The saxophone belonging to the woodwind family is a conical instrument made of brass and played with a reed mouthpiece, like the clarinet. It was patented as 14 instruments divided into two groups.
Saxophones vary in size from fifteen centimeters to two meters. Commonly available saxophones include the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone, the most popular being the alto saxophone.
The alto saxophone is medium sized, ideally suited for a beginner. It is curved with a smaller mouthpiece that does not allow much personalization of sound. The alto saxophone is the most popular among classical composers and performers. It sometimes comes in a straight model with a slightly tipped bell. The alto is in the key of E flat. True tone alto is also available.
Soprano saxophones come in straight or curved models. They are rather difficult to learn and therefore not advisable for beginners. Most of the new sopranos are straight or with a slight curve in the neck, bell or both. Curved sopranos were in vogue during the thirties. E-flat and B-flat soprano saxophones are available.
The tenor saxophone is larger than the alto saxophone, with a small bend in the neck. The mouthpiece, the rods and tone holes are larger. This saxophone is commonly used in jazz music. The tenor is in the key of B flat. It has some excellent applications in classical music. However, the shape and length of the neck may cause neck damage.
The baritone is the largest of saxophones. It is available with or without an extension attached to the end of the horn. If it has an extension, it is called a low A baritone. The baritone has severe intonation problems, especially in the highest and lowest registers. The latest model baritones have an extra key that allows the player to play a low A.
Other rare types of saxophones include the C Melody, F Mezzo soprano, C soprano, Bass, Conn-O-Sax and F baritone. B-flat tenor, E-flat baritone, B-flat bass and contrabass are also available.