Top 5: Saxophone Facts

March 28, 2013


Whether it’s part of a Jazz ensemble, Organic Jam or performing solo to a backing track, the Saxophone features in countless corporate events as both background and foreground music. But while we’re used to seeing a saxophone turn up in a Jazz Trio or a Function Band, how much do we actually know about this most popular of wind instruments? Well we know it’s a wind instrument for a start... but what about beyond that?

Having done a bit of rooting around, we’ve uncovered some facts about the Saxophone and shaped them into a blog that was dangerously close to being called ‘Factsophone’ before someone thought better of it. Read on for more.

 The saxophone was invented by an accident prone Belgian

Saxophone inventor Antoine Joseph “Adolphe” Sax started making instruments from a young age, creating his own versions of the flute and clarinet before the age of 15. He also started young with accidents too; by the time he invented the Saxophone at age 29 he had fractured his skull, mistakenly drank boric acid, broke a leg falling off a cliff, been in a coma with measles, broke his arm in a carriage door and almost died drinking tainted wine. You could say he was Saxident prone...

 The original saxophone was quite different to the one we know today

Sax had applied for a 15 year patent on the Saxophone which expired in 1861, at which point rival instrument makers began making their own variations on the Saxophone. Though Adolphe Sax had invented the Saxophone, it was Ferdinand A. Buescher who perfected its design – fixing many of the faults with Sax’s original including the shape, springing and key system. Major additions were the single-acting double octave key and the Buescher Snap-On-Pad which greatly simplified the key system of Sax’s design.

 The saxophone was marketed as an ‘easy’ instrument

“Health, wealth, and happiness gravitate toward the man who can play a Buescher Sax...” ran the ad from the Buescher Band Instrument Co. “... Gives you the chance to enjoy all the pleasures of life. So easy to learn, too, on a Buescher. Many master scales the first hour; play tunes in a week ; join a band or orchestra in 90 days, But only with a Buescher is this rapid progress assured...” clearly written by someone who’d never heard the honking wind section of a high school band.

 A “Battle of the Bands” lead to the saxophone joining the military

Keen to prove the potential of his newest musical invention, Adolphe Sax arranged a sort of battle of the bands between a traditional military band and another band comprised entirely of differently pitched saxophones. The audience took to the Saxophone band so enthusiastically that the instrument became part of the standard French Military Band. The saxphone now features in numerous military musicla ensembles

 The longest note ever held on a saxophone lasted for over an hour and a half

Using a technique known as ‘circular breathing’, 24 year old Geovanny Escalante smashed the record previously held by wildly-successful-yet-also-reviled sax icon Kenny G. Kenny’s world record attempt clocked in at 45 minutes and 47 seconds but was demolished by Escalante when he more than doubled the time, playing for one hour 30 minutes and 45 seconds.

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By Garreth Owen