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Is a saxophone a brass instrument?

by Juan Turros

Is a saxophone a brass instrument?

by Juan Turros

Is a saxophone a brass instrument?


It’s a popular question. Don’t feel bad. It is an incredibly intuitive inquiry. The saxophone is, after all, made of brass. The answer lies not in the physical properties used in producing the instrument, but in the manner in which sound is produced and the type of amplifier the instrument works as.

Let us consider what we know brass instruments to be. A quick image search would remedy this. You would probably encounter these - trombone, tenor horn, euphonium, tuba, french horn, trumpet, cornet, flugel horn, natural trumpet.  

- Neither of which is the instrument in question due to the absence of tone holes. These instruments also utilize pistons, rotors, slides, and cup-like mouthpieces to manipulate pitches and produce the fundamental sound.

The saxophone is a cylindrical tube with holes (bored into it) that, when covered with leather pads attached to keys, change the pitch of the instrument. This concept is not unlike the simpler, rather rustic recorder. The saxophone also uses a beak-like mouthpiece that works in conjunction with a reed made of cane that is secured with a ligature, much like the clarinet family.

Patented in 1948 by Belgian inventor Adolph Sax, the saxophone would prove to “bridge the gap” between the expressiveness of the woodwinds and the power and volume of the brass. This hybrid instrument would be used in military bands and select classical music, but would prove to have the strongest of voices fifty years later in New Orleans, Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz. Virtuosos like Sidney Bechet, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Branford Marsalis, and Chris Potter have used the saxophone to express themselves.


So is a saxophone a brass instrument?  The short answer is – No. The saxophone is officially considered a woodwind instrument.

Post Image is created by Freepik

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