Xaphoon XAPH Maui Pocket Saxophone, Black
- The beginner will find it fun, easy and good practice for other reed instruments
- Made in the key of C and possess a 2-octave
- Fully chromatic scale
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The Maui Xaphoon (pronounced "za foon") is the original "Pocket Sax". It's sound falls somewhere between a saxophone and a clarinet - a much richer sound than it's size would suggest. The experienced player will find the Xaphoon capable of all the subtle shadings and vibrant power of a saxophone.
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I am enjoying learning this new instrument and when I do finger/blow correctly it sounds magical. Can't wait to finally learn a song on it.
Well, it would be -- but this ain't it.
It is "pocket-sized", sort of, so I'll give it that.
It's anything but easy-to-play, though. The chief problem, IMO, is the oddly-shaped mouthpiece. I'm not sure what possessed them to put such a thick, rounded mouthpiece on this, rather than something with more of a "beak", like a standard clarinet or sax mouthpiece. It feels awkward in the mouth, and is difficult to hold in proper playing position with your teeth. The large mouthpiece forces your mouth open further than it should be for such a small instrument, which makes you waste a lot of air to support the sound.
One thing you may want to do is put a more flexible reed on the xaphoon. It comes with a 2-1/2, but 2, or even 1-1/2 will make it much easier to blow, although the tone will suffer somewhat.
As to fingering, I used to think that bagpipe chanters and bassoons had strange fingering patterns, but the xaphoon is out to give them some competition. Yes, this has a fully chromatic range of about two octaves -- once you learn all the arcane cross-fingerings for the accidentals. As another reviewer pointed out, there's a reason why saxophones have all those keys.
Finally, the sound is rough and raucous. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're expecting to sound like Paul Desmond, well, save up and buy an alto sax. I find the sound more reminiscent of a Renaissance racket or crumhorn, than of a sax or clarinet. Think of the nasal "brraap!" of a goose in distress. I have to wonder if this sound was intentional on the part of the designer, because a few simple changes would, I believe, mellow out the sound considerably: a thinner, more beaked mouthpiece, for instance, with a narrower channel that took a clarinet reed, instead of a sax read. This would probably also make the instrument easier to blow, as well.
You can, of course, find youtube videos which demonstrate this instrument being played with some considerable facility and tone. I know from experience that one can become virtuostic on pretty much any instrument, no matter how primitive, given sufficient time, dedication, and practice. And that's what you will need to become an accomplished xaphoon player: dedication, time, and a lot of practice. Only you can decide if it is worth investing that level of effort in this relative oddity, as opposed to spending it studying clarinet, saxophone, or some other more conventional orchestral instrument.
For me, it failed to fulfill my immediate expectations. For $20-$30 I would have probably just shrugged it off. But for $70, I feel sort of obligated to put in some time, so I probably will eventually reach some level of accomplishment on the instrument. Not, however, an instrument I'd recommend to beginners. If you're willing to make some serious effort, by all means go for the xaphoon. But if what you really want is to feel good about being able to dash off "Hot Cross Buns" with a sweet tone, in a week or two, buy a $15 recorder, instead.
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Don't buy a bootleg or a copycat. TRUST ME.
The sound is not the same, and this is definitely what you want from a pocket sax.