Saxophones, their sound, and the performers that play them all have a unique and fascinating appeal. Even their shape is intriguing! They’re awe-inspiring in their beauty, elegance, and complexity. Learning to play one may seem tough at first. But after you get to know them, saxophones don’t appear as frightening to you.
This article will explain all you need to know about saxophones, including their history, anatomy, and several kinds. Here, you’ll find everything you require to get started on the saxophone path as a beginner.
Brief History of the Saxophone
The saxophone was invented in 1840 by Adolphe Sax and was named after him. In 1846, he patented the whole saxophone family, with 14 versions split into two different series of seven instruments. But just a few models became widely popular.
The most prevalent variety today is from the first series, tuned in B♭ and E♭ for use in military bands. Although the orchestral series originally pitched in C and F, most orchestras today play saxophones from the more popular series.
Saxophones, being brass woodwind instruments, are unique among woodwind and brass instruments. They were employed before the patent was filed because of their distinctive sound and adaptability. A specialized saxophone school had been founded in 1847, and the French military accepted them in 1845.
The saxophone made it to the US and New Orleans via military bands. Its most common use would be in jazz music. Early jazz bands employed military band instruments, including the saxophone. The saxophone enjoyed a brief period of prominence in the 1920s.
This is why the saxophone is so popular in various music genres. Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop, Motown, Rock and Roll, and finally Pop music absorbed its sensuality. Despite its lack of success in orchestral music, it is still featured in classical music.
Anatomy of a Saxophone
While the saxophone primarily comprises brass, it is distinct from other brass instruments, such as the trumpet, which lack reeds. The sound is made by blasting into a mouthpiece and vibrating a reed against this mouthpiece, which creates the sound. A larger body produces a lower pitch.
Saxophones are made up of four basic components:
- The mouthpiece
- The neck
- The body
- The bell
There are a lot of variations in these parts’ sizes based on the model you are looking at.
Types of Saxophones
Saxophones come in various shapes and sizes, but the four most prevalent are the alto, tenor, baritone, and soprano saxophones, which most beginners start with.
We’ve summarized the key facts about each saxophone type below.
In design, the soprano saxophone is similar in appearance to a clarinet. It has one of the largest ranges among saxophones and ranks third in the saxophone family, after the soprillo and sopranino.
Saxophone players employ the same finger positions as other instruments, but the soprano saxophone is trickier to keep in tune, making it a less popular choice for novices.
Soprano and tenor saxophones have the same key (Bb), which is why you’ll often find saxophonists playing these two instruments before baritone and alto, which are both in Eb, in a band.
Beginners who pick a soprano saxophone may need to experiment with a few alternative mouthpieces to find one that feels and produces the best tone. You can also experiment with different reed strengths if the tuning is a problem.
The alto saxophone, which was first patented in 1846, is the most widely used today, appearing in everything from school marching bands to symphonies to jazz ensembles. This is most likely since it has an excellent mid-range tone and is both easy to blow and comfortable to hold.
This is the most perfect place to start for beginners who want to play an easily identifiable saxophone or are fascinated by some of jazz’s greatest players on the instrument, such as saxophonist Charlie Parker. If money is an issue, the alto saxophone is smaller than its tenor counterpart, making it less expensive to purchase.
There should be no problem with this for an adult, but it’s an important consideration if you’re trying to get your child started on their musical journey with a beginner saxophone.
You’ll find that the tenor saxophone is the most prominent solo instrument in jazz, with so many of the jazz saxophone geniuses preferring this instrument to play.
In addition to being in the same key (Bb) as the soprano, it is also easy to switch between the two instruments.
The baritone saxophone is the biggest of the four popular varieties. It has an easily-recognizable curved neckpiece that rounds back on itself before descending into the typical shape of the baritone instrument.
This is a big instrument to carry about even for an adult, as it nearly hits the floor when played in a seated position.
As a solo instrument, it’s less frequent and is more commonly utilized in large ensembles like big bands and jazz orchestras because of its deep, gloomy sound. Nevertheless, this saxophone has been played by many well-known jazz greats, and it is capable of producing a variety of tones not found on other saxes.
This would be an uncommon first instrument for a complete novice. For those new to the baritone saxophone, one easy method to get going is to start on the alto saxophone, which is in the same key as the baritone, Eb.
The Correct Posture for Playing Saxophones
To play the saxophone, you must adopt the proper posture. You can play standing or sitting, but it’s best to start sitting. Here’s how to sit properly for playing the saxophone.
- Choose a straight-back chair that is high enough for you to sit in with your knees bent and your feet touching the ground.
- Sit slightly to the right of the chair and move forward. Let your right leg dangle a little. This enables you to hold the sax without hitting the chair easily. For lefties, reverse this.
- Straighten your spine and relax your neck and shoulders to allow easy inhalation. Keep your head upright, and don’t sway.
How to Hold Your Saxophone Correctly
You should hold your saxophone properly before performing, and then you can play your first tunes. Read on to know how to do that.
- Position the saxophone on your lap, with the mouthpiece on your left side. Fasten the strap and remove any slack.
- Make a C using your hands. Place your right hand on the body, directly below your neck strap, under the lower thumb rest. Fingers on the three keys at the bottom.
- Find the upper thumb resting on the back of the neck, halfway up. Put your left thumb on it and the rest of your fingers on the three keys opposite.
- Put the sax on your right side so the bell rests against your leg and hangs from the strap.
- Push your saxophone forward with your right hand until the mouthpiece is in front of your lips. Adjust the neck strap if the mouthpiece doesn’t reach your mouth.
- Maintain a taut bottom lip and relax your jaw, face, and mouth. Place the mouthpiece tip on your lower lip. Close your mouth and put your teeth on the mouthpiece. Relax and don’t bite. This pose is called an embouchure.
- Blow some air without pushing the keys to check the mouthpiece placement. A clean, constant tone is good. If you receive a flat tone, tighten your lips. If the sound is still faint and flat, but more of the mouthpiece in your mouth.
It’s the end of this guide, but there will be further in the future, so stay tuned! If you have any queries or remarks about the saxophone before then, please feel free to reach us. Stay harmonious!