With the Saxophone History spanning about 160 years thus far, there no doubt are some interesting stories to be heard involving Saxophones.
The Saxophone has become one of those so well loved instruments, in large part because of the beauty of its Tone. In the nineteen-twenties there were as many as one million saxophone sold, based solely on the sound of the the recordings.
In the Saxophone History we find it has origins intertwining with woodwind and brass wind alike, taking the woodwind’s embouchure and brass body in combination. Adolphe Sax masterminded the entire saxophone family himself. The saxophone itself is often a brass cone with tone holes. Sometimes silver, nickel, plastic, bronze, or other experimental material is used. The instrument’s construction is equally scientific as it is artistic, especially with the measurements of the tone holes and bends of the brass. All of these are created to exact measurements to achieve the correct sound and intonation. The keys that correspond to the tone holes are often covered in leather or a similar durable material to ensure a proper seal on the tone hole.
To play a saxophone, a saxophonist holds the saxophone so that the mouthpiece, which is attached to the crook, gently swings into the mouth for placement by adjusting the neck strap. (Smaller saxophones, such as the sopranino and soprillo, may be played without using a neck strap as it suits the player, but it is essential for the larger saxophones.) The mouthpiece is a shaped piece of rubber, plastic, metal, or glass that allows a reed, held in place by a ligature, to vibrate. These vibrations are the birthplace of sound within a saxophone. By placing the mouthpiece gently in one’s mouth and blowing across the reed, vibrations travel through the body and out the tone holes that are uncovered. Pressing and opening specific keys allows different tone hole combinations, which gives the saxophonist the freedom to play over two octaves of pitches. (Some saxophonists can play many more octaves by using new fingerings and breath techniques in the upper range, which is known as altissimo.)
Throughout the Saxophone History, the saxophone has enjoyed success in military bands, then graduated to an increased solo repertoire in the classical world. Meanwhile, it has become part of many popular music genres, such as pop, big band, blues, rock and roll, ska, and jazz. The saxophone’s relatively easy learning curve has made it popular in public school music programs for children and adults alike. Whether you are a beginner studying scales from the Mel Bay books, or an adept reading The Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal, the educational literature on the saxophone is far-reaching.
When Adolphe’s patent expired in 1866, the floodgates opened for many other manufacturers to step in. Today, Selmer, Conn, Yamaha, Yanigasawa, Grafton, Giardinelli, Keilwerth, LA Sax, Orsi, Bundy, King, Benedikt Eppelsheim, Kohlert, Amati, Cannonball, Jupiter, and many other companies provide saxophones for students and professional saxophonists. An even wider array of mouthpieces exists, providing endless equipment combinations to find the perfect setup for any saxophonist’s playing style.