Purpose of this page: To present information about the alto saxophone in Question and Answer format. The only rule: each question has to be completely un-related to the question immediately before it.
Please feel free to use the information on this page to make flashcards. If you decide to make flashcards, I strongly recommend the free and open-source flashcard program Anki.
Q1. What is the approximate weight of an alto saxophone fully assembled, including the mouthpiece?
A1. About 6 pounds, + or - 1 pound.
Methodology: (1.) I weighed myself on a typical scale two times: first holding the saxophone, and then without the saxophone. Result: about 5 pounds. (2.) I weighed my saxophone on a postal scale. Result: about 6 pounds 5 ounces. Notes: my alto saxophone has 2 heavy mass screws installed on the neck and a resonance mass attached to its bell brace, so my numbers are probably a little bit high. By taking both numbers into account, I came up with an average weight of about 6 pounds +/- 1 pound.
Q2. What is the frequency in Hertz of the lowest note on the alto saxophone?
A2. On Saxtalk, I call the lowest note on the alto saxophone Bb-1. This note resonates at a frequency of 138.59 Hertz.
Q3. Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" is one of the most popular jazz songs for alto saxophone. What key is this song normally played in?
A3. Confirmation is normally played in the key of F major concert (D major on the alto saxophone).
- I verified that this is correct by listening to a Charlie Parker recording of "Confirmation", and checking the key on both the piano and my saxophone.
Q4. What is the actual playable range of an alto saxophone by an advanced saxophonist?
A4. Bb-1 (138.59 Hz) to G-4 (1854.66 Hz). This corresponds to almost 4 full octaves.
Q5. In what year was the patent for the alto saxophone issued?
A5. Adolphe Sax was issued the patent for the entire range of saxophones, including the alto saxophone, in Paris on Saturday, March 21, 1846.
Q6. How many tone holes does the alto saxophone have?
A6. The alto saxophone has 25 tone holes.
Q7. What was the first classical orchestral piece featuring the alto saxophone?
A7. The Duo Concertante for soprano and alto saxophone by Jean-Baptiste Singelée from 1858.
Q8. Which alto saxophone is in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.?
A8. A King Super 20 alto saxophone manufactured for alto saxophonist Charlie Parker by the King Musical Instrument Company in 1947.
Q9. When was alto saxophone virtuoso Earl Bostic's first recording date?
A9. Earl Bostic's first recording date was in 1939 with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra on a song called "Haven't Named It Yet".
Q10. What is the oldest known American-made alto saxophone?
A10. The oldest known American-made alto saxophone was manufactured by C.G. Conn Company of Elkhart, Indiana in 1892. It currently resides in the National Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.
Q11. What fingering system does the alto saxophone use?
A11. The alto saxophone uses a combination of the oboe's fingering system and the Boehm fingering system.
Q12. Approximately how many hours of practice does it take to master an alto saxophone?
A12. According to Malcolm Gladwell, the Author of "Outliers: The Story of Success", it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master any task.
Q13. Approximately how many notes can be played on alto saxophone?
A13. Using standard fingering techniques, either 32 notes (on an alto saxophone without a high F-sharp key) or 33 notes (on an alto saxophone with a high F-sharp key) can be played. Using advanced techniques, 46 notes can be played: Bb-1 to G-4.
Q14. Using advanced fingerings, in how many octaves can the note "B" be played on the alto saxophone? What are the respective pitch frequencies in Hertz?
A14. The note "B" can be played in 4 octaves on the alto saxophone:
- B-1 = 146.83 Hz
- B-2 = 293.66 Hz
- B-3 = 587.33 Hz
- B-4 = 1174.66 Hz
Q15. How much does an alto saxophone's neck weigh?
A15. 4 ounces/113.398 grams
Methodology: I weighed my saxophone's neck using a postal scale.
Q16. What is the diameter of an alto saxophone's bell (an alto saxophone with a standard bell; not a "big bell" like some of the Cannonball saxophones have)?
A16. 5 inches/12.7 centimeters.
Methodology: I measured my saxophone's bell diameter with a measuring tape.
Q17. What metal is an alto saxophone made of?
A17. An alto saxophone is made of brass, which is an allow of copper and zinc.
Q18. American band Earth, Wind & Fire released a hit song titled "September". When was September recorded? When was it released? What key is it in on the alto saxophone?
A18. Earth, Wind & Fire recorded September in September of 1978. The song was released on November 18, 1978. September is in the key of F#/Gb major on the alto saxophone (A major concert).
- I verified the song's key on my alto saxophone.
Q19. English singer-songwriter Dido released a hit song titled "Thank You". In what year was Thank You recorded? In what year was Thank You released? In what key is Thank You on the alto saxophone?
A19. Dido recorded Thank You in 1997. Thank You was released in October of 2000. The verses of Thank You are in the alto saxophone key of F minor (G#/Ab minor concert). The chorus of Thank You is in the alto saxophone key of G#/Ab major (B major concert).
- I verified the song's key on my alto saxophone.
Q20. Stevie Wonder released the hit song "My Cherie Amour". What year was it recorded and what year was it released? What key is it in on the alto saxophone?
A20. Stevie Wonder recorded My Cherie Amour in late 1967 and early 1968. The song was released on January 28, 1969. My Cherie Amour is in the alto saxophone key of Bb major (C#/Db major concert), and it has a late modulation a half-step up to B major on the alto saxophone (D major concert).
- A lot of the information on the Internet appears to be incorrect about My Cherie Amour's key. I tested thoroughly with my alto saxophone: I used Stevie Wonder's original recording of My Cherie Amour and a live version of him performing My Cherie Amour. Both versions were in the alto saxophone key of Bb major, with a half-step modulation up to B major late in the song.
- Original version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjufjv4rH0s
- Live version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQpnzG5Q_HE
Q21. Otto Link makes an metal alto saxophone mouthpiece named the OLM-402-7S. I purchased one, and it comes with a cheap black plastic cap. I immediately replaced the plastic metal cap with a genuine Otto Link metal cap purchased from the Detroit Saxophone Center. What is the weight of the OLM-402-7S including the metal cap? What is the weight of the OLM-402-7S without the metal cap?
A21. With the metal cap: 5 ounces/141.748 grams. Without the metal cap: 4.1 ounces/116.233 grams.
Source: I weighed the Otto Link mouthpiece with and without the metal cap using a postal scale.
Q22. On April 30, 2021, the Kirk Franklin Remix of the Jacksons' "Can You Feel It" was released. What alto saxophone key is the song in?
A22. "Can You Feel It" is in the alto saxophone key of D#/Eb major (F#/Gb major concert).
- The Jacksons - Can You Feel It (Kirk Franklin Remix - Official Audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5svy-6f4Vo
- I verified that the key is correct on my alto saxophone.
Q23. What would the total length of an alto saxophone be if you completely straightened it out (first without the neck and then including the neck)?
- From the corked end of the neck to the center of the neck's curvature: 6"/15.21 cm
- From the center of the neck's curvature to the flange that stops the neck's motion into the alto saxophone's body: 1.5"/3.81 cm
- From the top of the alto saxophone's body to an imaginary line perpendicular to the bottom of the saxophone bell's curvature: 22"/55.88 cm
- Distance across the bottom of the bell's curvature: 6"/15.24 cm
- Distance from the imaginary line perpendicular to the bottom of the bell's curvature to the highest point on the top of the bell: 12"/30.48 cm
- Alto saxophone's total length without the neck = 22" + 6" + 12" = 40"/101.6 cm
- Alto saxophone's total length including the neck = 6" + 1.5" + 22" + 6" +12" = 47.5"/120.65 cm
Methodology: I measured my own alto saxophone.