What Baritone Sax Should I Buy?

photo: Daniel Miguel

In recent years, many people have asked me for some advices before buying a baritone saxophone. Usually, the price influences on this decision but there also are other important elements we don’t bear in mind.

In this post, I felt it more appropriate to remark a few points we don’t take notice when buying a baritone saxophone. Later, I will write another post about the things I do and search when trying an instrument in terms of sound but I would now like to make you think about other important points in our day-to-day.

If you plan to buy a baritone saxophone, I would first recommend you to NOT HURRY. Take your time to go to different music stores to try several brands and models. Furthermore, dealers don’t always have enough stock to meet customer demands. Look on it as a learning process and enjoy: you will be surprised to find very good instruments by different brands.

Budget

If money is not the problem and you have USD 20,000 to buy a baritone, you are lucky. Congratulations! However, I would like to invite you to keep reading. You could maybe spend less money on an instrument that meets your needs and dedicate the remaining to good accessories (harnesses, mouthpieces, cases, etc.).

Keep in mind that the more expensive brand or the more expensive model of a brand could not necessarily be the best for you. Maybe other baritones could give you a better sound or response according to your repertoire or more comfort according to your physical constitution than the most expensive ones. Do not exclude this possibility!

New or second hand

Nowadays, the supply of baritones is greater than some years ago. Now, there are several brands with different models on the market and it is relatively easy to find a good new instrument due to technical improvements. Competition among companies clearly benefits the end customer.

On the other hand, it is less and less difficult to find second hand units in a good shape, now. In addition, the technical level of luthiers has grown in general. Fortunately, it is not difficult to find someone able to restore well an old baritone saxophone and return it ready to go to stage.

What will you use it for?

There are some brands that produce instruments built and designed aimed at some styles of music. If you are not a specialist and also looking for a versatile instrument, you can succeed it with a good baritone, good accessories and a good attitude.

The more intensive use and the higher demands, the more performance you will need from you instrument. The quality and variety of the sounding palette of your baritone saxophone is very important. Yes. True! However, if you have to spend lot of time with your instrument or going up and down with such a big and heavy saxophone, take also into consideration some other points below.

Low A or Low B-flat? Treble F-sharp key, yes or not?

There are so many low A in the repertoire of classical and contemporary music I played throughout my career (solo, saxophone quartet, etc.), that I do not call it into question.

The same happens to me with the treble F#. In spite of playing often this note with other fingerings, the C5 key helps me a lot in fast excerpts, altissimo register and some multiphonics. It does not bother me.

Ergonomics and mechanism

New models of baritones have improved ergonomics and comfort vey much. You can now find instruments with a very pleasant to touch mechanism as well as solid (yes, a smooth mechanism needs not necessarily to be weak!). Furthermore, you can also find differences in the separation distance between left and right hands in different saxophones (maybe not remarkable for those who length 1,85m or more). Anyway, think about it if you are going to spend lot of time with your instrument.

Weight

All of us look for a baritone with a big sound and think that the heavier, the better. Yes, but… A heavy instrument will produce a denser, fuller or bigger sound. However, this is not to say that this sound goes further or has more projection.

Do you usually play amplified? Do you play in concert halls or on the street? Believe it or not, you will tell the difference between 200 grams more or less, after a while.

Cases, floor pegs and other accessories

As well as ergonomics has improved a lot, the same cannot be said, however, for cases. In my opinion, I don’t understand why some brands still sell their baritones in those kinds of closets. They are not practical to take your saxophone along with you in public transport or to put it in the boot of a car. Fortunately, there are some brands specializing in light and handy cases but this imposes an extra cost. Take it into consideration when you buy a baritone!

Nor do I understand why brands offer a new baritone with a poor strap. It is better if you give the instrument with a harness. Whoever wants a strap, will exchange it for a better one.

On the other hand, baritones with a floor peg are more and more usual. It is not bad at all if you play static. Anyway, see how do you feel when moving.

Go!

Have you ever posed these questions? Baritone is a wonderful saxophone but it has the disadvantage of carrying and hanging with a big and heavy instrument. Sound is essential, yes, but we should bear in mind other points if we will usually play it.

That’s all! I hope this post will help you to find YOUR baritone.

Don’t hesitate to share if you have found this post interesting. Let me also know if you would like to read more posts about some material.

See you soon!

Joan Martí-Frasquier
Barcelona, November 2023

 

 

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