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The History of the Saxophone

The term saxophone actually refers to a family of instruments, not just a single one. Today, there are baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones. The designer of the saxophone was Adolphe Sax, who initially applied for 14 instrument patents in 1846 in France. While his initial designs were crafted from wood, he quickly switched to brass. French army bands adopted the saxophone, but it wasn’t until 1888 that the unique family of instruments came to America. Charles Gerrard of Indiana began making brass saxophones for military bands in the late 1800s and by the early 1900s, they had become a staple of American vaudeville as a comedy instrument. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the saxophone became known as a serious instrument. Sidney Bechet, a jazz musician from New Orleans, was such a virtuoso with the soprano sax that it changed the instrument’s whole reputation, and the saxophone became a staple in jazz music from then on.

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