If you want to become a professional saxophonist, you may wonder what gear you need.
You can find many brands and models out there; some are better than others.
Here Are the Saxophones Professionals Use:
Professionals use soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones – like the Conn 6M and Buescher 400. The most common brands include Yamaha and Selmer, but Yanagisawa is also gaining popularity.
What Are the Biggest Saxophone Brands Among Professionals?
The biggest saxophone brands among professionals include Yamaha, Selmer, and Yanagisawa.
Some players stick to one brand, especially if they partner with the company.
Others may use an alto from one brand and a tenor from another, for example. Regarding reeds and mouthpieces, Vandoren is a popular choice for professional players.
While you can take inspiration from professionals, you don’t have to play the same brands.
Try as many saxophones as you can so that you can choose a brand that you like.
What Saxophones Do Professional Jazz Players Use?
Many saxophone players focus on jazz, and so need good equipment.
Of course, players will have their own preferences for the saxophone brand and model to play.
Consider some famous jazz saxophonists from the past and present. Then, you can try the brands they’ve used to see if it helps give you a similar sound.
1. Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker played a King Super 20 alto saxophone.
He also played the Grafton saxophone, an acrylic plastic model, so it’s quite unique.
Other saxophone models, he played include the Conn 6M and Buescher 400. However, the Grafton plastic saxophone is probably the most recognizable and most famous.
2. John Coltrane
Another famous jazz sax player is John Coltrane, who started his career on a Selmer Balanced Action tenor sax.
After some time, he upgraded to a Selmer Mark VI.
Both models are great, so you can use either to get a nice jazz sound. Coltrane may have played other saxes, but those two are the most important to know.
3. Stan Getz
Stan Getz played the same two Selmer saxophone models as Coltrane and in the same order.
Getz started on a Balanced Action saxophone before switching to a Mark VI.
However, I also found that he played a Conn 10M saxophone at one point. Like many players, he probably wanted to find the best setup for the time, and that changed throughout his career.
4. Michael Brecker
Clearly, the Selmer Balanced Action and Mark VI models were quite popular.
Michael Brecker was another saxophone player who switched between the two models.
Of course, this may have been a coincidence, especially since Selmer is a common brand.
Maybe the different jazz players talked to each other and recommended new gear.
5. Gerry Mulligan
One of the first baritone saxophone specialists, Gerry Mulligan, played on a Conn bari sax.
It was a gold-plated model that Conn produced in 1926.
He paired the instrument with an M.C. Gregory baritone saxophone mouthpiece. The brand may not be that popular, but it helped Mulligan get his amazing sound.
6. Pepper Adams
Another famous jazz bari sax player was Perry Adams, who played a Selmer.
He got to choose between nine models that Selmer made specifically for him.
Being famous comes with perks, allowing Adams to choose the best instrument.
After 30 years of playing, it was time for him to upgrade.
7. Kenny G
Kenny G is probably the most famous living saxophonist.
He’s most known for playing the soprano saxophone, but he’s also played other sizes of the saxophone family.
When he plays the soprano, alto, or tenor sax, he uses a Selmer Mark VI.
I couldn’t find the brand or model of the baritone saxophone that Kenny G performs on, but he doesn’t play it as much as the others.
8. Alexa Tarantino
Alexa Tarantino is a young woman who’s already doing great things in the world of jazz.
She plays on a Yamaha YAS-82ZIIS and a Yamaha alto sax neck when playing the alto saxophone.
Her soprano saxophone is a Yamaha YSS-675. Whether she’s playing the soprano or alto, she uses a Vandoren mouthpiece and Vandoren reeds.
What Saxophones Do Classical Players Use?
There may not be as many famous classical saxophonists as jazz saxophonists.
However, if you prefer classical music, you may want to know about the best gear for this genre.
While classical rep isn’t as popular, it exists. Consider the following famous classical sax players and the gear they’ve used throughout history.
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9. Marcel Mule
Like many of his jazz contemporaries, Marcel Mule played on a Selmer Mark VI. He paired the instrument with a metal Selmer mouthpiece.
Mule got to work with Selmer to develop the Mark VI to ensure it was a good model.
That probably helped it become so common among players of various genres.
10. Jess Gillam
One of the youngest famous classical saxophonists is Jess Gillam, and she plays Yanagisawa instruments.
The specific models she plays include the AWO20U, A992U, T992U, SS91SP, and SWO2U.
That includes soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. I couldn’t find anything about any baritone saxophone she plays, but if she ever plays one, it will probably be some Yanagisawa model.
11. Amy Dickson
Amy Dickson is another woman famous for playing classical saxophone.
I couldn’t find any information on specific models, but it looks like she prefers Selmer saxophones.
So if I had to guess, I’d say she probably plays or at least has played a Selmer Mark VI. She may play other models as well or instead of the Mark VI.
12. Eugene Rousseau
Eugene Rousseau is yet another famous classical saxophonist. He plays all Yamaha saxophones, from soprano down to the baritone.
For his soprano, alto, and tenor, he plays the Yamaha 875 series (so the YSS-875, YAS-875, and YTS-875).
When he plays the baritone sax, he plays a Yamaha YBS-62.
What Are the Most Used Professional Alto Saxophones?
Most professional alto sax players tend to play a Yamaha or Selmer model.
The most common Yamaha model is either the YAS-82 or YAS-875.
Out of all of the Selmer models, the Mark VI seems to be the most popular among both classical and jazz players. In third place is the Yanagisawa line of alto saxes.
Players pair these instruments with Vandoren or Selmer mouthpieces. Vandoren is also a common choice when it comes to reeds.
However, you don’t have to play any of these models to become a professional alto sax player. Choosing a brand and model that works well for you is better.
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What Are the Most Used Professional Tenor Saxophones?
Selmer tops the charts when it comes to professional tenor sax models.
In the past, many players used the Selmer Balanced action model, especially in jazz.
These days, the Selmer Mark VI has become more popular. Classical and jazz players enjoy the model, and they’ve played it with Selmer mouthpieces.
Other popular tenor saxes include the Yamaha YTS-875 and the Yanagisawa T992U. Of course, this list only scratches the surface of all of the professional tenor saxes on the market.
What Are the Most Used Professional Baritone Saxophones?
Not as many people play the baritone saxophone, probably due to the size and cost. However, a few prominent players have used a few different models over the years.
Conn, Selmer, and Yamaha top the list for professional bari saxes. The Yamaha YBS-62 is a particularly common model, and it’s a great option for players who like the other Yamaha 62, series models.
Pepper Adams tried nine different Selmer models, though it’s unclear if they were all unique models.
It’s possible there were smaller changes between the instruments that didn’t warrant unique model names or numbers.
What Are the Most Used Professional Soprano Saxophones?
The most used professional soprano saxophones include the Selmer Mark VI, Yamaha YSS-675, and Yamaha YSS-875.
Another model is the Yanagisawa SS91SP and SWO2U.
Like the bari sax, the soprano isn’t as common as the alto and tenor. But you can still find a decent selection of professional soprano saxophones.
As with any saxophone purchase, be sure to try a variety of models and brands. Then, you can make sure you choose an instrument that works well for you.
Do You Have to Play One of These Saxophones to Be a Professional?
Knowing what current and past professional saxophonists play can be helpful.
You can use the information to narrow your search when you’re upgrading your gear.
However, don’t force yourself to use one of the more popular professional models. We’re all different, and what works for Charlie Parker or Jess Gillam may not work for you.
It’s better to choose a less common model that suits you and that you like the sound of. Then, you can enjoy practicing and doing gigs.