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Saxophone Brands and Purchasing

How do you know what saxophone to purchase? As you can see, there are a lot of name brands and price ranges to choose from. Here at http://www.saxophone.tk, we will show you how to go about picking out a quality saxophone without spending unnecessarily.

Four Big Brands

Professional saxophone players talk about the four big brands. These are the big boys that have been around a long time and have developed a reputation for quality. The brands are Yamaha (made in Japan), Yangisawah (made in Japan), Selmer (United States), and Keilwerth (Taiwan: originally Germany).

All of these brands carry a premium price tag. You will pay thousands of dollars more just for the brand name. Is it worth the extra money? For a student model or mid range model it is really not worth the extra money. These brands should be reserved for people that are going to be really serious about playing and for professionals. Many of the lower grade brands carry saxophones that are on par with the lower grade instruments of these big brands. That is why it mostly makes sense to buy these if you need the best because these manufacturers are the only ones that provide the best.

Selmer

Which of these brands is the best? It is up to personal interpretation. Selmer has the best brand recognition amongst professionals. Selmer started out in France and made many leaps in technology to produce great instruments. The right vintage Selmer is the choice of most professionals. By vintage, I mean older models from the 1960s named Mark VI. Many saxophonists think that the Mark VI has not been improved upon and that it was the best instrument period.

Yangisawah

Today, Yangisawah and Selmer are both owned by their parent company Steinway. You can imagine that these horns are pretty similar in quality. Their prices are also similar. I think anyone would be happy to play either brand.

Yamaha

The Yamaha company from Japan stands alone. It is the same company that makes Yamaha motorcycles, but is a different division. The surprising thing is that Yamaha is actually a music company first and got into motorsports about 30 after the company began. Yamaha Motorsports is a separate division of the company under totally different management.

The Yamaha saxophones have also been known for their high quality. Years ago, even with a good brand name, the Yamaha saxophones were known for having loose keys. However, over the years, like everyone else, Yamaha has perfected their craft. You can expect to pay a little less for a Yamaha over a Selmer or Yangisawah and the quality is on par.

Keilwerth

Keilwerth saxophones were originally produced in Munich, Germany. Today, they are produced in Taiwan. They are known to be of high quality. Keilwerth saxophones have good styling with black nickel plating against a gold background. Keilwerth is not a well known US brand. Not a lot of people have been playing them. However, since they are produced in Taiwan, we can imagine that their quality is similar to all the other Taiwanese imports.

All the Small Brands

Any other brand you see, not in the top 4, is actually made in China or Taiwan. Taiwanese instruments are better than their Chinese counterparts. First let's talk about Taiwan and then China.

Taiwan

There is really only one factory in Taiwan. It is located in Houli. The factory is shared by about 30 families that produce saxophones. At one time, Taiwan made a third of all the saxophones in the world. Since then, Mainland China has hurt them quite badly by producing much cheaper saxophones. Today, Taiwan sells around 40,000 saxophones per year.

Quality

China has almost put the Taiwanese factories under. How did Taiwanese manufacturers survive? They have started to focus on quality and are looking for professional recognition. In fact, they donated a saxophone to Bill Clinton and other famous players to get their quality recognized.

How did the factories start improving quality? It has only been a few years, but here is what has been going on. Taiwan started importing quality parts. They use blue steel springs that are stronger than stainless steel. They import the brass from France because it is the best and they also import cork from Italy. Each family is trying to make the best saxophones possible. They understand that they can't just be the low end market anymore.

How can you benefit?

The good thing for you is that a Taiwanese saxophone is much better quality than most saxophones and a lot cheaper. It still isn't considered the best saxophone ever. It is considered to be of the same quality as the medium grade of the big three: Yangisawah, Selmer, and Yamaha.

How much will you save?

It depends on how you shop. You can pay around $1,200 for a professional level saxophone from Taiwan. They call it professional even though it is really mid grade. The same saxophone in the big four is going to cost at least two thousand dollars more. What that means is that if you comfortable with mid range quality, then you can save a couple thousand.

Keep in mind that some of the same saxophones sell for much more. It all depends how the brand is marketed to you.

Taiwanese Brands

Taiwan sells to companies that stamp their own brand on it. Most of the companies try and come up with a French sounding name to make the instrument seem more like Selmer. In fact P. Mauriat Paris is made in the same Taiwanese factory as the rest of them. Some of the brands are TK Melody, Cannonball, Keilworth, Jupiter, Santee, and LC Cheng. There are lots of brands here because if you want to be in the saxophone business you can only go with China or Taiwan or manufacture one yourself. You can't exactly get Yamaha or Selmer to put your brand name on their instruments.

Chinese Brands

China started out by copying the work of the Taiwanese. The labor is cheaper in China and they can produce a much cheaper instrument. You can purchase a Chinese saxophone for as little as three hundred dollars. What do people say about playing the Chinese saxophones?

For the most part people are amazed at how well they play. It is obvious the quality is not the same, but they generally play quite well. You can expect that the keys will be designed well and work. They are copies of the best instruments available. There will however be some differences. It will be harder to play well in the low range and the high range. The keys will be a little lighter and damage more easily. They keys will also probably be stiffer and not respond quite as well. Over time, keys become loose and need adjusting. Many Chinese saxophones can't really be adjusted due to the type of pivot screws that they use. These kinds of saxophones are mostly meant to be played on for a few years and then tossed. You can't justify putting much back into them when a new one is so inexpensive.

A Chinese saxophone is a good choice for a beginner that isn't sure of their commitment level. It will play will enough to make it fun and should you stick with it a better instrument can be purchased later on. A couple of Chinese brands are Bauhaus Walstein and Monique. You might look on Ebay. Most of the Ebay saxophones are Chinese.

Style

As far as looks go, there is a wide variety. You can get a solid pink for a girl or a two tone gold and silver. Bright red and green lacquers are gaining in popularity. Other favorites are brushed silver with gold keys or black nickel hand brushed with gold keys. You can't tell the quality by how it looks.

Summary

If I were looking to purchase a saxophone, I would ascertain my commitment level and price restraints. In my opinion, you get the most quality for the lowest price with the Taiwanese saxophones. This assumes that you don't pay over $1,200 for the best quality Taiwanese brands.

If you commitment level is low or if you want to save money, I would try out a Chinese brand like Bauhaus Walstein. They will get you by for a few years; at least.

If I had enough money and/or a strong commitment to the saxophone, then I would consider purchasing a Yangisawah, Yamaha, or Selmer.

If you are totally crazy about saxophones and money is no object, then you might look for a vintage Selmer Mark VI that was played by a famous professional.