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Pop! Goes the music - Saxophone

Find out why the saxophone is a woodwind, and not a brass instrument
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - March 10, 2011
By: Goh Mei Yi
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Pop! Goes the music - Saxophone

It’s a common misconception that the saxophone is a brass instrument when it’s actually a woodwind. It is classified by how its sound is produced, rather than by the material it’s made of. The saxophone has a single-reed mouthpiece similar to a clarinet, to produce sound waves. The different pitches are produced by opening and closing various keys.

The saxophone was developed in 1841 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian-born instrument-maker, flautist, and clarinettist. While working at his father's musical instrument shop, Sax began to develop an instrument which had the projection of a brass instrument with the agility of a woodwind.

Sax came up with an invention constructed from metal that combined the single reed of the clarinet, and the bore and fingering patterns of the oboe, resulting in its own unique tonal qualities. He patented the saxophone in 1846 as two groups of seven instruments each, all in different sizes.

The most common saxophones used today are the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. The medium-sized alto saxophone is the most commonly-played size. More unusual ones include the mezzo-soprano, bass, contrabass, F-baritone and sopranino.

The saxophone consists of a conical tube made of thin metal, usually brass, and flared at the tip to form a bell. A thin coating of acrylic lacquer or silver plate is applied over the brass and then plated with silver, gold or nickel.

The sopranino and soprano saxophones tend to feature a straight design, while the lower-pitched alto and tenor saxophones incorporate a U-bend, causing the bell of the instrument to point upward. This curvature has become the most recognisable feature of the saxophone family.

The saxophone comprises of different parts. The removable metal tube at the top of the saxophone is called the neck, or sometimes gooseneck. The body consists of a conical-shaped brass tube with posts soldered onto the body, which support rods, keys and pad cups containing soft leather.

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