When getting a saxophone, first you should decide the type you want. You should pick between Alto and Tenor. The soprano and baritone saxophone aren’t as common or necessary for most settings. In a school band there will most likely be a Baritone saxophone that you can borrow or rent from the school. The good news is that ALL saxophones play the same! If you learn one, you can play them all. Each saxophone requires some small adjustments in the way you blow and how much air you put in, put they are basically the same.
If you are just starting out, I’d probably rent an instrument from a music store. Renting insures that the instrument is in good mechanical shape and will actually work for you. You can also return the instrument if you decide that you don’t like it. Another option is to borrow one from a neighbor, or friend. You’d be surprised at how many instruments are taking up space in someone’s basement!
If you do borrow one, you’ll definitely want to take it to a repair shop and get it fixed up. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to play a broken, leaky saxophone. Another option is to find a used one in the newspaper or a pawn shop. Be careful when getting a used one from these people; there is a good chance it is not in good mechanical shape.
First check to see if there are any dents in the body or the neck. Dents in the neck are the most serious dents than effect the playing. Second, check the condition of the leather pads on the instrument. The best way to check the pads is to take it to a shop and have the repair tech. check for leaks. Pads can be replaced, and dents removed. Major dents in the neck can also be fixed but the instrument might not play as well.
A repair shop can also give you the value of the instrument you are looking at, to see if the asking price is too high. Another option is eBay. I tend to steer clear of eBay instruments unless there is some sort of return policy on it. If you do buy an eBay sax, have it checked out as soon as you get it!
There are many brands of saxophones available and many different price ranges. To start, you’ll want to get a beginning sax. Some good brands that have stood the test of time are: Yamaha, Selmer, Bundy, Artley, Jupiter, Yanagisawa, Keilwerth, Vito, and Leblanc. There are many others out there but these are the main players. I really like the Yamaha saxophones. They are reasonably priced, and play really well. You can expect to pay around $500.00 for a really good used sax. But good deals are always out there! Try to steer away from brands that are not really well known. They may break easily, may not play well in tune and a variety of other problems. If you have one and think it’s a good deal, go to the repair shop and ask the technician if they can repair that particular brand. Sometimes a repair shop will not fix certain brands because they can’t get the parts or they break easily! Buyer Beware!