Saxophone Equipment for the Beginner

  • Do you feel confused by all the saxophone equipment available out there?
  • Do you want to eliminate all that confusion and start playing today?

If so, you are in the right place! My main goal is to provide suggestions for basic equipment so the beginning saxophonist can start playing as soon as possible.   Let’s get started!

Beginner Saxophone Mouthpiece Yamaha 4C and 5CBeginner Mouthpieces

Most saxophones come with a beginner level mouthpiece.  Some come with a professional mouthpiece.  Generally speaking, many student model mouthpieces will work well enough for you to get started. Go to your local music store to check out these mouthpieces. Try them out before you buy. Find a mouthpiece that is easy to play and produces a good tone. Here is an example of a beginner mouthpiece:

Yamaha 4C (try the 5C for Tenor and Bari)

Do You Already Have A Mouthpiece?

If you purchased a used mouthpiece, be sure it does not contain nicks or major scratches, as this could make the saxophone more difficult to play.

If you already have a mouthpiece and are not sure if it is right for you, feel free to contact me at and I can help you find the right mouthpiece. You don’t want to start on a professional jazz mouthpiece just because it came with your saxophone.

Beginner Saxophone Reeds Rico

A Quick Note about Reed Strength

On each read there is a stamp that provides a number (see image on left). This number identifies the strength of that reed.  As the number goes up (or the strength number is higher) the reed provides more resistance when playing. As it goes down the resistance is less. If you go too low or too high, the tone suffers.  Reed strength suggestions are in the next section.

Student Reeds

The following are a good choice for a beginner: they are easy to use and cost effective

Rico Royal or Rico:

  1. 2 ½ for alto
  2. 2 ½ or 3 for tenor
  3. 3 for bari

Beginner Saxophone Reeds Rico Royal Blue BoxBeginner Saxophone Reeds Rico Royal Orange Box

Student Ligatures

Beginner saxophone ligature

Any generic ligature that holds the reed to the mouthpiece will work well. They can be found at any local music store that sells band equipment.

Reed Holders

Reed holders store the reed when you are not playing.  They are Saxophone reed holderdesigned to help your reeds retain their quality as long as possible. Returning the reeds to their original packaging will reduce the quality and effectiveness of the reed.

There are many options in this category too. I have listed one option for alto, two for tenor, and one for baritone.

  1. Vito Pocket Reed Guards (Alto and Tenor Only)
  2. Rico Reed Gard II (Baritone or Tenor)

Metronome & Tuner

You can buy a physical metronome, use one online, or use an app on your smart phone or tablet. Be careful to read the reviews before using an app., as some of the free metronomes are not accurate.

KORG TM-50 Tuner and Metronome If you buy a physical metronome, I would suggest the KORG TM-40 or TM-50. They are accurate and also have a tuner built in as well.

For a louder metronome try the Seiko brand.

Any physical tuner should be fine, and like the metronome, there are online tuners and apps available. Check out their reviews if you are using an app!

I have spent additional time experimenting with free metronome apps, and I was not able to find one that I liked. So, at this point I cannot recommend any free apps. (Updated 2/10/14)

Start Playing!

You now have the basic equipment information you need to begin. Contact me by email or leave a comment below if you have a question. If you need help with beginner lessons, click here for free lessons. Ready? Start playing and have fun!

Comments 31

    1. Post

      Welcome Femi! Good question. A metronome is a device that keeps a steady pulse. It can be adjusted to different tempos too. It’s a great tool to help you develop a good sense of time.

    1. Post
  1. Hi Jeff , Mate if bought a tenor sax YTS280 could I still be able to work out your lessons or not or am I better of to get the alto I just love the tenor sax cheers

    1. Post

      The saxophone you chose is perfect. I have set up the lessons so you can learn on alto or tenor. Since you have a tenor (and it’s your preference), go ahead and jump in and everything will work out fine. Let me know if you have any additional questions as you move forward.

    1. Post

      I’ve never played on that saxophone myself so I would be interested to hear your opinion down the road. Let me know in a couple months how it’s working for you.

      I’m sure it comes with a beginner (generic) mouthpiece. In fact it may not even have any markings on it. After about a week of playing send me a recording and I can let you know what I hear. Happy to have you with us!

    1. Post

      Good question! Here are a few items about care.

      1. Even though your saxophone is made of metal, set it down carefully. All it needs to do is bend a little, and then it won’t play.
      2. Follow the “Saxophone Setup” video in the free lessons
      3. Remove the reed (don’t touch the tip) and place in a reed holder (not the one that the reed came in)
      4. Clean out the mp
      5. Clean out the saxophone
      6. Wipe down (periodically) with the cloth the saxophone came with
      7. Take the saxophone in for service about 1 time a year (unless additional maintenance is needed)

      Numbers 4 and 5 can be done with a silk cloth (find at any music/band shop). They work well, they don’t get caught inside the instrument and they won’t scratch the inside of the saxophone either.

      I’ve mentioned just a few things, but I think this is a good start. This could be a future blog post too 🙂

      Thanks for your question Jackie!

  2. I bought a Selmer Bundy from a garage sale, the serial number is 597187. I think it’s from the 70s. I took it to a local shop and got it tuned up. There is a very tiny chip in the corner tip of the mouthpiece. How much will that effect the sound? Is this a good horn for a beginner?

    1. Post

      Hi Mike. Yes, that saxophone will work fine. It won’t feel as good as modern saxophones but it will be great for a beginner. Down the road, when you become more advanced, I would suggest upgrading. In addition, this saxophone is more reliable than many saxophones that sell (brand new) in the $300-$500 range. This is clear, especially knowing that your saxophone is around 30 years old and still playing.

      Once a mp is chipped they are usually done. I would suggest the Yamaha 4C, but you can go to a music store and compare your mp to a new one. That way you’ll be able to tell if the chip makes a difference. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Post

      Hi Sunkanmi,

      You have some great questions! Just to make sure I understand, when you say “keys” are you talking about keys on the saxophone, or a key that you would play in, like C Major? Either way, the free lessons will help you begin with both of these questions. The first major key in the free lessons is G major, and the first few notes are B, A, and G. You can find the free lessons here:

      The “best way” to practice is a great topic. I’ve made some suggestions on a previous blog post. You can find it here:

      Let me know how it goes!

  3. Hi Jeff,

    As a beginner I have purchased a Baritone sax (Antigua BS3220LQ) you recommend reed strength 3. I am presently using 1.5’s that came with the instrument, what difference in tone and feel will the 3’s give and are 3’s the accepted standard for the beginner with a Baritone? Thanks

    1. Post

      Hi Carl,

      A 1.5 is definitely not something I would recommend for a beginner on bari. Try out Rico or Rico Royal 3-that should make your tone (and life) much better. The 3 should provide more resistance (too little resistance can be a bad thing) and improve your tone immediately. Try them out and let me know how it goes. Thanks for the question!

      1. Thank you for this, I did get a nice tone and could play a scale up and down on the main keys and lower A, though it was not always consistent, also due to not knowing the amount of mouthpiece to use when playing. I knew nothing, so the use of keys was guess work. Have ordered some 3’s, it may explain why the owner sold it after such little use if she was advised to use 1.5’s and became tired of it.

      2. Rico 3 reeds arrived this morning and they give a cleaner and consistent tone that was easier to play. Couple of scales and an improvised tune with long low A breathing excercises, Thank you.

        1. Post

          Great Carl! It’s amazing how the right equipment really can improve our tone. You may want to try a 3.5 reed in the near future too. Just to see what reed is the right fit. Keep up the good work!

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  4. I played the drums for 25 years,,,I liked the sax my own life.About 20 years ago I was waiting for a lesson the sax when a oldI am grandmom walked in with a selmer sax box. Inside there was a 1939 balanced action selmer ‘. II bought it for 50 dollars and played with it a bit.I did not know what I had.That was when I was 17 years old.Grew up had a family,needed money so i sold it for 3000 .I just had a birthday 60 and my kids surprised me with a Merino tenor a copy of a selmer. I am quite surprised at how good it plays for the price less than 350 dollars.I am retiredn now and wish to play I am in a jass workshop with the drums but ca not waite to be able to play the Tenor,…………………thanks rusty

    1. Post

      Hi Rusty,

      Happy birthday! Wow, you got a great deal on the balanced action. Great investment too! By the way, let me know what you think of the Merino tenor after a few months. Have you had a chance to try the free lessons yet? If you have any questions along the way, just let me know.


  5. Thanks Mr Jeff I really enjoyed the tips. Though I already have an alto sax, and can play as well a little because of my music background, but I need more theory’s and practical knowledge to grow. Thanks Salami.

    1. Post

      Hi Salami,

      No problem! Go ahead and start the free lessons and let me know if you need more information after that.

  6. Hi,
    I have never played any Sax. So just to go from zero to somewhere, I would like if you could just give me some dummy info first. Also what I may have to pay for a raw beginner Sax.

    I have played the Piano Accordion for years, which is fine, but I have always wanted to play a Sax. Of course you could let me know which one would be ok for first effort.
    Best regards,


    1. Post

      Hi Tony,

      Yes, our free lessons start from the very beginning. In other words, if you’ve never played the saxophone before our lessons are a perfect fit. Because you’ve played a musical instrument, that will be to your advantage. Even if you had never played a musical instrument, the lessons would still be a good fit. Go ahead and try the free lessons, and let me know what you think!

  7. Hi my name is Gbenga I have been playing alto for some time now and am using size 3(reed)Rico but am having problem playing fast and also chord progression

    1. Post

      Hi Gbemiga,

      Thanks for your contact. The key to playing fast with accuracy is a long topic. However, here are a few things to help:

      1. Play with the metronome 95% of the time (in your practice sessions)
      2. Learn all your major scales
      3. Learn all your arpeggios
      4. Learn the chromatic scale

      Play all these things (and any other difficult passages) with the metronome and at a tempo where you can’t get them wrong. Once you are comfortable at a slower tempo, begin clicking up. Let me know how it goes and if you have any additional questions.

  8. I’m a bit frustrated that I can finish a lesson but it does not give me the option to click on finished lesson. There is no box and it keeps sending me back to finish previous lesson, which I have

    1. Post

      We are having technical issues but this is about 90% fixed right now. Every once in a while, it won’t allow you to go to the next page, so you’ll have to go one page back. This will then allow you to move forward. We are still working on a complete resolution and we appreciate your patience as this is resolved. If you are continuing to have issues moving forward in the lesson, please contact me directly at Thanks!

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