Best Saxophone For Beginners: Top 5

best saxophone for beginners

Are you looking for a saxophone for you or your child?

Do you want to make sure you don’t break the bank but also don’t buy a junky sax?

As a music teacher for over a decade and a husband to a killer band teacher, I know exactly how much a lousy sax will turn a beginner player away forever! 

This is why I decided to help in this guide to the best saxophone for beginners.

Of all the options I found, the best saxophone for a beginner is the Yamaha YAS-280 alto saxophone. It costs a good chunk, but the sound is amazing, it’s durable, and is backed by one of the most reputable music instrument companies out there. 

Let’s look into more details in this review of all 5 choices! 

Saxophones For Beginners In This Review

What Makes A Good Saxophone For A Beginner

It takes a special instrument to be made for a beginner. Unlike what many people think, student saxophones still need to sound good; price isn’t the only thing to look for. 

It’s all about finding the perfect balance you need for your specific situation.

If your student (or yourself) is serious about learning this instrument, feel free to spend the extra money upfront. A good “starter” sax will last for years. 

Plus, you’ll be able to get much of your money back if you decide to quit when you sell it to someone else. Cheaper options don’t typically make their money back. 

On the other hand, if money is preventing you from learning an instrument, then absolutely buy a cheaper starter. I never want someone to miss out on the chance to pick up a life-long skill because of money. 

But in this case, you need to read this review, and I strongly recommend you stick to this list. I’ll cover various price points for all situations, and these options are safe to buy. 

You’ll get what you pay for, but you won’t get ripped off! 

Good Things In Saxophones

  • Great, mellow sound
  • Accurate tuning or intonation
  • Durability
  • A finish that resists the oils from the skin
  • Easy key motion
  • Strong construction of tiny parts
  • A body designed to be easier-to-hold

Bad Things In Saxophones

  • Too-bright sound
  • Sticking or breaking keys
  • Finish that wears off quickly
  • Generally breakable
  • Poor tuning

Best Saxophone For A Beginner Reviews

In this section, I’ll go over each of my picks for this top 5 list. Remember, all of these are good or great saxes perfect for different situations. 

Keep what you need in mind as you read, and don’t be afraid to click over to check specific pricing or what other users have to say. 

Disclaimer: Links in this article may be affiliate in nature, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance! 

Yamaha YAS-280

Yes, this is by far the best option for any new saxophone player. 

It sounds great, lasts a long time, and is simple to use. Really, it doesn’t get better. 

The biggest issue is the higher price. 

This is a newer model based on the Yamaha YAS-275, which was the previous popular student saxophone model recommended by most band directors. Now, it’s this model. 

The sound is rich and mellow, which is often missed by many starter saxes, but Yamaha knows that new players will want to play more if their instrument sounds good. 

The YAS-280 also has near-perfect intonation or tuning, so you don’t have to worry about the instrument holding you back. 

Yamaha has leveraged their experience in designing quality instruments for many decades to provide a lightweight and specially-shaped sax perfect for smaller hands and aspiring musicians to hold it.

All in all, this is Yamaha’s step one leading up to professional saxophones. This company is a respected quality saxophone brand.

It’s also quite durable, so you don’t need to stress about it getting damaged as much. 

Features:  

  • Hard case
  • Gold lacquer finish
  • Rich sound quality and intonation
  • High F# and front F alternative keys
  • Designed with comfort for holding and fingering

LyxJam Alto Sax

On the other end of the spectrum is the LyxJam Alto Sax. This one is also designed for beginners but on a budget. 

This is the lowest-priced model on our list, but this doesn’t mean it has a terrible sound or breaks easily. 

No, it’s not quite as good as a sax from the higher-end companies, but it also won’t break the bank. This is perfect for families who want to spend less upfront and then see if the new sax player really loves it. 

The LyxJam sax is easy-to-hold and lightweight. It has a good sound, though not with as many rich and nice tones as other models. 

It doesn’t break easily, but it may not be as well in tune as other models. 

Still, it’s easy to learn to play on this sax, though the tone and pitch may hold you back after a year or two of playing experience. 

Features: 

  • Comes with case, 10 reeds, neck strap, gloves, cleaning cloth, cleaning kit
  • Pads and key construction are pretty durable
  • Sounds strong and clean
  • Budget saxophone

Jean Baptiste 290 AL

The Jean Baptiste is a great middle-of-the-road option for those who want a solid and nice-sounding alto without spending a considerable price. 

Jean Baptiste is a respected musical instrument maker, almost on par with the Yamaha saxophone brand, and this beginner model holds it on with its options. 

Better yet, I love how this company is constantly redesigning its instruments based on user feedback.

For example, the 290 AL took feedback and redesigned the neck of the sax to improve projection and intonation. 

It uses a single post construction for the keys and blue steel springs for even higher durability. If a new player was prone to accidents, this would be the sax I’d recommend. 

For sound, this model is known for a surprisingly warm tone.

It includes a case and a student plastic mouthpiece. 

Features: 

  • Good, strong sound quality
  • Solid intonation
  • Great durability and construction
  • Designed with hand comfort in mind
  • Medium price point

Mendini Saxophones – Eb Alto Sax

I’ll be honest: there are a lot of music teachers that look down on this model. 

But to be equally honest, the Mendini model is solid, and kids love to play on it! 

If someone enjoys playing it, they’re going to stick with it in the long run. 

This is the sax I’d recommend for those who aren’t sure if they want to play long-term.

It won’t hold up after a couple of years of playing; you’ll need to upgrade. 

It’s not a matter of construction. The Mendini sax is fairly durable; it’s a matter of sound. 

While this sax is easy to play, hold, buy, and last, saxophone players will become dissatisfied with the tone in a few years of improved skill level. 

Features: 

  • Comes in black, blue, green, rose gold, nickel, purple, red, sky blue, and gold lacquer finish
  • Includes hard case, mouthpiece, neck strap, 10 reeds, cleaning swab, cleaning kit, gloves, and tuner
  • Affordable price
  • Decent durability

Jean Paul USA AS-400 Student Alto Saxophone

The Jean Paul USE AS-400 saxophone is the ideal middle ground for a student saxophone. 

It’s got a little bit of everything the higher-end student models have, but it’s at a completely middle-of-the-road price point. 

It has a resistant yellow lacquer to prevent damage from finger oils and smudges. The keys are designed to last through bumps. 

Its case is my favorite of all the saxophones on my list. It’s lightweight and easy-to-carry without sacrificing protection. 

It includes useful items such as a good Rico reed, cork grease, gloves, a cleaning cloth, swabs, and a mouthpiece. 

The AS-400 is easy to hold and creates a strong sound. It also has great intonation, though some may wish for more richness of tone. 

Unlike many lower-priced saxes, it also features the alternate high F# key for easier playing. 

I’d say this sax will last the average player their whole lives, though those who want to reach higher levels of play will need to upgrade. 

Features: 

  • Great protective case
  • Strong sound quality with solid intonation
  • Alternate F# key for easier playing
  • Middle price point with higher-end features

Which Size And Key Of Saxophone Should A Beginner Get?

There are many different types of saxophones; the most common are: 

  • Soprano sax in Bb
  • Alto sax in Eb
  • Tenor saxophone in Bb
  • Baritone saxophone in Eb

The best type of saxophone for beginners is typically the alto saxophone in Eb, which is what all of our options are. 

This is for a couple of different reasons you may not know. 

First, alto saxophones are a comfortable size for most hands. Small hands, such as those by sixth graders and the average adult hand, both work well for it. 

The alto sax is also the most commonly written for in most band music. Tenor and baritone (or bari) sax are also present, but the music they play is almost always double by the trombones and tubas. 

Altos are also the most affordable of the sax family. This isn’t because they’re a lesser size; it’s supply and demand. 

Being the most common saxophone, it’s cheaper to produce them. Even though the soprano sax is smaller, it usually costs more simply because it’s not as used. 

What Does In The Key Of Eb Mean?

Saxophones are transposing instruments, which means the note they read isn’t the note that sounds.

Confusing, right?

It comes from a place of making music easier to read. For saxes, it also means you can switch between any member of the saxophone family, and reading the notes result in the same fingerings. 

So in practice, transposing instruments are easier to learn but understanding their absolute pitch is a little trickier. 

With the alto sax being an Eb instrument, this means the following: 

When an Eb alto sax sees and plays a C, they actually sound an Eb or minor third above. 

This translates across all written pitches. The alto sax sounds a minor third above what they see.

For example, the scale all band instruments learn first is the Bb major scale. For saxophones, this means they play a G major scale (which you’ll see many beginner sax books back up). 

Why Are Saxophone Mouthpieces Often Talked About As Accessories?

Mouthpieces aren’t actually accessories, but the way sax players look at them may surprise you. 

Mouthpieces are more personal and custom to each player. Sax players will often have several different mouthpieces for their saxes to match a specific type of sound they’re going for. 

Beginner players don’t need to worry about this; in many cases, the mouthpiece it comes with will be OK. 

However, if you don’t buy a beginner alto saxophone from a higher-end company like Yamaha, you may want to consider buying a nicer mouthpiece in addition to the sax. 

It sounds less important, but the mouthpiece is one of the critical pieces of equipment in ax sound. 

When it comes to pure tone, I’d say the mouthpiece is equal to the body of the sax in importance. 

FAQ

Which is the easiest saxophone to learn?

The alto saxophone is the easiest to learn for most people. It fits the fingers better, it requires less air, and it still sounds good! 

Better yet, it won’t break the bank when you buy a beginner model. 

How much does a quality beginner saxophone cost?

It depends on the quality of the model you buy. There are some dirt cheap instrument options out there (don’t get those; they sound terrible!). 

From our list above, you have a range of $200-1,400. 

If possible, I recommend you spend at least $600 on a beginner sax. This will give you a great all-around instrument that will last you years and grow with your ability level. 

But if you stick anywhere in this range, you should be just fine. 

Is it easy to learn the saxophone?

Yes! The saxophone is considered among the easiest of the band instruments to learn, and there is a lot of fun, great music written for it.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy to master, though. 

Which saxophone is the hardest to play?

This is essentially a matter of preference. 

The baritone or bari sax requires the most air and finger strength and flexibility, but in most music, the written music is more accessible. 

The soprano saxophone isn’t hard to make a sound on or play fast, but the music written for this instrument is usually tougher to play. 

Is saxophone easier than guitar?

Yes and no. At first, the saxophone will be easier than the guitar. 

In the long run, they equal out to about the same level of difficulty just in different areas of music. 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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