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A saxophone is part of the woodwind family, even though it is made of brass. This is due to the single reed mouthpiece, similar to a clarinet. It was designed to be the most powerful wind instrument and the most versatile of the brass instruments.

A saxophone is similar to the bassoon, flute, cornet and tuba as it has a conical bore. The reed mouthpiece and the brass material sets it aside from any other instrument in either the wind section or brass section.

Saxophones are used in a number of different musical ensembles including:

  • Orchestras
  • Concert bands
  • Chamber music
  • Military bands
  • Marching bands
  • Jazz and big band music

Jazz is where a saxophone is most common and from there it has influenced many genres of music, including swing and pop music. The saxophone is often chosen to take solos.

Saxophones that are made for orchestral music are tuned in C and F. The standard saxophone is tuned in B♭ and E♭. There are different types of saxophone that give different sounds.

Soprano Saxophone

  • Plays in the highest register
  • Smaller than other saxophones
  • Tuned in B♭
  • Ideal for classical music
  • Often used for solos

Alto Saxophone

  • Larger than a soprano
  • Tuned in E♭
  • Common in classical music
  • Also used in military bands, marching bands, jazz and 80s and 90s pop music

Tenor Saxophone

  • Medium sized
  • Most used saxophone type, along with alto
  • Tuned in B♭
  • Distinguished by the bend in the neck
  • Most common in classical music
  • Plays supporting parts

Baritone Saxophone 

  • One of the largest saxophones
  • Tuned in E♭
  • Commonly used in classical music and jazz music
  • Distinguished by the loop in the neck

Notable saxophone players include:

  • Charlie Parker
  • John Coltrane
  • Kenny G
  • Stan Getz
  • Lester Young

 There are many accessories available to buy for your saxophone, including:

  • Hard cases for travel
  • Soft cases for comfort
  • Stands
  • Mutes
  • Mouthpieces
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