The saxophone belongs to a family of woodwind instruments that are typically made of brass and are played through a single-reed mouthpiece, similarly to the clarinet.
Even though most saxophones are made using brass, they are still called woodwind instruments because the sound that is created is produced by an oscillating reed instead of other methods of sound making from other brass instruments.
Just like with other woodwind instruments, the pitch of the note can be changed by covering the holes in the tube of the body and making a different sound. This happens because the frequency of the air column is able to be controlled by changing the length of the tube that is effective.
Essentially, by blocking the hole, you are blocking off the length of the tube that can be used. The saxophone player can choose which holes to cover or uncover by pressing different keys on the instrument.
The saxophone is often used in classical music, jazz, and contemporary music, but it certainly is not limited to these genres and styles. You can also find the saxophone being used in military and marching bands.
The saxophone can also be heard as a solo and melody instrument in some styles of rock music and other popular genres too.
When Was the Saxophone Invented?
The first-ever saxophone was actually invented by a Belgian instrument maker called Adolphe Sax. His invention was created in the 1840s, and since then, a wide variety of saxophones have been produced with different standards.
He patented the saxophone on the 28th of June 1846 in two groups with seven instruments each. Each of these series had instruments that were ranked by pitch in alternating transposition.
The History of the Saxophone
Now you know who created the saxophone, it’s time for some history about how the design came to be and how it was developed over time. Sax started to develop an instrument with the projection of a brass instrument and the agility of a woodwind instrument.
The idea was to overblow at the octave, much unlike the clarinet. He created this instrument with a single-reed mouthpiece and a conical brass body.
He actually went on to receive a 15-year patent for the instrument, and when the time came when the patent expired in 1866, a number of other manufacturers created and added their own improvements and changes to the design.
Sax’s original keywork was simplistic and made wide intervals hard to finger. Later, this evolved with extra keys, mechanisms, and alternate fingering to make it less difficult to use.
In the 1840s and 1850s, the invention of the saxophone started being used in small ensembles, as a solo instrument, and in British military bands. Method books for the saxophone were published, and lessons on how to play the instrument began in many different countries.
However, after time, the interest in playing the saxophone lessened, and lessons were stopped for a period of time. At this time, the saxophone started to become more popular in America.
It wasn’t long before manufacturers and musicians realized that they needed to further improve the instrument in order to gain popularity, and this is what they worked on doing.
They needed to become widely available with new and improved playability in order to be successful. Eventually, they became more available, well-known, and less expensive so that more people would gain an interest.
In the early twentieth century, the saxophone was still being regarded as a novelty instrument of classical music, and it expanded into more musical genres as time went on.
It became a popular instrument in many different bands and eventually worked its way into orchestras and then jazz music. The manufacturing industry continued to grow with the increasing popularity of the instrument.
Saxophones began to play in key with other instruments to create beautiful music, though production of these instruments ceased during the Great Depression. However, the saxophone was able to make a comeback again, this time even stronger than ever before.
The saxophone started to become recognized and used in more technically demanding styles of playing, which added much-needed incentive to improve the keywork and general design of the instrument.
Now that there was a keen interest, they could work on improving the existing model to make it work. There was a demand that needed supply.
A big advance that they made with the keywork of the saxophone was by developing the mechanisms where the left thumb operates the two octave vents with a single octave key.
The design became more ergonomic and only kept evolving through the start of the 1900s. The front F mechanism that supported alternate fingerings for high E and F became a standard during the 1920s, and more improvements were made to the left hand table key mechanisms.
New bore designs were made in the search for improved intonation, dynamic response, and tonal qualities.
Now we are left with the modern saxophone that emerged from all of these new improvements. By the 1940s, the saxophone was left in almost the same condition that we still use it in today.
There was not much need for any further improvements, and eventually, after all of the hard work, time, and effort, it all paid off. The modern saxophone was finally perfected and completed.
Creating the saxophone was not an easy process, and it took near enough a hundred years to be fully perfected. The first ever saxophone was created in the 1840s, and though it wasn’t perfect, it was well received.
However, the flaws became too prominent for the saxophone to be used efficiently, and there was still lots of work that needed to be put into improving the model to come up with the final product.
Through the years, continuous improvements were made to the design and keywork to make it more easily playable by the public.
Manufacturers learned from previous mistakes to perfect their models in order to become the modernized version of the saxophone that we know today.