Not Created Equal
It would be nice if each saxophone played exactly the same (or very similar) to all the saxophones of the same make/model. In other words, if you played a Yamaha EX, it would play just like (or very similar) to all the other Yamaha EX saxophones. Alas, even the best companies have not been able to perfect the consistency of their saxophones.
I can see how this topic of “equality” may be debatable, and I’m not trying to eliminate the unique character of each saxophone. Rather, I would like to bring attention to some of the inconsistencies that you want to look for when buying a saxophone.
The purpose of the next 2 posts is to provide you with information so you can choose the best saxophone on the lot (yes, they can all be very different).
Before we get into the details of choosing the best saxophone, I want to share two past examples of brand name saxophones that didn’t perform as they should.
Past Example #1 (Yamaha EX)
The Yamaha EX is an amazing saxophone. They are built with consistency and have a good feel to them ergonomically. In my opinion, their tone has greatly improved in the last decade. Overall: excellent saxophone- one of the best.
Now that you know that the EX is one of the better saxophones, let me share an experience. I had a student try about 5 different saxophones (all professional models) and he narrowed down his choice to the Yamaha EX. He was really excited about the instrument, but we both had 1 reservation; the middle C was stuffy (the 2nd finger in the left hand without the octave key).
When I say stuffy, I mean it. I had never heard a saxophone with this issue. It sounded like it could be a different instrument. Well, maybe the last sentence is exaggerated, but it was clear to me, and my student, that something was not right.
So what did we do? He returned all 5 saxophones and requested another Yamaha EX, and this saxophone played the middle C as it should; problem solved. The Yamaha ended up being the right choice, but if we didn’t know what a proper C should sound like, he could have spent $4000 on a saxophone that worked against him!
Past Example #2
The Selmer Series 2 Jubilee is also one of the best saxophones on the market. One of its biggest strengths is the unique Selmer sound. This sound has been adored by many since the early 20th century. Overall: Excellent saxophone and one of the best.
My experience has shown that the Selmer Company doesn’t make too many saxophones that are exactly the same. Maybe complete conformity isn’t their goal. Maybe their goal is to provide each saxophone with their own character. This can be a positive or a negative. Here’s the experience.
I had a student try a brand new Selmer Series 2 Jubilee; he fell in love with it and it was a good fit for him. These particular saxophones carry some of the highest prices on the market. So, he decided to return the new Jubilee and look for a used one.
He ordered 3 different used Jubilee saxophones, and they all played differently. Unfortunately, not one of them was equal to the first Jubilee he played. Here’s a list of some of the issues that were found between all three saxophones (each saxophone contained just one problem. All three problems were not found in one instrument):
- Tone didn’t match the quality of the Selmer tradition
- Higher notes didn’t respond well
- The middle C# was incredibly flat (about 40 cents flat)
What did he do? He sent all three back. Because of the lower price of the Yamaha brand, he decided to try a new EX (same price as a used Jubilee). At the time of this post, he’s had the Yamaha EX for one day. Next week, I’ll provide an update on his experience.
You may think we’re being too picky here, and that may be true in some cases. But, here’s the bottom line: it takes a lot of work to play the saxophone well. You don’t want to spend your time working out issues that are the fault of the saxophone. There are too many things that need attention, so if we can find a saxophone that helps us succeed, we’ll be in better shape and become a better player
Next week we’ll provide a list of items we should look for when buying a saxophone. In addition, I’m interested to know what you like about your saxophone. Is there anything that you don’t like (or find difficult to deal with)? Go ahead and share in the comment section and I’ll be happy to provide any assistance. It will also be nice for others to hear examples of what works and what doesn’t. I look forward to your response!