The holidays are upon us and you are probably familiar with the soothing sound of the saxophone being played in the background on any given Christmas radio station. The saxophone can be consistently warm and inviting.
Unlike its kinship, the saxophone is made of brass and much larger than the clarinet and flute. The saxophone is best known for being played in jazz bands or marching bands.
The saxophone was created by Adolphe Sax, the son of a master instrument maker. Adolphe grew to become a master instrument maker like his father. Before the saxophone came into being, Adolphe wanted an instrument that would have the woody sound of a clarinet but the lower resonance of a horn. Adolphe got to work and in 1841 debuted his instrument in hopes that it would be accepted into orchestras worldwide. Unfortunately for Adolphe, his dreams of saxophones playing orchestras weren’t fulfilled in that aspect. However, he did find a significant place in which his instrument was accepted. French army marching bands added the instrument to their band and it was a hit among marching bands nationwide.
Over the years, the saxophone has gone through minor changes to make up what we know to be the modern saxophone. Saxophones really made their impact in the roaring 20’s when jazz bands started popping up. While saxophones still aren’t commonly found in orchestras today, they are, in fact, a staple among jazz, rock, pop and blues bands worldwide.
Renting Vs. Buying
If you have a student or if you yourself are interested in picking up the saxophone here are some helpful tips. While there is a plethora of shapes and sizes for saxophones, the most common student model saxophone is the alto saxophone. More than likely this is the one you’ll need to look for and research.
Renting a saxophone, to start off with, is a great option. Renting an instrument usually comes with some sort of instrument protection plan. When you first start to play the saxophone, it’s a good idea to have some kind of instrument insurance plan because saxophones, and woodwinds in general, tend to be temperamental.
If you have the money to put down on the instrument then that is also a fine decision. Just keep in mind that it will most likely need some work if you are purchasing a used instrument.
Maintenance service on any instrument can be pricey but if you take care of your instrument you can at least prolong and prevent mishaps. The price range for a saxophone is anywhere from $200 – $8,000. The average price range for a decent student model saxophone is any from $700 – $1800.
Some brands we recommend are as follows:
If purchasing, here is a checklist of things your saxophone should have to ensure you’re getting a good price on it.
- A Brand Name – believe it or not, a lot of instruments don’t have these. If they do not have a brand name, walk away.*
- A serial number- if they don’t have one, again, walk away.*
- All or most of the pads. They should look clean and smooth.
- The keys shouldn’t stick.
- No major rust or dents.
*Note: The reason we strongly recommend you walking away is because you’ll end up spending more on instruments with no serial number or brand. They are close to impossible to find parts for and usually aren’t worth fixing because of the actual quality of the instrument.
If your instrument has any of the items listed above, be aware it may need to be serviced before it is in playable condition. Servicing a saxophone can be as little as $30 up to $600 depending on what it needs. Be sure to follow the steps below to take care of your instrument.
Care and Keeping of your Saxophone
The saxophone has many parts to it but you only have to disassemble three in order to take good care of your saxophone. We’ll start with the mouthpiece of the saxophone.
The mouthpiece is where the musician plays into the saxophone to produce the sound. After each use, the mouthpiece should be taken of off the neck, dry it out and put it in the designated place in the case. Before it is put away though, you will also need to take off the reed.
The reed is the piece of wood in which produces the sound of the saxophone. It is held in place by what is known as a “ligature”. The ligature is generally metal or leather with 2 screws to tighten and loosen the reed as needed. You will need to put the reed in a secure case that will let the reed properly dry out also. Be especially careful with reeds because they chip easily.
The neck is a part of the body of the saxophone. It is the joint that connects the body to the mouthpiece. By loosening the screw that is located at the bottom back side of the saxophone you should be able to take off the neck joint. Properly drying out the neck piece as well as the body of your instrument is imperative to prevent mold and mildew build up.
Many people make the mistake of leaving the neck strap on and putting other items such as books and other items inside the case with the saxophone. Doing so can bend keys and scratch your saxophone.
All in all, traversing the world of instruments can be tricky but with the proper encouragement, lessons, dedication, passion and research you should be able to succeed in your excursion of learning to play the saxophone. The saxophone, like other instruments, offers a momentary escape into a world in which you will have to experience for yourself to understand.
I hope this information is more helpful than overwhelming and that it will serve you well.
By Leah Houston