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10 facts about the saxophone and its players

The saxophone has long been a star instrument in jazz, big bands, and solo performances. But when exactly did this grand instrument come about? Who invented it? Not many people know that when the saxophone first appeared in jazz, many performers turned up their noses to it, much preferring the clarinet. But as the hardness began to wear off, the saxophone became a hit in itself.

1.   Adolphe Sax moved to Paris in 1842 and registered his invention the saxophone in 1846.

2.   The saxophone has a metal body and is played with a single beating reed, which the player controls through his or her mouth tightness.

3.   There are eight different sizes of saxophones in the sax family. The highest pitched ones are known as the Sopranino and Soprano sax. The more moderately middle toned saxes are the Alto and Tenor, while the lowest pitched saxs are Baritone Sax, Bass Sax, Contrabass Sax, and Sub-Contrabass Sax.

4.   Only four members of the sax family are commonly used today: the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass Saxophone. The most popular are the Alto and Tenor.

5.   Although the saxophone is usually thought of as a jazz instrument, it has been used successfully with symphonic music such as Bizet, Massenet, and Berlioz.

Image Credit: ‘Tenor Sax’, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

6.   Although the saxophone is closely related to the clarinet, the fingering of a saxophone is much easier. Because the higher and lower octaves of the sax have the same fingering, it is much easier to play than the clarinet, which over blows at 12ths, meaning a clarinet player must learn different fingers for higher and lower octaves.

7.   When the saxophone was first introduced to jazz, the clarinet was much more popular and many musicians resisted the saxophone for a time.

8.   However, the tenor, alto, and soprano saxs soon caught on and became very popular in music from New Orleans jazz to rock music.

9.   Gene Ammons, founder of the Chicago school of Tenor Sax, recorded The Big Sound and Groove Blues on a single day in 1958.

10.   John Douglas Surman was a remarkable player of the soprano and baritone saxophones (as well as many other instruments). He attended the London College of Music and was a member of the Jazz Workshop at Plymouth Arts Center. His solo album, The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon, features many different saxophone sounds.

Featured Image Credit: ‘Saxophone’, Image by schuetz-mediendesign, Public Domain via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. Jennifer

    Did you seriously just use apostrophes in plural nouns? I want to cry.

  2. karl

    It’s not even proofread (‘[…]Surman was a remarkable play (sic) of the soprano and baritone saxophones ‘). And none of these facts above are anywhere near ‘fun’.

    What about the fact that it’s a woodwind instrument, in spite of its metal body? Or that Sax repeatedly went bankrupt, while forever expanding his instrument family with deeper and higher sounding inventions? Or that Sidney Bechet once bought a lousy car, simply because a smart car dealer had replaced the hood ornament with a soprano sax? Some facts about pop hits with saxes (Baker Street, Careless Whisper, Englishman in New York…)?

  3. Karel

    Adolphe Sax invented the sax in Brussels in 1841. He finally got the patent in 1846

  4. Bill

    There are 10 members of the saxophone family, not 8. Item #3 omitted the Bb sopranissimo and the C Melody.

  5. Miranda

    Please check your facts next time, especially in the area of proofreading. This infuriates me that a school allows this to stay up with incorrect information.

  6. […]   “10 facts about the saxophone and its players” by Maggie […]

  7. Nakayla

    He actually envented 14 7 for band 7 for orchestra and maybe more

  8. […] to learn more about the saxophone?  Click on this link to read 10 Facts About Saxophones and Its Players by Maggie Belnap in The Oxford University […]

  9. Saxophone facts? Really?

    This is incorrect in so many places! There are many more types of saxes (which is spelled s-a-x-e-s by the way), and from my experience the bass sax is certainly less common than bari. Also the fingerings on sax DO change as you get higher into the register. It’s called altissimo. Next time check your facts



  11. Richard Chiguzorom

    I want to Study Saxophone but online.
    Can any Body teach me that?

  12. Michael ifesinachi

    Pls I want to be a saxophonist, how do I go about it pls.

  13. Sax player

    This appears to have been written by an orangutan.

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