The saxophone was invented in the 1830s and has prospered. It looks like a highly complicated instrument, but in reality all that metal key-work enables a simple technique over two and a half octaves. The precision demanded of a clarinet player's fingers in sealing the finger holes is considerably relaxed on saxophone, the pearl buttons being quite forgiving of less-than-perfect finger placement. Saxophone tone is powerful and manipulable, enabling fast progress, but also allowing great freedom of expression in the right hands. The low notes are hard to produce unless the instrument is maintained in top condition – rarely the case in hard-worked school instruments.
The alto is the best known, and is in Eb, while the larger tenor is in Bb, an octave below the alto. The baritone is rarely privately owned, because of expense, but is an essential part of the stage band saxophone section, and provides a rich bass for the sax section. There is much literature, in both “classical” and contemporary styles, to engage and entertain the young saxophonist.
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