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  • Alto Sax Introduction
  • Mary Brainerd
Alto Sax Introduction

Alto Sax

The saxophone is an instrument with a tone somewhere between a brass instrument and a woodwind. The sax is a must in all types of music from jazz, to classical, to pop, when a smooth and bright sound is called for.

Invented by Adolphe Sax (1814 - 1894), a musical instrument designer born in Belgium who could play many wind instruments. His idea was to create an instrument that combined the best qualities of a woodwind instrument with the best qualities of a brass instrument, and in the 1840s he conceived the saxophone. This invention was patented in Paris in 1846.

The saxophone has always been made of brass since it was first invented. Because of the principles by which it produces sound, however, it is classified as a woodwind, much like the clarinet and flute.

What metal is used to make a saxophone?

Brass is used to make the metal parts of a saxophone. Brass is an alloy composed of copper and zinc, and compared to iron, it has good rust resistance properties and is easy to work with. Some saxophones are gold plated or silver plated, but underneath the plating is brass.

 

Uses of the saxophone

Though the saxophone is made of metal, it generates sound with a single reed, and so it is classified as a woodwind rather than as a brass instrument. Be that as it may, the original goal of the inventor was said to be to bridge the gap between the brass and the woodwinds, to blend the divergent tones of the two groups in wind-instrument music, to reinforce the lower range of the woodwinds, and to create a tonal balance. The saxophone, in fact, blends in well with both brass and woodwinds, and is now heavily relied upon to firm up the tone of the band and give it a rich voice and charm.

The dynamic range of the saxophone is the widest of all the woodwinds. It has tonal qualities very close to those of the human voice, and it is capable of a wide range of expression, so it is no wonder that it features prominently in the history of jazz music as a solo instrument. In classical music as well, it enjoys a robust repertoire, particularly from French composers, and it is used in a wide range of instrumental groupings, including chamber music, orchestra, and even as a solo instrument.

 

Some Different Things You Can Do with the Alto Sax

There is a technique called "trilling" that allows musicians to embellish a melody by alternating rapidly between one pitch and the one just above it. The video below shows an example of trilling between F and F♯ using fingering.

https://youtu.be/JGMA3La0zSg

 

If you sing with your mouth on the mouthpiece, it produces a unique growling sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGMA3La0zSg&feature=emb_rel_end

 

 

  • Mary Brainerd

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