Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
Playing an instrument can be a rewarding and satisfying experience, and one of the perfect instruments for beginners is the alto saxophone. The alto sax is a staple in jazz clubs and ska-bands, and it is one of those instruments that is respected and revered by audiences. However, choosing an alto saxophone for a beginner can be intimidating.
There are different types of saxophones on the market today, but the alto sax is perfect for beginners because it is light and has less of a stretch for smaller hands than the baritone or tenor saxophones. Keep reading as this article will cover the best products for beginners, what to look for in an alto sax, and the most respected brands on the market.
There is a reason why the Yamaha YAS-280 tops most alto saxophone lists, and that is because it is a quality product that beginners can start with and grow with over time. Similar to other alto saxes, it is lightweight for the beginner player while being durable and sturdy. The YAS-280 is probably the best beginner alto saxophone on the market.
This saxophone truly sounds like it should be on an album or in a jazz club. It will offer players a rich sound that will grow with high school students serious about their craft. In fact, you will probably notice that the 280 sounds like a professional saxophone although you got it for more than half the cost. Other pros of the YAS-280 include:
- Lightweight, only about 13 pounds, yet made of quality and durable materials so it will last longer than most beginner saxophones.
- Outstanding action that relieves pressure on one’s hands after playing for a long period of time.
- Easy to play, comfortable left-hand see-saw key, separate keyguards with adjustable screw caps, and an octave key system that gives the player the ability to choose an appropriate neck position.
- Usually comes with a neck strap and cleaning kit and has reasonably priced accessories for years of play.
- Impressive finish with a smooth, shiny, and clean look with yellow brass, gold lacquer finish, polyester buttons, and hand-graved bell design.
The YAS-280 is ergonomically designed so that it is ideal for younger players with smaller hands. Some starter saxophones will lead to sensitive hands after long periods of play when the angles between the keys and fingers are not designed well. This is not the case here, as Yamaha truly built the YAS-280 with the beginner in mind.
The downside of this choice is that it is typically more expensive than other beginner saxophones. However, you will probably end up saving money if your student continues to want to play the saxophone because you will not need to buy an intermediate sax. Instead, the Yamaha will serve well until a more professional one is needed.
If you have a beginner student who is serious about playing the saxophone, the Jean Paul AS-400 is the perfect choice for more serious players. Similar to the Yamaha YAS-280, this instrument will also cost more than other beginner saxophones, but will also last longer for the serious student who wants to continue building his or her craft.
This mid-level alto saxophone is appropriate for beginner and intermediate players and is well-liked for blues or smooth jazz genres. It is easy to tune for beginner players and will stay in tune for long periods of time. The action is smooth so that your student’s hands will not cramp after hours of play, whether it is for classical solos or jazz riffs.
The Jean Paul AS-400 looks the part of a serious sax. It is sold in two finishes in which to choose, the standard lacquer brass and silver lacquer finish is a stunning silver-plated alto, and has well-made keys that offer ease of playing for beginners. The silver plating creates a warm tone and sound that rivals expensive saxophones.
This option is also a bit more expensive than other starting saxophones, but what you get for the price is a well-made sax that will last for years of play. It is easy for beginners to play, offers a consistent sound, and is lightweight at around 11 pounds. It also comes with most accessories, such as the neck strap, carrying case, cleaning kit, and gloves.
If you are in need of a more budget-friendly beginner sax, the Medini by Cecilio MAS-L is the one for you. This option is perfect for beginners to learn for about a fraction of the price of other choices. Now, it will not last as long as the Yamaha or Jean Paul, and your player will grow out of the Medini at some point. But, you do save money upfront.
The Medini is sold as a kit, so you will not need to spend money on needed accessories. Your beginner player will have everything from a chromatic tuner and neck strap, to a cleaning kit, gloves, hard case, mouthpiece, and reeds. It is made of quality materials and has a decent sound quality that stays in tune for long periods of play.
- Attractive sax that comes in a wide variety of colors in addition to the standard gold finish that may appeal to younger students, such as green, red, and purple.
- Has a large bore to help beginner players get a respectable sound and fitted with a tone booster for rich play.
- Low B flat spatula keys are tiled to make it easier to play.
- Comes with nearly every accessory needed for beginning play.
- Inexpensive compared to other beginner saxophones.
This is not a professional sax, and your saxophone player will end up growing out of the Medini if he or she continues to play. The inlays are a fake mother of pearl, one of the reasons for its competitive price, which is seen as a con to more serious players. But, it is built for the beginner, with an easy-to-grip design and stainless-steel tone boosters.
This option is even lighter than its competitors, weighing in at only 10 pounds. However, this also means the materials are a bit lower quality than more expensive beginner saxophones. That being said, the price point makes it a great option for students who are interested in trying out the sax but not sure if they will want years of play.
Here is another value saxophone for beginners, and the Etude EAS-100 is actually specifically designed for students, is incredibly easy to play, and comes with everything your beginner needs for a few hundred dollars at most – a stylish protective case, ligature, a basic mouthpiece for beginners, a short neck strap, reeds, and care products.
If your student is picking up an alto saxophone for the very first time, the Etude EAS-100 will probably give you the best play for the best price. This option has durable construction and is ready to play right out of the case and is lightweight, coming in at around 10 pounds. The neck strap is even shorter for smaller, more novice players.
The Etude EAS-100 is made of solid metals for durable construction, comes in a brightly colored, attractive lacquered finish, and includes all the needed accessories. In the end, this is an affordable starter saxophone with a first-rate tone, is attractive in appearance, and produces a decent sound for the novice player.
Although this is probably the best value beginner saxophone, you will need to upgrade to a better one if your student continues to play. This is essentially a beginner sax and that is it, hence the value price, and is best for the very basic player. Once your student masters beginning skills, he or she will need a more advanced option of sax.
Weighing in at only three pounds is the lightweight, durable, and affordable Conn-Selmer AS711. This entry-level alto saxophone has everything for the beginner player and is another budget-friendly option for those just starting out. It comes with a mouthpiece, case, ligature, and cap, is easy to play, yet durable for younger students.
The body of the AS711 is attractive enough for beginner players, with the standard yellow brass clear lacquer finish, and is specifically designed for novice players who need comfortable hand positioning and key fingering skills. Probably the best quality about this option is that it is durable with a ribbed construction that reinforces strength.
The Conn-Selmer AS711 has a high F#, articulated C#, rocking table keys, and a detachable body. That being said, with a budget-friendly option does come some negatives. The tone has been said to not always be uniform when playing this instrument and the mouthpiece is rudimentary compared to other options.
If you have a younger player who may not be cautious with instruments and needs a low-weight beginner sax, Conn-Selmer’s product is perfect. It will not last forever and does not offer professional playing sound, but it is light, inexpensive, and durable for beginners just starting out in the world of saxophone play.
Kaizer probably offers the cheapest alto saxophone on the market for young students who may only play for one season. This option comes in at under $500, which is unheard of when paying for a solid instrument. The Kaizer ASAX-1000LQ is a viable choice for your young player and even comes with a 45-day refund guarantee.
The Kaizer ASAX-1000LQ really is the ideal saxophone for young players who simply are not sure about playing the sax. With a money-back guarantee, low weight, and lifetime warranty, it is perfect for younger players who cannot support a heavier option yet may simply throw the sax down after playing it. The pros of this choice include:
- Sold with many accessories needed for beginner players: case, lubricating fluid, ligature set with mouthpiece, cleaning kit with cleaning gloves, and a cloth.
- Made of solid brass and has a heightened tonality for a higher quality of sound than the average budget saxophone.
- A versatile, entry-level option with great response, fast action, and pro pads for intonation control.
- Comes with a money-back guarantee that is rare for saxophone companies.
- Comes with a lifetime warranty even if you purchase it from an individual instead of a store.
The Kaizer ASAX-1000LQ is designed for a more classical style of play and is durable enough to last your young player until he or she needs a more professional upgrade. If it does break, the lifetime warranty gives purchasers peace of mind since they can simply receive a new product. It may not cover wear and tear but does cover any defects.
This is a budget-friendly saxophone option for parents who are not sure if their young player will stick with playing the sax after a year. It is easy to play, extremely lightweight, durable, and quality enough to last for a young player until a proper upgrade is needed. Although not ideal for the more intermediate player, it is best for younger students.
Most of the budget-friendly alto saxophone options do not last long enough for players to really get into the nitty-gritty of playing the sax, but this is not the case for the Yamaha YAS-26. If you have a young, beginner player who plans on playing the sax for years, this choice is a great investment into the musical expectations of your student.
The Yamaha YAS-26 is the perfect combination of an entry-level saxophone and state-of-the-art design. This arrangement makes it an ideal choice for students who want a step above cheaper versions for only a few hundred dollars more. You will find this Yamaha product is comparable to many intermediate saxophones on the market:
- The neck receiver is newly designed with tougher screws for more durability and ease of play.
- An improved B-C# connection.
- Accurate and fast tone and response.
- Constructed from yellow brass, nickel-plated keys, and adjustable thumb rest.
- Weighs just under 12 pounds.
You really do get a high-quality sax with this product, including the sound, attractive design, and overall performance. The Yamaha YAS-26 comes with a case, neck strap, and mouthpiece, although the mouthpiece is designed more for the beginner student. If your student has already mastered the basics of playing the sax, this option is for them.
The Yamaha YAS-26 really is the best bang for your buck, as it is overflowing with quality features found in more expensive saxophones at a much less price. It is built to last years of play with a sound that is comparable to higher-end products. As long as your student does not mind the lower-end mouthpiece, it is a great choice for beginners.
The alto saxophone is perfect for beginners, but that does not mean playing it is an easy feat. It can be difficult to tune, use the mouthpiece correctly, and achieve overall sound. Therefore, a beginner student will need to practice with the best alto saxophone that meets his or her overall needs to get the best out of the instrument.
Once your student moves past the beginner option of alto saxophone, there are a few recommendations for intermediate and advanced players from reputable companies. They are higher in price but will last as long as your student’s interest. The following are a few best purchases depending on where your student is at in his or her play:
Once your high school or college student has advanced past the beginner stage, the Yamaha YAS-480 is the perfect next step for a quality intermediate alto saxophone on a budget. The sax is silver plated with a quick response, accurate intonation, and warm tone. It will offer a more mature sound than the beginner saxes in addition to:
- A 62-style neck
- Hand-engraved pattern on the bell
- Better-quality low B-C# mechanism than other models
- Separate keyguards
- Adjustable screw cap stoppers
- Soft, padded case
Because this is a higher-quality intermediate Yamaha version it is also a more expensive model. Yet, if you are looking for an upgrade for your serious student, it is exceptionally durable, comes with a Yamaha warranty, and will probably last as long as your student’s interest in playing the alto sax.
Does your beginning saxophone player want to look cool while learning the basics of the sax? If aesthetics are important as well as play, the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II is the perfect choice for you. It is stylish, cool, and will entice attention right away just from its unique back nickel color, edgy appearance, and fake leather case.
Not only will the Selmer option give you an edgy look, but it also comes with perfect intonation, impressive key fluidity, professional key styling, and is consistent from the low end to the altissimo. It offers immediate players a high-quality product while also being the coolest looking alto saxophone on the market today.
Your student has gotten everything out of the beginner and intermediate alto sax, so the Jupiter JAS1100SG is the perfect choice for your advanced player. With its stylish, sophisticated silver-plated Sona-Pure neck, brass body, and comfortable fingering, it is an outstanding saxophone for advanced jazz players. Just consider the following:
- High F#, tilting G#-Bb table keys, front F.
- Adjustable upper and lower stack.
- Heightened playability
- Artistic, wood-framed case
This advanced option does come at a steep price of more than $2,000, so it is not recommended for beginner or even intermediate alto saxophone players unless you have the money to spend. However, you will get what you pay for and will not be disappointed with the sound and intonation that comes from this quality instrument.
An alto saxophone is the most common instrument for beginners. Other options are the tenor, which is larger than the alto sax, and the much smaller soprano saxophone. Although the fingering positions on all three are essentially the same, the alto is the best option for beginners because it is the most common and has the most options.
The first thing to think about when purchasing a beginner sax is price. How much you spend on your sax will depend on your budget and your commitment level over time. A cheaper model may cost between $300 and $500 and is sufficient for young children just starting out with the sax. But, with most instruments, you get what you pay for.
If you are pretty sure your student is in it for the long haul, you will want to spend more money on a beginner saxophone that also serves as an intermediate version when your student gets more accomplished with play. These versions offer better sound quality, are more durable, and can still be found for under $1,000. Other considerations include:
- How old is the student, what is his or her level, and will he or she be playing over time?
- The materials used, such as yellow brass.
- Respectable key action for proper intonation, such as leather or simulated leather pads.
- What accessories are included? Such as a hard case, cleaning supplies, reeds, neck strap.
- Does the instrument come with a warranty for defects?
If you purchase an alto saxophone that is too novice you will end up purchasing another saxophone down the road. This can get expensive, so you will need to consider your student’s ability, your student’s commitment, and the amount of time your student plays the saxophone. Then you can weigh your budget with the saxophone’s specifications.
A saxophone is not an easy instrument to learn, so you will want to make sure you purchase a quality product from a reputable company. Even the most basic alto saxophone should not just be bought on the Web or used from a stranger. You should consider where the product comes from to make sure it meets all of your needs.
Although there are numerous brands that manufacture saxophones today, there are six top brands that are popular for selling beginner, intermediate, and advanced alto saxophones:
- Mendini by Cecilio
- Jean-Paul USA
All six of the popular brands offer quality products for beginners, come in a range of prices, and are appropriate for the novice player to get them ready to upgrade to more immediate or advanced options, if necessary:
Yamaha is the most popular brand that offers alto saxophones in local music stores and in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. The company has been making high-quality saxophones since 1967 and produces a wide range of instruments at competitive prices. They are probably the best brand for the alto saxophone.
If you are looking for a quality starter sax, Yamaha should be the first place to look. The company is a massive international corporation that sells motorbikes, sporting goods, and audio equipment, in addition to musical instruments. They offer the finest beginner instruments for children just starting out with the alto saxophone.
The Conn brand goes all the way back to the 19th Century and has supplied jazz legends like Paul Desmond and John Coltrane. When Conn merged with Selmer, it was said to be the greatest event to happen to the jazz industry, and since then the company’s products have not disappointed saxophone players.
Conn-Selmer produces all ranges of saxophones with quality sound and tone, from beginning to advanced, and is admired for the longevity of its products. Because their focus is on beginner and intermediate saxophones, Conn-Selmer is still known for offering upper-end saxophones to an entry-level market of purchasers.
If you have a small budget for a starter alto sax, Mendini by Cecilio offers inexpensive alto saxophone options. They are an American company founded in 2004, and since then have offered quality products at a cheap price. You can even find Mendini by Cecilio alto saxophones on Amazon that are respectably constructed for a low price.
As the name signifies, Jean-Paul USA is an American-based company that produces a wide range of instruments for beginner musicians, such as the AS-400 saxophone. Jean-Paul USA focuses on constructing quality beginner saxophones that challenge the most professional-level of instruments.
Jupiter was established in 1930 and, since then, has been offering high-quality instruments to individual players and entire schools. They are quickly becoming the largest producer of musical instruments in the world because of their reputation for quality products that range from beginner students to advanced musicians.
Also founded at the end of the 19th Century as a brasswind company, Yanagisawa continues to be a producer of high-quality, professional-grade saxophones that are built-in bronze. This bronze generates a warm, resonant tone that rivals its competitors’ saxophones.
However, these products are targeted towards the more serious players. Therefore, it is probably impossible to find a Yanagisawa that is targeted to a beginner alto saxophone player. If you are a serious saxophone player or have a serious student, you should definitely look into a Yanagisawa product as the next step in one’s musical career.
Top Saxophones for Beginners, Final Thoughts
There are numerous options of quality-grade alto saxophones for competitive prices that will make any beginner musician shine. The alto sax is the perfect choice for a beginner, and once a student has mastered the basics he or she can move up to higher-quality intermediate and advanced options so that they can rock like the jazz legends.