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A Brief History of the Saxophone & Clarinet

A Brief History of the Saxophone

The saxophone was developed in the early 1840's by Adolph Sax, a Belgian who already had established a high reputation as an innovative instrument maker.

But the saxophone, patented in 1846 was to prove to be his greatest triumph. Although it took time and considerable effort in the face of jealous and unscrupulous competitors for it to become generally accepted, the instrument was eventually adopted by the military to provide a more powerful alternative to the conventional woodwind instruments that were in use by the military bands at that time.

Its popularity quickly spread and it was soon being used in many countries, none more so than the United States, where due to the great profusion of military activity resulting from the Civil War, many instruments were being produced and imported.

This eventually led to a surplus, which was readily taken up by the general public and probably explains the reason for the instruments' phenomenal growth in popularity. With the birth of jazz just around the corner, the destiny and the place in history of the saxophone was finally secured.

A Brief History of the Clarinet

The clarinet evolved originally from a single reed instrument known as the chalumeau. The chalumeau was in use in the 17th century although it was somewhat limited in its range of one and a half octaves.

Throughout the 17th century, improvements were added, particularly by Johann Denner, who is attributed with the innovation of the thumb operated speaker key. This provided a considerable increase in range.

By 1800 the clarinet was well established and became popular with many of the great composers of the day.

Refinements were continually being made, with extra keys being added and tone holes modified until the mid 1800's when the Boehm system was adapted for the clarinet.

This is the system almost exclusively in use today.

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