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The Saxophone

What’s So Special About the Saxophone?

Dreyfus and the soprano saxophone

At first, the French were not particularly enamoured of the Belgian’s invention

Charlie Parker famously said “Don’t play the horn, let it play you.” The very rare film footage that exists of him does almost make you think that he is just relaxing while the horn plays the music. Of course for us mere mortals it’s rarely like that. To me, it feels very much like playing the saxophone is more like getting an unruly wild animal to obey you, hence “Taming The Saxophone.”

For any saxophone player, it’s often a love hate relationship. Some players get sentimentally attached to their horn, or can sometimes be caught fondling it lovingly. Some give people give their instrument a name. Many players will spend more time with their instrument than their families or friends, yet it can also be a source of profound frustration. My old saxophone teacher Red Price used to say,” don’t practise until you get it right – practise until you don’t get it wrong!”

This site is for all those people who have love the saxophone, or wish they loved it. For those who want to understand its power as well its subtle nuances. You can set it free, but still be its master!

In the miscellaneous information section

  • Saxophone Buying Advice

    How to get the Best Buying Advice Don’t just listen to me, there are many different and valid opinions so for a start log in to the Cafe Saxophone discussions, you will also get a lot of useful saxophone information and buying advice ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Reviews

    Disclaimer: I do not get paid or receive free instruments in return for reviews on this page. Very Inexpensive Saxophones Note that I’m not using the description “Cheap” saxophones. Although the models I intend to review in this category are cheap, many ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Recommendations

    What’s a Good Saxophone? I am often asked to give saxophone recommendations, endorse mouthpieces and big up the retailers. I am not an official endorser of any product apart from Legere Reeds, and so I feel I can give independent advice ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Comparisons

    The Shootout I have chosen to compare five saxophones, three vintage and two modern. The vintage saxophones are my own two tenors, a 1930s Conn 10M (Naked Lady) and a 1950s “The” Martin, along with a 1954 Selmer MKVI which I ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Insurance

    Insuring a valuable instrument While there are no dedicated saxophone insurance policies, there are several insurance brokers than specialise in musical instrument insurance. If you are not taking the instrument out of your house, you should be able to include it ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Maintenance

    Cleaning Inside the Body of the Saxophone 1. The Pull-Through (or “Swab”) Probably the most important part of general saxophone maintenance, this is a cloth attached to a piece of string with a small weight on the end. You can buy these ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Repairs

    Leaks Usually pads are stuck in with shellac which melts when a flame is applied to the key. This should not be attempted at home unless you really don’t mind if you burn the lacquer off your saxophone or fingernails. A ... Read more…
  • Saxophones For Sale

    Saxes for Sale – 5 things to watch out for:   1. Asking advice online People often ask on the forums or social media “what is the best saxophone?” hoping for an answer. Note I said “an answer” (singular). Unfortunately they tend to get a whole raft ... Read more…
  • Saxophone History

    The Early Years of Saxophone History From the Story of the Saxophone The Middle Ages gave us a variety of new instruments and gradually the elements of the modern military band were gathered together. The development of these bands was encouraged by all ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Material

    Science vs Common Sense Saxophones are mostly made from brass, which is an alloy mostly of copper and zinc. There are and have been slightly different combinations, and various other metals (e.g. lead) also included. Saxophones are also made from other ... Read more…
  • Recording a Saxophone

    This article is based on my experience playing the saxophone on recording sessions, and also recording saxophones while working as a producer/sound engineer sometimes alongside some of the best sound engineers in the world in some top studios. These methods ... Read more…
  • Mixing Saxophone And Backing Tracks

    Who is this for and what do you need? This is for anyone who wants to make recordings of their playing (or singing) along with basic backing tracks. This isn’t meant to be an advanced or even complete tutorial on mixing, ... Read more…
  • Mixing 2: EQ & Compression

    Caveat: We have already discussed the difference between computer or home stereo speakers and studio monitors. Before you get into these slightly more advanced aspects of mixing, you must be confident that your speakers are giving you a reasonably accurate ... Read more…
  • Serial Numbers

    What Can Serial Numbers Tell Me? The main thing you learn from serial numbers is the age of the instrument of course. Although the dates in these charts are reasonably accurate, there may be some discrepancies for various reasons. Here are ... Read more…
  • Vintage Saxophones

    Are vintage saxophones better than modern ones? Yes and no, “better” is very often subjective. It used to be the case that you could buy a professional quality vintage horn for much less than a professional quality new one, however the ... Read more…
  • Petting Zoo

    Here are a few of the strange and unusual instruments and accessories I have collected over the years. Some sound great, others not so. Maybe I’ll record some soundclips one day… Conn Clar-O-Sax – “A real musical instrument, not a toy” A ... Read more…
  • Leaking Articulated G#

    Problems with leaky low notes? Easily diagnose and fix your articulated G# All saxophone players need to know about adjusting the articulated G# as it is one of the most common, and yet easily fixable, causes of leaks. The first thing we need ... Read more…

In the players section

  • Jazz Tenor

    The Great Jazz & Blues Tenor Saxophone Players To many people the saxophone is synonymous with jazz. If it hadn’t been for jazz, would the saxophone have survived? It was invented by a Belgian in 1841, and it never really caught ... Read more…
  • R & B Saxophone Players

    These biographies, photos and soundclips include all the influential rhythm and blues saxophone players of the 40s and 50s. Some of these are jazz players who contributed significantly to the development of blues saxophone, others are hardcore bar walking “screamers ... Read more…
  • Lee Allen

    Part 1 by Nick Pentelow | Part 2 by Pete Thomas   First published by Saxophone Journal. Unedited original interview and later additions published here with the kind permission of the author, Nick Pentelow. How do you get to speak to your hero ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Blues Transcriptions

    How do you learn to play a good blues solo! Also see Why You Shouldn’t Transcribe Some people think blues playing and improvising is easy: just learn a couple of minor blues scales and play them over the chords. Well, this approach ... Read more…
  • King Curtis

    This is a transcription of the King Curtis track Hungover. F# is often thought of as a difficult key to play on saxophone, but a very important one if you play in blues, rock or R & B bands as ... Read more…

In the mouthpieces section

  • Saxophone Mouthpieces

    Choosing your Mouthpiece It sometimes takes me about 2 weeks to really know if a mouthpiece is right or not and so it is not always a good idea to make that decision in a shop, however most retailers let you ... Read more…
  • Mouthpiece Charts

    Saxophone Facing Comparisons There are quite a few mouthpiece comparison charts out there, but most are not very user-friendly so I created this one based on some of the most popular tenor mouthpieces used by saxophone players today. One important thing ... Read more…
  • Alto Mouthpiece Comparisons

    Scroll for more tracks I have gathered together some frequently recommended (and some not so frequently) alto saxophone mouthpieces. Most mouthpiece comparisons you hear are not always the exact same piece of music, so here I have attempted to play the ... Read more…
  • Mouthpiece Material

    Mouthpiece Material: Does it make a Difference to the Sound? – some common misconceptions Can You Tell the Difference? Metal vs Ebonite Listen to the audiofiles below, you may be able to identify a consistent difference between the mouthpiece material, in this ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Mouthpiece Cleaning

    How to Look After Your Mouthpiece   Mouthpiece cleaning is important of course, but first let’s look at how to maintain it on a regular basis in order to help prevent it from getting into such a sad state that makes refurbishment ... Read more…
  • PPT Mouthpieces

    The Concept Behind PPT Mouthpieces Like many saxophone players I have been on a constant search for the ideal saxophone sound. The main factor involved is the player rather than the saxophone, however the mouthpiece plays the next important role. There ... Read more…
  • PPT Soprano

    As with the tenor and baritone mouthpieces, my reason for developing the PPT soprano saxophone mouthpiece is not commercial, I just wanted to get the best soprano mouthpiece for my own needs. I had been using a vintage Selmer Soloist ... Read more…
  • PPT Alto

    Due to overwhelming demand we have now introduced the PPT alto mouthpiece in Onyxite. This is not just a scaled down version of the tenor, the concept is slightly different. My inspiration for these includes the Brilhart Tonalin and Meyer Bros. ... Read more…
  • PPT Tenor

    My concept behind the sound is a mouthpiece that can deliver not only that very fat warm almost vintage sound, but also a more modern sound with nice sparkly edge, sometimes both at once. I was after a really versatile ... Read more…
  • PPT Baritone

    As with the tenor mouthpiece, I was looking for something that doesn’t yet exist – a versatile mouthpiece for baritone sax that is capable of extreme dynamics from a gentle whisper to a gutsy roar. Up until now I used ... Read more…
  • PPT Hooligan

    We are finally very proud to offer a new line in PPT mouthpieces – the Hooligan. This has taken years in research and development. Hooligan by Name, Hooligan by Nature In many ways, yes but of course in the right hands it ... Read more…

In the accessories section

  • Cane Reeds for Saxophone

      The 5 Best Cane Reed Tips:   Don’t be afraid of using soft reeds: It is a myth that you need to play a hard reed to be a good player. While a hard reed can make it seem easier to play ... Read more…
  • Synthetic Saxophone Reeds

      Synthetic mouthpieces, so why not synthetic reeds? Traditionally woodwind instruments such as the clarinet used mouthpieces made from wood in combination with cane reeds. A big problem was always that natural products such as wood and cane were not only ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Ligatures

    The Best Way to Hold a Reed On What does a ligature do? A ligature clamps the reed to the mouthpiece. Think of this a bit like when you hold a ruler on the edge of a table and flick the bit ... Read more…
  • Review: Saxophone Straps

    Keep Your Saxophone Round Your Neck! Disclaimer: all products on this page have been supplied to me  as free review  samples. What makes a good saxophone strap/sling/holder?          The most important thing on any saxophone strap is the hook. On older slings ... Read more…
  • DIY Saxophone Clipon Microphone

    Not just a cheap, it sounds good! Ingredients to make your own clipon microphone Realistic 33-1063 Electret Tie Pin Microphone (Radio Shack, Tandy, poss. Maplins) Deluxe Clothes peg Two small self tapping screws Strip of metal, e.g. brass, approx 8″ x 1/4″ Drill Self amalgamating tape (or improvise ... Read more…
  • Saxophone Stands

    Keep Your Horn in One Piece! Saxophone stands are more important than you might think. I learnt this as a guitarist, when my 3-year-old decide to walk into a cheap guitar stand. Problem was that the stand was holding an expensive ... Read more…
  • Sound Enhancing Products

    We know that apart from the actual saxophone, mouthpieces and reeds can make a difference to your sound. Many people think that ligatures, thumbrests, straphooks and other accessories also make a difference. When I first heard about these I must ... Read more…
  • Deflector (Review)

    This is an amazingly simple concept which I’m very pleased to see available from the well established and highly reputable company from Switzerland, Jazzlabs. The reason I’m happy to see it made by Jazzlabs is that their products are all ... Read more…

 

 

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