Saxophone: A Bridge Between Woodwinds and Brass
On this date in 1846, Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone.
Here are some things you may not have known about the instrument and its inventor.
Adolphe Sax was born in Belgium in 1814. His parents were musical instrument designers who helped refine the design of the French horn. Sax himself made instruments at a young age, including two flutes and a clarinet that he entered into a competition when he was 15 years old.
Sax had a difficult childhood, however, facing many near-death experiences, including: falling from a third-story window; drinking a bowl of water containing sulfuric acid; burning himself in a gunpowder explosion, falling on a hot frying pan; nearly suffocating three times in his room where varnished items were left to dry; getting hit in the head with a cobblestone; and falling into a river.
He somehow managed to survive all of that and begin studying at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. After leaving the conservatory, he patented an improved design for the bass clarinet. He went on to create a valved bugle called the Saxhorn, which was a predecessors of instruments ranging from the flugelhorn to the euphonium.
In the early 1840s, Sax invented his best-known instrument, the saxophone.
The saxophone is a single-reed woodwind instrument, usually made of brass. Sax intended the instrument to be a bridge between the existing woodwind instruments and brass instruments.
One key difference between the saxophone and the clarinet is exactly that, a key. The clarinet has a register key which raises the instrument’s pitch by a twelfth; the saxophone has a true octave key, which allows the same fingerings to be used for both registers.
There are seven types of saxophones in common usage today. The lowest, the contrabass saxophone stands about six feet, four inches tall. The smallest, the Sopranino is about two feet long. The even-smaller sopranissimo and much larger subcontrabass saxophones are very uncommon.
Adolphe Sax outlived the patent on the saxophone, and was driven into poverty by lawsuits by rival instrument makers. He died in Paris in 1894 at the age of 79.
Our question: What saxophonist is the best-selling instrumental musician of the modern era?
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Weekly take-home test
What was the name of the writing system Braille was based on?
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