Key buttons are advantageous for operating keys with direct downward finger pressure but provide disadvantages operating keys with other finger and hand motions, hence, their use on keys operated with such motions has diminished with the evolution of saxophone designs. The fourth fingers of the right and left hands open keys to raise pitch by a semitone as well as close keys towards the lower range of the instrument, with the lowest pitch bell keys operated by the left hand.
The keys operated by the fourth fingers are referred to as table keys. Instruments that play to low A have a left thumb key for that note.
That also provides significant advantages for playing certain intervals near the lower range of the instrument. From the earliest days of the saxophone the body and key cups have been made from sheet brass stock, owing to its workability in forming complex shapes. Mechanical keywork is assembled from components either hand-tooled or machined from other forms of brass stock. King introduced saxophones with necks and bells of sterling silver during the s and continued that "silversonic" scheme into the early s. Yanagisawa revived the scheme during the s and later introduced entire instruments of sterling silver.
Mauriat have used nickel silver , a copper-nickel-zinc alloy more commonly used for flutes, for the bodies of some saxophone models. Other materials are used for some mechanical parts and keywork. Since , most saxophones have replaceable key buttons operating the stack keys, usually made from either plastic or mother of pearl. Some saxophones are made with abalone , stone, or wood key buttons. On some premium models, the key button material is used to form the convex key touches for other keys.
The rods and screw pins that the keywork's hinges pivot on, and the needle and leaf springs that hold keys in their rest position, are usually made of blued or stainless steel. Mechanical buffers of felt, cork, leather, and various synthetic materials are used to reduce friction, to minimize mechanical noise from movement of keys, and to optimize the action of the keywork for positive pad sealing, intonation, speed, and "feel.
Saxophones with high copper bodies still have brass keywork owing to its more suitable mechanical properties relative to those alloys. Before final assembly, manufacturers usually apply a finish to the surface of the horn. The most common finish is a thin coating of clear or colored acrylic lacquer. The lacquer serves to protect the brass from oxidation and maintains its shiny appearance. Silver or gold plating are offered as premium options on some models. Some silver plated saxophones are also lacquered. Plating saxophones with gold is an expensive process because an underplating of silver is required for the gold to adhere to.
Chemical surface treatment of the base metal has come into use as an alternative to the lacquer and plating finishes in recent years. Some saxophonists, retailers, and repair technicians argue that the type of lacquer or plating or absence of lacquer  may be a factor affecting the instrument's tone quality. The saxophone uses a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Each size of saxophone alto, tenor, etc. Most saxophonists use reeds made from Arundo donax cane, but since middle of the twentieth century some have also been made of fiberglass and other composite materials.
Saxophone reeds are proportioned slightly differently from clarinet reeds, being wider for the same length.
Reeds are commercially available in a vast array of brands, styles, and strengths. Saxophonists experiment with reeds of different strength hardnesses and material to find which strength and cut suits their mouthpiece, embouchure, physiology, and playing style. Mouthpiece design has a profound impact on tone. Early mouthpieces were designed to produce a "warm" and "round" sound for classical playing. Saxophonists who follow the French school of classical playing, influenced by Marcel Mule , generally use mouthpieces with smaller chambers for a somewhat "brighter" sound with relatively more upper harmonics.
The use of the saxophone in dance orchestras and jazz ensembles from the s onward placed emphasis on dynamic range and projection, leading to innovation in mouthpiece chamber shapes and tip designs, as well as metal construction. At the opposite extreme from the classical mouthpieces are those with a small chamber and a low clearance above the reed between the tip and the chamber, called high baffle. These produce a bright sound with maximum projection, suitable for having a sound stand out among amplified instruments and are commonly used in modern pop and smooth jazz. Mouthpieces come in a wide variety of materials, including vulcanized rubber sometimes called hard rubber or ebonite , plastic, and metals such as bronze or surgical steel.
Less common materials that have been used include wood, glass, crystal, porcelain, and bone. Recently, Delrin has been added to the stock of mouthpiece materials. The effect of mouthpiece materials on tone of the saxophone has been the subject of much debate. According to Larry Teal , the mouthpiece material has little, if any, effect on the sound, and the physical dimensions give a mouthpiece its tone color. The lower rigidity of hard rubber relative to metal restricts some design characteristics affecting tone and response more than with metal.
Category:B-flat instruments - Wikipedia
The extra bulk required near the tip with hard rubber affects mouth position and airflow characteristics. Shank weights large rings of brass over the shank are used with some Delrin mouthpieces to increase "resonance and projection. The saxophone was designed around by Adolphe Sax , a Belgian instrument maker, flautist , and clarinetist.
Before working on the saxophone, he made several improvements to the bass clarinet by improving its keywork and acoustics and extending its lower range. Sax was also a maker of the ophicleide , a large conical brass instrument in the bass register with keys similar to a woodwind instrument. His experience with these two instruments allowed him to develop the skills and technologies needed to make the first saxophones.
As an outgrowth of his work improving the bass clarinet, Sax began developing an instrument with the projection of a brass instrument and the agility of a woodwind. He wanted it to overblow at the octave , unlike the clarinet, which rises in pitch by a twelfth when overblown. An instrument that overblows at the octave has identical fingering for both registers. Sax created an instrument with a single-reed mouthpiece and conical brass body. Having constructed saxophones in several sizes in the early s, Sax applied for, and received, a year patent for the instrument on 28 June Sax's patent expired in Sax's original keywork, which was based on the Triebert system 3 oboe for the left hand and the Boehm clarinet for the right, was simplistic and made certain legato passages and wide intervals extremely difficult to finger; that system would later evolve with extra keys, linkage mechanisms, and alternate fingerings to make some intervals less difficult.
Early in the development of the saxophone the upper keyed range was extended to E, then F above the staff; s era sheet music for saxophone was written for the range of low B to F. In the s and s, Sax's invention gained use in small classical ensembles both all-saxophone and mixed , as a solo instrument, and in French and British military bands. Saxophone method books were published and saxophone instruction was offered at conservatories in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.
By the French Garde Republicaine band included eight saxophones, making it the large ensemble that featured the instrument most prominently. The saxophone was used experimentally in orchestral scores, but never came into widespread use as an orchestral instrument. In the orchestra of Louis Antoine Jullien featured a soprano saxophone on a concert tour of the United States. After an early period of interest and support from classical music communities in Europe, their interest in the instrument waned in the late nineteenth century.
Saxophone teaching at the Paris Conservatory was suspended from to and classical saxophone repertoire stagnated during that period. Lefebre, a Dutch emigre and saxophonist with family business associations with Sax.
Lefebre settled in New York in early after he arrived as a clarinetist with a British opera company. Gilmore's band soon featured a soprano-alto-tenor-baritone saxophone section, which also performed as a quartet.
The Gilmore-Lefebre association lasted until Gilmore's death in , during which time Lefebre also performed in smaller ensembles of various sizes and instrumentation, and worked with composers to increase light classical and popular repertoire for saxophone. Lefebre's later promotional efforts were extremely significant in broadening adoption of the saxophone.
Starting towards the end of the s he consulted with the brass instrument manufacturer C. Conn to develop and start production of improved saxophones to replace the costly, scantly available, and mechanically unreliable European instruments in the American market. The early s saw regular production of saxophones commence at Conn and its offshoot Buescher Manufacturing Company , which dramatically increased availability of saxophones in the US.
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Lefebre worked with the music publisher Carl Fischer to distribute his transcriptions, arrangements, and original works for saxophone, and worked with the Conn Conservatory to further saxophone pedagogy in the US. Lefebre's associations with Conn and Fischer lasted into the first decade of the twentieth century and Fischer continued to publish new arrangements of Lefebre's works posthumously. While the saxophone remained marginal and regarded mainly as a novelty instrument in the classical music world, many new musical niches were established for it during the early decades of the twentieth century.
Its early use in Vaudeville and ragtime bands around the turn of the century laid the groundwork for its use in dance orchestras and eventually jazz. As the market for saxophones grew in the US, the manufacturing industry grew; the Martin Band Instrument Company started producing saxophones between and , and the Cleveland Band Instrument Company started producing saxophones under contract to the H. White Company in The saxophone was promoted for the casual market with introduction of the C-soprano and C-melody between alto and tenor saxophones to play in key with pianos from the same sheet music.
Production of such instruments stopped during the Great Depression. During the s the saxophone came into use as a jazz instrument, fostered by the influences of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The use of the saxophone for more dynamic and more technically demanding styles of playing added incentive for improvements in keywork and acoustic design.
Early saxophones had two separate octave keys operated by the left thumb to control the two octave vents required on alto and larger saxophones. A substantial advance in keywork around the turn of the century was the development of mechanisms by which the left thumb operates the two octave vents with a single octave key. Ergonomic design of keywork evolved rapidly during the s and s. New bore designs during the s and s resulted from the quest for improved intonation , dynamic response, and tonal qualities.
The s were also the era of design experiments such as the Buescher straight altos and tenors, the King Saxello soprano, the C. The modern layout of the saxophone emerged during the s and s, first with right-side bell keys introduced by C. Conn on baritones, then by King on altos and tenors. The mechanics of the left hand table were revolutionized by Selmer with their Balanced Action instruments in , capitalizing on the right-side bell key layout. In Selmer introduced their Super Action saxophones with offset left and right hand stack keys. Between 30 and 40 years after Selmer devised their final layout it had been adopted for virtually every saxophone being produced, from student to professional models.
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The saxophone first gained popularity in military bands. Although the instrument was initially ignored in Germany, French and Belgian military bands were quick to include the instrument in their ensembles.