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Why The Saxophone?

By Dennis Taboada

Mr. Pinto was my first music teacher. It was the 3rd grade at Nathaniel Woodhull Elementary school in Mastic Beach Long Island, New York. We all got to choose and instrument we would like to learn. I don't know why, but I chose the clarinet. Maybe because one of my friends chose it or maybe because I was pushed by Mr. Pinto. He did want to have some boys in the every growing pool of girl clarinet players. I would later find out that he wanted me to eventually switch to the Bass clarinet. He apparently needed it in the band and I was one of the only boy clarinet players who might be able to switch. Being young and naive I switched to bass clarinet. Unknowing, Mr. Pinto placed the bass clarinet next to the saxophone section in the band. I remember looking over and admiring the brass of the saxophones as they glistened in the stage lights. Compared to my drab black wood bass clarinet the saxophones had an appeal that I couldn't resist. That year I convinced Mr. Pinto to switch me to Sax. He was not to pleased since he lost his only bass clarinet player, but we made a deal. He would switch me if I played Tenor Sax only. That was the beginning of my Saxophone life.

The appeal of the saxophone back then was that fact that is it a woodwind instrument, but made of brass. The evolution of musical instruments can be described as a lengthy process involving scores of instrument makers, each building on the efforts of previous technicians. The genesis of the saxophone differs from the usual pattern of instrument building as its creation can be traced to one individual, Adolphe Sax. Of all his efforts, the saxophone stands as his most enduring creation.

Nestled in his Paris workshop, Sax manufactured standard instruments, gradually introducing improvements along the way. In 1845, Sax patented a family of brass instruments he called saxhorns, and in 1846, the saxophone family made its first appearance ranging from bass to sopranino. 1846 is often given as the year of the invention of the saxophone, but Berlioz knew of it in 1842, and wrote praises about it in Journal des Debats. The Berlioz article made Sax's reputation soar overnight, and landed him a teaching position at the Paris Conservatory. But Sax had attracted a number of malcontents wishing to tarnish his reputation or to bring him down completely. The detractors consisted mainly of disgruntled instrument workers resistant to change and with a penchant to place blame. Rumors got started saying that Sax stole the rotary valve design from the Germans.

The Saxophone has certainly made it into the musical world being used in every type of music from classical to rock. Many musicians have made the saxophone famous. Musician's such as "Kenny G" who dolced tones makes the soprano sax the dominate instrument in smooth jazz. The most mainstream of all the saxophones is the ALTO for ease of play for the younger musician. The Alto saxophone is a favorite in the jazz circuit. The Tenor offers the low breathy tones that appeal to lounge music and cafe jazz type tones.

If you want to learn an instrument that is versatile and will allow you to mix with many band types, I certainly recommend the saxophone. I suggest starting on the Alto and moving to tenor and other as your learn. If Mr. Pinto were alive today, I am sure he would be so proud that I am still playing the sax some 50 years later. I would be happy to impart my love for the sax to your student at Aria Music Studios.


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