9 Best Saxophones for the Blues 2023 – Tenor, Alto & Soprano Models Compared
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Looking for a saxophone to perfectly complement blues music? You’re in luck, as that’s exactly what I compare in this guide. Here you’ll find the best:
- Tenor saxophones for blues,
- Alto saxophones for blues, and,
- Soprano saxophones for blues.
We’ll also look at what you should consider when buying a blues sax, so you can get the perfect instrument the first time round. 🙂
Best Tenor Saxophones for the Blues
The Tenor saxophone is part of the woodwind instrument family and is ideal for playing Blues music. It has a bigger mouthpiece than other saxophones which makes the sound a bit higher than an alto pitch. Another distinguishing feature of a tenor saxophone is the shape of the neck and mouthpiece.
Choosing the proper saxophone for the sound you want to create can be challenging when you first start off. But if you get advice from professionals, teachers, or mentors, you can learn a lot. When it comes to picking the best tenor saxophone for the Blues, these are some of the best in the industry:
Feel free to go to local music stores and ask around for tips as well. You can see the instruments in person and be able to hold them and see which one feels the best for you.
Selmer Paris Reference 54
If money is of no concern to you, the Selmer Paris Reference 54 tenor saxophone should be high on your list. Some claim this to be the best saxophone of all time. The Paris Reference 54 is a reliable and durable piece that will not disappoint. This whole brand is ideal for any musician in purchasing any new instruments.
The Selmer Paris Reference 54 has a richness to its tone that adds another level of beauty to the sound. You can easily get lost in the music of this tenor saxophone. It is composed of different characteristics that make it unique and unlike any other tenor saxophone on the market, today.
The Yamaha YTS-62III model of tenor saxophone is a close second to the Selmer sax when it comes to reliability and durability. This instrument is a fan favorite and is chosen by many professional musicians. This specific saxophone has been redesigned to incorporate components of other saxophones to create a beautiful instrument.
It was created for better control of the pads which makes a richer and more soulful sound to fill a room. The neck is more narrow than other models which allows the musician to keep it closer to their bodies for better response with their fingers.
Jean Paul USA-TS 400
The Jean Paul USA-TS 400 is ideal for students who are just beginning to perfect their craft. It can be seen as one of the most reliable saxophones because it is tested twice before leaving the factory to ensure it is perfect and flawless.
It is created from polished brass that is durable and can withstand a lot. The simplistic look of it is an attention grabber as well. All eyes will be on you while you play this instrument and create the amazing sounds it was meant to play.
Top Alto Saxophones for the Blues
Another ideal Blues saxophone is the Alto saxophone. This is the most common type of saxophone to play in any genre of music. It has a higher pitch than a soprano but a little lower than a tenor.
Whereas the Tenor saxophone has a curved neck at the top, the Alto sax has a straight neck that is connected to the mouthpiece. This is how you can hear the difference between the Alto and the Tenor sax. These are some examples of the best Alto saxophones for the Blues:
Some of these alto saxophones are best for beginning students while others are geared more towards professional musicians. Depending on what stage you are at, depends on which of these will suit you the best.
RS Berkeley ALS502
This specific saxophone is a great piece for Blues music. It is known for the ability to transition between keys which makes for a rich and warm tone. Because of the smooth transition feature, this is ideal for jazz musicians who might not like to follow specific music and just want to play freely on their own.
It is classically designed to look like any authentic saxophone and it usually comes equipped with a wooden case which is great for traveling and playing in different locations.
This Yamaha alto saxophone is a high-quality and impressive instrument. Because of this, it can be a bit more expensive than others but it is well worth the price. It is crafted more towards professional players who have experience in saxophones with an E flat tune.
The pads of the Yamaha YAS-480 are made of polyester and are comfortable for any player to use in their transitions. It has the traditional curved neck for a sleek and professional look.
If you are looking for an instrument to give you that vintage feel of Blues music, this is the perfect saxophone for you. It is more designed towards students who have been playing for a while and have the potential to move up to a professional player someday.
It usually comes in a two-tone color of silver and brass which gives it a professional and sophisticated look. The Jupiter JAS1100SG model is incredibly reliable because it is geared more towards students. It can be a bit more expensive but if you are looking to step up your game and go professional, it is well worth the cost.
Best Soprano Saxophones for the Blues
The Soprano saxophone is not the most popular version of a Blues instrument but it is still used throughout the music of this genre. The Soprano pitch is higher than the Tenor and the Alto which is why it is less common to use in Blues. Blues music tends to be deeper and more soulful.
Aside from the sound, the biggest difference between the Soprano and the others is the look of it. This type of saxophone is completely straight with no curves on the end of the body or at the top by the mouthpiece. It looks more similar to an oboe than it does a standard saxophone. Check out these soprano saxophones for Blues music:
- Yamaha YSS-475II
- Selmer Super Action 80
- Rampone & Cazzani R1
Keep in mind that soprano saxophones are not designed specifically for Blues music, but they can incorporate a unique sound to this genre of music.
Any Yamaha saxophone is known for the high quality and durability of its design. The Yamaha YSS-475II is no different. This is another saxophone that is designed for smooth, quick key transitions.
Soprano saxophones tend to be a bit heavier than other saxophones so making sure you have a quality neck strap with this specific design is important. Aside from the different physical aspects of this Yamaha, the rich sounds it can produce will add another element to each musical piece you play.
Selmer Super Action 80
This particular Selmer saxophone is known for its ability to produce a powerful sound. Like other soprano saxophones, it has a unique design that can distinguish it from other saxophones of the same tone.
The Selmer Super Action 80 can be made in a few different colors and metals but that will have no effect on the harmonic sounds it produces when blowing into the mouthpiece. Again, this instrument will add a unique and quality tone to any musical piece it is a part of.
Rampone & Cazzani R1
Rampone & Cazzani are a great brand of saxophone that pays attention to the detail and style of each of their instruments. They treat each saxophone like an individual piece with personal identification and hand-made to your exact specifications.
Even though Soprano saxophones are not ideal for Blues music, this specific Rampone & Cazzani R1 model is the exact opposite. It was created and designed with Blues in mind. If the soprano tone is your sound of choice, this saxophone is ideal for that.
What to Look for When Buying a Saxophone
When it comes to buying a saxophone to specifically play Blues music, there are a few things to keep in mind and be picky about. Doing significant research about what brand and type of saxophone you are to buy is important but these things are also crucial in your research:
- Buying used
- Buying new
The last thing you want to be is unprepared when it comes to buying a new instrument for yourself. It should be a definite decision you make after putting great thought into the whole process. Do not rush into this decision. It is a lifelong investment that should be taken very seriously.
If you are new to the saxophone playing industry, it might be a bit of a shock when you are first handed the instrument and you feel the weight of it. Eventually, you will get used to the size and weight but initially, it can be quite shocking. They all weigh different amounts and can be bulkier than expected.
The smaller saxophones are best built for beginners and also younger people with smaller hands. They can be easier to handle when just learning the ropes. This includes most of the soprano saxophones. They are the lightest ones and can be handled well by young kids or beginners.
The deeper-toned saxophones are also going to be harder for a young child or beginner musician to start off with. These saxophones require more breath and heavier blowing in order to produce the desired sound and that can take some time to perfect for any musician.
Buying a Used Saxophone
If you are more budget-conscious buying a used saxophone is a great option. From local music shops to online stores, a used saxophone is not hard to get your hands on. The key is finding one that was well taken care of by the previous owner.
Most saxophones are pretty reliable and durable, however, keep in mind that the wear and tear of an instrument can alter how it performs years down the road. Making sure you speak openly to the previous owner about the lifestyle the saxophone itself has had is important.
Buying a New Saxophone
A new saxophone is less stressful to purchase because you do not have to worry about how it was taken care of previously. The major thing to keep in mind when deciding whether to buy used or new is the cost. New saxophones can be quite pricey but if you are willing to pay the price, it can be well worth the investment.
A factor to consider in purchasing new is where you are going to get it from. There are online retailers who are reliable but if you go to a local music store, you can see the instrument in person, feel it in your hands, and decide if it feels like a good fit or not. Either way, comparing prices between these two options is smart.
Buying a new saxophone online is more of a risk than purchasing a new one in person from a retail store. However, in the world we live in today, it is not difficult to contact the seller if there are any issues with your new purchase. Return policies are also a factor but that can lead to issues you do not want to have to deal with down the road.
Overall Saxophone Costs
Cost goes hand in hand with buying used or new saxophones. If you only have a certain budget to work with, buying used is definitely the way to go. However, if you have the funds to buy and keep up with the cost of being a musician, buying new is a large investment.
Aside from the initial cost of the instrument itself, you must also consider the additional cost of accessories, repairs, and tune-ups that may need to happen over the course of your musical career. This can add up quickly as well so keep this in mind.
This is not a cheap hobby to have and it is taken very seriously by avid musicians. Saxophones are treasured instruments that professionals take great pride in owning and it is shown in the investments put forward to begin and maintain this musical journey.
Important Pieces of a Blues Saxophone
There are certain pieces of a saxophone that come standard in every instrument, however, they can be replaced, changed, or altered to your liking. Some of these parts include:
These all come in or with any saxophone but as your skill level increases, you may consider altering these pieces to your own preference.
A pad is used to seal the air that you blow into the saxophone. They can be made from cardboard, wool, and even leather in some cases. The pad of a saxophone does not differ from instrument to instrument and they are fairly standard amongst each piece.
If you are looking to upgrade or give your saxophone a tune-up, replacing the pads is a good place to start. Having a professional do it for you is your best bet, but if you are ambitious enough, you can probably do it yourself.
Damage to pads is detrimental to the sound of your instrument so keep this in mind when exploring where to buy a saxophone from.
If you find you are exerting more breath or energy than you should be when trying to play your saxophone, chances are your mouthpiece is not the one for you. Having a comfortable mouthpiece that fits your mouth and style of play will go a long way.
Having a reliable mouthpiece will give you the confidence to play better and create the perfect sound that you strive for each time you pick up your instrument.
Reeds are easily replaceable in a saxophone and many musicians go through a lot of them throughout their careers. There are many different reasons why you would need to replace your reed as well.
Wear and tear, cracks, and even mold build-up are all great reasons to replace a reed. Being aware of these issues ahead of time can alleviate some stress or anxiety if or when these problems come to light.
Important Accessories to Buy
Not only will you need to do your research on which type of saxophone will work best for you, figuring out the accessories you are going to need to accompany your Blues saxophone is important as well.
You will have to factor in extra pieces as well for backup in case of emergency or if something breaks. These are just a few accessories to keep in mind when buying a saxophone:
- Cleaning supplies
- Neck strap
Most saxophones will come equipped with a carrying case but these other items will have to be purchased separately in order for you to play your instrument to its fullest potential.
There are a few essential elements to every saxophone that you need to make sure you carefully choose and buy. A reed is one of those pieces that are essential for the saxophone to work and it also is something that makes or breaks the sound that comes from your saxophone.
Ensuring you have a smooth and even reed is very important. It must be perfectly level to ensure the sound comes out consistently every time the instrument is played. There are also different reeds that go better with different types of saxophones so be sure to do diligent research and choose the one that works best for you and your instrument.
Choosing the thickness of your reed is also very important. The thickness can drastically alter how your instrument sounds and can also make it easier or more difficult to play depending on the number. The higher the thickness number, the harder your instrument is going to be to play.
The mouthpiece of a saxophone is an interchangeable part that can be replaced whenever necessary. Typically new saxophones come equipped with this piece but there is no harm in having more than one in your possession just in case.
Something to keep in mind when choosing a mouthpiece is the reed you have for your saxophone. These two pieces need to coincide with each other to give your instrument the best full-bodied sound you can possibly have.
The vibration your breath creates when you are blowing into a saxophone is affected by the reed and mouthpiece combination so in order to produce the exact sound you want, being particular about which mouthpiece you have, is key.
In order for you to have a long-lasting relationship with your saxophone, taking care of it is crucial. Maintaining cleanliness, using caution when carrying it to and from places, and all-around having respect for your instrument are key factors in keeping your saxophone for as long as possible.
Polishing equipment and brushes are both essential. The saxophone comes apart in a few different places so the brushes are used to get in the nooks and crannies of the spaces where everything fits back together. The polishing equipment is to give your instrument a nice shine so it can be seen from across the room.
This may seem like an odd accessory to buy for your saxophone but it can come in handy. Even though the instrument itself sometimes is not really heavy, after holding it for a while and playing, it can seem like it weighs a ton.
Having a strap that is connected to your instrument and can sit around your neck to alleviate some of the weight from your hands and arms, can be relieving. They can come with thick padding that goes around your neck for optimum comfort while playing.
Best Blues Saxophone Brands
When it comes to buying a saxophone that is best for Blues music, there are a few brands that are top-notch. These brands are well known for being the best in the industry so you know you will be getting a quality instrument that will last you a lifetime. Some of the most well known and reliable brands of saxophone are:
Doing diligent research is important because there are certain brands that are geared more towards other genres of music than Blues or Jazz. There are also brands that are better if you are just learning how to play sax versus a professional saxophone player.
Established in the early 1880s, Selmer is known for making an incredible, high-quality tenor saxophone that is ideal for playing Blues music. The reliability of this brand makes the value of each piece ageless.
These saxophones come at a high price, but if you are willing to invest in one, you will not be disappointed. Selmer has been perfecting their craft for over 100 years and it shows in the quality and musicality of each of their instruments.
The full-bodied tone you hear from Selmer saxophones is top of the line. This is what makes it one of the best-known and most popular and purchased brands of saxophone in the world.
Dependability is a huge factor in purchasing any instrument and the Yamaha brand is well known for this. This brand will come recommended by any true musician who knows their way around instruments of all kinds.
Yamaha is also known for its consistency in its instruments. If you need a piece replaced or fixed, you can almost guarantee that they will have the exact part you need and that it will match your existing pieces, identically.
This brand is also great for anyone who is just beginning in the music industry. They are simple in their design for young players or those who are just starting out. Yamaha has lightweight options that are perfect for kids who want to learn from the ground up.
The P.Mauriat brand of saxophone is a newer name in the music industry. Established in the early 2000s, the instruments associated with this brand are all hand-crafted in Taiwan where the original creator was from. Surprisingly, this brand is quite affordable compared to some of the others out there.
Because these saxophones are all made by hand, it is safe to say they are quite flawless. The crafters are experts at their jobs and ensure that these pieces are sold in perfect condition for all to enjoy.
The Yanagisawa is similar to the Yamaha brand of saxophone. It is another lightweight brand that is best for beginners or musicians with smaller hands. What separates this brand from the rest is that they can be made from bronze, silver, or a combination of these types of metals, as opposed to just brass which most others are made of.
These types of saxophones are known for their quality. The instruments are consistent in their tone and are guaranteed to produce the tones and sounds you strive for each time you blow into the mouthpiece.
This is another brand that is fairly new to the saxophone and music industry. Keilwerth is known for its distinct and bold sounds that are well known throughout American Jazz and Blues music.
Keilwerth is best known for soprano saxophones which are on the lower end of the vocal scale. It has a deep and bold sound that professes durability and confidence. They do make tenor and alto saxophones too but their most popular is that of the soprano tone.
Best Saxophones For Blues, Conclusion
There are many different types of saxophones that are the best for Blues music. If you are a professional musician or if you are just starting to learn the basics, there are many different options to choose from. Selmer, Yamaha, or P.Mauriat are just a few brand names that will give you reliable and beautiful tones.
Doing your research and finding out which brand and type of saxophone works best for you is very important. Going to local music stores, speaking directly with professional musicians, or even contacting music teachers at your local school can help answer any questions you have and guide you towards the right choice of saxophone.
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