Saxophone

The Saxophone

One of the most unique and complicated instruments is the saxophone. It is classified with the woodwind instruments because it uses a reed, but the saxophone is made out of brass. It was invented by a Belgian named Adolphe Sax in the 1840s and is one of the youngest modern instruments. The saxophone is considered to be one of the closest instruments to the human voice; in fact many call it a "singing" instrument. Because of this, many musicians use the saxophone to express a wide variety of emotions. Also, there are four different types of saxophones, just like the four parts in many choirs: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone saxophones.

Why Saxophone?

If you want the complexity of a classical instrument with the expressiveness of a non-classical instrument, saxophone may be a good fit for you. Even though it is primarily considered a jazz instrument, it is often featured in band and orchestra ensembles and a variety of classical music has been written for the saxophone.

How does the Saxophone contribute to a band or orchestra?

In ensembles like band and orchestra the saxophone is often used to compliment the French horn as they both have a similar timbre and range. The saxophone can also be used to balance the woodwinds.

The parts of a saxophone:

  • The mouthpiece is actually three pieces in one: the ligature secures the reed on the mouthpiece. The player slides the ligature over the mouthpiece and tightens it to secure the reed.
  • The main tube looks much more complicated than it really is. It is primarily a long conical tube that has tone holes that are covered by keys.
  • There is a series of rods that connect the keys you press, to the corresponding tone hole.
  • The keys that cover the tone holes have pads that securely cover the tone hole so no sound gets out.
  • Even though some sound comes out of open tone holes, a lot of it also comes from the bell.

How to pick a good Saxophone:

Getting your first saxophone is a big deal; here are some things to consider. Soprano, Alto, Tenor or Baritone? Many schools have their students start on Alto saxophone because it's smaller and the most popular. After you learn the basics though, you can switch to a different sax, if you want, without too much hassle. The fingerings are the same for all four instruments... you just have to find a voice that's right for you! New or used? Your local music retailer will be able to advise you on pre-loved instruments that they have in stock. This can be a worthy alternative. Beware of the internet! You will not get the support, advice and service you will get from your local retailer. If you are going to buy a used saxophone, be sure to check the keys to make sure they aren't leaking or noisy. Also, check the body of the saxophone for dents and a scratched finish. Make sure the pads and the cork are still in good shape, too. If you decide to get a used saxophone, make sure a professional looks at it to make sure it's a good instrument. You will have it for a while.

Tips:

  • Use a mouthpiece cap. It can protect both your reed and your mouthpiece from getting ruined.
  • The reed's vibrations create the saxophone's sound, good reeds are essential to good playing. Keep your reeds in good shape.
  • The saxophone has more parts than the average instrument so be sure to have it checked regularly for leaks and repairs.
  • Saxophones are heavier than most other woodwind instruments so players use something called a neckstrap. There are different kinds so be sure to choose one that is comfortable for you.

Did you know?

Even though it's famous for being a jazz instrument, the saxophone was originally used in military bands.


Want to Learn More About the Saxophone?

Watch as a professional instructor demonstrates how to properly get started on your saxophone. Click Here.