Saxophone

Adolphe Sax - Marklindsay

Adolphe Sax was the inventor of the saxophone. The saxophone is a family of woodwind instruments and are usually made of brass and played with a single reed mouthpiece similar to a clarinet. The saxophone family was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840. He wanted to create a group of instruments that would be most powerful and the most adaptive of the brass instruments, ones that would fill the vacant middle ground between two sections. He patented the saxophone on June 28, 1846 in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes and alternating transposition. The series pitched in B-flat and E flat were designed for military brands and improved extremely popular and most sax today are from the series. There are also instruments in the orchestral series pitched in C and F but the B-flat and E flat instruments have now replaced them in an orchestra.

The Saxes used in classical music, military bands, marching bands, and jazz. Saxophone players are called saxophonists. Adolph Sax was originally a flautist and clarinetist. He was originally from Brussels but moved to Paris to establish his musical instrument business. He also was the maker of the ophicleide, a large conical brass instrument in the bass register with keys similar to a woodwind instrument. The outgrowth of his work of improving the bass clarinet was what developed the first saxophones, as he wanted the projection of a brass instrument and the agility of a woodwind. He wanted it to over blow at the octave, unlike the clarinet, which rises in pitch by a 12th when overblown. An instrument that over blows at the octave has identical fingering for both registers. He created a single read mouthpiece instrument, a conical brass body and the acoustic properties of both the horn and the clarinet. He constructed them in several sizes and then applied for a 15-year patent. The patent encompassed 14 versions of the fundamental design and this was split into two categories of seven instruments each ranging from sopranino to contrabass. Only 3% of Sax’s surviving production was pitched in F and C, and contemporary composers use the E flat alto and the B-flat bass saxophone freely in orchestral music, Sax experimented to find the most suitable keys settling upon instruments between E flat and B-flat rather than those pitched in F and C for reasons of tone and economy. The C soprano saxophone was the only instrument to sound at concert pitch.

Sax’s patent expired in 1866 and numerous saxophonists and instrument manufacturers implemented their own improvements to the designing key work. The first was by a French manufacture extended the bells slightly and added an extra key to extends the range downwards by one semitone to Flat. This extension is now commonplace in almost all modern designs. Using alternate fingerings allows a player to play faster and more easily and use alternate fingerings to bend the pitch. The alternate fingerings are good for trilling, scales and big interval jumps. The substantial advancement in saxophone key work was the development of a method by which the left thumb operates both tone holes with a single octave key, which is now universal on modern saxophones. One of the most radical, however temporary, revisions of saxophone key work was made in the 1950s by Houvenaghel of Paris, who completely redeveloped the mechanics of the system to allow a number of notes to be flattened by a semitone simply by pressing the right middle finger. This enables a chromatic scale to be played over two octaves simply by playing the diatonic scale combined with alternately raising and lowering this one digit. It never gained much popularity and is no longer in use.

The saxophone consists of an approximately conical to of thin brass flared at the tip to form a bell. There are along the 22 and 23 tone holes of varying size and two very small vent holes to assist the plane of the upper register. These holes are covered by keys also known as pad cups, containing soft leather pads, which are closed to produce an airtight seal. At rest some of the holes stand open and others are closed. The keys are activated by key touches pressed by the fingers either directly or with joints called linkages. The right thumb is under the thumb rest to stabilize and balance a saxophone, while the weight of most saxophones is supported by a neck strap attached to a strap ring on the rear of the instrument. The fingering for the saxophone is a combination of that of the oboe and the flute. The sopranino and soprano saxophones are usually of straight design. Lower pitched instruments are long for ergonomic reasons and usually incorporate a U bend. The U shape has become a distinctive feature of the saxophone family. The tenors and baritones have occasionally been made in the straight style. Most commonly, however, the alto and tenor saxophone's incorporate a detachable, curved neck above the highest tone whole, directing the mouthpiece to the players mouth while the instrument is held in a playing stance. The baritone, Bass and contra Bass saxophones accommodate the length of the bore with extra bows and right angle bands between the main body and the mouthpiece.

Most saxophones are made from brass. They are categorized as woodwind instruments rather than brass as the sound waves are produced by an oscillating would reed, not the players lips against a mouthpiece as in a brass instrument, and because different pitches are produced by breath wind passing opening and closing keys. Most saxophones have key touches, which are smooth replaceable pieces, placed where the fingers touch the instrument, and they are made from either plastic or mother-of-pearl. Two other saxophones are made with differing materials such as the Grafton plastic alto saxophone and the polycarbonate saxophone the VibratoSax. Differing countries have used copper alloy or phosphor bronze, even sterling silver. Opinions vary on the significance of body materials to sound. Manufacturers usually apply a thin coating of clear or colored acrylic lacquer or silver plate over the bare brass. Plating saxophones with gold is an expensive process because gold does not adhere directly to brass. As a result, the brass is first played it was silver, then gold. Some people argue that the type of lacquer or plating used enhances and instruments tone quality.

The saxophone uses a single reed mouthpiece similar to the clarinet. Saxophone reeds or proportion slightly differently from clarinet reeds as they are wider but the same length. Each size saxophone, alto, tenor, uses a different size of reed. Players experiment with reeds of different strengths and harnesses to find one, which suits them. The mouthpiece of the saxophone is larger than a clarinet. It is different from the clarinet in firmness, position of the lower lip, and range of entry angles. Mouthpieces come in a variety of materials including rubber, plastic and metals. The mouthpiece has little if any effect on the sound. Some say the instability at the mouthpiece connection moves harmonic frequencies off series resulting in a spread sound and the weight of a mouthpiece counteracts that instability increasing tonal focus. Mouthpiece design has a profound impact on tone. Early mouthpieces were designed to produce a warm sound for classical playing. Those are considered to be excavated with a concave chamber. Saxophonists who follow the French school use mouthpieces with smaller chambers. The use of the saxophone in dance orchestras and jazz ensembles are those with a small chamber and low clearance above the reed between the tip and the chamber, called high baffle. They produce a bright sound perfect for modern pop and smooth jazz.