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