Buying a musical instrument on EBay can be a great experience - or
not. It is important to stick with brand name instruments. Don't look
for the lowest price - cheap instruments may need so much in repairs
that the cost will offset any preceived savings.
The EBay listings below are limited to recognized, brand name instruments.
Take a look at the current offerings and read the remainder of this
article on choosing an instrument.
Good luck in you search for an affordable, quality musical instrument.
The traditional starting place for the beginning saxophonist
is with the alto saxophone. This is in part due to the fact that
that vast majority of classical saxophone literature is written for
the alto. Additionally, the alto requires slightly less air than
does the tenor, and the smaller key scale often fits more comfortably
in a young person's hands. Further, the angle of air flow as well
as the embouchure required to play alto is very much transferable
to all of the saxophones. These points do not, however, preclude
a beginner from starting on tenor or baritone saxophone. With proper
guidance, repertoire and technique can be adapted to all of the saxophones.
Consult your local music store, school music teacher, or private
teacher for suggestions on which brands and models to try. See if
your private teacher would mind trying out a few instruments on your
STUDENT, INTERMEDIATE, AND PROFESSIONAL SAXOPHONES
Generally, student horns play well, but lack features
and craftsmanship of professional instruments. As you move from a
student horn to an intermediate horn and then finally to a professional
instrument, major differences will become apparent.
A great deal of effort has been taken by many manufacturers
to produce student instruments that are both affordable and musically
satisfying to play. Most student horns produce a pleasant tone with
considerable ease and feel relatively comfortable in the beginner's
hands. In the case of a younger student, check to make sure that
he or she does not have difficulty closing keys, especially the "spatula" keys.
A student horn is a good way to go if you or your child's commitment
is questionable. After three or four years of good use, a move to
a better instrument can be made, possibly facilitated at least in
part by a trade-in of your student horn.
As you can imagine, the intermediate horn is a little
easier on the pocketbook, yet it has some features that resemble
a professional horn. The key work feels similar that of a professional
horn, yet it may not produce quite the same quality of tone. Intermediate
horns usually lack the hand work found on professional models
Response, intonation, and tone quality are greatly
improved with a professional instrument. Great care is taken in designing
the tube through experimentation with different metal alloys, their
weight and thickness. The design and placement of tone holes and
posts is given much consideration, using silver solder in many cases.
Adjustment screws and adjustable felt bumpers are also included on
professional horns. Much more hand work is done as is the case with
hand-hammered keys and hand-engraving. Also, choices with respect
to finish become available. These include clear or colored lacquer,
and silver and gold plating. Professional horns in general, feel
more comfortable and substantial in one's hands. Finally, the resale
value of a professional horn usually is quite satisfactory.
LACQUER VS. PLATING
The standard finish for a saxophone is clear lacquer,
however, different colored lacquers are now available. The color
of the lacquer does not significantly affect the sound, but plating
can. Silver-plated instruments, purchased for the most part by military
and marching bands, produce a slightly brighter tone than lacquered
horns. Gold-plated horns have a warm, heavy sound and can cost considerably
NEW VS. USED
A used saxophone is a viable option to purchasing a
new instrument. For a similar amount of money, a jump can be made
from a new intermediate instrument to a used professional instrument,
for instance. Be sure to check the used instrument for dents (recent
and repaired)and re-soldering, as well as the condition of the pads.
The pads should feel soft and appear to fill up the key cup to its
edges. Also, ask if the horn has been re-lacquered. A re-lacquered
horn is not necessarily a bad thing if you are happy with it. It
could, however, affect the resale value of the instrument down the
road. You might find used student horns at your local music store,
perhaps an instrument that was rented out for the school year. Often,
both used instrument dealers and local music stores offer a basic
warranty with the purchase of a used instrument.
PICKING A MOUTHPIECE, LIGATURE, AND REED
Beginners should start on a hard rubber mouthpiece
with a small tip opening and low baffle. After deciding on a mouthpiece,
try out some ligatures. Look for one that holds the reed in place
while not compressing it at the sides. A "reverse" ligature,
one with the screws on top is best. It is important to pick a good-quality
reed, since it is the reed which triggers the vibration of sound
within the instrument. Beginning students are, however, often careless
with their reeds, so reed care accessories are recommended. Teaching
a beginner to simply put the mouthpiece cap on will prevent destruction
of the reed, not to mention the mouthpiece.
A sturdy neck strap or harness is a must. For reed
care, a reed case, knife, trimmer, and re-surfacer are most helpful.
A mouthpiece pouch protects the mouthpiece while in the case. A swab
is good for keeping the tube clean. A music stand, method books,
and a good selection of CDs will get things started.
WHERE TO BUY
There are a few options available when purchasing a
saxophone: your local music store, a mail-order service, or private
party selling a secondhand instrument. Each has its benefits, but
important things to consider are price, quality, and service. Improper
maintenance and accidents can lead to potential problems, such as
damaging dents and dings which can affect more than just the looks
of the instrument. You may want to choose a music store with a repair
person on-site or, if you purchase from a mail-order service, it
would be wise to have a repair shop available to you locally.
You can take advantage of discount
The Instrument Place.
their website and order online!
Portions of this aticle were reprinted with permission
of School Band and Orchestra Magazine
Please visit them at www.sbomagazine.com