Saxophone: The Versatile Singer

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Saxophone By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Saxophone
Last updated: 22/05/2017
Tags: beginner, classical, improvisation, jazz, saxophone

The saxophone is a fascinating and exciting instrument with a variety of roles to fill in musical ensembles. It can be a lead voice in a jazz combo, part of a thick saxophone section in a big band, the main texture in hip-hop, a classical concerto soloist, or in chamber music settings.

The history of the saxophone is equally exciting as the current role of the instrument. Adolf Sax, the inventor felt a need for an instrument with a timbral quality of the clarinet, but with the power of projection of a trumpet or trombone. This was mainly for the German and Swiss outdoor bands of the late 19th century. However, as the instrument spread to the United States it was taken up for a variety of purposes due to it's durability and projection of sound. It had a slow acceptance into the classical world, and was incorporated into several important pieces of the early 20th century including pieces by Rachmaninoff among others. Jazz music, particularly the jazz music of New York in the 1920s and 1930s was where the saxophone really found it's voice.

It was made famous by the bands of Count Basie and Duke Ellington with such saxohone players as Coleman Hawkins, and Frank Taylor. These bands had front sections of a variety of saxophone sizes which allowed for the bands to create complex and engaging textures from just five instruments. Then the bebop era of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane exploded our ears to the potential of the saxophone beyond just the standard range of the instrument, Bird and Trane took the instrument higher and faster than anyone had heard before them.

People may wonder about the influence of this relatively young instrument and how it captured our ears and hearts so quickly. Many think it's the influence of jazz on popular music, and how the saxophone was maligned for it's early years as being an inappropriate instrument for young people to learn (much like the cello for a long time was considered inappropriate for women to learn!).

Another theory that I prefer to enjoy has to do with the overtone expression of the sax's sound. People suppose that saxophone has a similar overtone spectrum, that is the way the sound vibrates the air, to the human voice. In that way we can hear the sax talking to us as it's played. Saxophone is an immensely rewarding instrument to play, and has potential to bring a student into a variety of fields of musical study, and performance. 

Daniel Ehrlich Saxophone Teacher (North London)

About The Author

I'm a young, enthusiastic saxophonist/clarinetist and composer from a classical and jazz background who's ready to teach any musical skills you want to throw at me.

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