Why is the saxophone made of brass?

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

The saxophone is a woodwind instrument however, it is made of brass - so why is this?

Let's start with a little history. The saxophone was invented by a man named Adolphe Sax (which is where the name saxophone came from) and dreamed about creating an instrument that would combine the best qualities of both brass and woodwind instruments!

The saxophone is the newest instrument, having only been patented, in Paris, in 1846. This is also why there aren't many older compositions for the saxophone and why, traditionally, the saxophone does not have a place in the orchestra - it didn't exist!

There are three qualities that determine whether an instrument belongs to the woodwind family. Either the instrument is, or was, originally made of wood, it has a reed (and sometimes both) and the instrument does not have valves. Therefore, it is the reed and lack of valves that makes the saxophone a woodwind instrument despite being made of brass. A brass mouthpiece in comparison is often made of metal is always bell-shaped. And brass instruments use valves rather than keys to change the pitch of the instrument (change the note) whilst woodwind instruments use keys.

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