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Repairing Old Sax vs getting new one?

29446 Views 16 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  milandro
So I have been wanting to start playing my saxophone again for a couple months now. The saxophone I have is a Yamaha, and is over 20 years old. I took it to a music store to get a repair estimate on it, because it has a small dent on the bottom. Also, I wanted to get it cleaned before I started playing again. The cost to get it cleaned and repaired, and have new pads and corks put on, is around $350-400. There are additional cost for extra accessories and luxuries.

So, is getting this sax fixed better than buying a new sax? I am only a beginner, so I do not need to buy a top-of-the-line, really expensive sax. I have seen some saxes online that are in the $200-300 range. Are these low-price models any good? Would it be better to get a cheaper, new model now, and then get my old one fixed later on? Or would it be better just to get my old sax fixed?

Also, my old case is really beat-up, so I would like to buy a new one, so that cost also factors in. I need new cleaning equipment, as well.

Any advice is appreciated.
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There is nothing good about the new Chinese sax at $200. These will not serve you well, even as a returning beginner. They are best used as lamps, not that I have a strong opinion about this.

Regardless of what model of Yamaha sax, it's worth getting repaired at $350-$400. Every horn Yamaha has ever made is a solid instrument that will play well. Some are outstanding, but even the worst of them is a solid instrument that will serve you well. New $200 bargain models, not so much.

What is the model of the Yamaha you have?
Maddenma is correct. Your Yamaha, regardless of the model, is guaranteed to be worlds better than any cheap, sax shaped object of the sort you are flirting with buying. The price quoted to get your present horn in tip top shape is reasonable, provided the tech is experiences, knowledgeable, and has a good reputation.

Don't rush into a foolish move because you want a shiny horn.
Get the Yammy fixed up, like what's been said prior to me, they are pieces of rubbish. Even more so if you find one in purple, or red, or...
Also, as an afterthought - what model do you have?
well, certainly the Yamaha, whichever model that is, would be a better horn than a cheap Chinese saxophone ( as the ones sold by walmart some time ago, for example).

Repairing is certainly an option BUT,

for 350-400$ you should be able to buy a secondhand and perfectly payable Yamaha ( even less for a Vito Yamaha), so, my thought is, buy another functional Yamaha at the same price that you would pay for repairing yours and then SELL you Yamaha.

Even if you get 200€ you will be better of this way.
buy another functional Yamaha at the same price that you would pay for repairing yours and then SELL you Yamaha.
In theory, but in practice, if he just goes out and grabs a used instrument, unless he has someone who knows what they are doing selecting a horn for him, chances are good this is exactly the sort of thing that the second guy selling a horn did and he will mess around wasting time and money replacing one set of problems for another. I would repair, he might even get some sort of follow up with the repair, he could then be sure it is working and get on with playing it.
well, as usual, different strokes for different people.

We don’t know if OP can play, how well he can play and if he has anyone among his friends who can play and assess a saxophone.

If I were in that position, I can play, I can assess how good or not a saxophone is (and have done so often also for friends). So if I had an Yamaha in need of work, I would do precisely what I advised OP to do.

At this point in time, if I look on the classified ad in the NL for example and I have a Yamaha which needs a repad, (flute or saxophone) I have a very good chance to find for as much or less than a repad cost, an alto saxophone or a flute which was bought new, played only months by a student and then put away for lack of talent.

Most of these instruments are as new.
+1 on Milandro's comment. Unless it is one of the upscale Yam's, you may be better off getting an other. But before making a decision, there's no reason you can't do some cleaning yourself and/or getting a second opinion.

As to cheap Chinese, I had a chance to try a Mendini $279 tenor. While the ergos were all over the place, the thing played top to bottom. I wouldn't recommend it but it played better than a Yam needing pads :bluewink:
You'll only be better off buying a new or used horn if the one you buy is A) a better brand than the one you have now and B) in top playing condition (doesn't need any work) OR you are willing to spend more to put the better brand horn you buy into top playing condition.

Are we talking about an alto or a tenor? That repair estimate doesn't sound excessive to me, especially if it's a tenor. If an alto, and it were me, I'd buy a GOOD condition late '20s Buescher True Tone, which you can probably find for just a bit more than that repair cost.

Without a bit more info, my guess is you'll be better off financially just fixing the one you have. Saxophones that get played have maintenance costs.
So the sax I have is an alto. I don't know the exact model and the sax is still at the music store, waiting for my decision on whether or not to get it repaired, so I can't check it at this time.

So the consensus seems to be that the cheaper saxes are not worth the money. Many of the reviews on Amazon and eBay are saying the same thing. I figured that would be the case, because it seemed a little too good to be true.

Anyways, I have some more information about the repair. So, the repair company has 2 options for my sax. The first is an economy overhaul, for $362, to get my sax in good playing condition. The second is a major overhaul, for $412, which I'm guessing fixes it but also makes it really shiny (the lady on the phone said that this was mostly for aesthetics).

Any advice on whether or not I should shell out an extra $50 for the extra aesthetics?

Also, what are good prices for new cases and cleaning equipment? I need to buy both of these things, because my old case is pretty beat up and my cleaning equipment is missing.

Thanks for all your replies so far!
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If you can get an overhaul for less than $500, that is an incredibly good deal, assuming it's truly an overhaul (you obviously don't live here in the Bay Area!). I don't quite understand the 'mostly for aesthetics' extra $50. Maybe that's for cleaning & polishing the horn when it's broken down. I'd be inclined to spend the extra $50 and get the full works.

One thing a lot of people don't realize is how differently and how much better a horn plays when it's not full of leaks. If your horn really needs an overhaul, it will play much better after the work is completed.
A case could be bought second hand or new.

Between $50 to $ 250 depend of what you want or need, there is ample choice. Unless you cycle and you need to carry the saxophone on your back, a simple case (Yamaha makes very good ones) is all you need, make sure it fits your horn.

Cleaning things are very cheap and you can find them on line or ebay.

What you exactly need as cleaning accessory(ies) is a matter of preference and could be reduced to the simplest pull-trough to a very complicates set of many things.

If I were you I would keep it very simple.

I have no idea what your shop means by economy or major overhaul, there is no univocal meaning when it comes to the word overhaul, it can mean all sorts of things.

They could use cheap or more expensive pads and you couldn’t tell (unless you are an expert) from the way they look, but this things have an impact on how long things last.

You say your horn has a ( small) dent in the bow. Of course “ small” is not necessarily telling us what this dent has done to the saxophone.

Generally an impact in the bow produces a misalignment of the lower keys on the toneholes and could have pushed-in the area of the bell-to-body brace.

There are proper solutions to these possible problems and there are botch jobs to deal with this.

How would you know if any of this falls under the “ aesthetics” or “ functional” criteria of this particular shop?


We have members here who deal in secondhand saxophones in the USA. Two of the most reputable sellers are JayePDX and Bruce Bailey ( there are others too you will find them in the for sale section of the forum)

I am sure that both of them could provide you with a perfectly funtional saxophone for the price of the better overhaul , including a good case and maybe could throw in a pull through ( they are rather cheap)
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I don't quite understand the 'mostly for aesthetics' extra $50. Maybe that's for cleaning & polishing the horn when it's broken down.
Dent removal.
here is a link to a thread on differences in repads and more or less complete over hauls. For $400 I am thinking it will just be a repad.
Dent removal.
I would definitely pay the extra $50 for that! My guess is FremontSax is correct. At that price, primarily a repad, and maybe that's all the horn needs. We still don't know what model Yamaha it is, but a lot would depend on whether the OP liked the horn when it was playing well. I'm not a big Yamaha fan, especially of the altos (and I had one of the top-line models for a time). I'd much rather have a vintage Buescher, with its far better tone quality, which can be had for only a bit more than the price of that re-pad. But we're all different.
removing a bow dent is considered by many as an aesthetic problem, most of the times a dent in there is VERY difficult to remove and not strictly necessary.

However as I said above, a dent in the bow is often associated with more important and significative damage which might be not addressed but botched.
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