The saxophone (also referred to as the sax) is a conical-bore, transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. While proving very popular in military band music, the saxophone is most commonly associated with jazz and classical music. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.
The alto is one of the most popular saxophone types. It's a great horn for playing lead parts in ensembles. Much of its range overlaps with that of the trumpet, so it can really sing out. You can play virtually any style of music on it . . . it's probably the most versatile of all the saxophones.
The alto and the tenor are the two most popular saxophone types. The next most popular type would be the baritone and the soprano, with the bass sax following closely behind. But that's not the end of the saxophone family, not at all!
Today, the saxophone is an emblem of "cool" and the instrument most closely associated with jazz. Yet not long ago it was derided as the "Siren of Satan," and it was largely ignored in the United States for well over half a century after its invention. When it was first widely heard, it was often viewed as a novelty noisemaker, not a real musical instrument. In only a few short years, however, saxophones appeared in music shops across America and became one of the most important instrumental voices
Upon its arrival, the saxophone was adopted as the country's own fiercely independent spirit. In the decade following the Great War nearly a million saxophones were sold in America, a phenomenon then described as the "saxophone craze" . . . it went on to become the most innovative instrument in jazz and the go-to instrument in rhythm and blues, rock and roll, Motown, funk, and soul music.
The saxophone, despite having a beautiful voice and great facility, lacked precise intonation at the time, and this made it problematic for the orchestra. Although the saxophone has been written for by a few orchestral composers, many of whom were personal friends of Adolphe, the saxophone to this day has not lived up to his dream of being a staple of the orchestra.
Thanks to French military bands, which accompanied troops wherever they were posted, saxophones premiered in Mexico in the early 1860s and quickly migrated into new territory. . . . By the turn of the century, the saxophone could be heard in every urban center in America. It was strategically positioned to play a leading role in the radical new musical idioms to come.
The story of the saxophone is best understood by taking a look at its inventor Adolphe Sax. . . . Being the visionary he was, Adolphe had an idea to create a completely new instrument. This instrument would combine the power of a brass instrument with the subtleties of a woodwind instrument and the facility of a stringed instrument. After much experimentation, he had his first working model in 1841, which he called the bass horn. It wasn't until a review of his new instrument in the French paper Journal des Debats, however, that the name le saxophon or "saxophone" came about.
The saxophone is, relatively speaking, a young musical instrument: invented in the 1840s by Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax, it is hundreds of years younger than the violin and the harpsichord, thousands of years younger than the flute and the drums.
When Adolphe Sax invented the sax there was some skepticism about whether it was a decent instrument and so there was actually a literal battle of the bands where two bands were assembled: one that had saxophones and one that didn’t. And I guess the legend is they walked onto a field, one on one side, one on the other, and they had a playoff to see which one was better. Of course, the band that had the saxophones was better and that’s why we have saxophones today.
Conically shaped, the saxophone is the only woodwind instrument made of brass. Although it is found only occasionally in the symphony orchestra, it is considered a member of the woodwind family because it has a single reed like the clarinet.