On a summer evening, admiring the sea sunset, or on a long trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, you catch yourself thinking that the sounding gentle and romantic melody takes your thoughts to places where there are no worries and mental pain. Only the saxophone sounds so heartfelt – a musical instrument that alleviates suffering, leads forward, promises joy and passion, prophesies good luck.
The saxophone has an extensive family, that is, there are many types of this wind instrument, which differ in pitch and tonality. Nowadays, 6 types are considered the most common:
- A sopranino is a small copy of a great soprano, similar in sound to a clarinet.
- Soprano saxophone with a curved shape and sounds echoing the soprano voice.
- The alto saxophone is the first most popular instrument with a sound similar to a human voice, heartfeltly telling about sadness, joy, and hope.
- The tenor saxophone is a large-sized instrument, thanks to the colorful sound of which it has gained popularity in jazz.
- Baritone saxophone – performs virtuoso musical passages.
- Bass saxophone – recognized as a master in sounding in low registers, this narrows the use of the instrument in orchestrations.
Adolf Sachs originally created fourteen varieties of the instrument, but today not all of them decorate our lives with the widest palette of sounds.
Despite its small size, the alto saxophone is popular with musicians performing both classical and jazz compositions.
Alt has a complex structure. From separately made parts, craftsmen assemble an instrument that makes amazing sounds that disturb the heart.
The pipe in the form of a cone, expanding on one side – the body of a saxophone with a valve-lever mechanism – from afar looks like an attribute of an aesthete smoker. In the extended part, the body passes into a bell, and in the narrow part, with the help of an esca, it is combined with a mouthpiece, which is responsible for the sound quality and is similar in structure to a clarinet mouthpiece. Rubber, ebonite, plexiglass or an alloy of metals are used for its manufacture.
The element of the saxophone that produces the sound is called the reed. With the help of a ligature – a small collar, the reed is attached to the mouthpiece. Nowadays, this part is often made of artificial materials, but ideally, wood should be used. The cane is made from reeds from the south of France.
The history of the saxophone and its creator
In 2022, it will be 180 years since the Belgian music master Antoine-Joseph Sachs (Adolf Sax) created an instrument for a military band. More precisely, 14 varieties of instruments were created, differing in size and sound. The alto saxophone is the most popular in this family.
These musical instruments had a lot of difficulties: they were banned in Germany for the lack of Aryan origin, and in the USSR saxophones were considered an element of the culture of an ideological enemy, and they were also banned.
But over time, everything changed, and now every year saxophonists from all over the world gather in Dinant to parade along the promenade and evening streets, illuminated by torchlight, thus paying tribute to the creator of the musical instrument.
In the city of Denau, the birthplace of Sax, a monument to the great master has been erected, and images of the saxophone can be found in restaurants, bars and cafes around the world.
How does an alto saxophone sound?
The sounds made by the viola do not always correspond to the pitch of the notes given in the scores. This is explained by the fact that the sound range of the saxophone includes more than two octaves and is divided into registers. The choice of high, middle and low registers dictates the piece of music being played.
The wide volume range of upper register sounds gives rise to a sense of tension. Screaming low-pitched sounds can only be heard through the speaker. But the harmony of sounds creates an unforgettable impression of a piece of music. More often these are solo performances of jazz compositions. Alto saxophone is rarely used in orchestras.
There are many jazz music competitions for saxophonists around the world. But the main one is held in Belgium in the city of Denau. Experts equate it to the Tchaikovsky competition.
The winners of these competitions were such performers as: Charlie Parker, Kenny Garrett, Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Hodges, Eric Dolphy, David Sanborn, Anthony Braxton, Phil Woods, John Zorn, Paul Desmond. Among them are the names of Russian saxophonists: Sergei Kolesov, Georgy Garanyan, Igor Butman and others.
As a bright representative of jazz musical instruments, the saxophone will always occupy a dominant place. He is able to cope with classical works as part of an orchestra and envelop the haze of romance and sentimentality of cafe visitors. Everywhere its enchanting sounds will bring aesthetic pleasure to people.