About the Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bored musical instrument usually considered a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and are played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to the clarinet.
While proving very popular in its intended niche of military band music, the saxophone is most commonly associated with popular music, big band music, blues, and particularly jazz. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.
The saxophone was developed in the 1840s by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian-born instrument-maker, flautist, and clarinetist working in Paris. While still working at his father's instrument shop in Brussels, Sax began developing an instrument which would form a better tonal link between the clarinets and brass instruments in contemporary military bands, an area which was considered sorely lacking.
From his ideas came the saxophone, with the brass body of the ophicleide, the conical bore of the oboe which enabled it to overblow at the octave, the fingering and keywork of a flute and the mouthpiece and single reed of the clarinet. Having constructed saxophones in several sizes in the early 1840s, Sax applied for, and received, a 15-year patent for the instrument on June 28, 1846. Sax's patent expired in 1866, thereafter numerous saxophonists and instrument manufacturers implemented their own improvements to the design and keywork. The first substantial modification was by a French manufacturer who extended the bell slightly and added an extra key to extend the range downwards by one semitone to B?. It is suspected that Sax himself may have attempted this modification. This extension was adopted into almost all modern designs.
Nearly all saxophones, past and present, are made from brass. Despite this, they are usually categorized as woodwind instruments rather than brass. Saxophones are in fact most accurately categorized as aerophones. Brass is used to make the body of the instrument; the pad cups; the rods that connect the pads to the keys; the keys themselves and the posts that hold the rods and keys in place. Since 1920, nearly all saxophones have 'key touches' (smooth decorative pieces placed where the fingers will touch the instrument) made of either plastic or mother of pearl.
Other materials have been tried with varying degrees of success, as with the 1950s plastic saxophones made by the Grafton company, and rare wooden saxophones. A few companies, such as Yanagisawa, have made some saxophone models from bronze, and some manufacturers have made saxophone necks or entire instruments out of Sterling silver, copper, nickel silver or synthetic materials. The saxophone uses a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet, but the saxophone mouthpiece has a wider inner chamber and lacks the cork-covered tenon of a clarinet mouthpiece. Like clarinets, saxophones use a single reed. Saxophone reeds are proportioned slightly differently to clarinet reeds, being wider for the same length. Each size of saxophone (alto, tenor, etc.) uses a different size of reed.
The simplest design of saxophone is a straight conical tube, and the sopranino and soprano saxophones are usually of this straight design. However, as the lower-pitched instruments would be unacceptably lengthy if straight, the larger instruments usually incorporate a U-bend at or slightly above the third-lowest tone hole.
After completing the instrument, manufacturers apply a thin coating of clear or colored acrylic lacquer, or silver plate, over the bare brass. The lacquer or plating serves to protect the brass from corrosion, and gives the instrument a pleasing appearance. Several different types and colors of surface finish have been used over the years. It is also possible to plate the instrument with nickel or gold, and a number of gold-plated saxophones have been produced. It is commonly claimed that the type of lacquer or plating, or absence thereof, may enhance an instrument's tone quality; the possible effects of different finishes on tone is a hotly debated topic."Saxophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 26 Apr 2008, 07:46 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Saxophone&oldid=208279958>.
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