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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Saxophone - Brass or Woodwind?

My Son today asked me to describe Jazz Music. Not being an expert or fan of Jazz, I described it as music predominantly comprising of piano and brass instruments.

This got me thinking about whether a Saxophone was a brass or woodwind instrument. My logic told me that despite being made of brass, it uses a reed to produce the sound. Therefore it must be woodwind. My wife disagreed (as wives often do) saying that it's a brass instrument.

The solution was to ask that fountain of all knowledge - Wikipedia. This is what it said,

The saxophone (commonly referred to simply as sax) is a conical-bored transposing musical instrument considered a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and are played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax in 1841, and patented in 1846 in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition. The series pitched in B and E, designed for military bands, has proved extremely popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. A few saxophones remain from the less popular orchestral series pitched in C and F.
This just goes to prove just how good my logic is. Either that or my mind is full of useless information. I know which my Wife thinks!

Wikipedia Link - Saxophone


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  1. So, by Wikipedia, a sax is really a BRIDGE instrument. It is recognized as a woodwind because of it's reed, but also a brass instrument because of it's sound. The original intent was to fill the gap between the two. So, does it really qualify fully for either category? Wouldn't it be safe to say it is both? :-) Just using logic.

  2. cool
    i knew it!!!!!!!!!!
    thanx for the info

  3. My brother knows the best brass manufacturer in our area and he inquired about sax and how it is made. One of its employee said that the production of the various saxophone parts uses specialized operation and is often done by the brass tubing suppliers and contract manufacturers.

    Well, I agree with UdoA180, saxophone can be both brass and woodwind. Brass because its made of BRASS and woodwind because it has a single reed like the clarinet.

    Hmmm, very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The distinction between brass and woodwind is really down to the mouthpiece and they way the instrument is played not the metal. The mouthpiece means that brass and woodwind instruments function in very different ways.

    Saxophones are by definition woodwind instruments because they use a reed. (Saxophones can be made of silver and gold too)

    In contrast Brass instruments are wind instruments that consists of a brass tube (usually of variable length) that is blown by means of a cup-shaped or funnel-shaped mouthpiece. The technique required is very different from a reed based instument and both require very different skills. So for example a good tuba player will be able to pick up and play a trumpet but not a sax. In contrast the woodwind skills of a saxophone player will transfer to a clarinet but not a trumpet.
    hope that this clarifies

  5. It is a woodwind (I am a saxophone player)

  6. It is a woodwind because it uses a reed, does not have the rounded bowl- shaped mouthpiece of a brass instrument, and the number of keys along with its correlation in music. Although it does serve as a bridge in some ways, it is because it is a newer instrument (created after all other major instruments). The original saxophone that inspired its modern design was made out of bamboo in Hawaii.

    ~A Saxophone player/ woodwind & string specialist

  7. I play the saxophone and I always thought it was a brass but then someone told me it was woodwind. I have no idea now..

  8. Like the piano which is a percussion instrument the argument goes to the experts! Its a woodwind. And instead of using Google I followed up with the other expert! Webster dictionary! The book! Its a woodwind! If you want the full definition look it up! And I showing my age! Dust off the dictionary and look it up as my mama used to say!

  9. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music sax is actually neither, being a category of it's own.