Re: New Band Student
I'm glad to hear that you have a son interested in learning to play a musical instrument. There are so many things about learning to play a musical instrument that transfer into developing good life skills.
As for your specific questions. At this stage in the game with neck straps I would get something affordable. Rico makes a nice padded neck strap and they make a non-padded strap. I would not worry too much about the weight of the horn. An alto sax doesn't weight that much and any normal healthy kid will be just fine with either a padded or non-padded neck strap. There are differences in cork grease, but your son is not at a level where he'll notice so it doesn't matter at this stage. I'd say whatever the local music store has will be good. For silk swabs, I recommend Hodges silk swabs. They are very good and durable and affordable. For a price comparison, I've shown what Saxquest sells these items for. You can see that you don't have to pay out a lot for these smaller accessories.
Saxquest prices: Vandoren cork grease - $2.50, Rico non-padded neck strap - $9.50, Rico padded neck strap - $13.95, Hodges silk swab - $13.50.
The thing to be willing to spend a bit of money on would be a good mouthpiece. It can make all the difference as a player will be less likely to develop bad habbits and will advance more quickly. A good mouthpiece can be had in the $100 range. Good brands to consider are Vandoren Optimum, Vandoren V16, and Meyer. Also, make sure the horn you get is looked over by a good shop before your son tries to play it. Its essential that the mechanics of the instrument are in good working order or your son may get frustrated at no fault of his own. Poorly adjusted or just plain bad equipment is one of the major reasons kids get frustrated and quit within the first year.
Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.