary.
Think about it. Any Retail store will stock any descent product that they could sell without issues. They don't care about the name on the Sax. They don't care what country makes it. They want a good product at a great price that they can make money from stocking and selling. If Music stores wont stock "Bob's Sax" made in China? Never heard of them and neither has anyone else?
Lots of people are making Saxes now. You want a well known Manufacturer that is known for making great Saxes. You also need to remember that, just because it looks like a beautiful sax, it might not play at all. Deals too good to be true always are (to good to be true).
Lastly, the color of the fuzzy stuff inside the case or color red on the sax has nothing to do with how it will function or sound. I have seen kids force a bad purchase with their parents, just because they loved the blue inside the case and did not like the red case insides. This is a Sax Teachers nightmare.
The big names for Saxes are Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Keilwerth with the newcomers being Rampone Cazzani, Cannonball, L.A. Sax, Antigua, Unison, Mauriat, Trevor James, Chicago, Jupiter and others. For vintage Saxes - check our links page for sites that specialize in older saxophones and all the legends involved.
Saxophone Player Purchase Process
For the person that already plays the Sax well, the "PROCESS" is very important. Here is an article that explains the Sax Buying Process, piece by piece. There is a logical way to approach Saxophone shopping and I will try to explain it right now.
You first want to develop your "Tonal Concept" for your Sax. You need to know where you're going before you can get directions. Map Quest requires the start and end address before they can give you directions as to how to get there. How to get there is the "PROCESS."
One must have a goal sound and an awareness of what their sound is right now to plot the course of changing any Saxophone equipment. Then a purchase should be made to move you in that "DIRECTION", to sound 'more like' what you want to.
As a Sax Player improves and grows into different playing situations, your goal sound is usually defined by that growth. If a High School Player is now playing in Jazz Band, a louder and possibly brighter Mouthpiece set up might be needed for that setting. Many jazz band players will need to change the Mouthpiece to compete at that volume level. A Metal Mouthpiece or more open Hard Rubber Mouthpiece; larger tip opening and possibly softer reed can make the perfect Jazz Band set up. Likewise, many Sax Players going to college might find the need to change to a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece with a smaller opening and harder reed to sound more appropriate in a Classical setting.
When Shopping for a New Sax you want to define what is missing and what you want to get out of that new purchase. As you experiment with this PROCESS, you will notice that there are trade offs. It is a balancing act. When trying to brighten up your sound, you can loose all the bottom out of your sound, so you need to think in terms of 'DIRECTION' and move toward a brighter sound.
Shopping for a new Sax takes some preparation. You will want to try Reed options to make sure your Mouthpiece is doing the job. You might find making a change in Reeds is all you need to move more in the "DIRECTION" you want to go. It is a good idea to let some time go by with those new Reeds to make sure you like them better and adjust to what they have to offer.
Reeds are set? What about that Mouthpiece? If you have lots of money you can afford to buy whatever sounds good that day. If you are like the rest of us, you will want to think this thru so you don't end up stuck with something you never use again. Pick 2 great Reeds and get to your local music store or online dealer and get busy. Check out different Mouthpieces and try to find one that gets you closer to your goal sound. Any change in Mouthpiece should include a few weeks of adjustment time. You also want to hang on to the old Mouthpiece in case the new one ends up sucking. Fine tuning might involve changing your Reed strength or Ligature to improve the combination of the three items as a whole once you have adjusted to the new Mouthpiece.
You need your Mouthpiece Set Up to be the best it can be, and very familiar to you, before you begin changing the Saxophone on the other side of the Mouthpiece. When you have a solid Mouthpiece Set Up, you are ready to check out Saxophones to further color and shape your sound.
Sax and Neck
When testing Saxes I play the Sax and Neck it comes with. You can always play around with special Necks later. I start with the Sax Makers my Sax idols are playing (like all you guys checking out what Brecker or Potter is playing to try and sound more like them) since I know that someone sounds like I want to, playing that Sax. The balancing act comes into play when moving toward your goal sound, weighing what you have to give up to get there and making a choice you can live with.
Areas to think thru will include Intonation, Tone, Resistance, Volume and Mechanical Function of the Sax (usability and feel for you, in your hands, with your body position).
Love the sound - Hate the feel... Plays really in tune but blows all stuffy… Big fat sound but really sharp in the high register…
Most of you know what I'm talking about here. It is a balancing act and you need to move in a Direction without losing something you can't live without.
Fine Tuning your Sax Sound
Once you buy your New Sax, there is the fine tuning to consider. You will need to play this New Sax for a few months to adjust to the change, familiarize yourself with the instrument and discover the few things that might bother you. Once you are very familiar with the new Sax, you can reconsider your Mouthpiece, Reeds and Ligature combination and might even want to look at different Neck Options including other Neck models that might be available and different Plating available to further shape your tone and resistance for this Sax.
The key here is to think, take your time and deal with one thing at a time. If you wake up hating your sound and take a new credit card to the closest music store, you will be bummed within a few days. If you are trying to change too many things at one time, how can you know which thing is making you sound better? Do you need to buy a new Sax because your reed was all dull and dead that day?
Music Stores love IMPULSE. Musicians can only afford IMPULSE until the cards are over limit. Then they will have to find solutions to meet their "Tonal Concepts" with car change and whatever can be found in those old suit coats.
Lets unleash our IMPULSIVE tendencies in our Music and direct our over analytical tendencies on the Saxophone and Sax Accessories shopping.
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