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Buying a tenor saxophone


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
You're essentially spanning all levels of player with those horns. Also, a Selmer S80 Serie III isn't exactly "cheap," by any stretch of the imagination :).

I know we have at least one member here, besides you, that lives in Israel, so I hope he comes by and gives his advice, too!

Anyhow, several comments:

* There is a kinda-sorta eBay for Israel. You might want to check them out.
* A lot of the sellers on eBay US and UK will ship to other countries. Again, you might want to check them out.
* I don't know if Quinn the Eskimo (one of the forum's supporters) will ship overseas, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I'm sure that Jim (Gandalfe) will be around in a bit if I mention his name ....

Of the horns you have listed -- well, switching from alto to tenor on your list :) -- the horn I'd recommend would be the YTS-280 "small step up" student horn. It's a solid student horn and very popular, which will mean that parts are easy to get. It's not the world's ruggedest horn, but it's definitely not bad. And, according to the Yamaha website, there is a Yamaha authorized dealer in Israel. The YTS-280 is 6200 ILS, which is $1604 US. That's not bad for new.

Going off your list, I'd think you'd be happy with a used Yamaha YTS-26 or earlier student horn (Yamaha student saxophones model numbers start with a 2. Examples: YTS-21, YTS-23, YTS-275, etc.). They're plentiful and a lot cheaper than new.
The Israeli eBay had no saxophones in it.
Buying from eBay doesn't save me that much money so I'd rather not order from it.
The YTS 280 will take me back about 6 paychecks so I think that the best option I have is a used horn.
I've narrowed the list down to a few models:
Yamaha YTS 32- about 1000$
Jean Michael tn 1100- about 900$
Which of these would be a better choice and when buying a used sax how can I tell whether it's in a good condition?


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Yamaha. Absolutely.

How can you tell if the sax is in good shape? Well ... my standard answer is, "Have your teacher test it for you." If you're trying to go the self-taught route, I think you're going to have a bad time: it's easier to learn bad habits then to unlearn them. In any case, it really doesn't matter what the horn looks like if it plays OK. I'd recommend play-testing for awhile and with a tuner. You're looking for leaks and keys that don't work. If there are any repairs that have been done, take a close look at them and see if they've been done neatly, no blobs of metal smeared across the horn or something. If the pads look like they're hard or they're different colors, that could be a sign that you need the horn completely repadded.

Anyhow, you might also want to invest in a decent mouthpiece, too. That can help you out a lot. The (plastic) one that comes with a new Yamaha student horn is pretty decent. I don't know what you'd get with a used horn. Try to get a hard rubber mouthpiece. I don't know what mouthpieces they have at the above store I mentioned that's in Israel: searching a Hebrew website with English words isn't working to well for me :).
Yamaha is the 'go-to' brand for the reasons of consistent quality and resale value. As good (or bad) as a 'Jean Michael might be it's resale would be minimal in most markets. Yamaha is a safe choice, and I personally have liked every Yamaha I've ever played.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
+1. FWIW, here are the Yamahas I've owned:

* 2 YAS-23 altos.
* 1 YTS-23 tenor.
* 1 YBS-52 baritone.
* 2 YCL-34 Bb clarinets.

I used the baritone from high school through college. The 52 eventually became the 34, in most markets. It's the Yamaha intermediate line. Can I tell the difference between the YBS-52 and YBS-62 pro model? Yes, but the difference in price wasn't worth the difference in quality to me. The 23 model -- it's the 25 model in some markets -- is the Yamaha student horn. The main difference between the 23 and 32 (and 280, for that matter) is that the key layout is closer to that of the Yamaha pro models. I know the 280 has an updated neck receiver, too, but the 32 is supposed to be even closer to the 52 in design, minus a couple features, like adjustable bumpers on the bell keys.

Why did I get the 23s? My main horn was bari, but I did occasionally need to play alto and tenor. The price difference between the 23 and 52 models were great enough that I didn't bother. I bought the YCL-34s because they were the base Yamaha wooden horns. The student models were plastic. That's not a big knock on Yamaha's student clarinets, but I liked the Buffet plastic horns better.


Yamaha has unnecessarily confused the market with their numbering system. Here's a simplified version:

OL models. Student horns made for a couple years by Yamaha Indonesia.
2 models. Student models. Examples: YAS-23, YAS-275.
3 models. Intermediate models. Examples: YAS-32, YAS-34. As mentioned above, the older 52 series became the 34 series.
4 models. Advanced intermediate. Examples: YAS-475, YAS-480.
575 models. Even more advanced intermediate. Example: YAS-575AL ("AL" stands for "Allegro").
6 models. Base professional. Examples: YAS-61, YAS-62.
8 models. Custom professional. Examples: YAS-82Z, YAS-875.

Not all pitches were made for each model. As an example, there isn't (currently) a YBS-280 baritone or YSS-23 soprano.

Excepting the custom pro models (because it's a matter of opinion), the switch between the 52 and 34 models, and the 23 and 25 models, the higher the number the "better" the horn. Or, at least, newer with more features. So, if someone said he had a YAS-61 for sale for $5000 (making up a value), but I could get a YAS-855 for the same amount -- condition being equal -- the 855 would be a better buy.
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