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#95 Should You Buy A Second Hand Sax? (I Bought A Yamaha YTS-23)

setup & gear Nov 08, 2020

There are so many good inexpensive Chinese saxes available on YouTube these days - why would you risk buying a second hand instrument that might be faulty? Well, I did exactly that, and bought myself a second hand Yamaha YTS-23 tenor off eBay for £400. I'm going to share my experience with you to help you make up your mind about buying second hand.

Clicking on the time stamps for this blog will take you straight to the relevant bit of the video on YouTube (in a separate tab). Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are available at the bottom of the blog.

Why have a second sax anyway? (1:22)

For me, as a pro, it's always useful to have two saxes in case one breaks and you're stuck without a horn. In this case however, I bought this sax to keep at my residency at the Ritz Hotel.

Why buy a second hand saxophone?

Saxophones don't deteriorate much at all over time if they're looked after well, so by buying second hand you can save a lot of money on an equally good instrument. Also, some fantastic saxes aren't made any more. This is particularly true in the case of classic Selmer Mark Sixes etc, but also true of some student horns like the one I bought, the Yamaha YTS-23.

What are the pros and cons of buying a second hand sax?

Pros

  • you get a lot more sax for your money
  • you can get discontinued models
  • the sax will be played in nicely already
  • it puts less strain on the world's resources by recycling

Cons

  • you don't know what you're getting
  • there may be fundamental structural damage
  • the sax might have been badly maintained and set up
  • you might get ripped off

 

What was my Yamaha YTS-23 like when I bought it? (4:38)

Sadly, my 23 wasn't in a great state. It had been badly maintained and none of the notes worked below G. I had to spend another £230 to get it all sorted out. However, now that it's mended, it plays like a dream. Click here to hear my Yamaha YTS-23 in a back to back comparison with my Selmer Mark VI. It's closer than you think!

A few tips for buying a second hand sax

  • know what sax you're after before you start looking. Look on review sites etc and if possible try one yourself
  • where possible try the sax yourself before you buy it, or go with a competent saxophonist or teacher
  • try and collect in person if you can
  • buy from a shop if that's possible
  • if you're buying on eBay etc, factor in a repair job to your budget in case it needs attention
  • on eBay, careful check all the photos for obvious signs of mistreatment and request more phots if there aren't enough

 

So, I hope this weeks video helps you decide if you're gonna go second hand or play it safe with a brand new sax. It's a bit of a gamble, but if you get lucky you might just bag a real bargain! Until next week, practice smart and enjoy your music. See ya!

Jamie :-)

 

Video Timestamps

0:19 - intro and titles

0:50 - what the video is about

1:01 - how to get your free one hour masterclass

1:22 - why do I need another sax

3:05 - second hand buying - best practices

3:44 - the price I paid on eBay

4:38 - what I ended up with

5:44 - the repair job

5:59 - Geoff Collins (repair man) asseses the sax

9:05 - about the play test comparison

9:58 - play test comparison Yamaha YTS-23 vs Selmer mk6

11:19 - conclusion

12:31 - outro

13:19 - outro music and bloopers

 

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and you’re watching Get Your Sax Together. Hey, you can get some amazing deals on brand new entry level saxes on Amazon these days, but should you get a potentially superior sax, second hand, for the same money? This week I’ll be sharing my experience to try and help you answer that question.

[TITLE MUSIC]

First of all, let me say that this isn’t a review video of the Yamaha YTS-23, or a review of the cheapest saxophone on Amazon. There’s a link in the description to a great review of the Yamaha YTS-23 and you can go to Better Sax and other channels to get great reviews of cheap saxes from Amazon. What I’m doing here is sharing my experience to help you decide if you should buy brand new, or better quality second hand, for an entry level sax. Make sure you watch to the end of this video, cos I’m gonna back to back my second hand Yamaha with my Selmer Mark six so you can compare the two for yourself. Just before we dive in, if you haven’t already checked it out, be sure to go and check out my one hour Saxophone Success Masterclass. This is an awesome FREE lesson with me, covering a whole load of stuff that will help you take your sax playing to the next level, WHATEVER sax you’ve got! Just use the card linked above, the URL below, or click the link in the description.

[STING: Why Do I Need Another Sax?]

Usually, in non Covid times that is, I play in the house band at the Ritz Hotel in London every week. The monotony of doing a regular gig can sometimes wear you down after a while, so I try and make my residencies as hassle free as possible, and the easiest way of cutting down on gig hassle is to have everything you need at the gig already, so that travelling is as effortless as possible. For this reason, I decided to get myself a second horn and keep it locked up at the gig. Inspired by Nigel McGill’s video where he buys himself a second hand Yamaha YAS-23 alto, I decided to do exactly the same thing, although I’ve have no intention of painting it with Zebra stripes at this point. My current bari is a YBS-32, my first tenor was a YTS-23 and I’ve also got a spare YAS-23 alto, so I’ve got first hand experience that these early Yamaha student models are great horns. Check out any review and you’ll find exactly the same thing - the Japanese built Yamaha YTS-23 punches way above its weight for a so called student horn, and it’s a great investment that will hold its value. Also, if it did get stolen at the venue it’s not an irreplaceable horn - they’re pretty ubiquitous on the second hand market. So that’s the first point here - make sure you know what second hand horn you’re looking for, before you go looking for it. If you want a great second hand horn, and you’re anything from a beginner on sax to an intermediate, or even above, then you can’t go far wrong with a Yammy 23. Remember - I’ve got a Selmer Mark Six, and I’m more than happy to play a YTS-23 every week in its place! If you’ve got a Yamaha 23, or if you’ve just bought a second hand sax, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

[STING: Looking for a second hand horn]

Once you know what you’re after, the ideal situation is to be able to visit the store or seller and play the sax. There’s really no substitute for that. You can check that all the low notes come out easily, the intonation is ok, there’s no big dents etc, and the condition of the instrument is as advertised. I didn’t have that luxury with Covid and what-not, so I looked on eBay. If you’re buying from eBay, have a close look at all the phots for obvious damage and request extra photos from the seller if need be. You also need to factor in a repair bill from your technician as you have no real clue what state your sax is gonna be in. Yahama YTS-23’s go from about £500 to £1000 on the second hand market, so I was pretty stoked to find mine for only £400. Another bonus was that I got a great SKB shaped case for an extra £20. Seeing as the case alone would have been £150 or so I thought that was a pretty good deal. I wouldn’t recommend getting a sax shipped from another country as it could get totally trashed. I wouldn’t even recommend getting it posted at all to be honest. In the end, my seller came and met me to hand it over in person. Of course, there’s plenty of other selling sites that you can search on, but they’re all much of a muchness and I doubt you’ll get a refund or return from any of them on a second hand sax. A better option might be to buy from a music store. Hopefully they’ll have given the instrument a service, and it should be in good playing order already. You’ll have a chance to play it, and with any luck you’ll get better customer service after the sale if anything bad happens.

[STING: What I Ended Up With]

Sadly, I kinda flopped with my purchase, which is good for this video, because you’re getting the worst case scenario here. Most likely, your eBay purchase will be much more positive than this. First of all, I gave the whole instrument a really good clean down with antiseptic wipes and, obviously, I didn’t play the mouthpiece that came with it. When I tried to play the horn with my mouthpiece, I couldn’t get anything out of it below a low G. Nothing. I actually filmed myself attempting to play the horn in its original condition, but due to a technical error I’ve lost that footage! Doh! Anyway, I can tell you that it was pretty difficult to get ANY notes out, and impossible to get anything at all low down. The G# spring was also broken. Not great. However, I always knew I was gonna have to get it looked at by my repair man, and I was hoping it would be quite easy to rectify. YOU should also budget a full overhaul into your price if you’re going to buy off eBay, then you won’t be stressed out with the state of your horn when it arrives. You can see the condition of your sax as a first draft - call it work in progress!

[STING: The Repair]

I took my sax to Geoff Collins in Chelmsford, my repair guy, and here’s his first impressions along with a few other comments about these Yamaha 23s. Apologies for the slightly scuffy iPhone footage.

[Roll Geoff Collins Footage]

It didn’t seem too bad on first impression, but when he got it onto the bench things got worse. As you can see from the photos here, one of the posts had literally been fixed on with something that looked like Meccano, and two holes had been drilled through the body of the sax. Geoff said it was the worst bodge repair job he’d ever seen in his whole career. Elsewhere, every pad on the left hand had to be replaced, as well as many other pads on the right hand and various other regulation issues. All in all, I had to spend £230 to get it in good shape, and that was cheap for the amount of work that was done. Now my sax had gone up to £650. The moral of the story? Make sure you’ve allowed headroom on your budget to get any problems ironed out if you’re buying from eBay, as you just don’t know what you’re gonna get. If it’s any consolation, I think I already bought the worst YTS-23 in the world, so you might be alright!

[STING: The Play Test]

So far, so bad, but now that I’ve got my sax in perfect working order and I’m £650 to the good, how does it actually perform? The simple answer is - pretty bloody well actually! Is it as good as my mark six? No, and you wouldn’t expect it to be either. You can hear for yourself in a sec, but considering the Yamaha is something like ten times cheaper than my mark six, there’s no way it’s ten times worse. I’ll now play my YTS-23 back to back with my Selmer Mark 6, and you can hear for yourself. Let me know in the comments if YOU can tell a big difference or not. I won’t mess with the EQ, levels or anything else so it’s a straight comparison. I’ll be using the same vintage 8* Florida Link and 3.5 Java Red Box reed for both. I’m gonna play a bit of Hank Mobley’s solo from the Bb blues Smokin’ off his 1962 Workout album.

[back to back Smokin]

[STING: Conclusion]

So should you buy a second hand sax? My answer to that is, maybe. If this is your first saxophone, I would recommend getting a brand new shiny one from Amazon, although even then I’d still recommend you find a repair tech to look it over in case it was damaged in transit or anything. However, if you’re a bit more experienced, or if you wanna take a gamble, and you’re willing to spend a bit on repairs, you can get a much better horn for the same money. I’ve played a new Yamaha 62 tenor, and there’s not THAT much difference between that and my second hand YTS-23, but a brand new Yamaha 62 is between £2000 and £2500 pounds - more than three times the price. Also, this isn’t a discussion about buying a classic vintage horn, like a mark six or a Conn, although I guess the theory is the same. The thing you need to understand about saxes is that they don’t really wear out that much. As long as you don’t mind missing out on that “new sax experience”, a fully serviced second hand version of the same model will be equally as good as a new one. Anyway, I’m over the moon with my new spare tenor, although ironically (thanks to Covid) I haven’t even got the gig I bought it for anymore! lol

 

[STING: Before You Go]

So that’s it for this Sunday, I hope my experience of buying a second hand sax was of some use to you, and hopefully you can get yourself a great bargain now. If you wanna learn some more in-depth sax stuff go to Get Your Sax Together dot com, forward slash masterclass, to get your free one hour lesson with me. Thank you SO much for watching, and an even bigger thank you if you’ve bought me a coffee recently. You can do this using the link in the description. If you’re enjoying the content, please give the video a thumbs up, leave me a comment, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages. Don’t forget to check out last week’s fantastic Live Embouchure Masterclass and until next Sunday, practice smart, and enjoy your music. See ya later!

[ROLL END TITLES]

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