The Alto Saxophone is a single-reed musical instrument that was invented in 1846 by Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax. Adolphe Sax was born on November 6, 1814 in Dinant, Belgium. During his childhood, he studied the clarinet and flute at Brussel’s Conservatory. His father was a renowned maker of musical instruments during that time. Since Adolphe grew up with his father making instruments and studying the clarinet and the flute, it was obvious that he would end up following in his father’s footsteps. The first instrument that Adolphe decided to look at was the bass clarinet; he wanted to improve the tone of the instrument. He came up with a single-reed instrument constructed from metal that had a conical bore and overblew at the octave, which translates to the saxophone.
The very first saxophone was called the C bass saxophone, which was Adolphes first creation derived from the bass clarinet. He had tremendous success with this instrument so he went on to replace the oboes, bassoons, and French horns in military bands with Bb and Eb saxhorns.
In 1846 Adolphe obtained patents for his 14 variations of saxophones. Among them were: E flat sopranino, F sopranino, B flat soprano, C soprano, E flat alto, F alto, B flat tenor, C tenor, E flat baritone, B flat bass, C bass, E flat contrabass and F contrabass. In 1881 Adolphe extended his patent for the saxophone; while doing this he also made some improvements to the instrument by lengthening the bell to include Bb and A and extended the instruments range to F# and G using the fourth octave keys. In 1886 the saxophone underwent changes again, this time adding in the right hand C trill key and the half-hole system for the first fingers of both hands. In 1888 the single octave key for the saxophone was invented and rollers for low Eb and C were added. Then in 1894 Adolphe Sax died and his son Adolphe Edouard took over his father’s business.
After Adolphe’s death, the saxophone preceded to undergo even further changes such as the addition of the second octave key. Books were published and composers and musicians continued to include the sax in their performances. In 1914 the saxophone entered the jazz world and to this day it continues to enjoy a very prominent position in bands worldwide.
Now that we have a history and understanding of how the saxophone came to be, let us move on to how the saxophone is constructed; more specifically focused on the Alto saxophone and its components.
As we look at the picture of the Alto saxophone from the reed down to the conical design and the bore, we notice that a lot of individual components are required in order for this instrument to function correctly.
Starting at the reed and mouthpiece, these two components are held together by a ligature or a piece of metal that keeps the reed tightly in place against the mouthpiece (the ligature can also be made out of plastic, which some musicians argue provides a better fit between the reed and mouthpiece, and...