History of the Saxophone

The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax June 22, 1846.

saxophoneIt consists essentially of a conical brass tube furnished with about twenty lateral orifices covered by keys, and with six studs or finger plates for the first three fingers of either hand, and is played by means of a mouthpiece and single reed of the clarinet kind.

In addition to lateral holes giving the scale, two small holes opened by keys, and known as ‘pipes’ or ‘speakers,’ are also provided, and are used for the production of octaves.

The saxophones in use are generally the soprano I b flat, the alto in e flat, the tenor in B flat, the baritone in E flat, and the bass in B flat. A soprano in e flat is sometimes made, and c and f are occasionally used for the pitch notes instead of b flat and e flat respectively.

Those most used are the alto and tenor varieties. In French military bands, however, five or more are in use; having to a great degree superseded the ore difficult but more flexible clarinet, and having quite replaced the bassoon.

The compass of the saxophone as generally recognized is from b to f, but all the members of the family are frequently made with an extension of the bell for b flat, which notes is obtained by the closing of an extra open standing key. The two highest keys giving c and f, are, however, seldom fitted to any but the alto and tenor instruments. The key system for the right hand is similar to that of the Boehm flute, but for the left hand approaches more nearly to that of the ordinary oboe.

The fundamental sounds from b flat or b natural to c sharp are obtained by the successive opening of the lateral holes, and by means of the two octave or ‘pipe’ keys the compass is carried up from d to c sharp.

The four highest notes, are produced by four keys on the upper part of the instrument, used exclusively for these notes.

Since its introduction, many improved or alternative fingerings have been designed for and adopted on the saxophone.

The saxophone, though inferior in compass, quality, and power of articulation to the clarinet, and basset horn, and especially to the bassoon, has great value in military combinations. It reproduces on a magnified scale something of the violoncello quality, and gives great sustaining power to the full chorus of brass instruments, by introducing a mass of harmonic overtones wanting in the Sax’s other contrivance.

The tone of the soprano saxophone is somewhat strident, but the general quality of all combines the ‘vocal’ and the ‘string’ characteristics, and undoubtedly bridges over the gap between the older established ‘reed’ instruments and the ‘brass.’

The saxophone was first introduced, in 1844, by M. Kastner in ‘Le dernier Roi de Juda,’ and subsequently by Meyerbeer, Ambroise Thomas, and others.