So who invented the Saxophone? Well it’s not just a fad; we can find proof of that at every Jazz and Blues festival across the world. So far, the Saxophone has stood the test of time and has been embraced the world over as a popular instrument and icon of music.
The Saxophone has a relatively short history. Relative that is, to most other common wind instruments today. It was Antoine-Joseph ( Adolphe Sax ) who invented the Saxophone in 1846. That’s only about 160 years ago, or around 80 years before your grandmother was born; not long is it? If we look at a few other wind instruments for comparison we can really see how young it is:
- The Trumpet – Dates back to about 1500 BC when a very basic horn was used. This looked similar to the trumpet of today, but had no valves for changing the pitch. The ‘Piston Valve’ trumpet which we know today didn’t originate till 1838. So, there was plenty of time for variations and improvement in between: More than 3000 years in fact.
- The Clarinet – 1690 was when the clarinet was born. Developed by Johann Christoph Denner as an adaption to the Chalumeau. So, let’s say it’s nearly 320 years old.
- The Flute – Ancient. There are reports of a basic flute with 3 holes (made from Mammoth Tusk) which date that instrument from 37,000 years ago. Of course the concert flute we see today was developed in a vague form around the 16th century and was improved upon many times from there.
Although Sax was Belgian by birth, he first developed the saxophone while working in Paris, where he moved to work in 1841. Sax began making instruments at an early age, learning the craft from his father. During this time, Sax studied flute and clarinet at a school in Brussels. Experience with these instruments would go on to help Sax create and refine the saxophone.
When he left the school, he began to develop new instrument designs while his father continued making conventional instruments to earn money for the family. Sax eventually decided to pursue this goal full-time and moved to Paris.
In creating the saxophone, Sax wanted to produce an instrument that could project sound like a brass instrument, but allowed for intricate, agile playing like a woodwind. Sax decided to give his new creation a single reed mouthpiece like a clarinet, a cone-shaped body similar to those commonly found in brass instruments and the tone of a French horn combined with a clarinet. This first completed prototype would be recognizable today as a saxophone.
Of course, looking back over Saxophone History the instrument has changed slightly from Sax’s original specifications. Other instrument designers eventually made improvements on the saxophone by extending the bell and adding a more effective keywork system. Sax created and patented 14 different types of saxophones, ranging from the miniscule sopranino to the enormous contrabass. Read more about the Saxophone Family. Today, only the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones have achieved mainstream success. Now that we know who it was invented by, it should be fairly self explanatory, to work out why he’s called it the Saxophone…