Physics Of The Alto Saxophone

845 Words 4 Pages
Sheree Buchli

Title: Physics of the Saxophone Investigated


1. Summary-Definition/Description of Alto Saxophone

The alto saxophone is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments invented by Belgium instrument designer Adolphe Sax in the 1840s and patented in 1846.

2. Aim

With this paper I am discussing existing knowledge on the physics of the Alto Saxophone, in particular the creation of sound.


1. History

The Saxophone is an instrument with a single reed, finger keys, and is shaped as a conical metal tube. Four Saxophones are used commonly today; Soprano Saxophone in Bb, Alto Saxophone in Eb, Tenor Saxophone in Bb and the Baritone (Berry) Saxophone in Eb. The Saxophone was invented by
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By the time Adolphe died the saxophone found its home in the US with Gilmore and John Philip Sousa. In 1914 the Saxophone started to appear in Jazz bands. The advertisements of the day sold the saxophone player as the life of any party, the person everyone wanted to be.

2. Famous Players

Kenny Garret, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker (Figure 1), Jimmy Dorsey and John Coltrane were all famous saxophone players of their time.

3. Types of Saxes

There are at least 24 different types of Saxophones. There are four normally used in concert bands and the rest are on the more rare side. There is the Sopranissimo, Soprillo, Sopranino, Soprano, Alto (Figure 2), Tenor, C-Melody, Baritone, Bass, Double Bass, Contra Bass, Sub Contra Bass, Double Contra Bass, Claro Sax, Slide Sax, Canno, Overtone, Tubax, Acrylic, Goofus, Cousenon Saxie, Kazoo Circa, Casio Digital Horn and the Henry Potter Fife.


How a Saxophone makes sound. (Saxophone acoustics)

1. Making Sound:

To make sound there is a stream of high pressure that is blown in through the mouthpiece. The reed acts as a valve, which causes movement back and forth at a regular speed of both air and pressure throughout the instrument. (Figure
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When there is too much pressure, a thin part of the reed bends under the pressure closing the aperture. There is then a choked sound, and lessens as the reed bends. A saxophone player provides a flow of air at a pressure above that of the atmosphere so the air in the saxophone vibrates and some energy will be released through the bell and open key holes. Though more is lost through friction with the wall of the instrument. This column of air in the saxophone will vibrate much easier at some frequencies than at other frequencies. The reed can bend and is very springy. So when it oscillates on its own and is called a squeak which is terrible for the player to make. When the pressure difference is increased, more air should flow through the small gap between the tip of the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece (Figure 4). The reed is the key to making the saxophone

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