The Saxophone


The family of saxophones was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840 with the idea of bridging the divide between the brass and woodwind sections of the military band. The saxophone has proved extremely popular not only with military style bands but all types of music including jazz, big band, pop, rock and even orchestral. The most common saxophones are the alto sax (E♭), tenor sax (B♭) and baritone sax (E♭).

Although most saxophones are made from brass they are categorised with the woodwind instruments and not the brass section as the sound waves are produced by a wood reed and not a brass mouthpiece as is the case with all brass instruments. 

Typically, the saxophone is made from a slightly conical thin brass tube which is flared at the end to form a bell with tone holes set along the length of the saxophone of varying sizes, plus two small vent holes to enable playing in the upper register. These holes (or pad cups) are covered by keys containing soft leather pads which when closed produce an airtight seal. The remaining fittings such as the screw pins that connect the rods to the posts and the needle and leaf springs that cause the keys to return to their rest position after being released, are generally made from stainless steel.

The saxophone keys are activated by the players fingers with the right thumb sitting under the thumb rest, to stabilize and balance the saxophone, whilst the main weight of the saxophone is supported by a neck strap.

The saxophone uses a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet which are are usually made from Giant cane, but fiberglass and other composite materials are also used. Each size of saxophone (alto, tenor, etc.) uses a different size reed and players experiment with reeds of different strength (hardness) to find which best suits their embouchure and playing style.