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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey y'all! I used to play alto casually, but its been years since I have even touched a sax, let alone played one. Our local music store had a program called "rent to own" where you would rent an old beat up Yamaha and after years and probably 1000s of dollars they would give you it. Kind of a bad deal, but it cost about the same as renting. The nice thing about it of course, was the constant tech support of the shop for free. Had somebody drop the alto at one point on a concrete floor, they pulled the ding out for free.

Anyway, that was 10ish years ago. Id like to play tenor now, and my local store does not rent tenor or baritone for whatever reason, a new instrument is not in my budget right now, so I started a valiant search on craigslist and the classifieds to find a decently priced brand name sax. Recently I came across a Vito tenor. Ive read fairly good things about them. When I emailed her, she said it was made in Japan, and the serial was 5052xx, so from what I can tell, its an early 90s yamaha? The price is 500(usd), but the pictures are blurry, so I don't know if the lacquer is scratched.

Going to see it on friday. The lady says that it was used by her son in Middle school, and since then has been sitting in it's case. What should I look for (aside from honking out a few notes to see if it sounds any good) to determine if its in playing condition? Ill definitely bring it in to my local music store after I purchase it so they can give it a once over, and I can buy a new mouthpiece, but the sax is 40 mins away, so I'm going to have to decide if its trash or not by myself. Thanks in advance, can't wait to play again.
 

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Assuming it's intact and there's no major denting (especially involving tone holes), play the horn up and down chromatically to find any trouble spots. Look at it questionably, grimace, and then tell the seller it'll need a complete overhaul costing you an additional $600. Then take $200 out of your pocket, offer it and walk if it's not accepted.
 

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That would be one incredibly good deal if Grumps suggestion works.

Lacquer is far from the most important issue with a saxophone. If it lacks dents, plays well, and the pads look good, not cracked or discolored I would give $500 for a Yamaha tenor.
 

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Why do I sense a slight element of irony in a portion of Grumps' original advice ?

:|

Mr. Wonka.....you used to blow Alto, so you can at least make a sound on Tenor. Heck you can probably even play a C scale up and down the horn. As Grumps says, play it up and down, go to all registers if you can from the Low Bb up into Altissimo (if you remember how to do the latter).

Maybe buy a cheap Tenor m'piece and some reeds ASAP and just practice blowing the mouthpiece for a day or so to get acclimated to the larger m'piece.

If the horn seems to speak well (i.e. no notes vanishing, squeaking, warbling, or just making an air sound or feeling like there's a vaccuum cleaner inside the horn which just sucked the air out of your mouth)....then it is probably relatively leak-free and OK.

Screw the lacquer wear...who cares ? For that $, you just wanna know its bones are solid and it seals.

Next, look at the body...any serious dents ? Not just the bow, but look carefully at the bell brace, where it meets both the bell and the body tube. Also look at the lower Right Hand spatula keys to see if the posts there are impacted. Then hold the horn upright and way from you and look to see if the body tube seems plumb/vertical/straight, or does it have a curvature to it.

Lastly, wiggle some of the keys up perpendicular to their barrels...like some of the pinky keys and maybe some of the Left Hand pal keys. See if they seem snug or if they 'slide' laterally in between their posts.

That is basically it. $500 for a YTS 23 is a pretty good price IF the horn doesn't need significant work. But if it does, it's not a particularly good price, really.

The good thing about C'list is, of course, it's local and you get to try the horn. Also, most sellers will be willing to take a (serious) offer below the listed price.

$500 is the low end of a budget for a (good-quality) Tenor that plays fine. So, it's possible.....
 

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it'll need a complete overhaul costing you an additional $600. Then take $200 out of your pocket, offer it and walk if it's not accepted.

That is basically it. $500 for a YTS 23 is a pretty good price IF the horn doesn't need significant work. But if it does, it's not a particularly good price, really.


But $800 is not (ie grumps's $200 + $600 for the overhaul)

There's a lot more than just blowing a few notes, as Grumps says play the horn up and down chromatically - all the notes. And you should not have to struggle to play the low notes quietly.

However that is just the start, wiggle the keys and rods to check if there is any play. If so, then you could be looking at a repair down the road a bit even if it's playing OK now.
 

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Why do I sense a slight element of irony in a portion of Grumps' original advice ?
I just hate paying someone what they ask for, no matter what it's worth, and offered my tips along those lines. I've been on the seller's end as well. Anyone experienced in selling on Craig's List knows that if they get their asking price right away, they've asked for too little.
 

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I'm going to provide a slightly different take on this. Just to answer the question in the thread title, especially to anyone who has to ask that question, the best strategy is to avoid Craigslist, ebay, and most private sales; buy from a reputable dealer with some guarantee the horn is in top playing condition and maybe even with a trial period. Yes, that will cost you more than $500 for a tenor!! But it will save you the time, hassle, and expense of resurrecting an old beater, full of leaks, that needs a lot of work.

Everyone is looking for a 'great deal.' More often than not that great deal will end up costing you a great deal more money and trouble in the long run, OR you'll just end up struggling with a poorly-playing horn.

Just my 2 cents.
 

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I agree with JL's suggested approach. A beginner's first and only horn (yes, a person who hasn't touched a sax in many years, after being only a "casual" player before that, is essentially a beginner again) shouldn't be a potentially tricky inspection/rehab project. Unless the choice is literally between stepping up in price and paying the rent, I'd go for a used horn that's guaranteed to be ready to play. A lot of SOTW buying advice is tailored for purchasers or are either very experienced saxophonists or frequent horn buyers/sellers, or both, but the OP here is neither.
 

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It really depends. Do a little searching and you can find a damn good deal on craigslist, ebay etc. You aren't likely to find a dealer in the US that will sell you a tenor for under $1,000. And I can pretty much guarantee that instrument won't be worth half that if you change your mind and decide to sell.

Worst case, buy a craigslist Yamaha tenor for $500, it needs a $600 overhaul. $1,100 is still not as expensive as what that would cost someone to buy that same horn from a shop. It is still worth more than any $1000 new shop horn.

Now, I am talking from the hobbyist perspective. I can handle the risk. If I was a serious student or professional then I can see why the extra investment cost of a horn and relationship with a good shop is worthwhile.
 

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There are reputable sellers who will sell you a ready-to-play tenor used for under $1000. JayePDX and Bruce Bailey on here regularly do; there are others as well. ebay is a bad idea, particularly for a beginner, unless you are budgeting for a complete overhaul.
 

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If it's still available, that is. I'm sure there are folks who've read this that are frantically searching through Craig's List to find the deal for themselves. That's the problem with asking for such advice on a public forum.
off thread but ...That's why I haven't asked anyone in Detroit to check out the $1500 Mark VI (74xxx) I see for sale ,,,, going to see for myself
 

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I bought a horn from a reputable seller here and it is a nice horn. I don't think I paid a bargain price. Still, The horn still had leaks and needed some pads replace. I expected this in a used horn. So I would always budget for repairs on when buying a used horn, although I would try to find a horn that didn't need an "overhaul"
 

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I bought a horn from a reputable seller here and it is a nice horn. I don't think I paid a bargain price. Still, The horn still had leaks and needed some pads replace. I expected this in a used horn. So I would always budget for repairs on when buying a used horn, although I would try to find a horn that didn't need an "overhaul"
Did the 'reputable seller' tell you the horn was in top playing condition, NO leaks or other problems? If so, I'd say his reputation is somewhat tarnished. I wasn't talking about a private seller (even here), but rather someone who deals in horns (as a business), is honest and ethical, and is either an expert tech, or knows an expert tech, who can overhaul a horn properly before selling it. I could name a few, and one in particular who I've dealt with in the past. But whoever you are talking about doesn't qualify, unless they clearly stated the horn needed work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Think I'm going to buy it. 500 really isn't that much, its worth a shot. Ill save up a few months and buy a nicer one if I feel the need. Will post some pics on friday~ Anybody have opinions on a good mouthpiece (preferably under 150)?
 

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Think I'm going to buy it. 500 really isn't that much, its worth a shot. Ill save up a few months and buy a nicer one if I feel the need. Will post some pics on friday~ Anybody have opinions on a good mouthpiece (preferably under 150)?
I think it's worth it if it plays, but I would offer less because why not save if you can.

Grab a plastic Hite Premiere, try it out in the store if you can. Easy playing beginer piece for <$30, then you can decide on something better if/when you decide you need it.
 

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I'm going to provide a slightly different take on this. Just to answer the question in the thread title, especially to anyone who has to ask that question, the best strategy is to avoid Craigslist, ebay, and most private sales; buy from a reputable dealer with some guarantee the horn is in top playing condition and maybe even with a trial period. Yes, that will cost you more than $500 for a tenor!! But it will save you the time, hassle, and expense of resurrecting an old beater, full of leaks, that needs a lot of work.

Everyone is looking for a 'great deal.' More often than not that great deal will end up costing you a great deal more money and trouble in the long run, OR you'll just end up struggling with a poorly-playing horn.

Just my 2 cents.
+1

I know nothing about Craigslist, but I just got burned as a buyer on eBay. Their 30 Day Money Back Guarantee...that's about it. Otherwise, there is no mitigation...take it or leave it. What's even worse, if the package is damaged and you accept it...tough s$#t. UPS and FedEx are off the hook for damages. If you attempt to get the seller to repair it or make good on the damage, because it's a simple fix and you really want the horn...forget it, unless the seller is in a good mood. Otherwise, all you get is grief, and possibly stuck with a damaged item, because "you can't return it because it is not in the original condition that it was sent" and the seller has to agree. If the package is damaged, don't accept it at all, especially for high ticket items. If you're in the same state, at least you have small claims court, which becomes "he said, she said" unless you have really good documentation and pictures.

My own addition to JL is get it in writing if at all possible. Treat your "purchase" like a used car sale. Get it in writing that you have a trial period and can take the horn to your tech for inspection and estimate for repair. Also, that you can return said item for a full refund within that time period.
 

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Typically a Craigslist purchase is local, so you can check out the horn in person. They are basically just an online classified ad, so in general they provide no guaranties/warranties.
 

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Typically a Craigslist purchase is local, so you can check out the horn in person. They are basically just an online classified ad, so in general they provide no guaranties/warranties.
True. And if you're an experienced player who can play and assess the horn in person, then no problem. But in that case, you wouldn't need to come on here and ask how to tell if a used sax is any good.
 
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you forgot to tell him make sure the pads that seal well. Why? Because I don't want to play a horn full of leaks. one gets forgetful in old age eh!

I'm going to provide a slightly different take on this. Just to answer the question in the thread title, especially to anyone who has to ask that question, the best strategy is to avoid Craigslist, ebay, and most private sales; buy from a reputable dealer with some guarantee the horn is in top playing condition and maybe even with a trial period. Yes, that will cost you more than $500 for a tenor!! But it will save you the time, hassle, and expense of resurrecting an old beater, full of leaks, that needs a lot of work.

Everyone is looking for a 'great deal.' More often than not that great deal will end up costing you a great deal more money and trouble in the long run, OR you'll just end up struggling with a poorly-playing horn.

Just my 2 cents.
 
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