[quote=“Trapper”]Can anyone point me in the direction of a decent (although 2nd hand would be fine also) music shop in which you can buy a trumpet, saxophone, or a trombone, in Taipai?
If not Taipai, is there somewhere else in Taiwan in which I could find these instruments?
Any idea how much? More expensive then the UK or USA?[/quote]I can only give info. about saxophones, and don’t know any specifics about shops in Taipei, but hope the below is useful.
Taiwan is a major manufacturer of saxophones. They are made in Houli, a little town north of Taichung. I have read that two thirds of the world’s saxophones are made there. I’m not sure about that figure but anyway Taiwan makes a lot. Of course most of these saxes are OEM: that is they are sold in bulk to foreign companies who put their own brands on them.
Until maybe 7 years ago, Taiwanese saxophones did not have a particularly good reputation. In recent years, however, quality control has got better and better, and there are some very playable Taiwanese saxes around. Now there is an interesting situation as regards buying Taiwanese-made saxes in Taiwan. The more well-known brand names tend not to be available here. That is because they are for the export market. But you can get basically the same saxes under local brand names. The local manufacturers are forbidden under their contracts from telling you which big name they make their OEM saxes for, although if you get friendly with the right person you might find out.
What this boils down to is that you can get decent beginner and intermediate standard saxes here for very good prices. If you want a professional-class sax though, I would still get a Japanese-made one: possibly a Japanese-made (not SE Asian) Yamaha, but best IMO would be to go to the Yanagisawa factory in Japan and choose one of their saxes there, making a saving possibly equivalent to your airfare.
You mentioned buying a second-hand sax. While in the UK and other countries this can be a great thing (I got my 75-year-old Conn alto, one of the sweetest sounding altos ever made, for 500 pounds) I would not recommend it in Taiwan. The reason is that a perfectly playable sax can be bought new here, with warranty and some freebies if you ask nicely, for the same price that you’d pay for a second-hand sax in another country. In addition, you’d have to find a top quality repair shop to set up and maintain your second-hand sax. In the process of trying out repair shops you could end up with something virtually unplayable. It is difficult enough to find a really skilled and conscientious repair person in the UK. While such people must exist in Taiwan there must be many more who don’t have the requisite skills, knowledge and attention to detail to set up and maintain a second-hand sax properly.
Are you a player already? If not, try to take somebody who knows what they’re doing with you when you go shopping. When you look at saxes, pay attention to the workmanship and quality of materials. Is it soft, easily bent metal? Are there any flaking-off bits of laquer (the finish)? Are there any ‘burrs’ of metal that haven’t been finished?
In general, a good rule of thumb is to never buy the cheapest sax (or any instrument) that a shop stocks. That model will be designed to a price and corners will have been cut. It is for parents who know nothing about saxes but just want to get something for their son or daughter to play, probably just for 3 months until he/she gets bored with it. If you get at least the next model up in the range, nearly all of the extra money goes toward increased quality in materials and workmanship.
Of course it is always worth trying to bargain a little, or at least get some freebies (reeds, cleaning kit, etc.) thrown in.
Let me give you an example. I was looking for a soprano sax. After a little bargaining, the price of the base-level one was 15000NT (at least a third less than it would be in the UK). I played it and it was reasonable but a bit hard work to keep the tone and tuning consistent over the range of the instrument (cheap sopranos are notorious for poor intonation: there is only so much that you can do to compensate by ‘lipping’ the note up or down). Then I tried the same company’s ‘professional’ model, offered to me at 20000NT, again substantially less than its equivalent abroad. This was completely different. The key action was quicker and smoother: the intonation was much better (although not perfect) and the tone was also a vast improvement. I bought the latter, and got a good discount on a nice mouthpiece as well. For 25% more money I got twice the sax. It’s not really a professional one but it’s easy to play and I can get some good results out of it (when I practice, which is not often enough).