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For Dan and you other Saxophone experts...


JimboK

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My son has decided to take up Tenor Sax. He's 17 and already a pretty accomplished Guitar Player and Bass Player. He wants to pick up the Sax so we rented him a Tenor from a local music shop. So assuming he really gets into it, what do I realistically need to plan to spend on something used but at least a "real" instrument. I have never seen such an insane range of prices for these (you can spend $250-8,000!!!).

 

I thought I remembered a buddy from another band saying the "REAL" tenor's started at around 2k and anything less was a toy.

 

Any place I should be looking for in particular for the "used" market?

 

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Oh, I would take your time and do a lot of research before buying anything at all. If he gets a teacher, he/she can be a real good source of information. There are lots of great horns to be had, but a lot of bad ones too. Without someone to guide you, investing in something used, that requires a pad job, or other work can break the bank. Yamaha makes some good student horns, but not much worth owning is cheap.

I have a 71 Selmer MK VI.

"I  cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long"

Walter Becker Donald Fagan 1977 Deacon Blues

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Not a sax player but I raised two really good ones. If you have to be frugal then go cheaper on the horn to the extent necessary to get him a good mouthpiece. I always had to buy the mouthpieces separately. My horn dealer always had my kids do blind testing of the mouthpieces with no idea what box it came out of or what the price is. They always went for the $250 Selmers. And you could hear the obvious difference. My dealer always followed up with the phrase .... Sorry Dad.

 

Of the lower cost Asian horns Phil Barone actually sells some decent horns for the money. If you go hunting for used stuff you have to befriend a sax man. The horn you get may need more work than its worth.

 

A quality rental is really a good way to start.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

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So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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2K is a pretty reasonable jumping off place for a good used horn. Deals less than that can be had in the "vintage" market, but you have to know what you're looking for, and key work on older horns doesn't seem to be as friendly ergonomically as newer instruments. Yamaha is a good bet for a used tenor that will play well with a good setup and not break the bank. Of course there are Chinese brands of saxes that will look beautiful, not cost much and play like crap, but you already know to avoid them like the plague ;-)
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Good advice so far. My suggestion is register on Sax On The Web and start haunting the forum. There are numerous threads about buying and selling used horns and there are some trustworthy sellers on there. DO NOT buy anything on ebay. Finding a teacher or other local knowledgeable sax player to help you evaluate used horns is a good idea. You can get a good vintage or used horn for under $2K but you really have to know what you're doing or have the help of someone who does. Depending on where you're located in California, there may be a good local dealer in used horns. There are lots of repair techs who fix up horns and sell them but you'll still need the help of a knowledgable sax player. I'll 2nd the suggestion of Phil Barone. I have a Barone black tenor which is a good horn but not a name brand so it gets less respect. The good thing about Phil is you can call and talk to him. He'll give you a lot of New York attitude but he's an honest and trustworthy guy. He used to have a return policy on his horns. I don't know if he still does. But that's something important to have from used horn sellers, either online or local. If they won't let you return the horn if you're not satisfied, don't do business with them. Those $8k prices are for a Selmer Mark VI. They are the holy grail of used horns but some players (I'm one) don't think they're all that great. If you're looking at vintage horns, look for names like Martin, Buescher, Conn, King. You should be able to get one of those tenors in good playing condition for under $2K.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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Not a sax expert either, but my dad played tenor sax in a local wedding/dance band for 30 years, and I have played with the same sax player in my band for over 35 years. Both have mentioned the importance of the mouthpiece, they used the same one for as long as they played/have been playing. My dad played his Buscher Aristocrat forever, and our sax man has been playing the same Selmer Mark VI since he has been in high school. So given an appropriate level of commitment (perhaps the critical variable in terms of how much to spend), there may be something to be said for obtaining a quality instrument. But the good news is that it can be a life-long investment....unlike keyboards. :laugh::cry:

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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My son has decided to take up Tenor Sax.

 

That's very cool Jimbo. It's a great instrument. :2thu:

 

I am not a sax player, but my son has been playing it for several years. I am going to tell his story to echo some of the great advice you have already received.

 

1) As beginner a student horn was the right decision. He began in elementary school, but even now at 17, we worry about whether he is going to damage something. Once you have played for awhile, your taste gets better established, and your pro horn dollars will be better spent.

 

2) Sometime in middle school (about two years in) his teacher suggested a professional mouthpiece. We purchased an Otto Link and there was an immediate improvement in tone.

 

3) In his senior year, my son's teacher decided to sell one of his vintage Selmer tenors. Since my son was about 6 years into the instrument his tone and style had settled in. He knew what kind of pro horn he wanted and it was a vintage sound that he was looking for.

 

I am not suggesting the identical path for you. Everyone's journey is different. I do think however that a student horn is where you want to start, then a mouthpiece then a pro horn of either vintage or modern tone. All the best!

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Alto sax is my main instrument, and I'll second the advice from El Lobo. I bought a used tenor sax for my son from JayePDX on "Sax on the Web" (SOTW), and I bought a new soprano sax for me from Phil Barone.

 

Saxes can be rendered unplayable from whacks and dings, not because of the dent itself, but because if keys or the body tube get bent, it can cause a leak. If a pad in the upper part of the sax does not seal properly, the sax can be unplayable. A well-adjusted student horn will play better than a pro horn with bad leaks in the upper part of the sax. Pads lose effectiveness with age. After a while, a sax can sustain little whacks which bend things slightly and the pads can go bad. In the worst case, a sax may need most or all of its pads replaced, and all kinds of adjustment (an overhaul), and this can cost several hundred dollars.

 

If you try to buy a used sax from ebay, the seller may say "plays great", which you cannot prove to be a lie even if it has leaks and needs several pads replaced when it arrives to you. The ebay seller might not even know whether the sax they are selling needs an overhaul. And even if the sax is in good shape now, the seller might not pack in properly, so that it loses its adjustment in transit.

 

There are a few sellers of used horns on SOTW who make a business out of selling used saxes, where they make adjustments and replace pads as needed, and honestly and competently describe the condition of the horn. The fact that these sellers need to protect their good name (on SOTW) creates some assurance for someone who buys a used horn listed on SOTW that the sax will be in playing condition. And these particular sellers generally know how to pack a sax for shipment so that when it arrives to you, it will still be in good playing condition.

 

My alto sax is a Selmer Mark VI which I bought new when I was 14. I keep it because I like how it plays and I'm married to it for life. But if I were buying a tenor I would not buy a used Selmer Mark VI - they cost way too much.

 

I suggest your son get at least 6 months of sax lessons from a sax player who does lessons for a living. This will help him especially with getting a good sound. Playing sax in a rock/pop bound is mostly about the sound, and not whether one can play a classical etude. One is not going to get good sound on the sax by accident, and the sax players you hear on rock/pop records actually have great tone. You can't play those high altissimo notes on the sax, which are a sax player's equivalent of a good Roger Daltry vocal scream, unless you have good chops.

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Very cool suggestions all. I'll heed the advice. Thankfully I still have some time to discover if he'll really take to it but based on his commitment to music (it's insane, and frustrating how fast he learns in comparison to dear old dad), a purchase may be in order within 6 mos or so. I figure if he's still hot and heavy at that point, I'll have to make some kind of move.
Korg Kronos 2 61, Kronos 1 61, Dave Smith Mopho x4, 1954 Hammond C2, Wurlitzer 200A, Yamaha Motif 6, Casio CDP-100, Alesis Vortex Wireless, too much PA gear!
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My son has decided to take up Tenor Sax. He's 17 and already a pretty accomplished Guitar Player and Bass Player. He wants to pick up the Sax so we rented him a Tenor from a local music shop. So assuming he really gets into it, what do I realistically need to plan to spend on something used but at least a "real" instrument. I have never seen such an insane range of prices for these (you can spend $250-8,000!!!).

 

I thought I remembered a buddy from another band saying the "REAL" tenor's started at around 2k and anything less was a toy.

 

Any place I should be looking for in particular for the "used" market?

 

It's a great investment! In my experience, no one gets laid as much as the sax player. Your son will thank you!

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Got in on the conversation late - all the advice so far is good. Even when I was younger playing a student model, a new mouthpiece went a long ways, so Ed's advice is definitely good. You'll find regardless of manufacturer, the student models are relatively cheap, and the pro models are way up there.

 

Long long time ago when my sax was stolen and I didn't have much budget for a knew one, I caught wind of a company that has now been around for a while, but was fairly new back then. I bought my alto brand new back then for around $1800 and I swear it plays better than a lot of the other pro models I've tried costing twice as much. They have the bodies manufactured in China but then spend some time working each one. I have the Black Nickel model they used to call the "Raven" which looks great on stage. I haven't looked for used ones, but considering how reasonable they are new and that not all that people know about them, you may want to keep an eye out.

 

http://www.cannonballmusic.com

 

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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yea, it's always the mouth piece you get first and keep. I upgraded my horn coming into high school and it was very noticeable, It played better, easier and sounded better.

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In my experience, no one gets laid as much as the sax player. Your son will thank you!
In my experience as a sax player, the guitar player, front man, and drummer get laid more often than the sax player, and in that order. Keys and bass players not so much.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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As others have said, it's really a matter of finding the "right" horn. My mantra is "never buy new" - a new Keilwerth SX-90R goes for ~$6,000 right now. Slightly used, that same instrument fetches $2500 - $3000 on eBay.

I owned a Selmer Mark VI in college, used it for the sax portion of my sax/piano major, and danced with glee the day I finally sold it. Mark VI's are the gold standard for saxophones, but mine was a hateful, bitter, tortuous bitch of a horn that would play like it was possessed by Persephone herself one day, and turn into a boat anchor the next.

I now own a very nice but very well-used 1968 Yamaha YTS-61 tenor that is a delight to play in all styles - jazz, concert band, rock, Motown... I have a Yamaha Alto (YAS-52) as well and love it. So, my suggestion is, even though they're not the absolute top-of-the-line horn, I'd look for a used Yamaha YTS-52 or YTS-62 tenor. They're consistent, they're a solid horn, and they will definitely hold their value. The 52 and 62 are nearly identical, but the 52's are considered "Intermediate" horns and the 62's are pro horns. The 61, which I have, was Yamaha's answer to the Selmer MK VI and really put them on the map in the sax arena.

And I can certainly vouch for the sax player getting laid hypothesis - when I play keyboards I only get recognition if I'm playing a burning solo on Hammond. Pick up the sax, and I can just stand there with it and get 3x the attention. During breaks, starry-eyed women say to me: "I just loooooooove the saxophone!!!" Of course, I'm long past picking up women in bars, but it feels good to get noticed just the same!

 

True Story: Years ago I was playing in a dive and there was this one old drunk cougar sitting at the bar. I went up to get a drink during break and she gushes: "Oh, I just loooove the saxophone!" and on and on and on. My (then) wife heard her, too, and teased me all the way home. I told her, "It's not me, it's the horn" and she said, "no, you could have had that woman if you wanted - she was in love with you!"

So, the very next night we go to another bar to hear a local band, and who is sitting at the next table but this same woman, but mostly sober now. My wife said: "There's your honey!" I said: "I'm telling you, it was the sax - watch this.." and I turn around and say to the woman: "Hi there! Remember me?" and she looks at me with absolutely no recognition and says: "No...?"

 

I rest my case.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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I meant to mention Yamaha horns in my earlier post. Good horns that should be available for a reasonable price on the used market.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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I was a saxophone major in college - I'll add my endorsement of Yamaha horns. The 52 and 62 series were excellent. Even the 23 series student horns are good, and not terribly expensive. I've had several - hard to go wrong.
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I don't recommend buying a vintage horn for a young/new player -- they're great but hard to play if you're a learner.

 

You can't go wrong with Kessler & Sons from Las Vegas (they have other branches). Incredible value at all price points, and expert/personal/custom advice.

 

I have a Yamaha pro-level alto that I bought used, years ago, for half price. Those days are long gone; they retain their value now. Kessler doesn't carry Yamaha because he is focused on value for students, learners, and seconders. But of course he acknowledges that they are great horns. Just hard to find at a good price. Usually a bit easier to play than old school brands.

 

I couldn't be more thrilled with my Kessler soprano and tenor, as a seconder who has gone through a few over the years and a bit rusty at this point vs. my clarinet and alto sax chops.

 

Regardless of what choice you make, you owe it to yourself to visit Kessler's website and read up on what he has to say about the various horns. It's an education in itself and a far more economical way to quickly collect your criteria than woodwind forums -- though by all means visit "Sax on the Web" for their overview of the different brands (past and present) and related character.

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Mouthpieces can make the biggest difference, if you at least get a horn (new or used) that has good mechanisms that don't trip up new players.

 

It is hard to make mouthpiece recommendations separate from the horn, unfortunately, which is why I didn't include any in my previous post. This is especially true for sopranos, due to wild variance in size/fit, but the openness of the bore of a tenor sax can at least determine a best match for mouthpiece style, number, and/or brand.

 

Be aware that there are three basic types of mouthpiece "chambers" -- regardless of material (plastic, rubber, glass/crystal, metal): square-ish, cylindrical, and hybrid.

 

Some are said o be more tonally focused, others more free-blowing, etc. But if you look at charts of what "favourite players" used, you'll quickly find that there is no clear pattern that emerges and thus following your hero's choices isn't likely to work out even if you could magically nail their tone. :-)

 

It is true, however, that some fairly generalized suggestions will be made based on the range of material and genres that one expects to play. There are in fact a small handful of classic models that most modern models attempt to emulate in some fashion or other, or to hybridize as "best of each" models.

 

I would say that sax mouthpieces are an even more personalized choice than for clarinet. And for this reason, it is a good idea to buy from a vendor that allows returns/exchanges if not happy with the initial choice. A phone call might be required for confirming details of such policies.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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If you can see this saxophone equipment Facebook page, some one is selling a "like new" YAS-62 for $1650.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/246628285421243/?multi_permalinks=1178219952262067

 

Edit: just realized this is an alto and you're looking for a tenor. Duh. Sorry.

 

Nevermind.

These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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