Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Saxophone

Absolute Beginners: Alto SaxophoneThe saxophone (also referred to simply as sax) is a conical-bored transposing musical instrument which is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and are played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented byAdolphe Sax in 1841. He wanted to create an instrument that would both be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds and the most adaptive of the brass, which would fill the then vacant middle ground between the two sections. He patented the sax in 1846 in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition. The series pitched in B and E, designed for military bands, has proved extremely popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. A few saxophones remain from the less popular orchestral series pitched in C and F.
While proving very popular in its intended niche of military band music, the saxophone is most commonly associated with popular musicbig band music,blues, early rock and rollska and particularly jazz. There is also a substantial repertoire of concert music in the classical idiom for the members of the saxophone family. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

The sxophone was developed in the 1840s by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian-born instrument-maker, flautist, and clarinetistworking in Paris. While still working at his father's instrument shop in Brussels, Sax began developing an instrument which had the projection of a brass instrument with the agility of a woodwind. Another priority was to invent an instrument which would overblow at the octave, unlike the clarinet, which rises in pitch by a twelfth when overblown; an instrument which overblew at the octave would have identical fingering for both registers.
Prior to his work on the saxophone, Sax made several improvements to the bass clarinet by improving its keywork and acoustics and extending its lower range. Sax was also a maker of the then-popular ophicleide, a large conical brass instrument in the bass register with keys similar to a woodwind instrument. His experience with these two instruments allowed him to develop the skills and technologies needed to make the first saxophones. Adolphe Sax created an instrument with a single reed mouthpiece like a clarinet, conical brass body like an ophicleide, and the acoustic properties of both the french horn and the clarinet.
Having constructed saxophones in several sizes in the early 1840s, Sax applied for, and received, a 15-year patent for the instrument on June 28, 1846.[1] The patent encompassed 14 versions of the fundamental design, split into two categories of seven instruments each and ranging from sopranino to contrabass. In the group Sax envisaged fororchestral work, the instruments transposed at either F or C, while the "military band" group included instruments alternating between E and B. The orchestral soprano saxophone was the only instrument to sound at concert pitch. All the instruments were given an initial written range from the B below the treble staff to the F three ledger lines above it, giving each saxophone a range of two and a half octaves.
Sax's patent expired in 1866;[2] thereafter numerous saxophonists and instrument manufacturers implemented their own improvements to the design and keywork. The first substantial modification was by a French manufacturer who extended the bell slightly and added an extra key to extend the range downwards by one semitone to B. It is suspected that Sax himself may have attempted this modification. This extension was adopted into almost all modern designs.
Sax's original keywork was very simplistic and made playing some legato passages and wide intervals extremely difficult to finger, so numerous developers added extra keys and alternate fingerings to make chromatic playing less difficult. While the early saxophone had two separate octave vents to assist in the playing of the upper registers just as modern instruments do, players of Sax's original design had to operate these via two separate octave keys operated by the left thumb. A substantial advancement in saxophone keywork was the development of a method by which both tone holes are operated by a single octave key by the left thumb which is now universal on all modern saxophones. One of the most radical, however temporary, revisions of saxophone keywork was made in the 1950s by M. Houvenaghel of Paris, who completely redeveloped the mechanics of the system to allow a number of notes (C, B, A, G, F and E) to be flattened by a semitone simply by lowering 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.[3] However, this keywork never gained much popularity, and is no longer in use.


Suzuki Deluxe AS-SC Alto Saxophone OutfitThe saxophone consists of an approximately conical tube of thin metal, most commonly brass and sometimes plated with silver, gold, and nickel, flared at the tip to form a bell. At intervals along the tube are between 20 and 23 tone holes of varying size, including two very small 'speaker' holes to assist the playing 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 controlled by buttons pressed by the fingers, while the right thumb sits under a thumb rest to help keep the saxophone balanced. The fingering for the saxophone is a combination of that of the oboe with the Boehm system, and is very similar to the flute or the upper register of the clarinet. Instruments that play to low A have a left thumb key for that note.
The simplest design of saxophone is a straight conical tube, and the sopranino and soprano saxophones are usually of this straight design. However, as the lower-pitched instruments would be unacceptably long if straight, for ergonomic reasons the larger instruments usually incorporate a U-bend at or slightly above the third-lowest tone hole. As this would cause the bell of the instrument to point almost directly upwards, the end of the instrument is either beveled or tilted slightly forwards. This U-shape has become an iconic feature of the saxophone family, to the extent that soprano and even sopranino saxes are sometimes made in the curved style even though this is not strictly necessary. By contrast, tenors and even baritones have occasionally been made in the straight style.[4][5] Most commonly, however, the alto and tenor saxophones incorporate a curved 'crook' above the highest tone hole but below the top speaker hole, tilting the mouthpiece through 90 degrees; the baritone, bass and contrabass extend the length of the bore mainly by double-folding this section.


Most saxophones, both past and present, are made from brass. Despite this, they are categorized as woodwind instruments rather than brass because the sound waves are produced by an oscillating reed, not the player's lips against a mouthpiece as in a brass instrument, and because different pitches are produced by opening and closing keys. Brass is used to make the body of the instrument; the pad cups; the rods that connect the pads to the keys; the keys themselves and the posts that hold the rods and keys in place. The screw pins that connect the rods to the posts, and the needle springs and leaf springs that cause the keys to return to their rest position after being released, are generally made of blued orstainless steel. Since 1920, most saxophones have 'key touches' (smooth decorative pieces placed where the fingers touch the instrument) made from either plastic or mother of pearl.
Other materials have been tried with varying degrees of success, such as the 1950s Grafton plastic alto saxophone. A few companies, such asYanagisawa[11] and Bauhaus Walstein, have made some saxophone models from phosphor bronze because of its slightly different tonal qualities[12]. For example, although their designs are identical apart from the metal used, the bronze Yanagisawa A992[13] saxophones are said to sound "darker" than the brass versions. Yanagisawa and other manufacturers, starting with the King Super 20 around 1950, have made saxophone necks, bells, or entire instruments from sterling silver.[14] Keilwerth and P. Mauriat have made saxes with a nickel silver body like that of a flute[15][16]. The effect of material on sound is controversial among sax players, and little solid research has been published.
After completing the instrument, manufacturers usually apply a thin coating of clear or colored acrylic lacquer, or silver plate, over the bare brass. The lacquer or plating serves to protect the brass from oxidation, and maintains its shiny appearance. Several different types and colors of surface finish have been used over the years.[17] It is also possible to plate the instrument with nickel or gold, and a number of gold-plated saxophones have been produced.[17]Plating saxophones with gold is an expensive process because gold will not stick directly to brass. As a result, the brass is first coated with silver (which will stick to it) and then gold-plated on top.
Some argue that the type of lacquer or plating, or absence thereof, may enhance an instrument's tone quality. The possible effects of different finishes on tone is a hotly debated topic, not least because other variables may affect an instrument's tone colors e.g. mouthpiece design and physical characteristics of the player. In any case, what constitutes a pleasing tone is a matter of personal preference and tastes vary.

Mouthpiece and reed

Mouthpiece Saver - Alto Clarinet -Pack of 12Practice Chanter Mouthpiece, Ivory & BlkThe saxophone uses a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Most saxophonists use reeds made from Arundo donax cane, but since the 20th century some have also been made of fiberglass. Fiberglass reeds are more durable, but are generally considered to produce an inferior tone. The saxophone mouthpiece is larger than that of the clarinet, has a wider inner chamber, and lacks the cork-covered tenon of a clarinet mouthpiece because the saxophone neck inserts into the mouthpiece whereas the clarinet mouthpiece piece is inserted into the barrel. The most important difference between a saxophone embouchure and a clarinet embouchure is that the saxophone mouthpiece should enter the mouth at a much lower or flatter angle than the clarinet. The embouchure for clarinet must also be more firm than that for saxophone. The muscles in the lip and jaw will develop naturally the more one plays, and the "long tones" exercise helps a great deal with this aspect of playing.[20]

 Mouthpieces come in a wide variety of materials, including vulcanizedrubber (sometimes called rod rubber or ebonite), plastic, and metals such as bronze or surgical steel. Less common materials that have been used include wood, glass, crystal, porcelain, and even bone. According to Larry Teal, the mouthpiece material has little, if any, effect on the sound, and the physical dimensions give a mouthpiece its tone colour,[21] however this view is controversial. Mouthpieces with a concave ("excavated") chamber are more true to Adolphe Sax's original design; these provide a softer or less piercing tone, and are favored by some saxophonists, including students of Sigurd Raschèr, for classical playing. Conversely, mouthpieces with a smaller chamber or lower clearance above the reed, called high baffle, produce a brighter sound with maximum projection and are favored by many jazz and funk players. Most skilled saxophonists settle on a mouthpiece somewhere between these extremes regardless of their primary idiom and most that play both jazz and classical music have different equipment for each.

Like clarinets, saxophones use a single reed. Saxophone reeds are proportioned slightly differently to clarinet reeds, being wider for the same length. Each size of saxophone (alto, tenor, etc.) uses a different size of reed. Reeds are commercially available in a vast array of brands, styles, and strengths. Each player experiments with reeds of different strength (hardnesses) and material to find which strength and cut suits his or her mouthpiece, embouchure, tendencies, and playing style.

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