Before we get to our best beginner saxophone reviews, a little bit of history…
It was in 1846 that Adolphe Sax, a musical instrument for Belgium, patented his new musical invention. He originally set them up in two groups with different tunings, and the E flat and B flat pitches became the dominant choice, and those in C and F just disappeared.
It wasn’t initially received with great enthusiasm, and it is rarely found in the classical works of the period. It all changed though in the ‘roaring 20s’ as the jazz guys got hold of it. Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and John Coltrane took the instrument to new heights.
Rock around the clock…
It became established, and of course, when rock n roll appeared in the 50s there, it was. Little Richard and the Drifters both included it, but it was Bill Haley and the Comets who forced it into the world’s consciousness.
Since then, some of the most influential musicians and bands have used it. The Beatles, Billy Joel, and Pink Floyd, but it was Raphael who tore our hearts out on Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street.’ And then Mike Brecker on Paul Simon’s ‘Still Crazy after all these Years’ turned the screw even further.
Both now departed, but the legacy of sax playing lives on. Raise a glass to the pair of them as we find out which is the Best Beginner Saxophone currently available. So, let’s help someone on the road to sax stardom do the same…
Top 10 Best Beginner Saxophones of 2023
1 YAMAHA YAS-280 Student Alto saxophones
Buying a saxophone for a starter is not just a case of walking into the shop and picking a pretty one. There is a bit more to consider than what it looks like. Learning to play an instrument is not easy. Learning to play one you blow is usually even harder.
And as a student takes those first frustrating steps, it needs to be made as easy as possible for them. A bad instrument will not play properly. It will probably end up with them quitting before they’ve even got started.
Yamaha has been making quality saxophones since 1967 and now produces some of the world’s best. They also produce a great range of starter instruments.
The YAS-280 is one of them…
It is lightweight, which is just what the student needs, but still, the build quality needs to be strong. With some starter saxophones, the angles between keys and fingers are not well-designed. This leads to aching hands and the end of practice. It is important that the design makes it easy as well as comfortable to play.
There are none of those problems with this Alto. When Yamaha builds a student sax, they build it with the starter in mind.
The neck receiver is strong, and if you tighten up the screws too much, it won’t punish you. It has an adjustable thumb rest and a connector for low B to C# and a high F# key. The added pearl buttons to the keys add a nice style.
It is made in Indonesia in a Yamaha factory from brass with a gold lacquer finish and is full-size and weighs 13 pounds.
It is an excellent sax for a student from one of the best saxophone brands. And it has typical Yamaha quality in design and builds. However, it isn’t cheap, and some may find it just not affordable for a beginner.
If you want to find out more, please take a look at our in-depth Yamaha YAS 280 Saxophone review.
- The typical quality of design and build you expect from Yamaha.
- Designed to be lightweight and easy to play.
- The price will put some people off.
2 Mendini by Cecilio E Flat Alto Saxophone
Cecilio is a well-known instrument manufacturer that produces a variety of instruments for beginners. The Mendini brand name refers to these instruments. The company is based in the US, but most, if not all, of the Mendini range, are manufactured in China. They are then brought to America, where they are inspected before distribution.
It is an attractive saxophone made from yellow brass with a gold lacquer finish and is designed to be helpful to young players just starting out. It is lightweight at only 10 pounds and has parts that are made by Cecilio for their instruments. And it has a large bore which makes it a little easier to play. The pads are leather, and it has tone boosters made from metal. The keys are nicely contoured and have synthetic mother-of-pearl buttons.
It has a high F# key, which is important and comes with a one year warranty. And is a full-size model.
Get’s the job done…
Whilst we would not describe the sound as excellent. For a budget sax, it is quite acceptable, and the large bore helps the young player produce a decent sound. The mechanics are quite stable and produce a reasonably even intonation across the range of the instrument.
It comes with some good extras. It is supplied with 2.5” reeds and comes with a box of ten. Also, a cleaning cloth, a pair of cleaning gloves, a neck strap, and a mouthpiece are included with a very nice hard case.
Good for the price point…
As an added extra, it comes with a metronome and a chromatic tuner. A decent starter instrument at an affordable price. When asked the question ask, is Mendini a good brand for saxophones? The answer is a decent instrument at a budget price, but don’t expect a professional sax.
- Nice looking saxophone.
- The large bore makes it easier for a student to get a decent sound.
- It is a budget sax, so don’t expect too much.
3 Jean Paul USA AS-400 Student Alto Saxophone
Jean-Paul USA, as you might guess are an American company producing a range of instruments. They produce a good range of instruments for the starter musician, and the AS-400 saxophone is one of them. This instrument is made in China and is in the Alto key of E flat.
It is made from the traditional yellow brass. We say traditional because most mid-range or budget range saxophones are made from that material. It is solid, durable, and easy to work with and really has an attractive look about it.
Definitely looks the part…
One thing about young learners is that they want to feel they are playing the real thing. This instrument looks the part and gives the student they are playing a real saxophone.
It has very well-made keys that have good placement and an easy-playing style ideal for a Starter. The tone, whilst not being exceptionally good, is adequate for a starter musician and produces a consistent sound.
One of the benefits of this instrument is that it has been designed for a learner. In doing so, it has some qualities that will also allow it to be played by a more experienced player. This means that you don’t have to change instruments to a better model very quickly.
It comes with some welcome accessories…
A mouthpiece cap that is nickel-plated and a mouthpiece, neck strap, and ligature. Also a spare Rico reed and cork grease, gloves and cleaning cloth and swabs. All included inside a robust smart canvas carrying case.
It is lightweight weighing only 11 pounds and is a very good quality student saxophone that will last them through to Improver level. It is not the cheapest student saxophone you will find, but it has good quality.
- Well-made with good materials.
- A decent sound and quite easy to play.
- Some will find it expensive for a Starter instrument.
4 Kaizer Alto Saxophone E Flat – Best Student Alto Saxophone
Kaizer is another instrument manufacturing company with a wide range of products. Like many others, they have a specialist range for the beginner. They are made in the US but are therefore more expensive than similar models that produce overseas. This is a saxophone designed for students in the key of E flat.
It certainly uses quality materials in its manufacture. The body is yellow brass, as most are, and given a gold lacquer finish. The keys are very sensitive and are fitted with steel springs. They are then durable but also provide a nice smooth, and responsive action.
Built to last…
It has leatherette pads to give superior note control and intonation. Leatherette pads are an important addition and act as a guard against corrosion. Because they are also durable, they ensure there is a good seal all the time. A good seal will produce an accurate pure note.
On the keys, there are synthetic mother of pearl caps which add a nice style to the instrument. It is an attractive instrument with good fittings and materials used. Its design is easy to hold and therefore makes it easier to play. The instrument weighs only seven pounds, so it is lightweight. The bore size is suitable for a starter to get a decent sound.
What’s in the box?
It comes with a long list of accessories. This includes a mouthpiece with its own lubricant fluid, ligature, cleaning cloth, and cleaning gloves. It also comes with a strong fiber case with zips.
As an added security, it has a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. This does not include natural wear and tear over the years of use. The company will replace any broken parts.
A nice back-up…
To spend a lot of money on an instrument for a new musician is always a risk. You can never be sure they will want to stick with it. Of course, another aspect is that it is also suitable as a backup sax. If an experienced player wants an affordable model for home practice, this might suit.
Although this is not the cheapest student sax on the market, it is a good value sax because it is built well — a possible contender for the best student alto saxophone.
- Well-made with good materials.
- Easy to play, lightweight, and comfortable to hold.
- Quite expensive compared to similar products.
5 Yamaha YAS-480 Intermediate Eb Alto Saxophone – Best Alto Saxophone for Beginners
If you are looking for absolute quality in a student saxophone, you probably don’t need to look much further. The YAS-480 is probably the best alto saxophone for beginners and manufactured by one of the best saxophone brands.
This saxophone is simply one of the best instruments you could possibly own as a starter. But it is far more than that. Even players who have been playing for years will appreciate the quality on show here.
This sax includes in its design many of the things that instruments costing far more possess. The body is made from yellow brass, and it has been given the renowned ‘62 Yamaha neck. The neck is known for its high level of accurate intonation. The keys are also made from yellow brass, and for added effect, have polyester buttons. The bell keys give a good response and have been designed to be well balanced.
This is an instrument that impresses just by the way it looks. Yamaha always produces classic designs that stand out, and this Alto is in that mold. There is a hand-engraved design on the bell that adds to the visual style. The supplied mouthpiece is the AS-4C design and is supplied with a plastic cap.
So easy to play…
Yamaha has redesigned some of the features of this sax to make it easier to play. The left-hand see-saw key has made it easier and more comfortable to use. And the octave key system now lets the player choose the most suitable neck position. There are now separate keyguards that have adjustable screw caps.
Some of the refinements made are found on their more expensive models. They have been included now on these saxophones to make them even better. The sound, of course, is great as you would expect from one of the premier manufacturers.
This is an instrument that is really possibly designed for the more experienced player, but of course, any beginner will reap the benefits of such a quality instrument. And the YAS-480 is a quality saxophone, in fact, it’s not only one of the Best Yamaha Saxophones on the market, but also one of the Best Alto Saxophones currently available.
- A great looking instrument that is well made.
- Exceptional sounding sax.
- Only the price which will scare some people off
6 Selmer SAS280 La Voix II Alto Saxophone
As kids growing up in the 60s, Selmer was a famous name in music. They made a range of guitar amplifiers that were good and never got the recognition they deserved. When we went to the shop in London, we would see the other instruments they made. Woodwind, Brass, glittering with their impressive styles. We remember feeling a little overawed by them.
Founded in Paris in 1885, Selmer has become a respected name in musical instrument manufacture. The valve amps are long gone though a few remain but the woodwind and brass live on.
This is a sax that might be more for the intermediate player than the starter. Though the student player would benefit from a good instrument such as this. Selmer has certainly tried to create something a little different from the norm.
This sax is made from the usual yellow brass but has been given a black plated nickel finish. That does make it stand out a little bit. It certainly makes a change from the usual silver or gold plated instruments. Not sure we agree with the idea that bit makes you stand out in the band. We would prefer to think your playing ability might do that — not just the color of your saxophone.
Warm, rich sound…
However, it is very well made and features high quality and responsive key actions that create accurate intonation. The bell is the traditional size and helps to deliver a warm, rich sound. It produces a consistently balanced sound, but when changing registers, it needs some control. This might make it unsuitable for an inexperienced student. It is designed with a high F# key. It’s building is quite lightweight at only 6 pounds.
It is not the quality of the Selmer Super 80, but it plays very well and has a lot of plus points. It is made in Taiwan and shipped to the US for final quality control. And it comes with an imitation leather backpack style case, mouthpiece, mouthpiece cap, and ligature. No neck strap or maintenance equipment is included, so it is a bit light on extras.
It is a well-made sax, but the price for a student sax is going to make some run a mile. However, if you can afford it, you will be getting one of the Best Selmer Saxophones available.
- Well made with good materials.
- Good sound and intonation.
- We are personally not sure about the black coloring. However, that is a purely personal preference.
- Very expensive for a starter instrument
7 Yamaha YAS-26 Standard Alto Saxophone
Back to Yamaha again for another offering from their extensive catalog. The YAS-26 is a sax designed for the student. Though the quality of the instrument means it will carry them beyond beginner standard.
This sax is a very good choice for a student who may have already mastered the basics and is going to play for a long time. This might be a beginner’s sax, but it is packed with the quality and features you will find on more expensive instruments. The accurate and fast key response and action are especially worth mentioning and are near-professional quality.
Just gets better and better…
Once again, Yamaha has made improvements to an already established instrument. There is a better B-C# connection. The neck receiver has been redesigned to make the playing a little easier and given tougher screws.
It is made from yellow brass, of course, with keys that are nickel-plated. And has an adjustable thumb rest and is lightweight at under 12 pounds.
It has some nice extras…
These include a neck strap and mouthpiece. However, the supplied mouthpiece is for a student and may not be suitable for higher-level players. It also comes with a nice wooden case.
It is not a cheap student sax. Yamaha instruments tend to be towards the higher end of the scale. However, it is a great instrument playing and sound-wise and is built to last. It is going to take the student from the early stages through to higher levels, and it won’t need replacing. What you are paying for is the Yamaha quality.
A good sax from one of the best saxophone brands.
- Great build and attractive look.
- High-quality design, sound, and performance.
- The cost might put some people off what is a great sax.
8 Jupiter Intermediate Eb Alto Saxophone
Jupiter is a member of the KHS group. They were founded in 1979 and are well-known for supplying brass and woodwind instruments to schools and student organizations.
This particular instrument is probably not designed for the absolute beginner. It is more appropriate for the player who has already mastered the basics and wants to step up to a higher grade of instrument. It might even suit as a practice instrument for a higher level player.
Great for an improver…
It’s made from brass and has a silver-plated body, which gives it an attractive look. And it has a specially designed Sona-Pure neck, which helps to give it its tone. It is designed for the improver with some nice features.
The keys for the left hand are contoured to assist in finger control and stability. There is a B flat rocker arm that is tilted. All the keys have a gold lacquer finish, which offsets the color of the silver-plated body.
Other special features for playing the instrument include a high F# and a tilting G# and front F. The springs are made from blued steel. To add to the style, the bell is engraved.
A bit short on extras?
It has a nice tone and has a quality design. It plays very well and has an easy action. Other than a wooden case, Jupiter doesn’t provide any extras, which is surprising and, at this price point, more than a little disappointing. The country of manufacture is not listed.
As an instrument, it is very expensive for what it is. Even more so than the Yamaha’s. That will move some people away from it.
- Well made with a nice attractive finish.
- Good sound and easy to play.
- Expensive for a student.
9 Prelude Student Model AS711 Alto Saxophone
The Prelude line of saxophones is essentially the budget range from Selmer. They are manufactured in China. Most major manufacturers that have been designing and making instruments for some years have their budget range.
This has always been a good idea and usually provides good instruments at affordable prices. They are a couple of steps down in quality from the top of the range. But they can use the same manufacturing techniques and knowledge found in the more expensive models. The Prelude range is a good example of an affordable instrument for a student.
Encourages good technique…
It is nicely made with a yellow brass body with ribbed construction. It has been given a dark lacquer finish to the body and keys. The bell is nicely engraved. The keys are well designed for comfort when playing. This is important for a student. Having a good and comfortable hand position will encourage good technique. Vital on all instruments, but especially on instruments you have to blow.
There are some nice playing features built-in. It has a C# adjusting screw and a left-hand key rocker system as well as a high F#. The pads are leather, which means they will give you a good seal and are durable. They have metal resonators. As is usual, there is a right-hand rest for the thumb, which is adjustable.
It comes with some useful extras…
A molded mouthpiece with a mouthpiece cap and ligature and a neck strap are included. There are also two half-inch reeds, all enclosed in a hardshell case.
It is an easy to play, nice sounding instrument and is good value for money. Certainly could be considered as the best alto saxophone for beginners.
- Well made with nice design and finish.
- Affordable price point for a good instrument.
- Make sure from your supplier that it is an authentic instrument.
10 Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone
The EAS-100 by Etude is a very affordable instrument that is certain to be well-received by any student. It is well made from solid metals and feels and looks the part. The body and kets are finished in an attractive lacquer.
It comes with a mouthpiece, ligature, and a cleaning cloth. It also comes with a stylish hard case. The mouthpiece is very basic, and once the student has mastered the early skills, an upgrade will probably be necessary.
Basic and functional…
It is made to be easy to play and weighs just ten pounds. It comes with a neck strap, and is supplied with reeds. But as with the mouthpiece, they are very basic. New ones will probably be needed to be bought quite soon after purchase. The note sustain is acceptable, and the bore size makes it easy to get a decent sound in the early days. This applies even to the lower octaves.
It should be remembered that this is very much a budget range instrument with a price point to suit. If you are looking for Yamaha-type quality and performance, you won’t find it. And certainly not at this price.
Budget option at a budget price…
For what it is, it is a decent sax. It won’t win any awards, but it will start the young player off. You may find they will need to upgrade before they move onto the improver level. It 9s an affordable alternative to initially paying a lot of money.
- Attractive appearance.
- Affordable starter saxophone.
- Very much a budget instrument in quality and performance.
Best Saxophone for Beginners Buying Guide
Finding the Best Beginner Saxophone
At the end of the day, this could well boil down to one question. How much do you want to pay, or maybe how much can you afford to pay?
The problem with this type of instrument is that more than most, you get what you pay for. Therefore, what you pay has a huge gap between the top and bottom, even at the student level.
Who is it for?
If it is for an absolute beginner, it might be unwise to spend too much. Will they stick it out? Will they be able to play it? Even when they can play a little, maybe they won’t like it. It will be an expensive ride if any of those things happen.
So, is it for an absolute beginner? If so, then as long as it is playable and you can raise a tune, the cheaper, the better. We have looked at some that won’t require a mortgage. But always be careful. Unscrupulous manufacturers copy cheap instruments as well as the expensive ones.
Go for an easy playing action, not too heavy, and forget looks at first. They all look very similar anyway.
Another level up though?
This is where it will start to bite. You have a child or student who has learned the basics, can play it, loves to play it. However, you know they need a better instrument. And you really do not want to keep changing saxophones every year or so. That would get expensive.
So a second instrument will need to take them to the next stage and the one after. However, that is going to cost. You cannot avoid it. We looked at some that fall into that category. But that is going to be your decision
What to consider
Materials used in manufacture. Forget something that is made to look pretty. It is what it sounds like that counts. Most are brass made. Yellow brass is the most common at this level. Lacquered instruments can lose their initial shine after a while, so be aware.
You will need an instrument with decent key action, preferably leather or simulated leather pads and good intonation. A few extras would be nice. Most supply them, and some don’t. But a decent hard case is a must. This is an investment that must be protected.
One final point. We don’t think it is a good idea to buy second hand unless you know the person very, very well. Buying new, you will get a new instrument with a warranty if something should go wrong.
So which is the Best sax for beginners?
All things considered, this is not an easy instrument to play well. Even harder to learn and certainly tougher than most. If we are to buy a saxophone for a starter, then we would push the boat out and get a good one. A sax that will take them through student days and go beyond. Maybe quite a bit beyond.
To find that instrument, you need a quality manufacturer. We have therefore chosen as the best student alto saxophone…
Absolute quality from one of the best saxophone brands. And our choice for the Best Beginner Saxophone.