Inventor of the Saxophone - Adolphe Sax

The Inventor of the Saxophone

The story of the saxophone starts out in the town of Dinant, Belgium, where Adolphe Sax was born.

Sax, was the son of a musical instrument designer, specializing on the horn. At an early age, Adolphe was intrigued by his father’s craft and at the age of fifteen, he already had several flutes and clarinets redesigned. Later on, the Adolphe relocated to Brussels, where he studied at the Royal School of Singing, a prestigious establishment at that time.

While at the Royal School of Singing, Sax started work on the instrument that will bring him world-wide recognition: the saxophone. He patented the instrument in 1838, however it did not achieved mass production yet. The year 1841 saw Sax move to Paris where his family of instruments started catching roots. Although it was first designed for use in military bands and large orchestras, the saxophone soon became a popular choice amongst French composers and players. Adolphe was recognized as the inventor of the saxophone, although there were several companies and individuals that tried to copy the instrument’s design and promote it as their own innovation.

Inventor of the Saxophone, Adolphe Sax

Even though the saxophone was his most important invention, Adolphe Sax designed several other excellent instruments, that did not quite catch on to the public as well as the saxophone did. These include the saxhorns and saxtromba, 2 instruments that had a short burst of success at the time they were invented, but the enthusiasm surrounding them died down in the following years.

If you ever set foot in Dinant, Adolphe’s birthplace, you will have the surprise of meeting the saxophone's inventor face to face. He won’t be very talkative though, but his life-size statue portraying him as sitting on a bench, playing a saxophone, will give you a good impression of what he looked like. The real Adolphe Sax died in 1894, after long years of litigations with rival instrument-makers that stole his patterns, finally driving him bankrupt. Adolphe Sax is buried in Le Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris, next to other famous names such as Edgar Degas, Michel Berger, Louis Jouvet or Emile Zola.

Further reading: Saxophone History and The Inventor of the Saxophone

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