Thursday, August 14, 2014

Let’s Talk About Sax(ophones)

Adolphe Sax invented and patented an invention in the 1840s. He was looking to create an instrument that was basically a blend of the brass and woodwind instruments. And then, of course, his secondary goal was to name something after himself. To fulfill both these goals (and probably to make his dad proud), he created the saxophone.

The saxophone is made out of brass, but it is a woodwind instrument. Say it ain’t so/How can this be? It’s because whether an instrument is a brass or a woodwind isn’t determined by material, but by how the sound is produced. Please allow us to gloss over some detail here and say that the main difference in how sound is produced basically has to do with whether or not the player’s lips vibrate. Brass = Yes. Woodwinds = No.

So, to get back to the point, there are many, even several, types of saxophones. The four main kinds are the soprano, the alto, the tenor, and the baritone. The Big Band Experience showcases three of these: soprano, alto, and tenor. So, let’s take a little bit of a deeper look at these, shall we?

Aaron Moe takes care of soprano and alto duties while Ronny Loew holds tenor patrol.

The soprano saxophone is usually straight (think of the instrument Kenny G plays) and is similar in tone to the oboe.

The alto saxophone is larger than the soprano and, along with the tenor, is one of the most commonly played types of saxophones.

The tenor saxophone is lower and bigger than the soprano and alto. As shown in the picture above, you can spot a tenor saxophone by the bend in its neck (near the mouthpiece).

Famous saxophone players include the aforementioned Kenny G, John Coltrane, and Bill Clinton. Wearing sunglasses is often a prerequisite for playing the instrument.

Photo credit: Adil113