Saxophone
Overview
 
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing
Transposing instrument
A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which written notes are read at a pitch different from the corresponding concert pitch, which a non-transposing instrument, such as a piano, would play. Playing a written C on a transposing instrument will produce a note other than concert C...

 musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed
Single-reed instrument
A single-reed instrument is a woodwind instrument that uses only one reed to produce sound. Examples include clarinets, saxophones, and some bagpipes. In a single-reed instrument, the reed is attached to a mouthpiece that is blown into to vibrate the reed, producing the sound...

 mouthpiece
Mouthpiece (woodwind)
The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not.-Single-reed instruments:On...

 similar to that of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax
Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet, and is best known for having invented the saxophone.-Biography:...

 in 1846. He wanted to create an instrument that would both be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds and the most adaptive of the brass, which would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections.
Encyclopedia
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing
Transposing instrument
A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which written notes are read at a pitch different from the corresponding concert pitch, which a non-transposing instrument, such as a piano, would play. Playing a written C on a transposing instrument will produce a note other than concert C...

 musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed
Single-reed instrument
A single-reed instrument is a woodwind instrument that uses only one reed to produce sound. Examples include clarinets, saxophones, and some bagpipes. In a single-reed instrument, the reed is attached to a mouthpiece that is blown into to vibrate the reed, producing the sound...

 mouthpiece
Mouthpiece (woodwind)
The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not.-Single-reed instruments:On...

 similar to that of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax
Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet, and is best known for having invented the saxophone.-Biography:...

 in 1846. He wanted to create an instrument that would both be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds and the most adaptive of the brass, which would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. He patented the sax on June 28, 1846 in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition
Transposition (music)
In music transposition refers to the process, or operation, of moving a collection of notes up or down in pitch by a constant interval.For example, one might transpose an entire piece of music into another key...

. The series pitched in B and E, designed for military band
Military band
A military band originally was a group of personnel that performs musical duties for military functions, usually for the armed forces. A typical military band consists mostly of wind and percussion instruments. The conductor of a band commonly bears the title of Bandmaster or Director of Music...

s, has proved extremely popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. A few saxophones remain from the less popular orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

l series pitched in C and F. These instruments never gained a foothold in the orchestral world. Although the C-melody was quite popular in the late 1920s and early 30s as a parlor instrument, it never gained a legitimate standing. Instruments keyed in F are rare.

While proving very popular in military band
Military band
A military band originally was a group of personnel that performs musical duties for military functions, usually for the armed forces. A typical military band consists mostly of wind and percussion instruments. The conductor of a band commonly bears the title of Bandmaster or Director of Music...

 music, the saxophone is most commonly associated with jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 and classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 music. There is substantial repertoire of concert music in the classical idiom for the members of the saxophone family. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

History

The saxophone was developed in 1846 by Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax
Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet, and is best known for having invented the saxophone.-Biography:...

, a Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

-born instrument maker, flautist
Flautist
A flautist or flutist is a musician who plays an instrument in the flute family. See List of flautists.The choice of "flautist" versus "flutist" is the source of dispute among players of the instrument...

, and clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

ist working in Paris. While still working at his father's instrument shop in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, Sax began developing an instrument which had the projection of a brass instrument with the agility of a woodwind. Another priority was to invent an instrument which would overblow
Overblowing
Overblowing A technique used while playing a wind instrument which, primarily through manipulation of the supplied air , causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one...

 at the octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

, unlike the clarinet, which rises in pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 by a twelfth
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

 when overblown; an instrument which overblew at the octave would have identical fingering
Fingering
In music, fingering is the choice of which fingers and hand positions to use when playing certain musical instruments. Fingering typically changes throughout a piece; the challenge of choosing good fingering for a piece is to make the hand movements as comfortable as possible without changing hand...

 for both registers
Register (music)
In music, a register is the relative "height" or range of a note, set of pitches or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument or group of instruments...

.

Prior to his work on the saxophone, Sax made several improvements to the bass clarinet
Bass clarinet
The bass clarinet is a musical instrument of the clarinet family. Like the more common soprano B clarinet, it is usually pitched in B , but it plays notes an octave below the soprano B clarinet...

 by improving its keywork and acoustics and extending its lower range. Sax was also a maker of the then-popular ophicleide
Ophicleide
The ophicleide is a family of conical bore, brass keyed-bugles. It has a similar shape to the sudrophone.- History :The ophicleide was invented in 1817 and patented in 1821 by French instrument maker Jean Hilaire Asté as an extension to the keyed bugle or Royal Kent bugle family...

, a large conical brass instrument in the bass register with keys similar to a woodwind instrument. His experience with these two instruments allowed him to develop the skills and technologies needed to make the first saxophones. Adolphe Sax created an instrument with a single reed mouthpiece like a clarinet, conical brass body like an ophicleide, and the acoustic properties of both the French horn and the clarinet.

Having constructed saxophones in several sizes in the early 1840s, Sax applied for, and received, a 15-year patent for the instrument on June 28, 1846. The patent encompassed 14 versions of the fundamental design, split into two categories of seven instruments each and ranging from sopranino
Sopranino saxophone
The sopranino saxophone is one of the smallest members of the saxophone family. A sopranino saxophone is tuned in the key of E, and sounds an octave above the alto saxophone. This saxophone has a sweet sound and although the sopranino is one of the least common of the saxophones in regular use...

 to contrabass
Contrabass saxophone
The contrabass saxophone is the lowest-pitched extant member of the saxophone family proper. It is extremely large and heavy , and is pitched in the key of E, one octave below the baritone.-History:The contrabass...

. Although the instruments transposed
Transposing instrument
A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which written notes are read at a pitch different from the corresponding concert pitch, which a non-transposing instrument, such as a piano, would play. Playing a written C on a transposing instrument will produce a note other than concert C...

 at either F or C have been considered "orchestral", there is no evidence that Sax intended this. As only 3% of Sax's surviving production were pitched in F and C, and as contemporary composers used the E♭ alto and B♭ bass saxophone freely in orchestral music, it is almost certain that Sax experimented to find the most suitable keys for these instruments, settling upon instruments alternating between E♭ and B♭ rather than those pitched in F and C, for reasons of tone and economy (the saxophones were the most expensive wind musical instruments of their day). The C soprano saxophone
C Soprano saxophone
The C soprano saxophone is a member of the saxophone family and is closely related to the B soprano saxophone, whose shape it resembles. However, there is an important difference between them: as with the C melody saxophone, the C soprano is not a transposing instrument...

 was the only instrument to sound at concert pitch
Concert pitch
Concert pitch refers to the pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are tuned for a performance. Concert pitch may vary from ensemble to ensemble, and has varied widely over musical history...

. All the instruments were given an initial written range from the B below the treble staff to the F, one space above the three ledger line
Ledger line
A ledger line or leger line is musical notation to notate pitches above or below the lines and spaces of the regular musical staff. A line slightly longer than the note head is drawn parallel to the staff, above or below, spaced at the same distance as the lines within the staff .Notes more than...

s above staff, giving each saxophone a range of two and a half octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s.

Sax's patent expired in 1866; thereafter numerous saxophonists and instrument manufacturers implemented their own improvements to the design and keywork. The first substantial modification was by a French manufacturer who extended the bell slightly and added an extra key to extend the range downwards by one semitone
Semitone
A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically....

 to B. It is suspected that Sax himself may have attempted this modification. This extension is now commonplace in almost all modern designs, along with other minor changes such as added keys for alternate fingerings.
Sax's original keywork, which was based on the Triebert system 3 oboe for the left hand and the Boehm clarinet for the right, was very simplistic and made playing some legato passages and wide intervals extremely difficult to finger, so numerous developers added extra keys and alternate fingerings to make chromatic playing less difficult. While the early saxophone had two separate octave vents to assist in the playing of the upper registers just as modern instruments do, players of Sax's original design had to operate these via two separate octave keys operated by the left thumb. A substantial advancement in saxophone keywork was the development of a method by which both tone holes are operated by a single octave key by the left thumb which is now universal on all modern saxophones. One of the most radical, however temporary, revisions of saxophone keywork was made in the 1950s by M. Houvenaghel of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, who completely redeveloped the mechanics of the system to allow a number of notes (C, B, A, G, F and E) to be flattened by a semitone
Semitone
A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically....

 simply by lowering the right middle finger. This enables a chromatic scale to be played over two octaves simply by playing the diatonic scale
Diatonic scale
In music theory, a diatonic scale is a seven note, octave-repeating musical scale comprising five whole steps and two half steps for each octave, in which the two half steps are separated from each other by either two or three whole steps...

 combined with alternately raising and lowering this one digit. However, this keywork never gained much popularity, and is no longer in use.

Description

The saxophone consists of an approximately conical
Cone (geometry)
A cone is an n-dimensional geometric shape that tapers smoothly from a base to a point called the apex or vertex. Formally, it is the solid figure formed by the locus of all straight line segments that join the apex to the base...

 tube of thin metal, most commonly brass and sometimes plated with silver, gold, and nickel, flared at the tip to form a bell. At intervals along the tube are between 20 and 23 tone hole
Tone hole
A tone hole is an opening in the body of a wind instrument which, when covered by a key, alters the pitch of the sound produced.The resonant frequencies of the an air column in a pipe are inversely proportional to the pipe's effective length. For a pipe with no tone holes, the effective length is...

s of varying size, including two very small 'speaker' holes to assist the playing of the upper register. These holes are covered by keys (also known as pad cups), containing soft leather pads, which are closed to produce an airtight seal; at rest some of the holes stand open and others are closed. The keys are controlled by buttons pressed by the fingers, while the right thumb sits under a thumb rest to help keep the saxophone balanced. The fingering for the saxophone is a combination of that of the oboe
Oboe
The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. In English, prior to 1770, the instrument was called "hautbois" , "hoboy", or "French hoboy". The spelling "oboe" was adopted into English ca...

 with the Boehm system
Boehm system (clarinet)
The Boehm system for the clarinet is a system of clarinet keywork, developed between 1839 and 1843 by Hyacinthe Klosé and Auguste Buffet jeune. The name is somewhat deceptive; the system was inspired by Theobald Boehm's system for the flute, but necessarily differs from it, since the clarinet...

, and is very similar to the flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 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. However, as the lower-pitched instruments would be unacceptably long if straight, for ergonomic reasons, the larger instruments usually incorporate a U-bend at, or slightly above, the third-lowest tone hole. As this would cause the bell of the instrument to point almost directly upward, the end of the instrument is either beveled or tilted slightly forward. This U-shape has become an iconic feature of the saxophone family, to the extent that soprano and even sopranino saxes are sometimes made in the curved style, even though not strictly necessary. By contrast, tenors and even baritones have occasionally been made in the straight style. Most commonly, however, the alto and tenor saxophones incorporate a curved 'crook' above the highest tone hole but below the top speaker hole, tilting the mouthpiece through 90 degrees; the baritone, bass and contrabass extend the length of the bore by triple-folding this section.

Materials


Most saxophones, both past and present, are made from brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

. Despite this, they are categorized as woodwind instrument
Woodwind instrument
A woodwind instrument is a musical instrument which produces sound when the player blows air against a sharp edge or through a reed, causing the air within its resonator to vibrate...

s rather than brass
Brass instrument
A brass instrument is a musical instrument whose sound is produced by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips...

, as the sound waves are produced by an oscillating reed, not the player's lips against a mouthpiece as in a brass instrument, and because different pitches are produced by opening and closing keys. The screw pins that connect the rods to the posts, as well as the needle and leaf spring
Leaf spring
Originally called laminated or carriage spring, a leaf spring is a simple form of spring, commonly used for the suspension in wheeled vehicles...

s that cause the keys to return to their rest position after being released, are generally made of blued or stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

. Since 1920, most saxophones have 'key touches' (smooth decorative pieces placed where the fingers touch the instrument) made from either plastic or mother of pearl.

Other materials have been tried with varying degrees of success, such as the 1950s Grafton
Grafton saxophone
The Grafton saxophone was an injection moulded, cream-coloured acrylic plastic alto saxophone with metal keys, manufactured in London, England by the Grafton company, and later by 'John E. Dallas & Sons Ltd'. Only Grafton altos were ever made, due to the challenges in making larger models with...

 plastic alto saxophone. A few companies, such as Yanagisawa
Yanagisawa Wind Instruments
Yanagisawa Wind Instruments is a Japanese woodwind company known for its range of professional grade saxophones. Along with Yamaha they are one of the leading manufacturers of saxophones in Japan....

 and Bauhaus Walstein, have made some saxophone models from phosphor bronze
Phosphor bronze
Phosphor bronze is an alloy of copper with 3.5 to 10% of tin and a significant phosphorus content of up to 1%. The phosphorus is added as deoxidizing agent during melting....

 because of its slightly different tonal qualities. For example, although their designs are identical apart from the metal used, the bronze Yanagisawa A992 saxophones are said to sound "darker" than the brass versions. Yanagisawa and other manufacturers, starting with the King
King Musical Instruments
King Musical Instruments was a musical instrument manufacturing company located in Cleveland, Ohio.The company was founded as the H.N. White Company in 1893 by Henderson White, an engraver and instrument repairman. White designed a trombone for Thomas King, a local player...

 Super 20 around 1950, have made saxophone necks, bells, or entire instruments from sterling silver
Sterling silver
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925....

. Keilwerth
Julius Keilwerth
The Julius Keilwerth company, now merged with W. Schreiber & Söhne as Schreiber & Keilwerth Musikinstrumente GmbH, is a German saxophone manufacturer, established in 1925. Over the years it has made saxophones under the Conn, H. Couf, and Armstrong brands, and currently as Julius Keilwerth.-Early...

 and P. Mauriat have made saxes with a nickel silver body like that of a flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

. The effect of material on sound is controversial among sax players, and little solid research has been published.

After completing the instrument, manufacturers usually apply a thin coating of clear or colored acrylic lacquer, or silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 plate
Plating
Plating is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years, but it is also critical for modern technology...

, over the bare brass. The lacquer or plating serves to protect the brass from oxidation, and maintains its shiny appearance. Several different types and colors of surface finish have been used over the years. It is also possible to plate the instrument with nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 or gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, and a number of gold-plated saxophones have been produced. Plating saxophones with gold is an expensive process because gold does not adhere directly to brass. As a result, the brass is first plated with silver, then gold.

Some argue that the type of lacquer or plating, or absence thereof, may enhance an instrument's tone quality. The possible effects of different finishes on tone is a hotly debated topic, not least because other variables may affect an instrument's tone colors e.g. mouthpiece design and physical characteristics of the player. In any case, what constitutes a pleasing tone is a matter of personal preference.

Mouthpiece and reed

The saxophone uses a single-reed mouthpiece
Mouthpiece (woodwind)
The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not.-Single-reed instruments:On...

 similar to that of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

. Most saxophonists use reeds made from Arundo donax
Arundo donax
Arundo donax, Giant Cane, is a tall perennial cane growing in damp soils, either fresh or moderately saline. Other common names include Carrizo, Arundo, Spanish cane, Wild cane, and Giant reed....

cane, but since the 20th century some have also been made of fiberglass
Fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...

 and other composite materials. The saxophone mouthpiece is larger than that of the clarinet, has a wider inner chamber, and lacks the cork-covered tenon of a clarinet mouthpiece because the saxophone neck inserts into the mouthpiece whereas the clarinet mouthpiece piece is inserted into the barrel. The most important difference between a saxophone embouchure and a clarinet embouchure is that the saxophone mouthpiece should enter the mouth at a much lower or flatter angle than the clarinet. The embouchure for clarinet must also be more firm than that for saxophone. The muscles in the lip and jaw will develop naturally the more one plays, and the "long tones" exercise helps a great deal with this aspect of playing.
Mouthpieces
Mouthpiece (woodwind)
The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not.-Single-reed instruments:On...

 come in a wide variety of materials, including vulcanized
Vulcanization
Vulcanization or vulcanisation is a chemical process for converting rubber or related polymers into more durable materials via the addition of sulfur or other equivalent "curatives." These additives modify the polymer by forming crosslinks between individual polymer chains. Vulcanized material is...

 rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 (sometimes called rod rubber or ebonite), plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

, and metals such as bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 or surgical steel. Less common materials that have been used include wood, glass, crystal, porcelain, and even bone. According to Larry Teal
Larry Teal
Larry Teal is considered by many to be the father of American Saxophone.Teal earned a Bachelors degree in Pre-Dentistry from the University of Michigan. While studying there he began playing in jazz bands as a saxophonist...

, the mouthpiece material has little, if any, effect on the sound, and the physical dimensions give a mouthpiece its tone colour. Mouthpieces with a concave ("excavated") chamber are more true to Adolphe Sax's original design; these provide a softer or less piercing tone, and are favored by some saxophonists, including students of Sigurd Raschèr
Sigurd Raschèr
Sigurd Manfred Raschèr was an American saxophonist of German birth. He became one of the most important figures in the development of the 20th century repertoire for the classical saxophone.-Career in Europe:...

, for classical playing. Conversely, mouthpieces with a smaller chamber or lower clearance above the reed, called high baffle, produce a brighter sound with maximum projection and are favored by many jazz and funk players. Most skilled saxophonists settle on a mouthpiece somewhere between these extremes regardless of their primary idiom and most that play both jazz and classical music have different equipment for each.

Like clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s, saxophones use a single reed
Reed (instrument)
A reed is a thin strip of material which vibrates to produce a sound on a musical instrument. The reeds of most Woodwind instruments are made from Arundo donax or synthetic material; tuned reeds are made of metal or synthetics.-Single reeds:Single reeds are used on the mouthpieces of clarinets...

. Saxophone reeds are proportioned slightly differently to clarinet reeds, being wider for the same length, although some soprano saxophonists will use clarinet reeds on the soprano saxophone. Each size of saxophone (alto, tenor, etc.) uses a different size of reed. Reeds are commercially available in a vast array of brands, styles, and strengths. Each player experiments with reeds of different strength (hardnesses) and material to find which strength and cut suits his or her mouthpiece, embouchure, tendencies, and playing style.

Cases

Saxophone instrument cases serve as essential protection and covering for saxophones during transportation and/or storage. Some cases provide protection from weather changes or environments that may be hazardous to the instrument. Usually, purchased saxophones come with factory cases that are manufactured or distributed by the saxophone company. There are also companies, such as Pro Tec, that offer traveling cases that are light weight, durable, and economically efficient. This especially matters when traveling with larger instruments such as the baritone saxophone. Some saxophone case providers include Pro Tec, Bam, SKB, Reunion Blues, and Gator.

Uses

The saxophone first gained popularity in the niche it was designed for: the military band
Military band
A military band originally was a group of personnel that performs musical duties for military functions, usually for the armed forces. A typical military band consists mostly of wind and percussion instruments. The conductor of a band commonly bears the title of Bandmaster or Director of Music...

. Although the instrument was studiously ignored in Germany, French and Belgian military bands took full advantage of the instrument that Sax had designed specifically for them. Most French and Belgian military bands incorporate at least a quartet of saxophones comprising at least the E baritone, B tenor, E alto and B soprano. These four instruments have proved the most popular of all of Sax's creations, with the E contrabass and B bass usually considered impractically large and the E sopranino insufficiently powerful. British military bands tend to include at minimum two saxophonists on the alto and tenor.

The saxophone has more recently found a niche in both concert band
Concert band
A concert band, also called wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind orchestra, wind symphony, wind ensemble, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of several members of the woodwind instrument family, brass instrument family, and percussion instrument family.A...

 and big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 music, which often calls for the E baritone, B tenor and E alto. The B soprano is also occasionally utilised, in which case it will normally be played by the first alto saxophonist. The bass saxophone in B is called for in band music (especially music by Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger
George Percy Aldridge Grainger , known as Percy Grainger, was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. He also made many...

) and big band orchestrations, especially music performed by the Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stanley Newcomb "Stan" Kenton was a pianist, composer, and arranger who led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator....

 "Mellophonium Orchestra". In the 1920s the bass saxophone was used often in classic jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 recordings, since at that time it was easier to record than a tuba or double bass.

The saxophone has been more recently introduced into the symphony orchestra, where it has found increased popularity. In one or other size, the instrument has been found a useful accompaniment to genres as wide-ranging as opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, choral music and chamber
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 pieces. Many musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 scores include parts for the saxophone, usually either doubling another woodwind or brass instrument. In this way the sax serves as a middle point between woodwinds and brass, helping to blend the two sections

Ensembles

A well-known implementation of the saxophone is modern jazz music. This is usually as a solo instrument with a rhythm section, but sometimes in the form of a saxophone quartet or big band.

The saxophone quartet is usually made up of one B soprano
Soprano saxophone
The soprano saxophone is a variety of the saxophone, a woodwind instrument, invented in 1840. The soprano is the third smallest member of the saxophone family, which consists of the soprillo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass and tubax.A transposing instrument pitched in...

, one E alto
Alto saxophone
The alto saxophone is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments invented by Belgian instrument designer Adolphe Sax in 1841. It is smaller than the tenor but larger than the soprano, and is the type most used in classical compositions...

, one B tenor
Tenor saxophone
The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor, with the alto, are the two most common types of saxophones. The tenor is pitched in the key of B, and written as a transposing instrument in the treble...

 and one E baritone
Baritone saxophone
The baritone saxophone, often called "bari sax" , is one of the largest and lowest pitched members of the saxophone family. It was invented by Adolphe Sax. The baritone is distinguished from smaller sizes of saxophone by the extra loop near its mouthpiece...

 (SATB). On occasion, the soprano is replaced with a second alto sax (AATB); a few professional saxophone quartets have featured non-standard instrumentation, such as James Fei
James Fei
James Cheng Ting Fei is a composer and performer working in the fields of contemporary classical music and electronic music. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area...

's Alto Quartet (four altos) and Hamiet Bluiett
Hamiet Bluiett
Hamiet Bluiett is an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. His primary instrument is the baritone saxophone, and he is considered one of the finest living players of this instrument...

's Bluiett Baritone Nation (four baritones).

There is a repertoire of classical compositions and arrangements for the SATB instrumentation dating back to the nineteenth century, particularly by French composers who knew Adolphe Sax. A list of well known current saxophone quartets includes the Amherst, Amstel, Anubis, Aurelia, Prism, H2, Habanara, Hanumi, Mana, Raschèr
Raschèr Saxophone Quartet
The Raschèr Saxophone Quartet is a professional ensemble of four saxophonists which performs classical and modern music.Like most saxophone quartets, the RSQ features one player on each of the four most common sizes of saxophone: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.The quartet was founded in the...

, Rova
Rova Saxophone Quartet
The Rova Saxophone Quartet is a San Francisco-based saxophone quartet formed in October 1977 at the same time as their "less adventurous" but better known colleagues the World Saxophone Quartet. The name "Rova" is an acronym formed from the last initials of the founding members: Jon Raskin, Larry...

, and Zzyzx Quartets. Historically, the quartets led by Marcel Mule
Marcel Mule
Marcel Mule was a French classical saxophonist.Marcel Mule was known worldwide as one of the great classical saxophonists, and many pieces were written for him, premiered by him, and arranged by him. Many of these pieces have become staples in the classical saxophone repertoire...

 and Daniel Deffayet, saxophone professors at the Conservatoire de Paris
Conservatoire de Paris
The Conservatoire de Paris is a college of music and dance founded in 1795, now situated in the avenue Jean Jaurès in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, France...

, were started in 1928 and 1953, respectively, and were highly regarded. The Mule quartet is often considered to be the prototype for all future quartets due the level of virtuosity demonstrated by its members and its central role in the development of the quartet repertoire. However organised quartets did exist before Mule's ensemble, the prime example being the quartet headed by Eduard Lefebre (1834–1911), former soloist with the Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

 band, in the United States c1904-1911. Other ensembles most likely existed at this time as part of the saxophone sections of the many touring "business" bands that existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, the World Saxophone Quartet
World Saxophone Quartet
The World Saxophone Quartet is a jazz ensemble founded in 1977, implementing elements of free funk and African jazz into their musical routines.-History:...

 has become known as the preeminent jazz saxophone quartet. The Rova Saxophone Quartet
Rova Saxophone Quartet
The Rova Saxophone Quartet is a San Francisco-based saxophone quartet formed in October 1977 at the same time as their "less adventurous" but better known colleagues the World Saxophone Quartet. The name "Rova" is an acronym formed from the last initials of the founding members: Jon Raskin, Larry...

, based in San Francisco, is noted for its work in the fields of contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.-Categorization:...

 and improvised music.

There are a few larger all-saxophone ensembles, the most prominent including the 9-member SaxAssault, and Urban Sax
Urban Sax
Urban Sax is an ensemble founded by the French composer Gilbert Artman made up of massive numbers of saxophones, accompanied by percussion and sometimes voices...

, which includes as many as 52 saxophonists. The 6-member Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra
Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra
The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra were a group of six American saxophonists who played as a saxophone ensemble in recordings and live performance. They were based in Santa Cruz, California. The group was notable for its contrabass saxophone, which is 203 centimetres tall with a...

 owns one of the few E contrabass saxophone
Contrabass saxophone
The contrabass saxophone is the lowest-pitched extant member of the saxophone family proper. It is extremely large and heavy , and is pitched in the key of E, one octave below the baritone.-History:The contrabass...

s, and plays a variety of ensemble pieces including "Casbah Shuffle", a duet for sopranino and contrabass. Very large groups, featuring over 100 saxophones, are sometimes organized as a novelty at saxophone conventions.

Studio saxophone players and ensembles have also been a major influence on the history of music. Although they are not usually full members of a band, they can be a vital part in the overall sound of a music set. In recent years, there has also been an increasing number of saxophone players in studio bands, in the vein of '70s bands such as Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

 and Yes
Yes (band)
Yes are an English rock band who achieved worldwide success with their progressive, art, and symphonic style of rock music. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre, Yes are known for their lengthy songs, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, and live stage sets...

.

Miscellaneous saxophones and related instruments

A number of saxes and saxophone-related instruments have appeared since Sax's original work, most enjoying no significant success. These include the saxello, essentially a straight B soprano, but with a slightly curved neck and tipped bell; the straight alto; and the straight B tenor. Since a straight-bore tenor is approximately five feet long, the cumbersome size of such a design makes it almost impossible to either play or transport. "King" Saxellos, made by the H. N. White Company in the 1920s, now command prices up to US$4,000. A number of companies, including Rampone & Cazzani and L.A. Sax, are marketing straight-bore, tipped-bell soprano saxophones as saxellos (or "saxello sopranos").

The "contralto" saxophone, similar in size to the orchestral soprano, was developed in the late 20th century by California instrument maker Jim Schmidt. This instrument has a larger bore and a new fingering system, and does not resemble the C melody instrument except for its key and register. Another new arrival to the sax scene is the soprillo sax, a piccolo
Piccolo
The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The piccolo has the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written...

-sized straight instrument which has the upper speaker hole built into the mouthpiece. The instrument, which extends Sax's original family as it is pitched a full octave higher than the B soprano sax, is manufactured by Benedikt Eppelsheim, of Munich, Germany. There is a rare prototype slide tenor saxophone, but few were ever made. One known company that produced a slide soprano saxophone was Reiffel & Husted, Chicago, ca. 1922 (catalog NMM 5385).

Two of these variants were championed by jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist who played tenor saxophone, flute and many other instruments...

, who called his straight Buescher alto a stritch
Stritch (saxophone)
Stritch is the name that Rahsaan Roland Kirk gave to the customized Buescher Straight Alto that he played. This horn had custom keywork to allow Kirk to play the horn with one hand.-References:* http://www.woodwindforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3426...

 and his modified saxello a manzello
Manzello
"Manzello" is the name that Rahsaan Roland Kirk gave to an HN White King Saxello onto which he had affixed a mellophone bell. See also stritch.-References:* The Oxford Companion to Jazz, edited by Bill Kirchner Oxford Press , p...

; the latter featured a larger-than-usual bell and modified key work. Among some saxophonists, Kirk's terms have taken on a life of their own in that it is believed that these were "special" or "new" saxophones that might still be available. Though rare, the Buescher straight alto was a production item instrument while the manzello was indeed a saxello with a custom made bell.

Another unusual variant of the saxophone was the Conn-O-Sax, a straight-conical bore instrument in F (one step above the E♭ alto) with a slightly curved neck and spherical bell. The instrument, which combined a saxophone bore and keys with a bell shaped similar to that of a heckelphone
Heckelphone
The heckelphone is a musical instrument invented by Wilhelm Heckel and his sons. Introduced in 1904, it is similar to the oboe but pitched an octave lower.-General characteristics:...

, was intended to imitate the timbre of the English horn and was produced only in 1929 and 1930. The instrument had a key range from low A to high G. Fewer than 100 Conn-O-Saxes are in existence, and they are eagerly sought by collectors.

The tubax
Tubax
The tubax is a modified saxophone developed in 1999 by the German instrument maker Benedikt Eppelsheim. It is available in both E contrabass and B or C subcontrabass sizes...

, developed in 1999 by the German instrument maker Benedikt Eppelsheim
Benedikt Eppelsheim
Benedikt Eppelsheim is a world-renowned German maker of high- and low-voiced saxophones, the soprillo and tubax , which are available exclusively from him...

, plays the same range, and with the same fingering, as the E contrabass saxophone; its bore, however, is narrower than that of a contrabass saxophone, making for a more compact instrument with a "reedier" tone (akin to the double-reed contrabass sarrusophone
Sarrusophone
The sarrusophone is a family of transposing musical instruments patented and placed into production by Pierre-Louis Gautrot in 1856. It was named after the French bandmaster Pierre-Auguste Sarrus who is credited with the concept of the instrument...

). It can be played with the smaller (and more commonly available) baritone saxophone mouthpiece and reeds. Eppelsheim has also produced subcontrabass tubaxes in C and B, the latter being the lowest saxophone ever made. Among the most recent developments is the aulochrome
Aulochrome
The aulochrome is a new woodwind instrument invented by Belgian François Louis in 2001. It consists of two soprano saxophones that can be played either separately or together. The name comes from Greek aulos and chrome...

, a double soprano saxophone invented by Belgian instrument maker François Louis in 2001.

Bamboo "saxophones"

Although not true saxophones, inexpensive keyless folk versions of the saxophone made of bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 were developed in the 20th century by instrument makers in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, and Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. The Hawaiian instrument, called a xaphoon
Xaphoon
The Xaphoon is a single-reed keyless woodwind instrument. Its construction is very similar to the chalumeau, a European keyless single-reed instrument that was the ancestor of the clarinet. The tone color produced by a Xaphoon is somewhere between that of a saxophone and a clarinet, and the...

, was invented during the 1970s and is also marketed as a "bamboo sax," although its cylindrical bore more closely resembles that of a clarinet, and its lack of any keywork makes it more akin to a recorder
Recorder
The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument of the family known as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes—whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle. The recorder is end-blown and the mouth of the instrument is constricted by a wooden plug, known as a block or fipple...

. Jamaica's best known exponent of a similar type of homemade bamboo "saxophone" was the mento
Mento
Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced ska and reggae music. It has its roots in calypso and other Jamaican folk music. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box — a large mbira in the...

 musician and instrument maker 'Sugar Belly
Sugar Belly
Sugar Belly was a Jamaican mento musician in the mid 20th century. Sugar Belly's music was distinctive for his use of a homemade bamboo saxophone, as well as the bamboo fife....

' (William Walker). In the Minahasa
Minahasa
The Minahasa are an ethnic group located in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, formerly known as North Celebes...

 region of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi
Sulawesi
Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.- Etymology :The Portuguese were the first to...

, there exist entire bands made up of bamboo "saxophones" and "brass" instruments of various sizes. These instruments are clever imitations of European instruments, made using local materials. Very similar instruments are produced in Thailand. In Argentina, Ángel Sampedro del Río and Mariana García have produced bamboo saxophones of various sizes since 1985, the larger of which have bamboo keys to allow for the playing of lower notes.audio

Composition

Music for most saxophones is usually notated using treble clef. The standard written range extends from a B below the staff to an F or F three ledger lines above the staff. Most, if not all, intermediate and professional saxophones made today are built with F keys, with F included on even student instruments. There are many models of soprano saxophone that have a key for high G, and most modern models of baritone saxophone have an extended bore and key to produce low A; it is also possible to play a low A on any saxophone by blocking the end of the bell, usually with the foot or inside of the left thigh. Low A keys however were not limited to just the baritone saxophone. For a short time Selmer Paris produced mark VI alto saxophones with the low A key. Notes above F are considered part of the altissimo register of any sax, and can be produced using advanced embouchure techniques and fingering combinations. Sax himself had mastered these techniques; he demonstrated the instrument as having a range of just beyond three octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s up to a (written) high B4. Modern saxophone players have extended this range to over 4 octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s on tenor and alto.

Because all saxophones use the same key arrangement and fingering to produce a given notated pitch, it is not difficult for a competent player to switch among the various sizes when the music has been suitably transposed, and many do so. Since the baritone and alto are pitched in E, players can read concert pitch music notated in the bass clef by reading it as if it were treble clef and adding three sharps
Sharp (music)
In music, sharp, dièse , or diesis means higher in pitch and the sharp symbol raises a note by a half tone. Intonation may be flat, sharp, or both, successively or simultaneously...

 to the key signature
Key signature
In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes unless otherwise altered with an accidental...

. This process, referred to as clef substitution, makes it possible for the baritone to play from parts written for bassoon
Bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

, tuba
Tuba
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It is one of the most recent additions to the modern symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid-19th century, when it largely replaced the...

, trombone
Trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

 or string bass. This can be useful if a band or orchestra lacks one of those instruments.

See also

  • Buescher True Tone Saxophones
    Buescher True Tone Saxophones
    "True Tone" was the brand name of the first line of saxophones produced by the Buescher Band Instrument Company between 1905 and 1932. The name was stamped into the back of the instrument below the thumb rest, combined with a stylised tuning fork logo. The instruments were made in the company's...

  • List of saxophonists
  • Saxophone technique
    Saxophone technique
    Saxophone embouchure is the position of the facial muscles and shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece when playing a saxophone.Playing technique for the saxophone is subjective based upon the intended style and the player's idealized sound...

  • Wind controller
    Wind controller
    A wind controller, sometimes referred to as a "wind synth", or "wind synthesizer", can be defined as a wind instrument capable of controlling one or more music synthesizers or other devices. Wind controllers are most commonly played and fingered like a woodwind instrument, usually the saxophone,...



External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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