If you’re looking to buy a new saxophone, whether it be a beginner, intermediate or professional horn, there are a lot of choices on the market and it can be overwhelming. There are the household name brands like P. Mauriat, Selmer, Yamaha and Yanagisawa. You could also choose from Jupiter, Keilwerth, Cannonball or Allora. How do you know which sax is right for you? Any musican or music educator will tell you that you have to play many different horns to determine which one is best for you. But, here are 3 things to look for in any sax, no matter what.
Intonation – this refers to the ability (of both the instrument and the musician) to play all the notes in tune with each other once the instrument has been tuned correctly. Well-made saxophones, like those from P. Mauriat and Allora, have excellent intonation and make it so that you don’t have to radically change your embouchure for each note you play to have the horn sound in tune. Other horns, like Cannonball saxophones, tend to be sharp, bright and pitchy, which means the player has to constantly adjust.
Responsiveness – you want your saxophone to respond to you quickly and give you the exact output you want based on your input. Your notes should be clean and fast; keys should respond to your fingers; the articulation should be fast. You want instant true sound on any note you play. High-quality saxophones will provide the responsiveness you want and need, whereas second-tier horns, like a Cannonball, may not have the response you desire.
Durability – whether you’re a student or a gigging musician, your horn needs to be durable and be able to withstand the rigors of practice, performance and transportation. Much of that responsibility falls on the owner to take care of his or her instrument, but you also want a well-made sax that is built to the highest quality standards. Brands like P. Mauriat, Yamaha and Allora manufacture horns that stand the test of time.
One thing that doesn’t matter when you want to buy a great-sounding saxophone? Fancy colored lacquers. Now, it’s true that different materials and finishes do make a difference in your sound. But lacquer is just a liquid material that dries into a hard outer shell on a saxophone, so differently colored lacquers make no difference at all. Certain brands, like Cannonball, offer these different colors, such as white pearl, black ruby or iced black. If all you care about is aesthetics, then buying a Cannonball saxophone with these lacquers may be the best choice for you. But if you’re looking for a horn with excellent tone and intonation, great playability, good action and responsiveness, and durability, you’ll be better served by selecting brands like P. Mauriat and Allora.