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The toughest part about being a beginner or student saxophonist is choosing an instrument to start on.
If you want to get good at the saxophone, it’s practically a given that you will need to buy your own.
But there are an overwhelming number of options to choose from. In this guide, we’ve handpicked the best alto saxes to get started on, and review and compare each.
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Jupiter JAS710GN Student Eb Alto Saxophone
As you’re about to see, not all beginner or student saxophones are created equal. The Jupiter JAS710GN is the most expensive instrument on this list by a significant margin.
That said, cheaper isn’t always better. An instrument that sounds bad and plays badly is one of the main reasons people give up on themselves early in their learning journey. That’s unlikely to be a problem with this sax.
This instrument features a lacquered brass body, nickel-plated keys, and contoured left-hand table keys with tilting Bb rocker arm. It also comes with a wood frame case, mouthpiece, and ligature.
This is a highly rated alto sax, and we’re not aware of any major downsides to it, except that the price might be a little hard to swallow for those on a tighter budget.
Item weight: Unknown
Package dimensions: Unknown
Yamaha YAS-280 Student Alto Saxophone
The Yamaha YAS-280 student alto saxophone comes with a case, gold lacquer finish, a high F# key, and a front F auxiliary key.
This instrument is also on the pricier side of beginner instruments. Yamaha is a well-known, trustworthy brand, however, and that carries with it some allure.
This Yamaha sax was designed with beginners in mind and is lightweight and ergonomically shaped. It also has stable intonation and a great sound.
Users loved the quality and design of this instrument. We can’t find any negative reviews of substance.
Item weight: 13.23 lbs.
Package dimensions: 29.92 x 9.84 x 14.96 inches
Yamaha YAS-26 Standard Alto Saxophone
If you like the idea of a Yamaha, but want to save a bit of money, you might be interested in the Yamaha YAS-26 standard alto saxophone. It’s not the cheapest by any means, but it is good value.
The YAS-26 comes with an adjustable thumb rest, nickel-plated keys, and improved low B – C# connection.
Customers were mostly satisfied with the sax, but some thought it should come with a better mouthpiece, especially for the price. So, you may need to explore alternatives for a better mouthpiece.
Item weight: 11.66 lbs.
Package dimensions: 10.63 x 21.65 x 4.33 inches
Ravel RGA202 Gemeinhardt Alto Sax
The Ravel RGA202 alto saxophone is on the expensive side of beginner alto saxes. That said, if you’re considering the Yamaha YAS-280, or YAS-26, then it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to consider this moderately priced instrument.
This durable sax comes with a lacquer finish, modern key construction, top level pads, metal tone boosters, adjusting guard screws, as well as upper and lower stack adjusting screws.
Buyers loved the sax and didn’t have anything bad to say about it.
Item weight: 3 lbs.
Package dimensions: 28 x 5 x 9 inches
Jean Baptiste 290AL Eb Alto Saxophone
The Jean Baptiste 290AL alto saxophone comes with a yellow brass body and single post construction, blue steel springs, protective case, and a plastic student mouthpiece. It also has a high F# key.
This sax has been designed to be free blowing, making it easier for beginners to get notes out of their instrument.
So, how did users feel about this lightweight and durable alto saxophone?
They said they loved its sound as well as the quality of the instrument.
Item weight: 12.05 lbs.
Package dimensions: 26.25 x 12 x 7 inches
Jean Paul USA AS-400 Student Alto Saxophone
The Jean Paul USA AS-400 student alto sax comes with a contoured carrying case, yellow brass body, lacquer finish, as well as all the essential accessories – Rico reed, cork grease, gloves, cleaning cloth, swabs, and mouthpiece.
So, this beginner kit is well-suited to both beginners and intermediate students. It’s got a great tone, even key action, stable intonation, and is durable to boot.
Buyers loved the quality of the instrument, as well as customer service offered by the manufacturer.
Some users did have issues with quality control, however, so that’s something to look out for.
Item weight: 12 lbs.
Package dimensions: 7 x 26 x 12 inches
SKY Student Eb Alto Saxophone
The SKY student Eb alto saxophone comes with a high F# key, engraved bell, leather pads with mother of pearl finger buttons, as well as gold lacquer brass body and keys.
When you purchase the SKY, you also get several essential accessories – mouthpiece, cap, ligature, neck strap, and two #2.5 reeds.
Users were unanimous in expressing their praise for this sax, and said it was everything they needed at a great price.
Item weight: 13 lbs.
Package dimensions: 28 x 9 x 13 inches
Kaizer Alto Saxophone ASAX-1000BKGK
The Kaizer ASAX-1000BKGK is available in nickel and lacquer finishes, in addition to the pictured black nickel/gold keys setup.
This beginner kit comes with a molded case, mouthpiece, ligature set, polishing cloth, cleaning rod, gloves, and mouthpiece lubricant.
This instrument has been made with beginners in mind. It’s durable and is made with solid yellow brass. It also features professionally padded leatherette to prevent corrosion.
Many reviewers liked that the Kaizer sax was easy to play and offered good value overall.
Some users said it wasn’t performance ready, but for everyday practice use, they found it reliable.
Item weight: 7 lbs.
Package dimensions: 23 x 5 x 8 inches
Fever Beginner Student Alto Saxophone
The Fever beginner student alto sax is another solid beginner bundle. This kit comes with a case, ebonite mouthpiece, ligature, reed, and cap.
Designed to be an affordable student sax, this instrument comes with a high F# key, power forged keys, gold lacquer finish, pad saver, cloth, and adjustable neck strap.
Buyers seem satisfied with the Fever, as we can’t find any negative reviews for it.
Item weight: 9.95 lbs.
Package dimensions: 26 x 6.5 x 13 inches
tuyama TAS-131 Alto Saxophone
The tuyama TAS-131 alto saxophone comes with leather padding, steel springs, as well as a mouthpiece, strap, one sheet, cork grease, and case. The body is made of brass and is lacquered.
Although there aren’t many reviews for the tuyama, users seemed impressed with it. In this price range, it’s certainly worth a look if nothing else.
Item weight: 10.25 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25.98 x 12.6 x 6.5 inches
ammoon Antique Finish Bend Eb Alto Saxophone
At this point in the list, we’re starting to get into the more affordable range of beginner saxes. The great news is that some of the most affordable also come with a ton of accessories.
This ammoon alto saxophone certainly isn’t an exception. The ammoon comes with a high F# key, antique surface design and carve pattern, water-resistant leather pads, bluing steel needle, and shell key inlays.
The instrument is made of red bronze, and it comes with a mouthpiece, mouthpiece cap, strap, 10 reeds, sordine, three cleaning cloths, cleaning rod, brush, gloves, two case belts, carrying case, and user manual.
Positive reviewers said they loved the look of the sax, as well as its overall playability and stability.
Most agreed the sax is good bang for buck too.
Item weight: 9.88 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25.2 x 11.5 x 6.8 inches
ammoon LADE Alto Saxophone Eb
The ammoon LADE alto sax comes with a glossy brass engraved body, natural white shell buttons, and water-resistant leather pads.
Accessories included – hard-shell case, mouthpiece, neck strap, cleaning cloth and rod, brush, reed, mute, and notation.
Reviewers thought it would make for a good practice instrument and said it was good for the money too.
Item weight: 9.06 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25.2 x 12.2 x 7.09 inches
Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone
The Etude EAS-100 student alto saxophone comes with case, mouthpiece, cap, and ligature. This instrument comes set up ready to play.
Users thought it was a solid option for beginners and even said it held up for many years of continued use. They thought it was good for the money too.
Others had issues with different parts of the instrument, but they were in the minority.
Item weight: 10.28 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25 x 12 x 6.1 inches
Mendini By Cecilio Eb Alto Saxophone
The Mendini by Cecilio alto saxophone comes with gold lacquer body and keys, high F# key, large bore, ribbed construction, leather pads, metal tone boosters, and contoured keys.
It comes with all the essentials too – hard-shell case with backpack straps, mouthpiece, mouthpiece cushions, 10 reeds, pocketbook, neck strap, stand, cleaning cloth and rod, mouthpiece brushes, and gloves. You also get a one-year warranty.
Buyers thought it was a great sax for beginner use.
Item weight: 9.78 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25.25 x 11.75 x 6.25 inches
Mendini By Cecilio Eb Alto Saxophone MAS-L+92D+PB
The Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L+92D+PB is sure to appeal to kids, especially since it’s available in the following colors – black, gold lacquer, black nickel plated with gold or nickel keys, blue lacquer, gold lacquer with nickel keys, green lacquer, intermediate rose gold, nickel plated, purple lacquer, red lacquer, and sky blue.
Basically, you’ve got a lot of finish options to choose from.
This sax comes with high F# key, ribbed construction, stainless steel springs, leather pads, metal resonators, and a one-year warranty.
The bundle also comes with a tuner, mouthpiece, ligature, hard case, box of reeds, neck strap, cleaning rod, polishing cloth, gloves, and pocketbook.
Most users thought this sax was good value and some even said you can’t do much better for the money.
Others said it was only good for beginners, and, at this price point, we’re not sure whether it’s fair to expect more.
Item weight: 9.63 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25.25 x 6.5 x 12 inches
Lazarro Professional Eb Alto Saxophone 360-BK
The Lazarro 360-BK is another steal of a deal. It’s available in variations of blue, black, gold, green, orange, purple, pink, red, sea blue, silver, and white.
Just choose whatever you (or your child) like best, as it’s sure to make the process of learning the saxophone more efficient. When you like your instrument, you play it more!
The bundle comes with a mouthpiece, reed, cap, ligature, fabric case, neck strap, cleaning cloth, reeds holder, cleaning rod, gloves, screwdriver, cork grease, and tweezers.
Customers loved that this saxophone was low priced and high quality.
Others didn’t think it had a great sound, but thought it was okay for a beginner.
Item weight: 11 lbs.
Package dimensions: 25 x 6 x 12 inches
Flanger F-980 Eb Professional Alto Saxophone
The Flanger F-980 is another low-cost option for beginners and students. It comes with a brass body, nickel plating, large bore, ribbed construction, high F# key, water-resistant leather pads, bluing steel needle, and one-year warranty.
This instrument also comes with a bundle – carrying case, tuner, mouthpiece, neck strap, 10 reeds, cleaning cloth and rod, and gloves.
Many customers were happy with the instrument, but it seems some had issues with it.
Item weight: 9.43 lbs.
Package dimensions: 26 x 13 x 7 inches
What Should I Look For In An Alto Saxophone For A Beginner Or Student?
Hopefully, you’re starting to get some ideas around which saxophone you’re going to purchase.
But if not, don’t worry – in this section, we’ve got some additional tips on how to choose your ideal instrument.
What's important to know is that buying for a beginner is going to be a little different than buying for an intermediate or advanced player. The main reason for this is that an intermediate to advanced player is going to be looking for an instrument that sounds, looks, and plays great.
And the main reason for that is that they are more likely to be involved in performance, be it at school, in a band, in an orchestra, or otherwise.
This isn’t to say these considerations aren’t important to a beginner. But when you’re just getting started on an instrument, you’re less likely to notice the details or require an instrument to perform at a pro level.
So, there are a few factors worth looking at when buying for a beginner.
The main factors are:
Let’s look at each.
Again, tone may not be the deciding factor when it comes to buying a saxophone for a student.
Assuming the instrument makes a sound, and it isn’t displeasing, you’re basically on the right track.
With that in mind, it’s always better to have a quality, reliable instrument for ongoing practice, lessons, and recitals or other types of performance.
If a beginner wants to get good at an instrument, they’ve got to put a lot of time and effort into it, and that means they’re going to be (or at least should be) playing and practicing a lot.
If you’re not going to be bugging anyone with your practicing, then not a big deal, right?
But if you’re planning to have your little one practice for several hours per day, you might want to choose an instrument that isn’t likely to get on your nerves. Of course, you could also usher them over to the quietest room in the house.
If you're unsure about tone or sound, then here's what you need to know:
YouTube demos and reviews are available for most instruments these days. So, if in doubt, check the videos for more specifics.
For a beginner, a playable instrument is essential. If the sax isn't easy to play, they're sure to struggle with practice, performance, or otherwise.
So, look for an instrument that’s free blowing and has quality keys. This is going to make quite a bit of difference for a beginner.
After all, if it’s frustrating to play the instrument, they’re honestly not going to last for long. And to get good at any instrument, it takes a lot of time and effort. You've got to be persistent and tenacious!
It’s critical to find a saxophone that’s playable, given that you might give up before you even get started if you have a subpar sax.
The best way to know for sure whether an instrument is going to “cut it” is to try it out for yourself. The second-best way is to read or watch reviews online, and fortunately they are available in abundance.
If you’re buying for a child who is more likely to scratch, bump, and ding their instrument, then it’s certainly better to have a saxophone that’s going to hold up to some abuse than one that isn't resistant.
If it’s going to be used by someone who’s a little more mindful and careful, and it’s not often going to be taken outside of your home, then durability might not matter as much as some of the other factors mentioned here.
You should still avoid an instrument that breaks when you sneeze in its general direction. Check reviews for more details.
Some of the instruments mentioned here come with carrying cases and other accessories. Some do not. And it’s up to you which you choose. Different buyers place less or more importance on additional gear.
If you’d like to get up and running without the hassle of having to look and shop around for additional gear, then an all-in-one solution could work well for you.
But you will notice that some of the higher priced instruments don’t come with accessory packs. So, if a better-quality instrument is what you’re after – while it does complicate matters a little – you’re probably better off buying all the essentials in a separate purchase.
This isn’t to say that the accessories bundled up with beginner instruments are generally superb. But if you’re just trying things out to see whether you enjoy the sax, it’s a good place to start and it's not going to matter that much.
There are a couple of considerations here. The first, of course, is budget. How much do you have to spend on a saxophone?
We recommend against overextending yourself. And, since the instruments covered here cost between $200 and $2,200, there is always the danger of overspending.
If you can’t afford the instrument you want to purchase now, then be sure to save up for later, or buy what you can now and upgrade later.
The other factor is the quality of the instrument.
Generally, the more you spend, the better the saxophone you will end up with. You can reach a point of diminishing returns, but that generally doesn’t occur until you’re looking at saxophones that cost several thousand dollars.
Make sure you’re getting a quality product for the money, and if you need a better-quality sax, you should be willing to spend a little more on it.
Is The Alto Sax Ideal For Beginners?
Yes. The alto sax is a great place to start for beginners.
An alto sax is one of the most common types of saxophone available. That means the sound should strike you as familiar, giving you a better idea of how it should sound when played. Reference is always important when you're looking to improve.
Additionally, most schools will start kids off on alto sax, be it concert, jazz, or marching band.
What Other Types Of Saxophones Are There?
Know it or not, there are a total of 15 types of saxophones. We won’t be covering all of them here, though. We’ll just be looking at the most common – alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone saxophones.
Alto saxophones are pitched to Eb and are shaped like a “J.” Generally, it’s thought to be the best choice for beginner saxophonists. Alto saxophones aren’t too big and are average sized among other saxophones. Their small mouthpieces also make them easier to play for novices.
Tenor saxophones are pitched to Bb and are used in jazz and rock bands. They are also the most widely used and popular saxophones. Tenor saxophones are larger than altos and even have larger mouthpieces. Tenor saxes are better suited to more experienced players.
Soprano saxophones come in straight or curved designs. They are intended for professional use only and they are pitched to Bb. Soprano saxophones are pitched the highest of any saxophone.
A baritone sax is pitched to Eb though it can also be played in a low A with an extension. Baritone saxes are the biggest of the instrument family. They can often be heard in jazz solos.
How Much Should I Spend On My First Alto Saxophone?
There aren’t any easy answers here.
And the reason this is the case is because the best beginner instruments aren’t necessarily the cheapest.
There are reasons why cheap is good. If you spend a little and end up not liking the saxophone, then your loss will have been minimal.
As well, cheaper instruments do tend to come with a lot of extras, like a carrying case and other accessories, even if these items aren't overly expensive to begin with.
But if you go too cheap, then you end up with a badly made instrument. It might sound bad, play badly, break easily, or some combination thereof. This is not a given, but it is the most common reason some buyers end up giving their purchase a bad review.
On the other end, you may not want to spend a couple thousand dollars on your first sax. That’s perfectly understandable, as you may not even be sure whether you want to keep playing without having played for a while.
A reasonable compromise exists somewhere in the $300 to $600 range, where many reviewers have found great bang for buck. You can get a great saxophone without spending a king’s ransom, and if you don't mind spending a little more, you can certainly go higher too.
At the end of the day, it’s still up to you. You shouldn’t spend more than you can realistically afford to spend. Stick to your budget, as it will help you make your decision.
Is It Better To Buy A Used Or New Instrument?
Your first inclination might be to buy used, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Unfortunately, used instruments tend to wear down relatively quickly, and will certainly break down sooner than a new instrument.
If the instrument is already damaged, and you don’t know what a functional saxophone looks like, you might end up assuming the sax is fine when it isn't.
So, you’ll end up having to get repairs to get it working. That’s one of the major downsides of buying used – you just never know what might be wrong with the instrument you purchase.
If you’ve got a couple hundred dollars, you can still get a new instrument suited to a beginner, so in most cases, that is a much better route to take. We don't think that's asking too much for a new instrument.
Are Accessory Bundles Worth It?
In general, yes. But it depends a lot on the quality of accessories offered.
After all, you will be tuning, playing, cleaning, and maintaining your instrument. That means ongoing care is par for the course.
Although most saxes come with some accessories, they usually come with generic, less than adequate mouthpieces.
One of the most challenging aspects of playing a saxophone is generally the mouthpiece, so if you can find a bundle with a better-quality mouthpiece, it’s generally worth it.
But you can always purchase a better replacement mouthpiece later.
So, yes, accessory bundles are helpful, but it's not critical that you purchase an instrument with accessories.
What Are The Best Alto Saxophone Brands?
When it comes to higher priced saxophones, there are obviously many premium, boutique, and upper scale brands. You basically won’t see any of those brands on this list. What you will find is brands that serve the beginner to intermediate (and in some cases professional) levels well.
So, here are some of the best alto saxophone brands for beginners and students. By no means should this list be considered comprehensive, as there are other great brands out there.
We’ll be looking at:
- Jean Paul USA
Jupiter was founded in 1930. Their parent organization is KHS Musical Instruments, and their headquarters is in Mt. Juliet, TN.
Jupiter makes quality woodwind, brass, and marching instruments as well as various accessories.
Yamaha is a well-known brand in the music community. They make everything from pianos and guitars to strings and brass and woodwinds.
Yamaha corporation was founded in 1887 and is headquartered in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan.
Gemeinhardt was founded in 1948 and is headquartered in Elkhart, IN. They’re the music industry’s largest manufacturer of flutes and piccolos.
Gemeinhardt also makes clarinets and saxophones.
Jean Paul USA
Jean Paul USA makes (mostly beginner to intermediate) trumpets, saxophones, trombones, flutes, clarinets, and accessories.
Their products are generally well-regarded by the wider musician community.
Cecilio manufacturers strings, woodwinds, brass, and other accessories. Their Mendini line of products are basically the more affordable, all-purpose versions of their more expensive counterparts.
Best Alto Saxophones For Beginners & Students, Final Thoughts
There’s certainly a lot to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a new saxophone. But most of your questions should have been answered throughout this guide, which should make it easier for you to find exactly what you’re looking for and decide on an instrument.
We can't emphasize enough that it’s possible to get started as a beginner without spending an arm and a leg, and that’s always good news to anyone who’s just getting started.
Spend responsibly and we wish you happy shopping!