Learning new tunes, collecting music labels, saving music files was my pastime in the '90s, and I still have those collections available.
Saxophone: A Musical Jouney
When I think of an artistic musical instrument that strikes a chord with me, my feelings, my personality, my thinking, and my consciousness - It's a Saxophone.
I have no second thoughts in declaring it the best musical instrument with soulful trebles, beautiful music, and unmatched pitch & range.
The saxophone instrument was invented by Belgian musician and inventor Adolphe Sax in 1840 and patented in 1846. Adolphe also created new variations of Sax such as Saxotromba, Saxhorn, and Saxtuba.
He patented a total of 14 instruments, separated by 7 each, from diminutive Soprano to huge Contrabass. Thereafter many improvisations happened in the design and acoustics from the 1930s to 1940s.
Saxophones are conical woodwind instruments, made chiefly of Brass, and played using a single reed(wooden/fiberglass) mouthpiece.
It is similar to the clarinet on the mouth section,.and has an upward or U-shaped base. It is available in various shapes and sizes.
The mouthpiece is made using vulcanized rubber, plastic, or metals.
This classic music instrument is mostly played at Classical events, symphonies, operas, military bands, chamber music, solo performances, concerts, jazz ensembles, and marching bands, etc.
The first orchestral debut of Sax was at the Paris Conservatory, at an opera named “Last King of Juda”
Coming to its functioning, the player has to set the pitch by closing/opening the holes using the keys fixed along the length of the body.
It has 24 openings linked to padded metallic brass keys, and a detachable neck at the upper section.
The pitch is controlled by keys with deep cups. Small holes called 'vents' are situated between tone holes and the mouthpiece, are opened by an Octave key, to raise an octave by one.
Then there are alphabetical series to denote pitches of each instrument. Pitch B & E, are most common. Then you have a high & low pitch tone to control the frequency of the sound.
I will not go much into the technicalities as its too vast. My intent is just on propagating the beauty of this instrument to the masses.
Note: I have mentioned Saxophone as *Sax in most of the places in the article. Both words mean the same.
Types and Sizes of Saxophones:
The saxophone is an amazing instrument in design and acoustics. It ranges from the small Soprano to the gigantic Contrabass.
The easiest to play is Alto Saxophone, and the difficulty level increases to Soprano, Tenor & Baritone.
Although there are many types of Saxophone, the 4 listed below are the most common.
- Soprano Saxophone - This horn is smaller but tricky for beginners. You need precise control to handle it. Clarinet players switching to this horn will find it easy due to similarity in the reed. This Sax model renders the highest pitch among all sax models.
- Alto Saxophone - Apt for beginners. This horn is lighter, takes less energy on puffs, is quieter, and uses less finger stretching. This type of Sax is more suitable for chamber music.
- Tenor Saxophone - Produces a booming and huskier sound. More suitable for Rock n Roll, and Jazz type events.
- Baritone Saxophone - This bulky model produces a deep and resonant sound, and needs a specialist to handle it. But once you master it, expect a melody.
Yamaha YTS-62III Professional Tenor Saxophone Lacquered - Top Brand
Cleaning a Saxophone:
This depends on how you maintain it. If you are an ace saxophonist playing frequently at events, then go for professional cleaning yearly and have a look at it monthly for tuning.
A beginner can take a look every year, and take it for cleaning every 2 years.
Professional cleaners make use of the COA method (Clean, Oil, Adjust), and are well versed with its technicalities.
The most common issues are oil, grime & wearing off keypads. But most often the keypads last 8-20 yrs (depending on make and model).
The mouthpiece and reed have to be opened and cleaned every month. The mouthpiece should be encased in a glass and kept in the vinegar solution for exactly 30 min (not more than that).
Vinegar can cause the sax plating to wear off if kept longer. After removing, wash the mouthpiece in high-quality detergent(check online), to remove any grease.
Not cleaning the reed for a long time will wear it out, and the mouthpiece will not produce much air.
Benefits of Playing Wind Instruments like Saxophone:
- Strengthens Lungs and improves breathing: Playing a Sax requires some slow, fistful, and precise inhalations/exhalations that work out on the lungs. Asthma patients can greatly benefit from using this instrument.
- Improves posture and abdominal muscles: Standing with a heavy Sax can put a toll on your posture. Musicians try to play it in a correct posture to impart good sound effects. Constantly breathing on the mouthpiece makes use of the abdominal muscles more often and tones it.
- Relieves stress - Playing any wind instrument in itself is a great stress buster
- Improves hand-eye coordination: Playing a Sax requires not only agile finger skills but eye and hands coordination too. We need to look at the correct keys for opening/closing.
- Social Benefits: Sax requires you to play at concerts and operas. This increases social interaction and develops camaraderie.
- Develops confidence and eases you at pressure situations: Playing a Sax requires you to perform solo in front of a large audience. Although this creates nervousness, frequent inhalation and exhalation relax and helps you perform better in pressure situations. You are more aware of the breaths and focus inward while playing.
- Beneficial for Heart & lung health
Although the benefits are profound, there are also some drawbacks to consider
- Long breaths through the mouth fill the lung and neck region, slowing the blood flow to the brain, which can lead to blood clots.
- You get a short gap between inhalation and exhalation and exhalation is mostly through the nose.
Noted Saxophone Players in the World:
In order to perfect the style and sound of playing a Sax, you need to imitate the great maestros. Right at the start of the 19th century, there emerged a crop of noted Sax players.
Some of the leading Sax players are listed below:
- Johnny Hodges
- John Coltrane
- Charlie Parker
- Sonny Rollins
- King Curtis
- Michael Brecker
- Roland Kirk
- Plas Johnson
- Kenny G
India too produced some finest Sax players individually, as well as in the Bollywood film industry.
Manohari Singh was one of the finest exponents of the Sax. His grooving style of playing was well known all over. Manohari played his favorite instrument in steamy Calcutta clubs and in romantic Bollywood films.
He was instrumental to give new a lease of life to the woodwind instruments in India.
Saxophone also fascinated two females in the male-dominated Sax industry in India.
M.S Lavanya & M.S Subbalaxmi, nicknamed 'The Saxophone Sisters', chose the unconventional path and played this instrument with much elan.
Lastly, Padma Shree Awardee Vidwan Kadri Gopalnath, fondly called 'Saxophone Chakravarty' (Emperor of Saxophone), was renowned as the finest exponent of Carnatic music in India.
This musical genius played mostly on the Alto Saxophone.
Kadri Gopalnath played Carnatic music on the Sax and even performed at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London.
If there is one name that is synonymous with Sax in India, it was Kadri Gopalnath.
At times, people referred to Kadri Gopalnath as India's answer to Kenny G.
Few Notable Saxophone dealers in India:
Furtados Online Music Store:
'Think Music, Think Furtados'. Established in 1865, Furtados has always been a leader in the field of Western music education and knowledge in India. It deals musical instruments, Saxophone music CDS, accessories to print music, and digital equipment
India's largest direct online retailer for musical instruments and pro audio equipment.
Saxophone: Let the Music Play On Forever
Sax is one of the most versatile woodwind instruments and can merge with any music, more specifically Jazz.
The uniqueness of the Sax is its ability to produce variations in tone and notes very succinctly. You can change a huskier tone to a booming one in no time.
The saxophone was designed to close the gap between woodwind and brass instruments.
It is one of the few woodwind instruments wherein you can create a balance between high & low pitch.
The melodious tone and booming power of the Sax is the reason for imparting a smooth texture to the music.
The saxophone is truly a masterpiece that produces a clean, harmonious, refined, and crisp tone for any music genre.
It creates a deeply relaxing, and romantic experience no matter where it played. The other instruments which closely match the voice control, articulation, and harmonic vibrations of Sax are the French Horn & Clarinet.
Before winding, let me present a quote of the famous Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who says "When I am in the middle of a good performance, my mind switches to autopilot mode and I find myself standing motionless in a spirit of jazz, and it occupies my whole body. It is truly an intense spiritual ecstasy."
Let the sound of the sexy saxophone reverberate in our hearts for ages.
Start and End your Day with Saxophone Music : Sample Tune For You
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Danny
Danny (author) from India on October 29, 2020:
Thanks Ann. Yes Sax is truly a wonder woodwind instrument.
Its a priviledge to have one in the closet of every home.
Ann Carr from SW England on October 29, 2020:
I love the saxophone; such an expressive sound! I think it's best in a jazz setting.
You've supplied interesting details here. Great!
Danny (author) from India on August 07, 2020:
Manuela from Portugal on August 06, 2020:
I am not a fan of saxophone but after reading your article it sounds more interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Danny (author) from India on July 17, 2020:
Marissa from Nigeria on July 17, 2020:
Great piece, I love it!
Danny (author) from India on July 15, 2020:
Thanks, Eric. Sax is a wonderful musical instrument and people should really have it in their closet. The best investment a person can ever make.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 15, 2020:
Really cool. Made me pick up my Clarenet for practice. Then put on Candy Dulfer. The most Brass instrument that is a Woodwind.
Danny (author) from India on July 15, 2020:
Thanks, Liza and Cheryl for voting for this article.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on July 14, 2020:
This is very fascinating information about this musical instrument. Thank you for this great article..
Liza from USA on July 14, 2020:
I know nothing about a saxophone but, I do enjoy some old music that has saxophone music elements in it. Two saxophonists that I know is Kenny G and Dave Koz. Thank you for sharing this informative article, Danny.
Danny (author) from India on July 14, 2020:
Abby Slutsky from America on July 14, 2020:
Nice article. I am not that musical, but the content was interesting.
Danny (author) from India on July 14, 2020:
Thanks for your vote
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on July 14, 2020:
Wonderful reading about Saxophone. I like that sound. Thanks.