There’s just something magical and fascinating about saxophone sounds.
They seem to add a certain flair to any song they’re feature in and produce a smooth, upbeat sound that provides energy and entertainment for listeners.
But as liberating a sax’s sound is, deciding to learn how to play Sax is one thing, and figuring out where to start when it comes to actually buying your first saxophone is another.
As you may have guessed, saxophones come in a whole host of different types.
So, how do you choose one?
I know it may be tempting for beginners to go all out and splurge on a top-of-the-line Coltrane-Level sax, but we’d advise you to start a little smaller.
But what if I’ve the budget to go big and pick any model?
You may have everything you need to go big, but we advise you exercise some restrain when choosing a sax.
See, one of the common mistakes with rookie saxophonists is going for just about “any” playing equipment.
After all, a saxophone is a saxophone, right?
Here’s the thing, certain instruments are specifically designed for use by beginners/students, while others are exclusively for experienced players.
The former tends to be lighter, easier to handle, and don’t feature any extra keys you won’t need until you level up.
A classic example of such an instrument is an alto saxophone.
It’s one of the most popular models for beginners, and there’re a few key benefits to this model. They’re ultra-light, easier to handle, and feature a small mouthpiece, making them easier to blow into.
And make no mistake, just because they’re starter sax doesn’t mean quality doesn’t matter- you still want to be sure you’re getting the best possible tone from the instrument.
Now, if you think the alto sax would be a good fit for you, here’s a review of the best alto saxophones for beginners in the market.
Table of Contents
The Best Alto Saxophones For The Money
#1 YAMAHA YAS-280 Student Alto saxophones - EDITOR'S CHOICE
It was easy coming up with our top pick because we simply had to look at what one of the world’s leading guitar and keyboard manufacturers has to offer.
The Yamaha Yas-280, or the Yas-280, as it’s popularly known, carries Yamaha’s legacy, and we couldn’t help but notice it has some pretty amazing features for beginners.
In fact, Yamaha markets the instrument as a study sax, or rather the perfect training tool for beginner saxophonists, and after spending time with this Sax, we can’t argue about the claim.
It’s a bit pricey, though, but for students looking for the rich sounds that Yamaha specializes in, they can get behind this instrument and put out some serious notes.
Furthermore, the Sax is well-built and is fit to last until the user is ready for a professional-level sax. It eliminates the need for an ‘intermediate’ sax if this is the instrument you choose to start with.
Features and Benefits
New players are often a little too hard on their instruments, and most of them are forced into changing their horns after a few uses.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about Yas-280’s build quality because it’s designed with quality in mind.
The horn is reliable and constructed better in every way.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for beginners to over-tighten the screws on the Sax’s receiver and eventually break it. To shield your valued music instrument from this damage, the Yas-280 features a solid neck receiver that hardly breaks regardless of the tension.
It’s also hard to overlook the aesthetics of the design- after all, if you’re making a great sax, you also want it to look good.
A gold lacquer finish helps with the looks, while the white polyester key touches are well shaped, and a Yamaha bell hand engraving adds to the style and appearance.
Lightweight and Easy to Use
It may be hard to believe, but ergonomics plays a critical role in a sax’s design.
Unlike cheap beginner instruments that are uncomfortable to hold and play, Yas-280 is lightweight and comfortable to hold.
The keys are easy to reach, while the Sax angle allows for more natural use.
It’s a helpful feature, especially if you love practicing for long hours, as it’ll shield you from hand strain.
In addition to the design, the horn has an adjustable thumb-rest, allowing for comfortable thumb positioning, so your fingers won’t tire quickly.
All said and done; sound quality is the most critical element of any saxophone.
Now, before we look at Yas-280 sound quality, we need to understand what makes a good sound quality.
The two main things determining sound quality are tone and tuning.
As for tuning, the neck is a big factor. And since Yamaha carefully designs the neck, intonation is rarely an issue of the Yas-280.
The fitting and tuning of this instrument are done to perfection, so you can navigate the Sax with ease.
All the music tones are perfectly pitched, though the middle D has a glitch and sounds higher pitched than normal. It’s not a deal-breaker, though, since the imbalance is not uncommon among student alto saxophones.
Though this Sax is a beginner-level option, its setup and mechanism resemble a professional-made sax.
It produces a rich tone that is pleasant to the ear. The tones are accurate and warm, and the sound resonates well and fills a large room.
#2 Jean Paul USA AS-400 - Budget Pick
The YAS-280 was a fantastic alto saxophone for beginners, but unfortunately, its price tag is a turn-off for many beginners.
Jean Paul AS-400, however, is a decent alternative, perfect for those of a budget.
It’s not an alternative to the YAS-280 but has a decent performance, at nearly half the price of our first pick.
Of course, I’m always a bit hesitant with beginner instruments, especially the budget options. This instrument, however, is an exception.
I genuinely believe most people would find it challenging to tell this Sax’s price on a blind test.
Features and Benefits
Jean Paul may be a budget pick, but one area they don’t take corners on is the design.
First, the Sax is offered in two finishes, a standard brass with lacquer and a silver lacquer finish. I know aesthetics don’t count a lot, but it’s always nice to have a professional and clean look on your Sax.
Moving on, we love AS-400’s stamina.
Jean Paul is synonymous with building tough musical instruments, and the AS-400 is no different.
I love that I can take the instrument to and from practice, through many marching sessions, and in and out of the locker without worrying about it breaking.
The instrument comes with a perfectly constructed neck, wonderful body etching, and mother of pearl keys.
While still maintaining reliability and quality, beginners will find AS-400 easy to use. It’s lightweight, and the ergonomics make it easy to hold, a useful feature for those who need to extend their training or music sessions without wearing out fast.
A sax design is critical, but as always, the sound quality takes the first seat.
And with this option, it leaves no stone unturned as far as sound quality is concerned.
The sound quality is very impressive, especially for the price. Of course, not as what you would expect from the YAS-280, but not too far either.
The tone seems well-rounded and warm, and I find intonation to be excellent.
It produces a warm and subtle tone, which makes it useful for band practice.
The note sustain is also wonderful, partly due to the mouthpiece’s airtightness and the sax design.
While there’s no doubting of Jean Paul’s ability to produce raw and bright alto sounds, it can be frustrating to use experienced players.
Beginners will delight in every second with the Jean Paul, which is because of its ease of use.
In particular, I love the kay placement that lets me take on as many notes in a small amount of time, which classical artists needs, and other musical styles.
For users with small hands, the saxophone doesn’t force you to overreach the keys with your bottom hand, so you’ll have a nice time stroking the keys.
Rarely do budget picks come with accessories, but Jean Paul comes complete with everything you need to play.
It comes with a mouthpiece, nylon resonators, carries case, and a nickel-plated cap.
The cleaning cap, consisting of cork grease, gloves, swabs, and a large plus because often, the items n the kit are valued at over $100.
#3 Selmer SAS280 La Voix II - Best Beginner/Intermediate Sax
The Selmer La Voix isn’t strictly a saxophone for beginners but rather an instrument for those who need to transition from beginner to intermediate stages.
It’s a little more advanced than the Jean Paul, yet simple enough for beginners to grasp the basics of playing saxophones.
The instrument is versatile, too, and may work in different environments. I find it perfect for use in both a concert environment as well as a soloist.
Features and Benefits
Selmer SAS280 brings a wide variety of benefits to the table, including a solid build.
From the first touch, it’s easy to feel the quality Selmer has put into the Sax.
The SAS280 is a sturdy pick, and it holds up pretty well to abuse and long years of use. It’s obvious; the saxophone was made to last for decades, if not more.
SAS280’s finish is also truly eye-catching, making it something every pro player would be proud to have in their ensemble.
The Sax is available in a full copper body with yellow brass or black nickel. The black nickel is my personal favorite, and I always get compliments from people from users who have never seen a black saxophone before.
As for the Sax’s geometry, the La Voix flaunts a traditional-sized bell with Selmer’s craftsmanship.
It’s the shape of the bell that helps players maintain their tone while allowing them to blend tone and the pitch easier.
Other than construction quality, the other characteristic that distinguishes the La Voix from the lesser horns is how well it plays in tune.
The intonation on this saxophone is spot on in every register.
It’s not a surprise, considering La Voix means ‘the Voice” in French, a very fitting name for this alto saxophone.
The tone is nice and very much like a human voice because it lets you play with great control.
On the other hand, the intonation is rich, and together with the warm, full tone, the horn allows you to play pretty any music you like. It makes the Sax a welcome in both concert bands or the hands of a soloist.
Selmer has focused its effort on making the horn easy to play.
For instance, the ergonomic key placement and the finely crafted keys allow players to enjoy a fluid key-work that delights their fingers as much as your ears.
The Sax is also easy to use, with a lightweight design and ergonomic neck helping promote easy manageability.
#4 Etude EAS-100 - Value Pick
Fourth, our review list of the best alto saxophones for beginners holds value at almost every important attribute you should be looking at.
The Etude EAS-100 student saxophone is designed for students who want to learn, improve and master the art of playing saxophones.
It’s a value-pick, and for the money, you get a fantastic performance as well as a host of accessories.
Features and Benefits
The Etude-100 is crafted for solid metals to produce a masterpiece that survives anything you throw at it while producing the perfect sound.
You can tell from handling that every part is designed with detail and perfect synergy to make the board easy to play and produce consistent tones.
It’s durable too, and I can say this with confidence because I remember one of my friends accidentally bumping it off the bleachers during a football game. Surprisingly, only the neck was slightly bent, and the mouthpiece cracked.
Of course, I might have been lucky, but not every reviewer gets lucky, and I find the Sax, an absolute worth for entry-level students.
How does EAS-100 play?
The simple answer is it plays well for the price.
It would be unfair to compare what it produces to YAS-280, but it has a wonderful sound output for students and beginners.
The overtones are pretty solid; the pitch is good overall and offers a good sound that speaks well in all ranges.
I expected some compromises at this price, such as the absence of some of the high and low keys. To our surprise, the Etude is a fully-fledged range of instruments from low Bb to high F.
Most beginners find this saxophone easy to play, and one of the major reasons is it doesn’t require any setup.
It ships fully assembled, so you can start learning immediately it’s delivered.
Some users find the Sax quite heavy, though, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable to play.
It’s efficient and will hold most notes, even on lower octaves.
Etude may be a budget pick, but it includes a neck strap for convenience and ease of use.
It’s flexible too, and will even allow you to upgrade swap components such as the reed and neck strap to personalize your experience.
#5 Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L - Best for Kids
Cecilio Musical Instruments were founded in 2004, so they’re still new in the market.
However, over their short existence, they’ve grown to become one of the biggest brands in the market, and they hold themselves to ruthless quality standards.
The Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L is no different, and as with all Cecilio products, it’s thoroughly tested and examined overseas for quality.
We find this product a fantastic purchase for users on a budget or even for kids.
Just remember you get what you pay for. MAS-L is a very young horn and doesn’t retain its value as the better name brands.
Features and Benefits
If you want to express yourself through the color of your saxophone, you’ll want to consider the MAS-L.
Our pick comes in a gold lacquer body, but if gold isn’t your taste, you can always try other options.
There’s a total of 12 bold and exciting colors available with this model, including black, blue, green, red, purples, sky blue, and more.
Easy to Use
MAS-L design comes in a large-bore ribbon construction, handy for better grip and control when in use.
As far as durability and comfort are concerned, the manufacturer has included quality leather pads featuring metal-tone boosters.
MAS-L isn’t a Selmer or Yamaha, but it has a quite nice tone and decent intonation.
The larger bore makes it easy for young players to achieve a great, full-bodied sound, while the fast action keys allow for easy playability.
We find the tone deep and rich with even intonation throughout the full range.
MAS-L comes complete with a lot of accessories.
The Sax’s set comes with a chromatic tuner, a mouthpiece, a pair of gloves, a neck strap, a cleaning rod, and much more.
Best Alto Saxophones Buying Guide
With so many options n the market, choosing a saxophone for beginners can be a bit challenging.
Fortunately, we’ve prepared a guide for you outlining everything you need to know about selecting the best saxophone for beginners.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Saxophone for Beginners
Sax Material and Fitting
A typical saxophone is made from brass-yellow brass, to be specific.
The brass is further coated on premium products with other materials such as copper, bronze, or even gold.
It’s also not uncommon o find the neck and the curved belly of the Sax from different materials.
But how does this affect beginners?
Well, the heavier the Sax, the more pronounced sound it produces. For beginners, the sounds may be a bit confusing.
The best option for beginners is probably a sax that comes in yellow brass.
While still on the weight, beginners also need to consider an option they can handle.
Fortunately, most saxophones are ultra-light, with their weight ranging from 4-6 pounds.
In most cases, the weight difference results from the difference in metal thickness and additional keys.
Mouthpiece and Reeds
Normally, beginners aren’t concerned with these two features, but it’s always good to understand that they play a critical role in the overall sound.
And the good news is you can always change them if you want.
Looks don’t matter a lot, but you can go for something flashy if you care about aesthetics.
However, ergonomic play a critical role and will determine the manageability of the Sax.
The best Sax should be easy to hold and shouldn’t wear you down even after holding them for long.
It’s always a good idea to consider the accessories on a saxophone.
This is because they add value to your purchase and make your experience more fulfilling.
Used or New
When you’re on a tight budget, you’ll always want to be on the lookout for a cheaper deal.
One popular route is to choose a used saxophone as they’re less expensive than the new options.
However, I wouldn’t recommend following this path and the reason is quite simple. They’ve a reduced lifetime compared to the new saxophones.
In most cases, used saxophone may have some wear and tear beginners may not end up knowing, thus costing you even more for repair.
We would recommend you go for a new saxophone on the market. They’re plenty of them in the market, and some are quite affordable and durable.
Best Alto Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How old do I have to be to start playing the saxophone?
A: Generally, kids above ten years and above can start playing the alto saxophone.
For younger students, the Alto is a worthy choice. Though the Soprano sax is smaller, it’s harder to play and requires more control in your mouth.
Q: What size should I start with?
A: Again, the alto sax is the best size saxophone for beginners and students.
The soprano is smaller but challenging to manage, while the tenor saxophone I heavier.
But the great thing with playing saxophones is fingering (or the way you play the notes) is the same on all of them, so once you get the hang of an Alto, it becomes easy to transition to other instruments.
Q: I’ve small hands-can I still play a sax?
A: Yes, it possible to play the saxophone even with small hands-it’s all comes down to getting used to an instrument.
However, we recommend starting on the Alto first as the keys are much closer than other saxophones.
Q: How much does a decent saxophone cost?
A: Saxophones come at different prices, and you can pay as little as $200 to as high as $ 1,00 for the more established brand.
Keep in mind you’ll expect some difference in quality over the price range.
Q: Does my Sax need regular maintenance?
A: Yes, every saxophone requires “tune-up” from time to time.
Saxophones have serviceable parts like pads and corks that require adjustment and even possible replacement.
A saxophone can tell when it needs servicing once it becomes challenging to play or doesn’t give off the sound notes as it should.
Q: My sax squeaks when blowing- what’s wrong?
A: There’re numerous reasons for this. First, check to see the reed is on correctly, is wet, and doesn’t have any chips or cracks.
Secondly, consider your blowing style, and ensure that your bottom lip is over your teeth.
Finally, try experimenting with different mouthpieces, and opt for a less mouthpiece because too much mouthpiece can cause squeaks.
Q: How can I upgrade my Sax?
A: There’re numerous ways to do it, but beginners can start by changing the mouthpiece.
Changing the mouthpiece will make a huge difference in your sound quality and how the sac feels when playing.
Q: How do I tell a good sax from a bad sax?
A: It’s challenging to tell the difference, but generally, cheap instruments suffer from the poor build quality.
However, price isn’t the only indicator, and you should always check the quality of a sax, particularly the body and plating, to see it doesn’t have any visible faults.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
The YAMAHA YAS-280 Student Alto saxophones were easy picking as our winner.
The instrument has several features that promote ease of use, including a lightweight design and ergonomic design.
It comes at a price, though, but it offers rich sound and intonation, perfect for beginners looking for a sound Yamaha specializes in.