Even though the body of the saxophone is usually made of brass, the sax is a woodwind because it is blown the same as a clarinet. Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone to be used in military bands but it is also used in the concert band, jazz band, and popular music. Rarely, the saxophone may be found in the orchestra. Alto saxophones are often featured as solo instruments.
Saxophones are made in different sizes. The ones you see most often are the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. The smallest is the soprano and it plays the highest notes. The largest is the baritone and it plays the lowest notes. Most saxophone players start on the alto saxophone and later switch to another. It is easy to switch from one saxophone to another because the notes and fingerings are all the same.
Like the clarinet, the saxophone has a mouthpiece and a single reed. The ligature holds the reed in place. The reed is made of cane. When air is blown into the mouthpiece, the reed vibrates and the sound is made. The keys are used to change the pitch played.
The saxophone was invented by a Belgian clarinetist named Adolphe Sax in 1841. He put a clarinet mouthpiece and reed onto a brass tube and then added oboe keys. After settling in Paris, Sax patented his new invention in 1846. The instrument soon became popular across all of France. Many American musicians visiting Europe took a liking to the saxophone, and it soon found a home in America, where it has remained popular ever since.
Adolphe Sax actually created 14 different sizes of saxophone, seven for orchestra pitched in C and F, and seven for band pitched in Bb and Eb. The only saxophones still in common use today are the Eb alto saxophone, the Bb tenor saxophone, and the Eb baritone saxophone. The Bb soprano saxophone is also used occasionally, especially in jazz and small ensemble music, and a few orchestra pieces call for C tenor saxophone. More rare saxophones are the very small sopranino and very large bass and contrabass saxophones. Although saxophones are built in different keys and sizes, each uses the same fingerings, allowing saxophone players to transfer from instrument to instrument with ease.
The saxophone was invented to be a bridge between the woodwind and brass sections, and to boost the sound of the woodwind section in military bands. The instrument's combination of metal body and wooden reed allows it to blend equally well with brass or woodwind instruments. However, the saxophone is classified as a member of the woodwind family because of its flute-like key system and the use of a reed.
Before you play: Greae the cork on the neckpiece so that the mouthpiece goes on easily. Put the mouthpiece and reed on the neckpiece. Place theneckpiece in the body of the saxophone. To avoid bending the neckpiece, do not apply any downward pressure. use a gentle rotating, twisting motion. The octave key lever should go under the ring on the neckpiece. Always use a neckstrap as additional support for holding the sax, and as a safety measure to prevent accidental dropping of the instrument.
Tuning & Playing: To tune the saxophone, adjust the length of the instrument by moving the mouthpiece in or out. If you need to lower your pitch, pull the mouthpiece out, making the saxophone longer. If you need to raise your pitch, push the mouthpiece in.
Cleaning: Moisture left in the saxophone after playing with cause pads to deteriorate. Swab the inside of the saxophone after playing. Use a cloth to wipe off moisture and finger marks. Remove the reed from the mouthpiece and place it in a reed guard. This will extend the life of the reed. Swab out the mouthpiece. Under each key is a pad that seals the tone hole when the key closes. If pads stick, they are dirty. To clean the pads, place a clean cloth (or dollar bill) under the pad, close the key, and pull the cloth through. Wash the mouthpiece regularly with lukewarm water and clean it using a mouthpiece brush.
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