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Hello!

I play the clarinet and am the proud owner of a buffet e12f Bb clarinet. I want start playing in jazz bands. I am looking for an alto because the jazz band that I am going to provides the tenor and bari. My budget is around 400-550 dollars. Used saxs are okay if they are post 2005s and are playable.

Again, my budget is around 400-550 dollars

Thx,
Clarinet player who wants to play alto
 

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Hello!

I play the clarinet and am the proud owner of a buffet e12f Bb clarinet. I want start playing in jazz bands. I am looking for an alto because the jazz band that I am going to provides the tenor and bari...
Try tenor.
 

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What's your repair budget?
You 'might' be able to find a used student model YAS23, Cannonball, or similar for around $500 but it probably will need some pads, dent removal, and an adjustment.
If you're REALLY lucky you might find a rental return/trade in alto at a lical music store.
 

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Are you determined to play alto? In saying the band “provides the tenor and bari,” do you mean there’s a tenor and bari available for someone (like you) to use in the band, or that tenor and bari parts are already filled by others?

If you want to buy a modern alto and have $550 to spend, get a YAS-23. As a double the only reason you’d ever NEED anything else would be personal preference.
 

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You can also search the marketplace to get an idea of what kinds of horns fit your budget.
 

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Administrator note:

SaxOnly4JazzBand,

I have moved your inquiry to the correct sub forum, as it does not belong in the Marketplace area. Remember that our rules require one to be a member for at least six months, and have a minimum of fifty posts to buy/sell/trade on the forum. This policy is strictly enforced for the protection of the forum and the membership.
 

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I would not get too hung up about having something newer than 2005. Within your budget a ten year old $500 horn may well be at a point where pads need to be changed out, but an older horn might be more likely to have been re-padded more recently, which would likely make it easier to play and learn on. Yamahas have the advantage of a great reputation and solid resale value, and you cant go to far wrong if its in good shape, but there are other cheaper options too if money is tight.

If you hang around with sax players you will soon learn that many experienced players would sell a kidney to own a Selmer Mk VI (or other less pricey vintage horns), and they stopped making them in 1970s. So dont let age be too much of a factor, and if you know an experienced player or teacher who can help you check out horns in person, that would be a big help in finding a used horn to start your journey.

On the other hand, if the band has a Tenor you can borrow, just start there:)
 

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For your budget, I would be looking at used horns, as any new horn at that price point is going to be junk.

You could start by checking Craigslist. I bought a used Vito in good condition for $250 about five years ago back when I was living in the East Bay. Fortunately, you are in an area where lots of people are selling horns. Many folks buy student horns, barely play them, and sell them on CL, so you can often pickup gently used horns for great prices if you keep an eye out. Another advantage with this approach is that you can try before you buy to make sure the horn feels and sounds good to you. Of course, there are no returns with private sales, so you need to do a thorough check to make sure the horn doesn't have any major damage. Small dings and dents aren't usually a problem unless they have warped a tone hole or caused a rod to be misaligned. Also, horns with sizable dents in the neck should be avoided. Pads should not be hard and should not show signs of excessive wear, as re-pad jobs are expensive and may not be worth it on a student horn. Brands to watch for include Yamaha, Vito, Cannonball, Jupiter, Bundy, Kessler, Buescher, Martin, Conn, King, Buffet, B&S. If you find one you are interested in, you can always post a link to the ad here to get some feedback.

The other option is to buy from an established dealer with a good reputation and a decent inventory of used horns who will allow returns in case it doesn't work out. The drawback with that is that unless you find something in your budget at a local music store, that means ordering online and you won't be able to try before you buy. Saxophone is awesome and I'm sure you will love it. Good luck!
 

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I've been impressed with a few used Antigua's I've purchased recently ...HOWEVER, Does your budget include a mouthpiece upgrade? Any horn you buy in your price range is going to need a good mouthpiece to play jazz. Even for a mild used one, you'll spend another $100-$200.
 

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I've been impressed with a few used Antigua's I've purchased recently ...HOWEVER, Does your budget include a mouthpiece upgrade? Any horn you buy in your price range is going to need a good mouthpiece to play jazz. Even for a mild used one, you'll spend another $100-$200.
Ive had good experiences with used Antigua WInds too, both Tenor and Alto. A few years ago now, but I think the most I paid back then was only a couple of hundred, plus another $50 with my tech to make sure it was in good shape after shipping.

As a beginner you dont need a $100+ mouthpiece, mostly it would be a waste of money as they will have no idea initially what they will end up wanting/needing from a mouthpiece. You just need to avoid real cheap and nasty mouthpieces (the black plastic doorstop wedges that often come free with cheap horns), often they have facings or manufacturing issues that will make life harder than it needs to be for a beginner.
One of the best players Ive played with was fantastic using a basic $30 Yamaha 4C, Im pretty sure that its always the indian not the arrow that makes the difference.

If they want something with a bit more "jazz credibility" then a Meyer 5 or 6 could be picked up for less than 100, but if they are buying a used horn there is a half decent chance that someone else has already made that upgrade and it will be in the case already. I think most teachers would probably prefer they go with the Yamaha.
 

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I have bought hundreds of used alto saxes for students through the years. Here is my take.

Yamaha 23's are well made and play decently. They are good student saxes if you don't have large hands. However, their resale price is unreasonably high compared to other altos because they are on most school's approved horns list and so are highly sought after. Most have been used by beginners so many have had a rough life.

Many players on here will recommend vintage saxes. While they are often well made, they typically have inferior action, some tuning quirks, and have often been played a lot, which can lead to ongoing mechanical issues. While newer saxes may not be as robust, that's not a concern for you since this will be a double, anyway.

For the same or less money, you can get an upgrade alto (semi-pro to pro) by looking at used altos from Taiwan. Making high level saxes has become a large industry for them. Cannonball and P. Mauriat are some example of Taiwanese saxes. These will have pro features like ribbed construction, high F#, and tilted LH spatula. There are ten on eBay right now labeled as Taiwanese for under $500, some under $300. Just search for "Taiwan Alto".

How to tell if it's a Taiwanese sax can be tricky because these are marketed under many, many names and not all are stamped "Made in Taiwan." Some brands have all their saxes made there. Other brands used to have their saxes made there but have shifted to other sources to save money. Some brands have always had their top models made there but lower models made in cheaper locals. Many are stencils where someone just bought saxes from the factory making brand names and had their own brand or even name stamped on them. Do some reading up on brands or just ask the people here if it isn't stamped "Made in Taiwan" or if you have any doubts.

A few brands to look at are Jupiter, Antigua, Omega, and Selmer 500's. Many of these were bought by adults that thought they were going to get back into playing and then were never touched. If a sax looks new or almost new, odds are it's not going to need much work. I got a P. Mauriat 67 stencil alto not too long ago on eBay in like new condition for under $200 and it's an excellent horn.

Now for the question you didn't ask that others have brought up; why alto sax? It's a tough double for clarinet players. Tenor sax and clarinet are much more alike in shape of air stream and embouchere. You will have to completely change those to sound like an alto player while you can approach tenor like clarinet and it will all work with just minor tweaks (larger volume of air, more relaxed lower lip).
 

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Good to see a fellow clarinet player. When looking for a new sax in that budget I would say you will probably only get a student or intermediate horn. Yamaha, Selmer and Jupiter are the most common, but Antigua and Vito saxes are also worth taking a look at. Make sure you try out a wide range of saxes before making your decision, as each saxophone is different and it comes down to personal preference when deciding whether you like the sax or not.
 
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