Beginner Saxophones vs Intermediate Saxophones

Beginner to Intermediate Saxophones

Levels of Saxophone

Saxophones are divided into different groups based on playing level: beginner (or student), intermediate, and professional (or performance) saxophones. Pretty much all student saxophonists start playing on a beginner horn, which makes perfect sense! But once a student has reached a certain playing level, they’ll probably start thinking about stepping up to a better horn and will want to look at buying an intermediate sax.

What to Look for in Student Saxophones

Student / beginner saxophones are made with the new player in mind. They are usually lighter weight and easier to play so the student won’t struggle to produce sound while learning the fundamentals.

In recent years, manufacturers have focused a lot of attention on creating beginner saxophones. They have strived to create horns that are affordable, while offering comfort and the ability to create good tone that will help keep a young player interested in playing and developing their skills. With that said, not all horns are created equal, so don’t buy a super cheap beginner saxophone for your young students! Instead, be sure to buy a horn from a reputable brand, like Allora or Jupiter, so the instrument is durable, sounds good and is not difficult to play.

Construction and Materials of Beginner Saxes

When looking at construction, you’ll find that student saxes are traditionally non-ribbed. This helps make the instrument a little lighter and easier to play in terms of tone production. You’ll also find that most beginner models have yellow brass bodies and a clear lacquer. While you’ll see advanced saxophones made with bronze, copper, or silver, these materials are geared towards the professional player seeking a distinctive tone and look. They darken the tone, add cost and require careful handling, which means they are not ideal choices for beginners.

What Do Intermediate / Step Up Saxophones Offer?

As you can guess from the name, intermediate saxophones (sometimes referred to as step ups) bridge the gap between student and professional instruments. Intermediate horns usually don’t produce quite the fullness of tone you’ll find in pro saxes and they usually have less handwork and cosmetic detailing than high-end horns.

When Should a Student Step Up to an Intermediate Sax?

Once a student has made a commitment to the saxophone and has progressed beyond the fundamentals, they (along with the music they’re learning to play) will outgrow the student sax. These players generally start to desire a higher level of performance, sound, and responsiveness. Intermediate models, including those from great brands like Yamaha and P. Mauriat, offer these characteristics, plus they add in features that will help to further improve the player’s ability and skill.

What are the Differences Between Student and Intermediate Horns?

Some notable differences you’ll see in an intermediate sax include: a fuller richer sound, better intonation, quicker and truer response, and added key mechanisms that make the instrument easier to play and extend its range.

There are also several differences in construction and materials from beginner saxophones. Some are made of better materials, such as annealed brass. Where student models are typically non-ribbed, intermediate ones usually have ribbed construction, which gives the mechanisms more stability and allows the instrument to retain fine adjustments better. Cosmetic improvements could include brass keys, extra engraving on the bell, and abalone or mother of pearl key touches.

Related Articles

7 Essential Drumming Tips for Absolute Beginners

7 Essential Drumming Tips for Absolute Beginners

Learn More
Everyday Reed Maintenance Tips

Everyday Reed Maintenance Tips

Learn More

The Best New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians

Learn More

5 Bad Music Habits to Break in the New Year

Learn More