Whether you’re a new player, or a seasoned professional, shopping for a used saxophone can be both exciting and stressful. Your instrument is a lot more than just some pipes you blow into. It’s your trusty steed that you’ll ride into the musical sunset. It has to be the right fit for not only your style, but your budget too. There’s no shame in purchasing a used instrument. Some people prefer vintage saxes over new ones because they have a certain tone and weight that is lost in modern instruments. You can also save a bundle by buying a well-maintained, newer used instrument. Here are some things to look out for when browsing used saxophones.
Gauging the Condition at a Glance
Whenever possible, you should check out the sax you’re thinking of buying in person. Although there are many reputable online vendors on sites like Reverb.com, it’s a good idea to inspect and play the instrument before you buy. When you open the case, does it stink? Mold and mildew in a case can be an indicator that the instrument hasn’t been stored properly. Are there patches of green rot (oxidation) or red rot (de-zincification) on the horn? These are both indicators of extended improper care. A saxophone with a completely blackened exterior usually means the sax is silver plated and simply needs polishing. Absolutely avoid any instruments with a scratched-out serial number. This usually means the instrument has been stolen.
Reviewing Each Part
When checking each part of the saxophone, the first thing you should check is if all the serial numbers match. A neck with a different serial number than the body means one of the original parts have been replaced. Along with that, you should inspect each piece for dents or damage. Surface scratches are par for the course, especially if the instrument has been gigged with. However, dents can alter the tone and playability of an instrument severely. Dents less than a 1/4 inch wide are acceptable.
Make sure to inspect each post and key carefully. Look for soldering marks or any repairs that were made. A bent post, loose key, or poor repair job can make playing difficult or impossible. Speaking of bends, if there are any severe kinks in the body, the instrument is toast and not worth your time. The pads and cork are a different story. A perfectly functioning instrument may have bad pads or an old cork. This shouldn’t dissuade you from purchasing the instrument as they can be replaced for fairly cheap at your local music store.
What You Should Bring When Testing Used Saxophones
First and foremost, if a deal seems too good to be true, it might be. Be careful when meeting people to test an instrument. It’s a good idea to bring a friend with you. An extra set of eyes and ears will help the transaction go smoothly. Buying through a reputable retailer minimizes the risk of shopping online and in person.
When you go to test a saxophone, be sure to bring your own mouthpiece, a selection of reeds, and some plumbing tape. This will allow you to play the instrument without having to use a stranger’s mouthpiece and reeds. The plumbing tape can be wrapped around the cork if your mouthpiece is too big. You should also bring a tuner, so you can make sure the instrument plays in tune, and stays in tune.
Things to Keep in Mind During Testing
After ensuring that the instrument is in good condition, is playable, and is everything that’s been advertised, now comes the real question. Is it the right used saxophone for you? Do you like how it sounds? Do you like how it feels? Can you see yourself playing this instrument for years to come? These are all important questions that you should heavily consider. Don’t jump on the first deal you find unless you know for a fact it’s the right instrument for you. Consider viewing multiple instruments across your price range, and making a list of pros and cons for each. If you don’t love the horn you’re testing, don’t be afraid to say no and move on.
Looking for Used Saxophones in Los Angeles?
Adam’s Music is your friendly neighborhood music shop in West Los Angeles. We have a wide variety of instruments and musical equipment for sale or rent, including new and used saxophones. If you’ve always wanted to pick up a new instrument or brush up on your technique, now’s a perfect time! Contact us today to buy or rent one of our instruments, or arrange a free introductory lesson with one of our world-class teachers.