Best Beginner Saxophone


If you are a saxophone student, then you will probably want to know what is the best beginner saxophone.

Like most things in life, the phrase “you get what you pay for” is also very true for beginner saxophones.

You can pick up a brand new no-name alto sax from ebay or Amazon for approximately $300.  If budget is front of mind, then this is the best beginner saxophone – for you.  However, please be prepared to upgrade sooner rather than later.

There is a very strong argument for quality.  In terms of musical instruments, a cheap saxophone will be difficult to play.  It will be a battle to get a good sound, the fingering mechanisms will become slow and unresponsive, it will require regular servicing and upkeep.  What you save in terms of initial up front $$$$ you will spend later on with significant time and effort.

You will quickly out grow a cheap sax, lose interest, put it in a cupboard, wander off avoiding eye contact and never play it again.  We don’t want that !!!

However, if you are buying a saxophone for a clumsy 11 year old, you probably don’t want to spend too much money on something that he or she is likely to drop and break, or lose, or leave out in the rain, or use for cricket/baseball/tennis practice.

You could go the other way – top of the line new alto saxophones can cost upwards of $10,000.  So, if money is no object, then the sky is the limit.  The best beginner saxophone in this case is the most expensive one – for you.  Can you buy me one as well, please ?!?    ?

In this case, the equal and opposite arguments apply.  Yes, it will be amazing to play, yes, the quality and sound will be awesome.  But what is the point if you or your student don’t actually play it.  Throw in to the mix that it does take a bit of effort and practice over time to make a good sound anyway, irrespective of the quality of the instrument.  $10k is a lot of money in anyone’s language to leave in a cupboard.


How about a second hand instrument ?

Buying a used saxophone can be a good idea.  You can get a better quality instrument for a lower price.

However, if you do not have the experience or the expertise to know what you are looking at and what to look out for, then this can be a difficult path to take.

Much like buying a second hand car, some are great, but some most definitely are not.

If possible, take an experienced saxophonist that you trust with you to try it out before you buy it.  Where this is not possible, then get the seller to play it for you – and play every note.  If the seller cannot play it for you, maybe you could borrow it (or leave a deposit ?) so that you can take it to a saxophone repair person to give it a once over and to seek their opinion.

So – the best beginner saxophone in this case is one that has an agreeable price, a suitable quality and actually works.


Alto Saxophone or Tenor Saxophone ?  Soprano or Baritone Sax ?


Saxophone come in 4 main sizes – Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone (Bari for short).

Soprano = small.  Alto = medium.  Tenor = large.  Bari = extra large.

Most beginner saxophone students start on the Alto sax.

Altos are smaller, lighter and easier to manage.  Given that most – but certainly not all – beginner saxophone students are aged between 10 and 15, the physical size of the saxophone makes a big difference.  Shorter people with smaller hands need a smaller saxophone !

And, by happy coincidence, Alto saxophones are cheaper too.

Older and therefore probably taller and stronger beginner sax students have a bit more of the luxury of choice.  Tenor saxophones are bigger, have a deeper sound and arguably are “cooler” with more “street cred, baby”.

Most adult beginners embarking on their saxophone journey have a few more $$$$ available to them.  Tenor saxophones cost a little more than Altos.

For most (but not all) primary school and high school students, the best beginner saxophone is an Alto sax.

As students get older, the split then moves 60/40 between altos and tenors.

Soprano saxophones are NOT the best beginner saxophone.  They are fantastic to add to a saxophonists instrument collection when they get a handle on their Alto or Tenor.  Please do not start your life with saxophones on a Soprano sax.  They are very difficult to play in tune and they are very expensive. Once you’ve been playing an alto or a tenor sax for a few years, THEN go ahead and get a soprano.  They are fantastic instruments: just not good for beginners !

The same applies to Baritone saxophones.  They are huge, heavy, they are ridiculously expensive and very difficult to physically transport.  If your school has one, and you’ve been playing your Alto or Tenor for a couple of years, then go for it !  Like Sopranos, Bari saxes are also fantastic instruments.  Bari saxes are also NOT the best beginner saxophone.


So, what is the best beginner saxophone ?

There are many different brands of saxophone.  The more well known brands are going to be great instruments, especially when purchased brand new.  Again, as mentioned earlier in this article, the more more you pay (in general) the better the instrument.

The sweet spot between cost, quality, features, functionality and play-ability is with Yamaha saxophones.

Yamaha have different models of the four main saxes, each catering to a different customer type.

The Yamaha Alto Saxophone YAS-26 is the base model.  It is a great first sax, especially for brand new music beginners.  The sound, the quality, the durability are all very good indeed.  It comes with a standard yet sturdy carry case.  It appears to be a slightly older model and as such may be being phased out.  Some retailers have them on sale at run-out prices, while others still have them at full retail prices.  Expect to pay between approx $1250 – $2000 brand new (which is potentially more expensive than the next model up….).




The Yamaha Alto Saxophone YAS-280 is the next model up.  It is exceptionally well crafted and the quality is superb for a beginner instrument.  The sound and tone produced by this instrument is beautiful and can be easily achieved by beginners.  It has a high F Sharp key (other beginner saxophones do not have this) and comes with an impressive backpack style carry case.  Expect to pay between approx $1100 – $1700 brand new.

The YAS-280 Alto Saxophone provide beginners with a reliable instrument to start playing on.  It offers a characteristically bright saxophone sound with excellent intonation and some surprisingly high quality features for an entry-level instrument.

The Yamaha Alto Saxophone YAS-280 also comes with THE standard in saxophone mouthpieces, the Yamaha 4C mouthpiece.  Even if you buy another brand/make/model/used/new sax, make sure you go and get yourself a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece.  These mouthpieces are GREAT for beginners and intermediates alike – even some professional players keep their original Yamaha 4C.  They can be used across all musical genres, from classical to jazz, to rock n roll to anything else in between.  They are very responsive, yet easy to play.

Irrespective of your age, if you are a beginner saxophonist, or you are buying a sax for a beginner, you simply cannot go wrong with the Yamaha series of alto saxes.

Note:  If you’ve got a few more $$$ up your sleeve, the Yamaha Alto Saxophone YAS-480 is a beautiful intermediate saxophone that will last you for many years, even decades.  The YAS-480 alto saxophone has many of the same features found on professional saxophones that provide these intermediate saxophones with greater playability and optimum tone.  These are instruments that bring out the best of the performer and ideal choice for up and coming players.  If budget allows, buy this one.  Expect to pay between approx $2000 – $2500 brand new.

Don’t forget, if buying a sax is not an option, hiring one could get you on your way with learning How To Play The Sax !

And if you need a hand, check out our saxophone lessons.



P.S.  Please share this article if you’ve found it useful.  Please also let me know in the comments below what you think might be the best beginner saxophone !

P.P.S.  If you would like simple step by step instructions to help you learn how to play the sax, all neatly organised in the one convenient location, all provided by an experienced saxophone teacher who can help you to play the music that you want to play quickly and easily, then check out our saxophone lessons membership options.  Get started on your saxophone journey today !


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