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The Saxophone

Updated on October 20, 2015
"The saxophone is the embodied spirit of beer."  Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)
"The saxophone is the embodied spirit of beer." Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)

Of all the members of the woodwind family, the saxophone is the most modern and probably the most familiar among non-musicians. The instrument's role in popular music idioms, particularly jazz has afforded it the sort of exposure that is not typical among other woodwind instrument.

  • The saxophone is characterized by a fairly wide body made from a conical tube of thin metal, commonly brass which is expanded at the open end with a small flare.
  • It has 18-21 tone-holes of graduated size, all of which are controlled by keys.
  • At the mouthpiece end are two speaker keys that enable the instrument to over-blow at the octave.
  • The mouthpiece, which is fitted with a single reed, was originally made of wood but is now commonly of ebonite or sometimes brass.

How Can I Supposed to Live Without You - Kenny G & Michael Bolt

The saxophone was invented by a Frenchman named Adophe Sax and patented in Paris in 1846. The saxophone started off, like so many brass instruments, as a regular, if not indispensable, member of military bands, being officially adopted by the French army in 1854.

Since that time, the basic shape and design of the instrument,with its brass or nickle-plated finish and characteristics curved body, has change little.

  • During the 20th century, some additional features were included, such as pearl tips on the finger buttons and small roller situated between certain keys to allow the player's fingers greater flexibility.

The saxophone is not a prominent feature in the symphony orchestra, but it gain the notice of a number of composers, in particular, Vaughan Williams in his Fourth Symphony and Prokoviev in his Romeo and Juliet Suite both composed in 1935.

  • It was the jazz, however that the tenor saxophone found its true niche. Its greater range, compared to the alto, along with its remarkable ability to bend and alter the tonal quality to bend and alter the tonal quality of notes, made it extremely versatile both as a solo and rhythmic instrument.
  • In the 1930s Coleman Hawkins and in the 1950s John Coltrane did much to elevate the status of the tenor saxophone in the world of jazz.

As a solo instrument, the tenor is capable of a wide range of expression:

  • From subdued, velvety and breathy tones to bright, cutting edge which accounts for its popular use in punchy brass sections.
  • In addition, through subtle and not so subtle - distortions of the mouth shape, a player can emit a variety of special effects from growling to screaming.

Famous Saxophone Players

Famous saxophone players video. A presentation of famous saxophone players including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Shorter, Art Pepper.

Former US President Bill Clinton playing the saxophone.
Former US President Bill Clinton playing the saxophone.

Do You Play the Saxophone?

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    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice hub which is well shared by a music lover if i may guess.

    • jtyler profile image

      jtyler 7 years ago

      Thanks. I've been playing sax for quite a while and I still learned a bit from this.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      My son did tho and in High school even cut a record with the jazz band...they were so good.  I think sax's are sexy and can't get enough...saxophone that is LOL  thanks for a good hub about this instrument...G-Ma :o) hugs