Bringing Songs You Love to Life on the Saxophone

Bringing Songs You Love to Life on the Saxophone
Photo by Jens Thekkeveettil

While every instrument brings its own unique sound to the table, the saxophone is a very special horn. Its timbre is often likened to that of a human voice. The instrument is often featured as a solo part in various genres of music, especially jazz, rock, soul, and pop music. The saxophone is also a common part of marching and concert bands. The sax is also a very recognizable instrument, usually made of brass with a golden color. Many of your favorite songs feature the sax. Why wouldn’t you want to get more acquainted with this horn with a library of saxophone sheet music?

Understanding the Saxophone Sound

Although most saxophones are made of brass, they are not part of the brass section, which includes trumpets, trombones, and tubas. Rather, saxophones are woodwinds. To produce sound, a saxophonist blows through a single reed attached to the mouthpiece, similar to clarinets. While clarinets have a cylindrical bore responsible for their sound, saxophones have a conical bore, which increases in diameter over the length of the horn.

The pitch in a saxophone is controlled by the length of the air flowing through the instrument. A series of keys open and close various holes along the horn when pressed. This changes the length of the air in the horn resulting in differing notes or pitches. The tone of a saxophone can be soft, mellow, breathy, bright, and even growly. In certain styles of music, the sax often mimics many of the qualities associated with the human voice.

Exploring the Sax Family

As with other woodwinds, there are various types of saxophones, the most common of which are transposing instruments:

  • Alto Sax: This is the most commonly played saxophone. It is recognized by its straight neck, curved body, and flared bell. This horn is pitched in E-flat, which means alto sax notes sound a major sixth lower than written. In other words, a written C in alto sax sheet music sounds like the E-flat below it.
  • Tenor Sax: Larger than the alto, the tenor has a lower pitch. It has a curved neck, curved body, and flared bell. Tenor saxes are pitched in B-flat. A written C in tenor sax sheet music sounds like the B-flat an octave below.
  • Soprano Sax: Pitched higher than the alto and tenor, most soprano saxes are straight like a clarinet or oboe. This instrument is a B-flat instrument. A C on soprano sax is equivalent to a B-flat in piano or guitar music.
  • Baritone Sax: Pitched in E-flat, the baritone is the largest of the most common saxophones. It is usually found in jazz and concert bands. You can sometimes hear the baritone sax in soul and rock music. Notes on the baritone sax sound a major sixth and an octave below what is written.

Musicnotes is your go-to for saxophone sheet music versions of your favorite songs. Whether you’re a beginning player or more advanced, look for songs scored for E-flat instruments (alto or baritone) or B-flat instruments (soprano or tenor). Take your love of music to a deeper level by playing your favorite songs on the saxophone.


Xsnoize Author
Mark Millar is the founder of XS Noize and looks after the daily running of the website as well as hosting interviews for the weekly XS Noize Podcast.Mark's favourite album is Achtung Baby by U2.

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