Clarinet For Dummies
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The saxophone is a woodwind, not a brass, instrument. This fact can be hard to believe, because the saxophone is, after all, made mostly of brass. The saxophone is considered a woodwind instrument because the part that creates the actual sound, called the reed, is made out of wood, or more specifically, cane (similar to bamboo).

This section familiarizes you with the important components of the saxophone, by describing how they fit together and how the whole system works.

The saxophone is made up of the following parts:

  • Reed: The sound generator, which has the same function as human vocal chords. It’s fixed onto the mouthpiece by a ligature.

  • Mouthpiece: When you blow into the mouthpiece, the reed vibrates. Without the aid of the other parts of the saxophone, it produces a high, shrill sound.

  • Neck: The mouthpiece is attached to the neck, which is the joint between the mouthpiece and the body. The sound generated by the vibrating reed enters the body through the neck. If you compare the saxophone’s neck with your own, and with your voice, the saxophone’s neck works the same way.

  • Body: This is the most important resonance chamber of the saxophone. The sound vibrates within the body and is amplified. By holding down the keys, which are located on the body, you change the length of the air column to create a different pitch or note. The longer the air column, the lower the corresponding note; the shorter the column, the higher the note.

  • Neck strap: More of an accessory, this is a strap that is looped through an eyelet on the back side of the horn and worn around the player’s neck. The neck strap lets the player carry the saxophone and supports the instrument so the fingers can move freely over the keys.

  • Thumb hook: The right thumb sits in the thumb hook, which is a hooked-shaped piece of metal or plastic, to balance the saxophone’s weight.

  • Thumb rest: The left thumb sits on the thumb rest (located below the octave key) to balance the saxophone.

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