MUS 215

Saxophone

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SAXOPHONE:  single-reed instrument with conical bore; overtone series based on the octave.

SAXOPHONE FAMILY:

Eb Sopranino Eb Baritone
Bb Soprano Bb Bass
Eb Alto Eb Contrabass
Bb Tenor  

The Eb sopranino sounds a minor 3rd higher than the written pitch.

The Bb soprano sounds a major 2nd lower than the written pitch.

The Eb alto sounds a major 6th lower than the written pitch.

(The C melody--obsolete--sounds an octave below the written pitch.)

The Bb tenor sounds a major 9th below the written pitch.

The Eb baritone sounds an octave and a major 6th lower than the written pitch.

The Bb bass sounds two octaves and a major 2nd below the written pitch.

More rare than the bass, the Eb contrabass sounds two octaves and a major 6th below the written pitch.

The four instruments in bold font are the instruments of the traditional saxophone quartet.

WRITTEN RANGE:

FOREIGN TERMS:

ABBREV. ENGLISH GERMAN FRENCH ITALIAN
Sax., Sx. Saxophone(s) Saxophon
Saxophone
Saxophone(s) Sassofono
Sassofoni

DESIRABLE PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES:  Physical attributes are not always reliable.  Thick lips, thin lips, overbite and underbite, crooked teeth and straight teeth can, if necessary, be compensated for by the embouchure formation.  The student must be physically large enough to hold the instrument.

PARTS OF THE SAXOPHONE:  (1) mouthpiece, ligature, cap, (2) neck, (3) body, (4) neck strap.

HOLDING POSITION:  (1) The neck strap should be adjusted so that the top of the mouthpiece comfortably meets the upper teeth.  (2) With students, the instrument is usually held to the side of the body, to the outside of the right leg.  The alto may be held in front of the body, between the legs, if the player is tall enough.  (3) The right thumb contacts the thumb rest at the base of the nail.  (4) The left thumb is placed on the thumb rest at an angle so that its tip may pivot to operate the octave key.  The left thumb should move very little.  (5) The little fingers are placed over respective plateau keys.  (6) The fingers remain naturally curved.

EMBOUCHURE:  (1) The upper teeth are placed on top of the mouthpiece at the point where the reed and mouthpiece table converge.  A piece of paper can be inserted between the reed and mouthpiece.  The point where it stops is where the teeth should be placed.  (2) A moderate amount of lower lip is rolled over the bottom teeth.  (3) The lips support the reed and mouthpiece inwardly in all directions with equal, relaxed pressure.  (4) The lower teeth support the lip, however, there is little upward pressure from the teeth.  Pressure is provided by the lip muscles.  (5) The chin should remain in its normal position, not drawn back or pushed forward.

TUNING WHILE PLAYING:  (1) Increasing pressure on the reed (biting more firmly with the lower jaw) will sharpen the pitch.  (2) Decreasing pressure on the reed will flatten the pitch.

In general, the saxophone tends to be sharp in both the extreme low and high ranges.

THE FOLLOWING NOTES TEND TO BE SHARP:

THE FOLLOWING NOTES TEND TO BE FLAT:

BRANDS:  Good student brands:  Vito, Yamaha, Bundy II; old Conn instruments; Yanagisawa.  Avoid new Conn, King or Armstrong (re Miles Davis).  Professional brands:  Selmer, Yamaha, Couf, Keilwerth, Yanagisawa.

HISTORICAL TIDBIT:

The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax in approximately 1840.  Some authorities claim it was actually invented a couple years earlier.  In any case, it was patented in 1846.

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