Do you love playing the saxophone? Would you want to play the bass line instead of a harmony part? Consider how to find the best baritone saxophone so that you can combine both interests! The baritone saxophone looks and sounds amazing, and it takes a good player for that to happen. But even the best players need a good quality instrument. How do you find the right bari sax for you?
What Is A Baritone Saxophone?
The baritone saxophone is a lower and bigger member of the saxophone family. It’s the biggest of the most common saxophones, and it usually plays the bass line or another low part. Bari saxophones usually have the same curved bell as the alto and tenor. However, they also have a neck that curves around because the instrument is so long.
You can use the same fingerings and breathing techniques to play the bari sax. And it sounds in the same key as the alto but an octave lower.
How To Find The Best Baritone Saxophone
When learning how to play the saxophone, you may decide to learn to play the bari sax. It’s a little big for most people to play as their first instrument, but they can switch to it from the alto or tenor. If you’ve found the best tenor or alto sax, you can use similar steps to find a good baritone. But there are a few differences that can make shopping for the bigger instrument more of a challenge.
Go through a few steps before and during your saxophone shopping adventure.
Review The Specs
Many baritone saxophones have similar specs, but some have more or fewer features. If you want to play the baritone saxophone a lot, it can help to look for an instrument with more bells and whistles. One of the most common features you can get on a baritone saxophone is a low A key. Normally, the lowest note you can play is a low B flat, so the extra key lets you play a half step lower.
You may also find some bari saxes with a high F sharp key, which extends the range a half step above the high F. That way, you can play higher if you have a solo. Some baritone saxophones also come in different metals and lacquers. Whether you want a yellow brass body or a silver body, you can get one that suits your preferences.
Consider Your Playing Level
As you look at different saxophone specs, think about if you need any of them. If you’ve played the saxophone for a while, you might want to have more features than someone who just started. You can find baritone saxophones primarily at the intermediate and professional levels. Since most new sax players start on the alto or tenor, beginner instruments are more common among those sizes.
Still, you should think about the type of music you currently play or want to in the future. That way, you can get an instrument that will suit your needs and be easy for you to play.
Know Your Budget
Some of the best bari saxophones cost thousands of dollars, and it can be easy to spend more than you can afford. You should think about if you have the money to pay in full or if you need to finance the purchase. Another consideration is if you already own a bari sax mouthpiece and ligature. Many saxophones come with those accessories, but some might not, especially if you buy a used model.
Speaking of which, used saxophones can help you save money without compromising on features. However, they may need more maintenance and repairs, so you might not always lower the overall cost.
Test A Few
After you figure out how much you can spend and the features you want on your bari sax, you can try some that fit those requirements. Test out at least two or three different saxophones so that you can find one you like. Play around on each instrument to determine if one seems like a better fit than the others. In some cases, you may know almost as soon as you pick up a sax if it’s for you or not.
However, it may take playing different exercises or pieces to know for sure. The easiest method for how to find the best baritone saxophone for you is to try as many of them as possible and to try them back to back so that you can compare each one.
Use Some Controls
Think of trying baritone saxophones as a science experiment. Each instrument can play slightly differently, so what works for one player might not work for you. While you test the instruments, keep as many factors as you can the same. That means using the same mouthpiece, ligature, and reed to test the different models.
You should also figure out what music you want to play to test the bari saxes. Keep that factor the same when playing each saxophone as well so that you can compare the sound on each instrument.
Play The Entire Range
When you decide what pieces or musical exercises to play as you test baritone saxophones, find stuff that covers the entire range. Choose music that focuses on the lower notes and some that focuses on the high notes. Look for slow, lyrical excerpts as well as faster, more technical ones. If you like to play both classical and jazz music, find a classical solo and a jazz lick.
Use a tuner as you play the saxophone to make sure the notes are in tune. If you find all of the notes are sharp or flat, see if you can adjust the mouthpiece position to fix it. However, you may need to switch to a different bari sax if an instrument still won’t play in tune. That way, you won’t sound bad when you play with other musicians.
Keep Yourself Comfortable
As you play-test different baritone saxophones, you should focus on comfort. You need to make sure that you will be able to play the instrument for long periods at a time. Make sure you use a good quality neck strap or harness to help distribute the weight of the instrument. If you plan to sit while playing, you should also look for the right seat to use to support your entire body.
Schedule time to take breaks, especially if you’re trying a lot of saxophones at once. You can use the break to breathe and take the weight off your shoulders. If you record yourself while playing the different bari saxophones, you can listen back to yourself during a playing break. That way, you can still compare the instruments.
Don’t Test Them Alone
If you can, ask a friend or relative to come with you when you test saxophones. Ideally, you would bring another saxophone player because they can give good feedback on each instrument. They can listen to you play and help you decide if one bari sax is better than the rest. And if they play the sax, you can listen and see if you like it from that perspective.
Having someone listen to you who isn’t going to try and sell to you is amazing. They can give you an honest opinion, so you can make the best decision for you.
Sometimes, you can find the best baritone saxophone on your first try. However, you may come across many instruments that are okay. They meet some of your needs but not all. It’s fine if you don’t get one of the saxophones after your first trial session. You can keep looking around to find models that you might prefer, and you can test them later.
If you rush the trial process, you might enjoy the baritone that you buy. But you might end up with buyer’s remorse. And if you buy from someone or somewhere without a return policy, you can waste a lot of money.
The Best Baritone Saxophones
Even if you know how to find the best baritone saxophone, you may not know where to start. While it’s not the most common saxophone out there, there are plenty of models to choose from. If you’ve shopped for an alto or tenor sax before, you can look at a lot of the same brands. But you should consider the baritone saxophone separately from other instruments.
That way, you can determine if you like the individual instrument or the overall brand. Consider some popular bari sax models as you start your search for the perfect one.
First, there’s the Selmer SBS280R baritone saxophone. The sax has a rose brass body, so it combines brass with copper for a unique look and sound. It has both a low A key and a high F sharp key, so you can play the full range of the instrument. This model features a compact key design, so they’re easy to reach. And it has a mini-rib construction.
You can use it to play throughout all registers and get a good sound. It comes with a Selmer bari sax mouthpiece, and the case isn’t too heavy or hard to manage.
- Good design
- Easy to play
- Plenty of features
- Not the best for beginners
The Yamaha YBS-52 is an intermediate model bari sax, and it features a yellow brass neck and body. It has drawn tone holes, which is where the tone holes come from the body instead of being soldered on, so you don’t have to worry about leaks.
This model comes with a low A key and a front high F key, so you can play any low notes in bari sax music. It also comes with a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece, so all you need to get to play the sax are some reeds. You can put this saxophone through a lot, and it will hold up while offering a fantastic sound. While it’s not cheap, it’s great for players looking to switch to the baritone.
- Easy to play
- Great quality
- Comes with what you need
- No high F sharp
Another excellent option from Yamaha is the professional model YBS-62. The saxophone has both a low A and a high F sharp key, giving you access to as many notes as possible. It also features a rocker low B flat mechanism, so you can play the lower notes with ease. The thumb rest is adjustable, which makes it even more comfortable to play this instrument.
There’s gold epoxy lacquer that helps make the sax sound and look excellent. It’s perfect for advanced and professional baritone sax players, and intermediate students can upgrade to it.
- Full range
- Great mechanism
- Easy to play
- Pretty expensive
The Jupiter JBS1000 is one of the best baritone saxophones for people just switching over. It features a brass body with gold lacquer to provide an even scale that makes playing a breeze.
You can adjust the palm keys so that they fit perfectly with your hands and are easy to reach without being in the way. The low A key extends the range lower than some saxophones, and the front F key makes that note easy to hit.
This model also comes with a tilting B flat spatula key, and there are left-hand table keys. If you have a smaller budget but need a good bari sax, give this one a try.
- Easy to play
- More affordable than some
- Not the best for professionals
Jupiter also makes the fantastic JBS1100SG baritone sax, which has a brass body with silver plating. The silver helps make the sound warm, and you can stand out among the other saxophones. This model has a special manufacturing process that gives the instrument a dark tone. But there are also metal tone boosters that add some brightness to counteract the darkness.
Those tone boosters also help the keys seal more easily, so you don’t have to worry about leaks. That way, you can play this instrument and focus more on the music than the mechanism.
- Good quality
- Unique sound
- Easy to play
- Better for people with some experience
Final Note On How To Find The Best Baritone Saxophone
Whether you’re switching from the alto or tenor, you should know how to find the best baritone saxophone. Having the right instrument can make playing much easier. My personal favorite is the Yamaha YBS-62, but instruments are so personal. Try out the different models to see which you like the best.
That way, you can maintain the motivation to practice and improve. Soon enough, you may be able to play in an advanced jazz or concert band and handle the bass line.