5 Things You May Not Have Known About The Saxophone
January 15, 2015
Last month I was lucky enough to be whisked away from dreary Southampton to Belgium. We stayed in Brussels, which I cannot recommend enough as a place to visit. Among the incredible food and stellar beer selection I managed to find my way to the Musical Instrument Museum and their SAX200 exhibition, celebrating 200 years of sax! As a bit of a saxophone nerd myself (see my work here) I was in my element but I thought I'd share with you 5 interesting facts you may not have known about one of the world's most popular instruments.
1. The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax, a Belgian musical instrument designer was the man behind the saxophone. Born on 6th November 1814 he spent his life designing a plethora of new and innovative instruments, including saxhorns, saxotromba and the saxtuba. In 1840 he invented the saxophone in an effort to create an instrument with the agility and dexterity of a woodwind instrument and the projection and power of a brass one. Adolphe Sax died in February 1894.
2. The saxophone is NOT a brass instrument Despite often being made of brass the saxophone is not a 'brass' instrument like a trumpet or a trombone. It is part of the woodwind family. As we know, appearances can often be deceiving but the saxophone uses a single reed mouthpiece, like the clarinet, making it a woodwind instrument.
3. You can get plastic saxophones You can get your hands on plastic saxophones. In the 1950s Grafton made injection moulded, cream-coloured, acrylic alto saxophones. The body was plastic and the keys were metal. Sadly other sizes were unavailable because the plastic cracked too easily to hold the larger shapes. As bizarre as this instrument seems these saxes were used by giants Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman and John Dankworth. Production of these plastic saxophones ceased in 1960 but recently Vibratosaxhave begun producing polycarbonate saxes again.
4.The sopranissimo saxophone is the smallest sax The tiny sopranissimo (or soprillo) saxophone is a featherweight pitched in Bb an octave above the soprano. It requires alot of work to master the tight embouchure required to play it. These saxophones really are small measuring less than 13 inches.
5.The contrabass saxophone is the largest sax
The largest instrument in the family is the contrabass saxophone. Standing at an impressive 1.9 meters and weighing in at 20 kilograms this monster horn is a challenge for any player. It is tuned in Eb and sounds a full octave below the baritone saxophone and has twice the length of tubing. See the contrabass in action here