One of the most popular instruments in the world is the saxophone. If you doubt how popular it is, you simply have to look at Jazz and try and picture the genre of music without it. The truth is, the saxophone has a history that dates back to the 1840s with Adolphe Sax, who specialized in the clarinet. While working at his father's instrument shop, he began to work on an instrument that was a cross between a clarinet and a brass instrument. Through his work, he used the brass body of the ophicleide, the conical bore of the oboe and the fingering of the flute, with a single reed mouthpiece like the clarinet. The saxophone was truly a Frankenstein of instruments.
In 1846, he applied for a 15-year patent in 1846, which encompassed 14 versions of the design, split into two categories of seven instruments each, which ranged from sopranino to contrabass.
By the time his patent ended in 1866, numerous copies of the saxophone came into being that improved on the design and fingering methods. One improvement was making the bell slightly farther extended and adding one more key to extend the range downwards. While Sax's original fingering techniques were quite simple, they have become more and more difficult, thereby making the range of the saxophone much longer.
The saxophone has become a hallmark of a variety of different music genres, most notably Jazz, where it is an accepted piece of the music that helps the genre develop an amazing sound that cannot be equaled by very many other genres. Beyond that, it is often used in soft rock and other types of classical rock.
During the 1990s, possibly the most famous saxophone player in the world was none other than former president Bill Clinton. Many credit him playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 with helping him win the presidency of the United States because his playing of the saxophone helped him relate to younger voters, who came out in record numbers to elect him.
Overall, the saxophone is one of the most popular types, and coolest, forms of instruments that currently exist. It is often identified with laid-back types of music like Jazz and soft-rock. It has been used by a several different people, including a president, and it is also one of the most difficult types of instruments to master. The Frankenstein of Instruments is truly a revolutionary piece of brass.
The use of the saxophone has expanded over the years. It is not included in more modern classical pieces and is seen more in orchestras. It adds a different sound and color to a work that no other instrument can mimic. It may be made of different instruments, but it does not sound like any other. It is truly a unique instrument.
A saxophone is usually chosen by young musicians for two main reasons. The first is if they intend to play jazz. The second is as a secondary instrument to add to the number of instruments that they can play. This enables them to be able to get more musical jobs later on.
After Bach and Handel, trumpet playing declined. Haydn, the great successor of these two masters, did not do well with trumpets. When Haydn entered the service of Prince Esterhazy, music-loving prince of Austria, his orchestra at first did not include trumpets at all.
As late as 1766, the regular personnel of this orchestra, one of the foremost in Europe, consisted of six violins and violas, one cello, one string bass, one flute, two oboes, two bassoons and four horns but no trumpets or cornets. Several years later the resources of the orchestra were enlarged so that trumpets and tympani could be added when needed.
Even when Haydn did use trumpets, he scored for them so they played an octave or a sixth above the horns. To this thin arrangement he added drums for accompaniment. He probably felt the need of filling in with something, and the drums seemed the most appropriate.
Mozart, who was at first Haydn's pupil but whose genius lifted him to a place above his master, seemed to share Haydn's dislike for trumpets. This antipathy for trumpets was due to an extremely sensitive nature. Until Mozart was ten years old, the sound of the trumpet was excruciatingly painful to him, and he could not endure it.
As an adult he found little pleasure in trumpets, and he used them sparingly. In 1788 he wrote his three greatest symphonies, but in only two of them did he use the trumpet. He could not endure the high clarion parts written by Bach and HandeL He even rearranged some of this music, giving the high clarion parts to the clarinets.
Beethoven generally wrote for two trumpets and often used them as solo instruments. This can hardly be interpreted to mean that Beethoven was particularly fond of the trumpet, for it was a known custom of his to score as much as possible for all players in the orchestra and to pass around the solo parts in order to keep them all interested.
In general he followed the custom of Mozart and Haydn in handling the trumpets, writing for them parts which were an octave, a sixth or sometimes a third above the horns, all to the accompaniment of the pounding of the tympani.
Although it probably was just as well that the trend was away from the high clarion writing of Bach and Handel, the composers who followed failed to invent any writing for the trumpet which was as interesting. Bach and Handel and their predecessors made the trumpet one of the most interesting instruments in the orchestra.
They no doubt went to extreme lengths and exhausted the possibilities along this line, but they have to be given credit for resourcefulness and inventiveness. When composers after Bach and Handel abandoned this style of writing, they failed to bring forth anything to take its place.
They used the trumpets much as bugles are used today in drum corps. The trumpet parts were thin chords whose poverty of design was covered up in the noise of the tympani. They apparently did not think well of the long trumpets on which it was possible to play chromatically in the upper registers.
This kind of playing was a man killer for the trumpeters, but it did have possibilities which some feel were not fully exploited. These old masters also knew about adding crooks to the simple trumpet, in order to obtain, by jumping from one trumpet to the other, something approximating chromatic playing. Wagner's success with this type of instrument shows well enough that Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven overlooked possibilities in the trumpet of their time.
Instead of taking advantage of the long trumpet with its diatonic and chromatic upper registers, and instead of using the trumpet with crooks as did Wagner, they contented themselves with writing thin tonic and dominant chords for these instruments.
Possibly it is expecting too much, even from such geniuses as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to look for trumpet writing beyond the thin chords based on the tonic and dominant. After all, although Wagner did great things on the simple trumpet without valves, he had set before him the example of piston-trumpet performance.
He chose the simple trumpet because he preferred the tone to that of the valve trumpet, but the example of the valve trumpet must have suggested the superior trumpet writing for the simple trumpet. To appreciate what Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were up against, we need only examine what sort of music is written for the regular military bugle today.
Bugle calls are limited to five or six notes. Other notes are possible, but these five or six are the best in quality and the easiest to blow.
The obstacles in making music with these notes are obvious. They have wide gaps between them, and their range limits the music to a monotonous span. In the upper part of the scale the notes are closer together and have greater musical possibilities, but these notes are hard to play and can be blown only by a few powerful individuals.
Even with the accurately built instruments today, many players cannot hit the ninth and tenth partials; on the crude bugles two hundred years or more ago it is doubtful if many players could go beyond the sixth. It is little wonder that early composers did not think seriously about the musical possibilities of such instruments.
Jazz is considered an art form particular to America and specifically, New Orleans. But why?
All styles of traditional jazz (swing, Kansas City, dixieland, Chicago, west coast) are unique for any number of reasons, but New Orleans is often thought of as first and foremost in the genre. This is mostly because New Orleans is where it all started. While most Americans were dancing to military marches in the late 1800s, New Orleans was moving more to the sounds of voodoo rhythms and drums. Of course, you don't have to travel far to also feel the strong influence of Delta Blues that combine those famous drumbeats into the style now known as "rhythm and blues" - but that's getting ahead of the story! Rhythm and delta blues, together with the sounds of gospel hymns from early 20th century churches, put together by the local musicians of New Orleans created the style that first came to be known as "jazz."
Although Buddy Bolden is considered one of the first jazz men, he was surpassed by people such as Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. It's not a far leap from the days of those stars to the current flag waivers such as Ellis Marsallis, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. When Papa Jack Lanine's band circa 1885 played, it was noted that he did so in a "ragged time". It's been said that the musicians played in various tempos and that made it "swing". Perhaps so, but Papa Jack was also a consummate clarinetist, teacher and mentor to many of the early jazz musicians.
Improvisation is another key factor in defining the genre that's really known as New Orleans jazz. In classical music, most musicians attempt to play the same songs without varying from one note to the next each time they play a piece. But in jazz, the idea is to use the melody line as a guide and then to play extemporaneous passages based on melody and chord structure.
New Orleans jazz can also be called "hot jazz" or "early jazz", which led to the Lindy Hop dance in Harlem not so many years later. But the real reason New Orleans took off as the birthplace of jazz is because the unique cultural environment of New Orleans in the late 19th and 20th centuries (home to both Spanish and French colonial roots, together with recently freed African slaves) couldn't be found anywhere else. It's still true today - there's no place like New Orleans.
By 1917, the early pioneers of jazz were taking their music on the road. Jazz spread like wildfire from Chicago to New York, all the way from Kansas City to the West Coast. Many musicians continued to evolve the form and left their mark on the evolving style (and still continues today!). New Orleans jazz is alive and well in the city of New Orleans and across the world.
Furthermore, many of the great musicians stayed at home in the 1920s which lead to such great bands as Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchstra, A.J. Piron's New Orleans Orchestra, The Sam Morgan Jazz band and many others. None of these musicians became famous in the manner of Louis Armstrong or Jelly Roll Morton, but the truth is the musical scene in New Orleans remains fertile ground for creative musicians united by a common love of that syncopated swing sound known as New Orleans Jazz.