Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Saxophone

Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About the SaxophoneThis is a guest post by Mark Catoe of

1. Politics kept the saxophone out of the orchestra.

When Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone, his shop made all the parts for all his instruments (including woodwinds and brass). The other instrument makers in town really didn’t like this, because they had been assembling interchangeable parts in their shops and and stamping their name on the horn. Such an animosity developed between Adolphe Sax and the other instrument makers that the other instrument makers used all their influence to keep Adolphe’s instruments (including the saxophone) from being welcomed into the orchestra.

2. There used to be two octave keys on the saxophone.

All saxophones have two octave key vents (one on the neck and the other near the high E opening). Modern saxophones operate both vents with one key, but when it wasn’t until around 1890 that the change was made. Click here to see a photo.

3. The saxophone originally only went down to low B.

The world had to wait until after 1866 for the low B-flat.

4. Thomas Edison used to audition saxophone players for his recording label.

Edison must have been a hands-on kind of guy. Apparently he insisted on personally auditioning candidates for his recording label, Diamond Disks. Even saxophonists like the virtuoso Rudy Wiedoeft were subject to Edison’s approval process.

5. Zoot, the muppet saxophone player for the The Muppet Show, was named after Zoot Sims, but was modeled after Gato Barbieri.

Two diverse saxophonists, for sure. But if you are creating a muppet, you’re only limited by your imagination! There seems to be some mystery as to how Zoot could make his sax sound like a tenor or a bari.


Photo by evoo73