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How Does a Saxophone Produce Sound?

A close-up of a man playing the saxophone on a stage.

The saxophone is one of the jazziest of the reed-family instruments. It creates its sound through the use of a single reed and a vibrating column of air. The different pitches and notes are made through the opening and closing of the aperatures up and down the pipe.

Vibrating the Reed

The reed typically is made of cane, although it may be made of synthetic material. It is rectangular and curved at the top with different thicknesses for different types of play. The person playing the saxophone blows air across the single reed, which vibrates to create the sound and control the airflow.

Changing the Pitch

There are two things that control the pitch of a saxophone. When more air is blown in, the reed vibrates more slowly and lowers the pitch. When less air is blown through, the reed vibrates more quickly and raises the pitch. Pressing the keys and covering the holes on the body of the saxophone also changes the pitch. The more holes that are closed, the lower the pitch. The fewer holes that are closed, the higher the pitch. This happens because the vibrating air in the saxophone creates sound that comes out of the bell or any open holes. The more holes that are covered, the longer the pipe is.

About the Author

As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.