The saxophone, more casually referred to as sax, is another member of the large woodwind family. It consists of a cone-shaped tube made of thin metal which is usually brass and at times plated with nickel, silver, or gold. It is played with a mouthpiece that is single-reed just like that of the clarinet.


Adolphe Sax from Belgium invented this magnificent instrument. Akin to his father, Charles Joseph Sax, he was an instrument maker. His first successful creation was the saxhorn which was made public sometime after he transferred to France. Before focusing on the saxophone, Adolphe sax completed several developments to the bass clarinet.

The saxophone was created around 1846. Sax’s crucial primary work was fundamental which made wide intervals quite hard to finger. Because of this, many developers and instrument makers added alternate fingerings and more keys to make playing less difficult. One of the most significant advancements in its crucial work was that both tone holes could be controlled by the left thumb using the one-octave key. This is now common to all modern sax.

A closer look

Learning to play the sax requires to things: knowing how to control the reed and how to smoothly and adequately finger the instrument.

The portion where you blow into is the mouthpiece which is usually constructed from metal, hard rubber, or styrene plastic. The part that creates the sound is the reed. It is made of cane that serves as a membrane to the mouthpiece opening. While the sax is being played, the reed is caught in between the mouthpiece and the saxophone player’s lip.

The ligature, a rubber-like fabric or band of metal, clamps the reed in place which keeps it from going into the mouthpiece. The neck is the tube that holds the mouthpiece through a layer of cork. The other end of the neck is attached to the body of the saxophone.

Saxophones are expected to have a lacquer finish which means that it appears to be polished brass. Some are made in silver which gives it a sound that is brighter.

Saxophone maintenance

The usual sax consists of brass and leather. This indicates that it requires extreme care because brass can easily be dented and leather deteriorates fast if in the wrong environment. Moisture tends to build up in the horn when playing the sax. It will make the leather pads rot and the brass to rust. Make sure that you remove as much moisture as you can every after playing.

After playing, you should dismantle the different parts of the saxophone – the mouthpiece and the neck. Use a neck swab to clean the neck. Then, use a cleaning swab, which is chamois leather or silk with foam, for the body of the sax.

As for the mouthpiece and reed, wash these in warm running water and rub a mouthpiece brush in the mouthpiece. There are a lot more specific ways to care for your sax but make sure you store, clean, and play it correctly and with care.

Common Uses

The very first widespread use of the sax was in military bands. Recently, it was used in big band and concert band music. Even more recent was its participation in symphony orchestra where it drastically boosted its popularity. Besides these, it was associated with blues, rock and roll, and especially jazz.