Saxophone Parts (Diagram below)
The following article discusses the various parts of a saxophone. Before buying a saxophone or learning to play it, it’s important to learn all you can so that you know exactly what you’re getting into. Learn about the complex instrument called the saxophone – a woodwind instrument which is made not out of wood, but of brass.
Learning to play the saxophone? Purchasing one for the first time? If so, you need to know its parts and their functions. From a buyer’s standpoint, familiarity with the instrument’s design and the materials used to make it will help you make a better choice. In this article we shall take a look at the various saxophone parts. We shall examine the neck, octave vent and key, mouthpiece, body (tube, bow, and bell), thumb rest, keys (spatula keys and side keys), rods and pads.
The saxophone neck is also called the gooseneck. It is a metal tube attached to the saxophone’s body. It fits between the body of the horn and the mouthpiece. Saxophone necks can be removed, except for a soprano saxophone. The saxophone neck is one of the most undervalued parts of the saxophone. Changing it can make a vast difference on tone color, intonation, response, projection, and so on. Today, a vigorous market exists in after market necks. They are available in a variety of different metals, platings and finishes, each offering their own distinct characteristics.
On the neck is a single key and hole called the octave vent. Next to the octave vent is a flat metal key called the octave key which operates the octave mechanism on the neck.
Another saxophone part is the mouthpiece. This is where the saxophone player places his lips and blows air into the saxophone. The mouthpiece is found on the neck of the saxophone. To slide it in, a cork is needed. Only two woodwind families use a mouthpiece. They are the clarinet family and the woodwind family. Due to the fact that the mouthpiece is the direct link between a player and the instrument, it is of considerable importance. A good saxophone mouthpiece can make the difference between a rewarding playing experience and one of utter frustration. Choosing a mouthpiece should be based on your personal experience. There is no perfect choice that will be true for all sax players. The best mouthpiece for you should allow you to achieve the best possible sound with the least amount of effort.
Along with the neck, the body is one of the major parts. It consists of a conically shaped brass tube with plates called “ribs” attached to the body, which support rods, keys and key cups that hold leather pads to cover the holes on the body. The tube is the straight part of the body. The bow is the u-shaped bottom of the sax. And the bell is the flared part. There are keys on the bell called bell keys. The body of the saxophone is generally finished with some protective coating such as a high-gloss brass lacquer or clear-coat lacquer. Very old saxophones were plated in silver, gold or nickel to protect the brass, and you still find some new ones like this today. New finishes include colorful lacquer finishes, black nickel finishes, and auto-body paint styled finishes. The finish is mainly for appearance but some argue that it affects the sound as well.
Then there’s the thumb rest which is a hook-shaped piece of plastic or metal where you place your right thumb to support the weight of the horn. The thumb rest is located on the main body of the instrument towards the bottom, before the bow.
Next, in our discussion of the saxophone parts, we take a look at the keys. The keys are either made of brass or nickel and often some or all of the keys are covered with mother-of-pearls. Keys on the middle and lower part of the bow are called spatula keys, while those on the bottom right side are known as side keys. A saxophone consists of closed standing and open standing keys. Closed standing keys are held closed by a spring when the horn is not being played. When the key is pressed, the hole it covers opens. Open standing keys are held open by a spring and close when the key is pressed.
A saxophone rod is one of the most important saxophone parts in terms of its performance. Rods support and facilitate all of the movement associated with playing the saxophone. If they are to stand up to extended and rigorous playing, they must be strong. It is important to keep them well maintained. When buying a new horn, this is one part you should pay careful attention to. Weak rods are a sign of an inferior instrument.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the pads of a saxophone. This is a key element in any saxophone. Pads cover the holes on the saxophone so the instrument can produce different sounds. Problems arise when the pads do not completely cover the holes. This can lead to a lot of frustration because such a saxophone will not play properly. When shopping for a saxophone, especially a used one, one must pay close attention to the pads. Pads must also be soft to touch. Saxophone pads also have metal or brass discs called resonators to help in sound projection and to increase overall volume.
Saxophones come in many different shapes and sizes. Many have been created throughout history but the five which remain in use today from the largest instrument with the lowest sound to the smallest instrument with the highest sound, are bass, baritone, tenor, alto and soprano saxophone. Be sure to check out the various sections on this site for information on each kind of saxophone, or the particular one you’re interested in.