Equipment Recommendations Part 1

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Have you ever wondered which brand you should buy, in regards to purchasing the following equipment:

  1. Saxophones
  2. Mouthpieces
  3. Reeds
  4. Ligatures
  5. Neck straps

There are so many options available, that making a choice can be difficult. For the beginner, many of the items that come with your saxophone will work well. You can click here for our recommendations when buying a saxophone (a previous post). But once you have a few months under your belt, you may want to make some changes in your equipment.

This week we’ll cover some recommendations for upgrading your saxophone. Next week we’ll cover the rest of the list.

Saxophones

If you’ve purchased a student saxophone, obviously this is not something you’re going to upgrade within a few months. I would suggest playing on your student saxophone for a couple of years before upgrading. Here are some brand recommendations.

If you want the Selmer tone, you’ll be paying for it. These pro models are the most expensive of the modern (mass produced) saxophones. However, in my opinion, they are one of the best sounding instruments available.

On the downside (besides expense) I’ve recently had a student return multiple Jubilee models because of some inconsistencies in timbre, intonation, and tone. If you like the Selmer tone, this small sample size should not keep you from looking into Selmer saxophones. When you find the right one, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some specific models:

Pro Series (Paris)

  1. Jubilee Series II
  2. Jubilee Series III
  3. Reference Series
  4. Seles Axos (Entry Pro Level)

Pro Series (USA)

  1. Selmer 42 (Entry Pro Level)
    • A USA body and Paris neck. A first collaboration between both Selmer companies.

Paris vs USA

The Paris models are superior to the USA models, and that can be seen immediately through the price itself.

Entry Pro Level Saxophones

The “Entry Pro Level” models made by Selmer seem to be targeting the part of the market that is dominated by the Yamaha 62. After reading about the Yamaha 62, you’ll be provided with a better understanding of what to expect from this level of saxophone. If you discover that this is your level of saxophone, then definitely compare the Axos and Yamaha 62 side by side.

Yamaha is another giant in the saxophone world. In my opinion, Yamaha has made huge improvements in the tone of their saxophones in the past few years. In my mind, this makes them more competitive with the Selmer brand, and they are not as expensive.

I would say these two brands are equal in regards to their top pro models. It boils down to personal opinion when choosing between the two.

Pro Models

  1. Yamaha EX
  2. Yamaha Z (Designed for Jazz)
  3. Yamaha 62 (Entry Pro Model)

Not All Pros are Equal

Some brands label their saxophones as “Pro”, but they don’t meet the standards of the pro line Yamaha and Selmer saxophones. So when a company labels their saxophone as “Pro”, and the price is significantly less, you should be careful.

However, Yamaha established a successful line of “Entry level Pro saxophones” with the 62, and they’re played by professionals all over the world. A true “Entry Level Pro” saxophone provides a pro level instrument at an affordable price.

Bottom Line

If you don’t want to pay for a top of the line Selmer or Yamaha, the 62 is a great choice that won’t disappoint.

We’ve discussed to this point two companies (Selmer and Yamaha) that have established themselves as trusted instrument makers for professionals. These are just two companies out of the “Big Four”.   The other two companies are:

  1. Keilwerth
  2. Yanagisawa

They also make professional saxophones and are an excellent choice. If you end up choosing one company over the others (between the “Big Four”) it can simply come down to personal preference between these quality instruments. You really can’t lose.

 

There are many saxophone companies today that we could consider as “new comers” in the game. Their saxophones are usually more moderate in pricing, with a few of these companies delivering high quality products. Two of these quality companies include Cannonball and P. Mauriat. If you’re not ready to pay for the pro Yamaha or Selmer saxophones, then skip the intermediate saxophones and try out the pro models made by these two companies.

Keep in mind that there are some “new comers” that do not make quality saxophones. Stick with these brand recommendations and you’ll do well.

Wrap Up

As always, try as many saxophones as you can. There are many opinions being expressed online, which can lead to confusion. Take the brand suggestions in this post and use them as a guide to choose the best saxophone for you. Your personal preference on the following points are unique to you and will help with making a final choice.

  • Tone
  • Ergonomics
  • Price

All three of these points will vary with each saxophone brand. By applying your personal preference to the brands mentioned in this post, you’ll find a saxophone that’s a good fit for you.

Have you played on any of these saxophones? What recommendations do you have? Please feel free to share in the comment section.

 

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Comments 16

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Its a very nice post indeed. I am with a CONN SELMER PRELUDE Alto Sax AS – 700. Its the very basic model Student level one. I bought it on the 10th july 2015. Its not even one year. As you have said rightly let me be with it for one more year & then I can give a thought to switch over. Here the tonal quality is so so. The E & F notes with the palm keys are not that melodious. This has F# in the palm key range also.

    When I go in for a better sax I wish to go for a ‘ SELES AXOS ” . I feel thats enough for me at this RIPE age of me. I am 65 now. ha ha ha.

    What do you say !!!!!

    I am highly thankful that am getting beautiful guidance as well as suggestions from you Jeff.

    best regards.

    sabnavis

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    2. Hi Sab my saxophone is also a selmar conn. Some say it is made in China.
      I am a ripe aged beginner like you. Hope to upgrade soon. cost is an important factor now.
      What Selmar model should I move on to?

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        Hi Ernest,

        Thanks for your question. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Are you looking for the best, or something that is a little less expensive but still a solid saxophone?

  2. Don’t rule out secondhand. Saxophone repair shops can be a useful ally. I bought a Martin Committee from our local repair shop in Brighton England. Its a great horn, as played by Art Pepper, at a reasonable price. Look on You Tube several videos from saxophone repair technicians demonstrating different makes.

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  3. Thank you for the prompt reply. I really appreciate the value your site’s instruction offerings and the content of your up-dates. I highly recommend your programs to others, as being professional as well as intuitive to the intricacies of learning to play saxophone.

    I acquired a Blessing (Serial Number AS1001065) Alto. It is fairly new (approximately 5 years old), and was not used very much. I am not sure of what level of manufacturing quality the horn is, as I know very little about Blessing instruments or their reputation.

    I tried looking for a website for the company, or some other background information, but it seems they had a site but took it down.

    Any help you can lend me I would greatly appreciate.

    Jay

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      Hi Jay,

      I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying the lessons and we appreciate your referrals! Concerning the Blessing, yes, it’s difficult to find information on the quality of the instrument, and since I have not played on the instrument, I am unable to provide specifics on its quality. However, the price range and lack of website points to this category of instrument. I think this instrument would be fine to start on, but with consistent practice I think you’ll find that you may outgrow it in a couple of years. I would suggest taking it to a repair tech, have them play it and run a leak light through just to make sure all is well. Let me know how it goes. I hope you enjoy playing!

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      Hi Ledin,

      I haven’t played on one myself, but I have heard both good and bad. We have a post that covers this type of saxophone and what to expect. It could be exactly what you’re looking for, or it could be the opposite. This post will help you choose. Let me know what you decide!

      1. I am currently playing a Mendini soprano sax purchased through Amazon. I am in my 80s and didn’t think I could justify spending the money for a better brand. I am now playing with 2 jazz bands and a dance band and the Mendini is ok, but I would like a sax with more consistent tone through three octaves. I’m looking at a Cannonball soprano. Do you have any knowledge about this sax?

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          I’m happy to hear that you are playing so much! As far as a few years ago, the Cannonball soprano saxophones were a great instrument. They were very stable and easy to control (for a soprano). If you don’t want to spend the extra money for a Yamaha or Selmer, then Cannonball is a good option.

  4. Hi Jeff, I tried out a Cannonball intermediate level sax a short time ago and it’s seems to be a nice instrument. It had the E to F# keys in the upper range. Do you have any comments about this brand?

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      Yes Ed, the Cannonball brand is a strong brand. Some may consider the Yamaha and Selmer brands as top tier instruments, and Cannonball a second tier. That does not mean that the second tier isn’t good, they simply don’t have the history of the the “top tier” brands. There are plenty of pro musicians that use this brand, that play very well. However, they normally play the pro models and not the intermediate. You can probably find a used Global series or Stone Series (both pro models) for a great price. If you can try multiple instruments, that is always best.

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