saxophoneThe saxophone is a family of woodwinds, and, unlike most other instruments, its invention can be attributed to a single individual, Belgian musical instrument designer Adolphe Sax. Although one of the youngest instruments, the saxophone can be heard across a range of musical genres, most notably in jazz. From smooth, mellow tones to erratic, soulful explosions, the saxophone is an instrument unlike any other.

Types of Saxophone

There are four common types of saxophone.

  • Soprano: This saxophone can be curved or straight. It uses the key of B flat. The soprano sax can be tricky for inexperienced players.
  • Alto: This saxophone can also be curved or straight. The alto sax is the most commonly played saxophone, and, due to its medium size, is easiest for beginners. It uses the key of E flat.
  • Tenor: This saxophone is larger than the alto, and also has a larger mouthpiece, giving it a distinct sound. The tenor sax uses the key of B flat, just like the soprano.
  • Baritone: This saxophone is the largest in the family. It is in the key of E flat, and tuned one octave lower than the alto sax.


Classical compositions make use of all four common saxophone types, which together make up the classical saxophone quartet. Musical compositions that feature the saxophone date back to the 1800s.

The saxophone is not a standard instrument in the orchestra. However, it is featured as a solo instrument, making it perfect for musicians who love to perform as soloists.


The saxophone reached its full expressive potential in jazz bands of the 1900s. Today, the saxophone’s identity is closely linked to jazz music. Jazz musicians created larger mouthpieces so that the saxophone would be loud enough to rise above other leading instruments.

The sweet, smooth, and at times severe tenor of the saxophone was used in early jazz groups and swing bands of the 30s, and continues to be an essential member of most contemporary jazz and fusion groups.

Popular Music

Whether used as a solo instrument, or as a member of a horn section, the saxophone is often featured in musical styles and genres other than classical and jazz. Blues, soul and funk music make fantastic use of the saxophone’s charming sound, and ska, pop and reggae benefit from the upbeat energy produced by this versatile woodwind.

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