Saxophone

The saxophone is a family of woodwind instruments. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Like the clarinet, saxophones have holes in the instrument which the player closes using a system of key mechanisms. When the player presses a key, a pad either covers a hole or lifts off a hole, lowering or raising the pitch, respectively. The saxophone family was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840. Adolphe Sax wanted to create a group or series of instruments that would be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds, and the most adaptive of the brass instruments, that would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. Mr. Sax patented the saxophone on June 28, 1846, in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition. The series pitched in B and E, designed for military bands, have proved popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. Instruments from the so-called “orchestral” series, pitched in C and F, never gained a foothold, and the B and E instruments have now replaced the C and F instruments when the saxophone is used in an orchestra. The saxophone is used in classical music, military bands, marching bands, and jazz. The saxophone is also used as a soloing and melody instrument or as a member of a horn section in some styles of rock and roll and popular music. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

The saxophone consists of an approximately conical tube, usually of thin brass, flared at the tip to form a bell. At intervals along the tube are between 20 and 23 tone holes of varying size and two very small vent holes to assist the playing of the upper register. These holes are covered by keys  The fingering for the saxophone is a combination of that of the oboe with the Boehm system, and is very similar to the flute or the upper register of the clarinet. Instruments that play to low A have a left thumb key for that note. The simplest design of saxophone is a straight conical tube, and the sopranino and soprano saxophones are usually of this straight design. Most commonly, however, the alto and tenor saxophones incorporate a detachable, curved “neck” above the highest tone hole, directing the mouthpiece to the player’s mouth while the instrument is held in a playing stance. The baritone, bass, and contrabass saxophones accommodate the length of the bore with extra bows and right angle bends between the main body and the mouthpiece.