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The saxophone is the newest of the woodwinds in the orchestra. The use of saxophone is found more in jazz, pop/rock, and R&B (Rhythm and Blues) than in an orchestra. Since its late arrival in the world of music, there isn’t any literature that predates 1841.


Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1841 Belgium. He invented it to act as a crossover instrument between the woodwinds and the brass family. There are multiple types of saxophones that vary in size. The highest sounding (most common) saxophones are the soprano followed by the alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. The Standard big bands would carry 2 alto saxophones, 2 tenors and a baritone saxophone.


In general, most students will start with the alto saxophone. Lots of teachers like to have the beginners play the clarinet due to its similarity to the saxophone. The alto saxophone isn’t the smallest of the family of saxophones but it is the more common of the family. The soprano saxophone is smaller but NOT easier; it is for advanced players only! The tenor saxophone is larger followed by the baritone saxophone and are quite similar to the concept of playing the alto, just a heavier, longer instrument. With this being said, as long as the child can hold the instrument properly and they are able to depress all of the keys correctly, they should be able to start on saxophone.


Antigua Winds, Buescher, Bundy, Buffet, B&S, Cannonball, King, Conn, Buffet, Holton, Jupiter, Keilwerth, King, LaVoix, Selmer, Selmer, Vito, Yamaha and Yanagisawa are excellent brands and easily found new and used. Used saxophones must be carefully inspected. You can buy a great “Ebay” special and find that they may need to have it overhauled! That can be an expensive process. Check with a music store or a repair shop that will be sure that the instrument is in great playing condition and does not leaks from the pads.


Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges, Phil Woods, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Eric Marienthal, Kenny Garrett, Vincent Herring, Kirk Whalum, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, Chris Potter, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Eric Alexander, Jeff Coffin, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Hank Mobley, Coltrane, Lester Young and Sonny Rollins. These are predominantly jazz and pop players, the classical idiom is rather small but it is growing and getting better with more compositions being written. Claude Debussy, Phillip Glass, Paul Hindemith are a few composers who have written orchestral compositions for the saxophone.


Many saxophonists will eventually learn to play all of the different saxophones. Alto, Tenor, Baritone (Bari), and Soprano are the common progression in learning the different instruments. Sax quartets are popular and plenty of literature has been written as well as the entire jazz idiom. Jazz is fueled by jazz saxophonists and the improvisational skills and speed they possess. Check out

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