Hello, this is Barry with the third part of the guide to wind instruments. The saxophone is, like the clarinet and flute, regarded as a woodwind instrument, even though it’s made of brass : this is because the fingering technique has a lot more in common with the flute and clarinet than with brass instruments. Like the clarinet, a reed is needed to coax the instrument into sound.
It’s comparatively easy to get started on the saxophone, however, as with all instruments, a lot of hard work is needed to get really good. It’s likely beginners will start out with one volume level (loud!), but this will improve with work!
The saxophone is a comparatively late entrant into the musical world, being invented in the mid 1800s by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax (hence the name). Although there is a reasonable amount of classical music written for saxophone (French composers in particular embraced the instrument), the saxophone really came into its own with the advent of jazz in the 20th century. Famous jazz performers like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane really put the saxophone on the map, and others have followed, like David Sanborn. Saxophones are also used in pop music, one group that used the saxophone extensively was Madness. They also come up frequently in funk and disco numbers.
There are many different sizes of saxophone, but four are used more commonly than the rest : in order of size from biggest to smallest, they are baritone, tenor, alto and soprano. The vast majority of beginners start on the alto : prices generally are a little higher for instruments compared to the clarinet and the flute – again, Jonathan Myall has a good selection. All these saxophones are transposing instruments (baritone and alto are Eb instruments, tenor and soprano, like the standard clarinet, are Bb instruments), and all read from the treble clef.
As a rule, due to size, age 10 or 11 tends to be the lower age limit for starting the alto or tenor saxophone, however, there is now a smaller saxophone called the Alphasax, which can be started by younger children (7ish plus), though in due course, an upgrade to a full size sax will be needed.
Sax Assault playing Andy Scott’s ‘Lip Service’:
National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain playing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’:
Rob Buckland’s ‘The Longest Day’:
Barry can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org