The saxophone is a family of wind instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in 1840. It was designed to fit into the middle ground between the woodwind and brass sections of the orchestra. It has a metal body like a brass instrument but unlike a brass instrument the saxophone uses a reed, similar to the reed in a clarinet, to produce its sound, and so is considered a woodwind instrument and not a brass instrument.
The saxophone comes in eight sizes – four in E flat, and four in B flat – which range from the sopranino to the subcontrabass saxophone, the most popular being the alto and tenor saxophone. The tone of the saxophone is rich and highly flexible, and blends well with both woodwind and brass instruments. It is capable of soft and lyrical playing as well as quick flourishes and intense stridency.
The saxophone is standard in jazz big bands – a section of saxophones playing a similar role to the string section in a symphonic orchestra. The saxophone is often considered primarily a jazz instrument but it has also been used successfully in symphonic music. Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Bizet, Massenet, Saint-Saëns, and others have written for the saxophone, and Debussy, Ibert, Milhaud, and Villa- Lobos (among other) have composed concerto-like works for the saxophone. Well known saxophone players include John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Jimmy Dorsey.