General information and resources for students and adult learners.

The saxophone

Of all the members of the woodwind family, the saxophone is the most modern and probably the most familiar among non-musicians. 

  • 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  • The mouthpiece, which is fitted with a single reed, was originally made of wood but is now commonly of ebonite or sometimes brass.

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.

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


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