Developed in the 1840’s by Adolphe Sax in Paris, the saxophone is an integral part of the woodwind family. Usually made of brass and using a single-reed mouthpiece comparable to that of the clarinet, it is the most vocal and powerful of its family.
The saxophone is a narrowed tube of thin brass which is also plated with gold, nickel, or silver. Along the tube are usually 23 different sized tone holes. The keys hold leather pads which when closed, create an airtight seal. The saxophonist controls the keys by pressing buttons while the thumb is kept behind a thumbrest to ensure the saxophone stays balanced and in place.
Even though the saxophone is made from brass, it is still considered a member of the woodwind family. The saxophone produces sound using an oscillated reed and creates pitches caused by the keys opening and closing, just like a clarinet. However, the saxophone mouthpiece is larger than that of the clarinet. The sax’s mouthpiece can be made from several different materials, such as bronze or plastic. Each size saxophone also uses a different size reed.
Most people don’t think of the saxophone and then immediately think of the military, however it was in the military band where the sax became as popular as it is today. The Belgian and French military immediately began to incorporate at least four saxophones at a time into their bands.
The bass saxophone really began to become popular in the 1920’s, especially in classic jazz recordings and performance. The sounds of the saxophone are also lovely accompaniments to chamber pieces, choral music and operas, and has been widely accept by symphony orchestras.
You really can’t say enough about the saxophone’s involvement in popular music, especially when speaking about jazz, big band music, early rock and roll, blues, and ska. Even studio bands like YES and Pink Floyd have included saxophone players that have helped majorly impact musical history. Famous saxophonists include Marcel Mule, Daniel Deffayet, and Eduard Lefebre.
Saxophone Care Tips
- After playing, it’s always a wise decision to clean the outside of your saxophone.
- When the saxophone is not being used, return it to its case. It is the safest place!
- Do not pick up the saxophone by the neck!