Before we get to our Yamaha YAS-23 Standard Eb Alto Saxophone Review, a little history…
Founded in 1887, Yamaha has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments. They are also one of the most respected for the quality of their instruments. They first commenced the sale of their saxophones in 1967. Now have a variety of instruments at every level of player.
There are actually 14 different types of saxophone, with Alto and Tenor being the most common. They are involved in the manufacture of the most popular five, Alto, Tenor, Soprano, Baritone, and Bass, but have manufactured others.
The quality of their professional level instruments is of the highest level. But many people know them mostly for their student and intermediate saxophones. We are going to have a look today at the Yamaha YAS-23 alto saxophone. A sax designed especially for the student.
The 23 series of Saxophones is one of Yamaha’s top ranges for students. The YAS is the Alto option. The YAS-23 saxophone by Yamaha is one of the best student saxophones you can buy. It is one of a range of Alto saxophones specifically designed for beginners to the instrument. There are, of course, many other manufacturers of student saxophones on the market, but there is only one Yamaha.
When a student picks up an instrument for the first time, there are certain very important things to be aware of. Any instrument that is blown is not going to be easy, and some students take a while to even get a sound from it. This is quite normal. It is not like a piano where you can sit down and pick out a favorite tune with one finger. There is a skill level to be acquired before too much progress can be made.
Yamaha are masters at the art of understanding this, which is why the instruments designed for students are made as easy to play as possible. Yamaha’s knowledge and expertise they have acquired manufacturing for instruments at every level go into every saxophone. This gives every new player the best chance of not just learning to play, but learning to play well.
To have a quality instrument, you first need a good design, and secondly, a high build quality level. You will also obviously need quality materials.
The body, neck, and the Bell are made of yellow brass. The nature of the material the saxophone is made from will affect the sound in all areas. The timbre, resonance, and the resistance will all be affected. By resistance, we mean how much effort it takes to make a sound. Yellow Brass is the go-to material for many manufacturers. But even that can vary widely in its quality.
Brass is an alloy composed of Zinc and Copper, and the balance of content will make a difference. Yamaha uses a mixture of 70% Copper and 30% Zinc to make their Yellow Brass. Other types of brass used are Red brass, which is sometimes used for the lead pipe. This will have more copper in the mix and less Zinc.
Also, Gold Brass, which is what most professional horns are made from, has a higher still copper content. Yellow Brass is most widely used for student saxophones. Yes, it is cheaper to use in the making, but it also has a brighter sound that appeals to the new player.
The YAS3 is then a yellow brass sax that is given a gold lacquer finish. Even here in the lacquering process, care needs to be taken. There are good and bad lacquers, and they can deteriorate very quickly.
The keys, another important aspect, are power forged nickel keys for durability, and again they are lacquered. They have a tapered pivot, which helps to make them smooth in their action. They have Polyester key buttons, again for durability, and to give some nice aesthetics.
It is important for a new student to develop good techniques very early on. All Yamaha saxophones are fitted with an adjustable thumb rest. This lets the student obtain a comfortable position for hands and fingers. It has a front ‘F’ key mechanism, which allows the player to reach the difficult altissimo ‘G’ note.
The decor of the instrument is completed by an engraving on the Bell.
The instrument is made in Japan though Yamaha has manufacturing sites in China and Indonesia that all work to the same high standards of quality production.
Intonation & Tuning
Intonation, it goes without saying, is a vital area for any instrument. If it cannot be played and kept in tune, then the student may well become very frustrated and quit. This is one area where Yamaha has always excelled with their saxophones. They are manufactured and set up for the best venting and, therefore, optimum intonation.
Quite often, student saxophones suffer in this area. This is sometimes because, in their efforts to be as competitive with the price, some manufacturers will cut corners. This is an area where Yamaha ensure all is working properly.
Tuning is not always about individual notes. It is also about how they relate to other notes. Some notes are notoriously difficult to tune, and the process needs to be precise.
Instruments all go out of tune occasionally, so it is best to get a digital tuner. Always let your sax warm up before trying to tune it. A cold sax will always play a little flat. We won’t go into the do’s and don’ts of tuning a sax here. Just be assured that they have built the Yamaha YAS-23 alto saxophone to have excellent intonation.
It comes with a strong case that is made of plywood and an Alto mouthpiece size 4C made by Yamaha. The ligature supplied is made of yellow brass and given a lacquer finish.
How Does It Play?
It might be hard to believe, but there are ergonomics involved in the design of a saxophone. It has to be right, or it will feel uncomfortable and not have a nice balance to it. And whilst all saxophones might look alike, they certainly have a lot of different design features. One aspect is the weight of the instrument.
An Alto isn’t the heaviest sax, Baritone and Tenor are heavier. Neither is it the lightest, Soprano saxes weigh less. The Alto is in the middle, but still, the weight can vary between manufacturers. The Yamaha YAS-23 weighs just under five pounds, which is a nice comfortable weight.
The mouthpiece and the neck will be a major influence in how it sounds, but it is the keys where it is actually played. The keys to this instrument are designed so as to give the student a good experience. Comfort and ease of playing are vital, and it is this that Yamaha pays special attention to. The key actions are smooth with an easy, comfortable layout and allow the student to have a natural feel.
This ability for the student to feel comfortable and relaxed when learning an instrument is fundamental to success. It is not the easiest instrument to learn to play, and the young student will need all the help they can get. A good quality instrument is an important part of that. And especially one that is easy to play.
How Does It Sound?
The short answer to that is that it sounds like you would expect a Yamaha to sound. Part of this is the quality of the materials used, which we have already discussed. But also the ease with which the notes are constructed is important.
The sounds are rich and warm and very defined. They are also quite bright, the result of a yellow brass material for construction.
If you’re not 100% convinced by the Yamaha YAS-23, it might be worth taking a look at our reviews of the Best Alto Saxophones, the Best Yamaha Saxophones, the Best Tenor Saxophones, the Best Selmer Saxophones, and the Best Soprano Saxophones currently available.
Yamaha YAS-23 Standard Eb Alto Saxophone Pros & Cons
- High quality build from excellent materials.
- Great looking instrument that you will just want to play.
- Excellent Intonation.
- Highly playable.
- Not the cheapest student sax on the planet!
When undertaking a Yamaha Saxophone Review, you expect to see certain things. Yamaha rarely disappoints in any area of music but especially with their saxophones. And more especially with their student saxophones. Yamaha uses all the experience they have gained to create an instrument that looks good and plays well. But they also make sure it sounds great.
They have been making saxophones for over 50 years and produce them at all levels. The acumen they have gained working at other levels assist in the development of instruments for students.
It is well-made with quality materials. Well-designed with the student in mind and you immediately get the impression of real quality which of course it is.
Price-wise it is not the cheapest student sax you will find, But we have already discussed the importance of buying quality for a starter. Unfortunately, real quality rarely comes cheap, and so it is with this instrument.
It is a class act, and therefore, you might have to splash out a little more than you bargained for. But you won’t regret it. The Yamaha YAS-23 alto saxophone is one of the best student saxophones around.