We can all agree that playing the saxophone is a hard nut to crack.
While some will find it easy, especially those with experience with woodwind products, most users will find it challenging.
In my opinion, the main challenge with saxophones is they aren’t instantly gratifying. Mastering a saxophone has a long learning curve and takes some elbow grease to develop good tone and quality.
As a music teacher with more than two decades in the industry, I know better. This is why I curated a guide outlining how sax learners should progress regarding their choice of instruments.
Most of the students I teach to start with clarinet before switching to sax. Playing the clarinet helps with controlling breath and reading the music.
Once the students have basic clarinet and keyboard skills, they can proceed to either an alto or tenor sax.
Generally, altos are considered more beginner-friendly and perfect choices for kids. But I’d say as an adult, there’s no problem starting with a tenor saxophone, provided you can cope with its weight and size.
I personally think playing tenor has numerous benefits over alto.
Tenor saxophones are more popular for jazz play due to their tone. There’s also more demand for tenors in wind bands because they’re extremely versatile and can beautifully blend with other saxophones.
They’re more expensive, though, but if you’re a player who needs to progress their mastery of playing saxophones without getting overwhelmed by an instrument’s complexity, Tenors are the way to go.
Tenor saxophones are slightly larger than altos but are manageable, especially when compared to soprano and baritone.
But with so many options to choose from, how do you pick the best tenor saxophone for your needs?
We’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and in the guide below, we shall review the best tenor saxophones in the market.
Table of Contents
The Best Tenor Saxophones For The Money
#1 Jean-Paul TS-400 - Best for Students and Beginners
Spending a lot of dollars on a saxophone might not be a good idea for students or beginners since the only thing they need from their instruments is quality sound, ease of use, and durability.
In that case, there’re plenty of quality options coming at a reasonable price.
One such option is Jean-Paul TS-400.
We’re a big fan of Jean Paul’s products because of their quality, and better performance.
The TS-400 is not different and has many goodies for beginner students, including great sound quality, durable construction, and other great features that we believe you’ll instantly fall in love with.
Features and Benefits
I own a TS-400, and what I can tell you is its design is comparable to high-end saxophones that you guys pay thousands of dollars for.
First, it has a lovely design, and though I may not know much about colors and designs, I can just tell by looking at it that a lot of love went into making this saxophone.
The yellow brass construction finished in lacquer is a beauty to behold and long-lasting at the same time.
The attention to detail is evident on every key, every engraving on the bell, and every curve.
TS-400 is also a sturdy instrument, and issues such as corrosion or chipping are nothing to worry about on this one. In fact, the body is incredibly tough and sure to withstand abuse.
One of the main reasons behind the sax’s durability is that all Jean-Paul saxophones undergo a 2-phase testing process. What it means is every horn is tested after the manufacturing process and then again before shipping.
Comfort and Ergonomics
Before trying this sax, I was worried about comfort, but my concerns were quickly unfounded.
While the sax is super-sturdy, it doesn’t feel heavy when it fits in the hand.
It’s ergonomic, and unlike other options that are nearly identical in shape and size, this one feels just like it’s molded for my hands.
I love the natural feeling of it and how comfortable it is.
The keys, in particular, are power-forged, a useful feature for making finger movement smooth, allowing easy picking, and improving playability.
Players love how the keys press naturally without the need to exert heavy pressure. Some keys on most saxophones require more pressure to work and feel like a chore, but they press and flow effortlessly on this model.
You’ll rarely hear any annoying clicking sound here as you do on some horns, and the TS-400 will let you change notes quite easily to give you better play flexibility.
Everything about this tenor is outrageously worth every penny of the price tag, including the sound performance.
Range and intonation are quite good, with the audible attributes nearly identical to the more expensive tenor saxophones.
The saxophone has a professional sound, which you can hear even when not blowing the horn.
TS-400 has a fluid tone throughout all the registers. The response is consistent and effortless, while the intonation is remarkably good.
Overall, the TS-400 doesn’t sound in any way comparable to a beginner instrument, and I can honestly say I’m pleased with this instrument.
TS-400 is among the least expensive saxophones on our list, yet it doesn’t cut corners when it comes to accessories.
The saxophone’s accessory kit contains a wide array of pieces, including a set of professional Rico reeds, neck strap, polishing cloth, swab, cork grease, cap, and much more.
My favorite accessory, though, is the robust dual-user case.
I love how it hugs my saxophone tightly, ensuring that no damage occurs when moving the instrument. There’s no room for movement of the part once is the case, so everything is well protected.
There’s also a pad in between some moveable assemblies on the saxophone, which prevents banging during shipment.
#2 Yamaha YTS-62III - Best for Professionals
Yamaha saxophones have been a fan-favorite among many band directors for a long time now.
For me, their superior build quality and performance make them such fantastic woodwind instruments.
Even better, the brand has a huge array of quality options to choose from, but today, we shall focus our attention on one of Yamaha’s popular models, the Yamaha YTS-62III.
The Yamaha YTS-62III is part of the Yamaha YTS-62 series launched in 1979. The series has maintained a streak of quality and reliable performance over time.
Yamaha YTS-62 series’ latest version, Yamaha YTS-62III, goes a step further to offer this and much more.
For instance, it comes with excellent new features and flaunts a new design that makes it a better choice among quality and expert saxophonists.
More importantly, it produces a beautiful warm tone and plays well.
Features and Benefits
I was a bit hesitant purchasing an instrument online, but Yamaha YTS-62III arrived just fine.
Even better, it’s typical of Yamaha quality, so playing it has been great.
The first observation I made with the instrument is its gold lacquer finish, which gives a good shine and a premium vibe.
Moving on, the keys and other sensitive parts of the sax are designed with quality in mind. They feel soft to touch yet sturdy enough to allow intense playing.
For instance, my daughter has had the sax for over a year now, and despite her recklessness, I’m yet to see any major breakage.
While Yamaha YTS-62III has borrowed plenty of design cues from the Yamaha YTS line of saxophones, its neck is much more improved than its predecessors.
The neck from the previous models was broader and lacked aesthetics.
However, with the newer model, you get a new neck style that looks stylish and nice.
And that’s not even the best part!
It’s has a slightly narrower bore, which I find useful for two main things:
First, the narrow neck provides greater control and rapid response, so beginners or intermediate players won’t struggle to develop a good tone.
Secondly, the neck enables a comfortable airflow, which is handy for a solid tonal core. It’s a useful feature for players who normally don’t have enough breath to blow into the saxophone.
Quality of Engravings
I know aesthetics always take a back seat when choosing a saxophone, but we can’t just ignore the fact that Yamaha YTS-62III is hand-made.
Yes, the folks at Yamaha worked extra hard on designing the details on sax’s body.
Each engraving is elaborate and contains a fine design for the ultimate saxophone design.
Sound Performance/ B-C# Connection
I had the pleasure of using Yamaha YTS-62III predecessors, the Yamaha YTS-60 and Yamaha YTS-61.
While they were good by any means, they had an issue with their B to C key connection, resulting in a bit of hazy sound.
The good news is, the problem is now fixed on the Yamaha YTS-62III.
So, how does the new model sound?
Yamaha YTS-62III boasts of a distinct and clear sound for each pitch. When tested in our studio, we observed that many players could practice for longer hours without the interference or irritation of bad pitches.
Overall, I’d say the Yamaha YTS-62III is a great acquisition for those tempted to get something more sophisticated and with richness in sound.
Carrying the Yamaha YTS-62III is effortless, as the saxophone comes with a semi-hard carrying case.
The case isn’t only stylish, but it’ll also provide your saxophone with proper protection.
#3 Selmer STS280 La Voix II Tenor Saxophone - Best for Concert Performance
Third on our list of the best tenor saxophones is a wonderful recommendation, especially for players looking for a tenor saxophone ideal for both solo renditions and concert performances.
For me, it’s the type of saxophone which I can dare dream.
Selmer STS280 La Voix II is an impressive instrument with great sound, excellent crafting, and good-looking design,
The comfortable fingering makes it a superb model far above the student range.
Overall, this is a lifetime instrument with professional features that will create warm, beautiful tones.
Features and Benefits
When it comes to appearance and design, La Voix went beyond my expectations.
It replaces the old bland and lifeless Selmer products.
The new model has an amazing finish, and I love how well it’s made.
For instance, the sax flaunts a traditional-sized bell with the craftsmanship that Selmer is known for.
The bell’s shape helps players maintain their tone and allow effortless blending on tones and pitch.
Comfortable to Use
Here, Selmer focused all their attention on making the horn easy to play.
La Voix comes with modest dimensions for starters and weighs a measly 17.7 pounds, so it’s not too heavy and quite portable. Carrying it along while on your music tours shouldn’t be a Herculean task.
My favorite comfort-feature, though, is the ergonomic key placement. The keys are close together, and they are lightning fast when you release them.
I find the placement useful for several reasons, including giving players the fluidity of key movement and offering the dark jazzy sound they love.
Selmer STS280 La Voix II is one of the most popular saxophones by Selmer that has retained some of the critical features of original La Voix saxophones.
Some of the notable features include fluid key work and excellent intonation.
The lows are so easy to blow, and you can scream the high notes in soloing. If you need to play some mellow stuff, it also breezes through the scales with silky smooth sounds.
Even better, this saxophone comes with several adjusting screws as well as a rocking table mechanism. Through these, you get plenty of flexibility, and it’s easy to tune the sax to your desired tone and intonation levels.
Overall, I’d say very few instruments out there can offer the balance in intonation and sound quality that Selmer STS280 La Voix II does.
#4 Kaizer TSAX-1000LQ - Entry-Level Option
Almost all top-rated Kaizer 1000 Series saxophones are trademarked for their impressive performance and near-perfect playability.
The TSAX-1000LQ is no different.
This tenor saxophone is an intriguing option for beginners, though intermediates may also delight in its performance.
In our opinion, it’s the perfect saxophone for transitioning professional-level saxophones.
Features and Benefits
It’s no secret that Kaizer built this saxophone with quality in mind.
Our first observation was a yellow brass body, which gives the instrument a sturdy feel and a fantastic sound.
The construction is built to withstand various environments, and we love that it can take a beating without compromising its integrity.
It’s lightweight, too, and this is something anyone, including kids and beginners, will love for playability.
Kaizer was committed to making this sax easy to play.
This is evident through the inclusion of professional leatherette pads.
The pads aren’t only corrosion-resistant but offer extra comfort.
Another comfort-feature we really like was the high-grade steel rings below the keys to ensuring the sax is responsive.
My favorite feature, though, is the spacing of the key limits the spread of your hands. They are sot, responsive, and designed to offer users total control of the sax.
Kaizer, featuring Bb keys, is the perfect tenor sax for students and student bands.
The sound is great on this instrument, and the softer reed helps the sax achieve a tight and rich sound.
The low and mid-range tone is excellent, and from the user’s reviews, it’s the most qualified option for teenagers starting on their saxophone career.
Personally, I’ve not done some serious playing over the few years, and believe it or not, I was able to play through the scales on the Kaiser effortlessly.
Of course, it doesn’t sound as full as our previous tenors, and the sound isn’t anywhere professional quality.
Nonetheless, the sound performance is decent and definitely an awesome backup for a professional.
Not many entry-level saxophones come with accessories, but this model is different.
Alongside the sax, you also get a host of accessories, including a mouthpiece, cleaning cloth, lubricant, gloves, cleaning rod, and a neck strap.
A molded carrying case to hold your sax when traveling sums up the extras.
The other thing we love with this sax is that the manufacturer fully stands behind the model with a lifetime limited warranty and 45-day free trial period.
#5 Mendini by Cecilio MTS-L+92D - Budget Pick
Our last pick, the Mendini by Cecilio, is an intriguing option for anyone on a budget.
Despite the budget tag, this saxophone doesn’t cut corners with its performance and will provide decent sound quality.
But is it the right pick for you?
Features and Benefits
Mendini by Cecilio saxophones are at the low end of the price, making them a fantastic choice for beginners and students.
If you’re simply learning the ropes, and don’t have enough budget right now, then you’ll be making a great choice with this.
Of course, expect some compromise along the way, but the sax lets you practice and perfect your key placement first.
And as time goes on and your skill advances, you can concentrate on style and tonal quality.
But for beginners on a budget, I’d say the Cecilio is a pretty fair option.
Medini by Cecilio has a fair share of criticism on its design, but in my opinion, I can’t understand where they’re coming from.
The reason being the sax feels significant, the springs are snappy, while the keys and stems are as thick as on any other instrument I’ve seen,
I got the gold lacquered version, and it looks cool and chic.
While the keys feel a bit plasticky, they’re a decent impression of mother-of-pearl and don’t look cheap.
Overall, the body of this sax looks and feels solid. And with ribbed construction, this saxophone has robust key support and enhances your sax’s tone, giving it a good vibe.
Cecilio’s sound performance is decent, considering the price.
It doesn’t sound cheap or honky like other budget picks but hits all notes in the normal playing range easily and according to the included tuner.
The starter reeds aren’t terrible either, and I love how the sax produces warm, rich tones.
To make the sax more playable, Cecilio has contoured the keys to help with better fingering.
The only minor criticism with the sax is the stem of the octave pad on top of the pad is slightly out of whack on the first play.
It’s not a deal-breaker, though, since applying a slight bend to it rectifies everything, and you should have no trouble registering upper or lower octaves.
Overall, this is a remarkable horn, and I’m pleased with the purchase.
As common with Cecilio saxophones, this sax comes with several accessories such as a cleaning brush, a neck strap, reed, gloves, and hard shell.
My favorite accessory is the metronome, which is useful for helping players practice and perfect their timing.
Best Tenor Saxophones Buying Guide
Knowing what to look for in a sax is the first stride towards your success with the instrument.
In the text below, we’ve compiled some critical actors to consider when selecting a tenor saxophone for your playing needs.
Saxophones are pretty versatile, ideal for different players, starting from beginners/students, intermediates to the professions.
The student or beginner tenor saxophones are usually affordable and offer the musicality that keeps a novice committed to developing their skills.
A good student saxophone is comfortable and easy to use while still generating satisfying tone quality.
Depending on a student’s commitment, it may take up to three years to master the sax by which they can upgrade to an intermediate model.
The intermediate models fall in between student and professional sax.
The intermediate sax’s keyword and actions are similar to those of pro saxophones, but the horns don’t produce quality sounds as the pro instruments do.
They also lack the luxury cosmetics of the premium option and have less handwork.
However, they’re a wonderful step-up to the student models.
The professional saxophones are the crème de la crème of the industry and are available at premium prices.
They’re only ideal for the expert players looking for superior tone, response, and intonation.
Most of these instruments are often characterized by plenty of handworks such as elaborate hand engraving on the bell and hand-hammered keys.
The choice of material, including metal alloys and solders, is usually of the highest quality, and as a result, the instruments offer fantastic playability and expressiveness.
Choice of Material
Generally, the common choice of material used on saxophone is yellow brass.
But in some cases, you may find a sax’s body constructed from brass, but the rest of it, such as the neck and bell, featuring different materials such as bronze, sterling silver, and copper.
The addition of these materials is likely to affect the price and tone of the saxophone. In most cases, they are only available in the premium options.
While most instruments have the yellow brass coated with a lacquer to protect the surface against wear, there’re several other finishes to choose from.
Some models use lacquer but with added pigments to create different hues, while others flaunt finishes that create a vintage look.
Here are some of the popular type of saxophone finishes;
The black lacquer finish is heavier than clear or gold lacquers, and the extra weight helps with promoting a thicker sound.
For this reason, it’s the most preferred finish by many tenor players.
Silver plating is slightly harder, resulting in higher volume and projection of the instrument.
Nickel plating is popular among jazz bands.
Nickel and Bronze
This metal blend is heavier and softer than brass and often produces a mellow “enveloped” sound.
Size and Weight
Tenor saxophones are generally heavier and larger than altos.
Even so, you still want to pick an option that is ideal for you.
The rule of thumb is matching the instrument with your body size.
Different saxophones also weigh differently. Your goal should be finding something lightweight for you to play with ease.
While lighter models are a fantastic pick for beginners, keep in mind that weight increases the higher you get.
Tenor saxophones come in the key of Bb.
The keys are small, cup-like metal pieces that cover or expose the holes accordingly.
They’re padded for comfortable fingering.
We love that they’re standard on all saxophones, so it should be easy to use any model. The only difference is the number of keys.
Rods and Pads
These two features are probably the two most critical elements to consider in a saxophone.
Both the rod and pads should be quality and durable, otherwise, they should deteriorate and break with heavy playing.
Also, ensure the pads are practical and that they cover the holes accordingly. They should also feel soft to touch yet sturdy enough to allow intense playing.
Best Tenor Saxophone Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How do I tune a Tenor saxophone?
A: There are two main ways of tuning your sax. Either download a tuner app from your app store or use a standalone digital music tuner.
Q: How do I carry a Tenor saxophone?
A: The best saxophones normally come with carrying cases to help with transporting the instrument. However, if yours doesn’t come with one, you can always buy from third parties.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our list of the best tenor saxophones has some pretty amazing options, and choosing our winner was quite challenging.
However, after a thorough look at the available items, we feel the Jean-Paul TS-400 takes the crown, but by a hair.
We recommend the saxophone because it’s a mid-level option with the qualities of a professional saxophone.
It comes with a decent price tag, yet, its performance is comparable to other models, including the Yamaha YTS, which is nearly double the price.
Jean-Paul TS-400 tone and sound are rich while at the same time maintaining ease of use and better playability.