Saxophones for Students or Beginners – a Must Read Guide

Purchasing your first saxophone marks the start of an exciting new journey for all beginning players.

And if you’re just starting out, you’ll likely want to invest in a student saxophone, rather than spending thousands of dollars on a professional one. 

Two saxophone student players performing
Two saxophone student players performing

There are several reasons for this.

For starters, beginner saxophones are made from cheaper, more durable materials, so they are less likely to be damaged than their professional counterparts. They are also often designed to be easier and more comfortable to hold and play, and more formatted for smaller bodies and lungs with weaker breath support. In short, they serve as a bridge between those who cannot play the saxophone, and those who can play it so well they no longer need the supports. 

However, it is unwise to purchase just any saxophone that’s labeled “beginner saxophone”. There are a few brands and styles that are much more reputable than others, and although it may be tempting to go with the cheaper options, trust us; when it comes to instruments, you will be saving more money in the long run by spending more upfront. 

What Type of Saxophone is Best for Beginners?

The best type of saxophone for a beginner is the alto saxophone. However, for some students the best type of saxophone could differ between an alto and a tenor sax.

As a saxophone player, you will have four possible options to play:

  • soprano
  • alto
  • tenor
  • baritone

Fortunately, saxophones are easy to learn, regardless of whether you are technically purchasing a “student” saxophone or not. It is actually one of the easiest brass or woodwind instruments you could learn, especially the alto and the tenor saxophone.

Alto and Tenor Saxophones as Best Options For Beginners

For beginners, most directors or professors highly recommend starting with an alto or tenor saxophone. These instruments mark a good middle ground for the saxophone. However, it is possible for you to learn any of the four mentioned above.

The alto sax is one of the most commonly played saxophones, particularly for the beginning learner. It falls in the middle range of sounds and is relatively easy to play and handle.

Along with the tenor, the alto is recommended to start, and then, as you advance in skill, you can attempt to shift to the soprano or bass saxophones. Alto saxes are also much cheaper than tenor or bass saxophones, making them a more attractive purchase in that aspect as well.

How Do I Choose a Saxophone?

Choosing a saxophone to purchase from all of the ones available may seem daunting. After all, which should you place a higher value on: Price? Quality? And even a mixture between the two?

Ultimately, only you can answer such questions. However, there may be other features of saxophones that you should pay attention to, that could potentially affect your purchasing decisions. 

If you can, you should test out any instrument before purchasing it. The saxophone should always feel comfortable to hold, and, if you can play a few notes, should offer a pleasurable sound quality. If it is uncomfortable or does not have a nice sound, this can very quickly deter a student from learning more, and you really will be wasting your money. 

You should also always purchase from a reputable brand. If you must purchase an instrument second hand, again, see if you can look at, hold, or even test out the instrument before purchasing. You do not want to have to spend even more money later on repairs and replacement parts. 

How Much is a Beginner Saxophone? 

Although beginner saxophones can cost between $800 to $2,700, it’s possible to get a decent quality alto saxophone for under $400.

Yet, the best quality student saxophones will fall within the previously listed price range.

Renting a saxophone is always an option, as is purchasing a previously owned one for a cheaper price. However, you must bear in mind that both of these options could end up costing you more in the long run. Should you choose to rent, and you end up sticking with the instrument, you may be paying more in rent over the long run than you would have had if you simply bought the instrument in the first place.

In the case of purchasing a used sax, if it has not been taken care of, the cost to repair it may cause you to lose more money as well. 

As is the case for all band instruments, you generally get what you pay for when you purchase a saxophone. Spending more money now can save you money down the road, and provide you with a durable, long-lasting instrument that will not need to be repaired or replaced anytime soon – provided you aren’t abusive towards it.

Although student saxophones are generally made from cheaper material than professional saxophones, this doesn’t mean they are “bad.” In fact, it generally makes them a better option for those who are just starting out and are unsure whether they will continue with the hobby for the long term.

What Are the Best Brands for a Beginner Saxophone?

There are three beginner saxophone brands that clearly stand out above the rest as being of top quality for an affordable price. These are Mendini, Jean Paul, and Yamaha. 

Mendini Saxophones

The different Mendini saxophones boast an astonishingly good sound quality for their price. Although not quite at the level of a professional saxophone – through what student saxophone really is? – some of their saxophones are great value for the money options. They have full, rich sounds, are durable, and is the brand that blows the “you get what you pay for” statement out of the water.

Jean Paul Saxophones

Jean Paul is always a brand that comes through for woodwinds. Those who use this brand regularly report that it has a clear sound quality among all the registers, and is an easy instrument to play. It has especially suited saxophones for student players, and their price is a good middle ground between the Mendini and the Yamaha

Yamaha Saxophones

Finally, the Yamaha collection of saxophones is by far the best quality brand of musical instruments on the market, especially in the field of student-centered instruments. At times, brands will use the “student” label as an opportunity to skimp out on quality. Yamaha does not do this. However, there is always a trade, and Yamaha instruments generally cost a whole lot more than instruments of other brands. 

Our Selection of the 3 Best Saxophones for Students or Starters

Mendini by Cecilio

The Mendini by Cecilio, coming in at roughly $230 (for alto), is one of the top-rated saxophones across all levels (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass). It comes with a multitude of accessories, including a neck strap, a box of ten reeds, cleaning products, and a pair of gloves. It has a large bore size, which helps to easily produce a full, rich tone. All of their instruments are tested for quality before being sold. 

Yamaha YAS-280

The Yamaha YAS-280 specific saxophone is recommended as being one of the best beginner saxophones of all time by multiple sources. However, like all Yamaha instruments, it is going to be a bit pricier than some of your other instrument options. Nonetheless, it is also one of the highest quality saxophones you could possibly purchase, and is specially formatted for beginning players. 

Jean Paul AS-400

The Jean Paul AS-400 represents a good middle ground between price and quality, as it is a highly rated saxophone that only costs around $500 new. It comes with a reed, cork grease, gloves, cleaning supplies, and a mouthpiece. It’s considered an ideal instrument for both beginners and intermediate students, and it’s a popular choice for students in school bands

Helpful Resources for Beginner Saxophone Players: 

  • Hello Saxophone is a YouTube channel that offers tips, tricks, and tutorials for beginning saxophone players, as well as walkthroughs on how to play specific songs. 
  • The Texas School Music Project offers a helpful description for beginners on how to properly form your embouchure while playing. 
  • Saxquest is a company where you can purchase reputable saxophone brands, as well as have your saxophone repaired for a good value. 
  • Our Info Guide About Saxophone Mouthpieces, covering the most common questions asked by beginners and our recommendations, for Alto, Tenor, and Baritone sax mouthpieces.
  • If someone asks what can they offer you as a present, whether for the next Christmas season, your birthday or just for motivating in your learning journey, we’ve gathered a list with useful ideas and gifts for sax players.
  • Another mandatory accessory to offer, if she or he doesn’t have it yet, is a sax case or gig bag.

Final Takeaways for Before Choosing Your First Saxophone 

As a beginner saxophone player, you have a lot of options; not just for the brand of saxophone you purchase, but also options regarding whether you choose to play the soprano, alto, tenor, or bass saxophones.

As a beginner, it is highly recommended that you start with the alto saxophone, as the skills you will learn on this instrument are easily transferred to each of the others. It is also the easiest to master as a beginner. 

There are also a few brands that are well known for delivering high-quality saxophones at a low value. These brands are Mendini, Jean Paul, and Yamaha.

Beginner saxophones typically cost between $500 and $1,200, but the general rule of thumb is that the more you pay, the better quality instrument you will receive.

Which is the Easiest Saxophone to Learn?

The easiest type of saxophone to learn is the alto or the tenor sax.

How Much Should I Spend on My First Saxophone?

Depending on the quality you are looking for, you can spend between $500 to $1,200, even though that you can pay between $800 and $2,700 on a beginner saxophone.

What are the Best Brands for a Beginner Saxophone?

The best and most popular brands of beginner saxophones are Mendini, Jean Paul, and Yamaha.