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What Are the Different Saxophone Parts?

By A.M. Boyle
Updated May 23, 2024
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Saxophones are complex instruments having many different parts. Generally, the saxophone has four main sections: the neck, the body, the bow, and the bell. Each section is comprised of more intricate saxophone parts. The mouthpiece, neck cork, octave vent, and tenon are all located on the neck. Other saxophone parts, such as the keys, rods, and tone holes are located on the body.

A saxophone’s neck is curved like a gooseneck. The mouthpiece is attached at the top of the neck and is the part a person blows into. It consists of a reed, held on by a band called a ligature. The neck cork attaches the mouthpiece to the neck.

The octave vent is generally located along the neck. It consists of a single key and hole, and when compressed, it changes the octave of the saxophone. One of the most overlooked saxophone parts located on the neck is the tenon. Basically, the tenon is a band that attaches the neck to the body of the saxophone. If not adjusted properly, it can affect the performance of the instrument.

Below the neck, along the body of the instrument, a person will find an intricate series of saxophone parts called keys. The keys are spring-operated mechanisms that cover and uncover the tone holes to produce the desired notes. When a player compresses a key, it operates a rod. The rod is attached to the part of the key that covers and uncovers the tone holes. There are two main groups of keys on the body, one for the right hand and one for the left.

Most saxophones have a U-shaped base at the bottom of the body, called the bow. Many consider the bow as one of the primary saxophone parts that give the instrument its distinctive sound and appearance. Some saxophones, particularly the sopranino and soprano saxophones, might not have a bow and are straight, like a clarinet. There are two sets of keys grouped together by the bow, called the spatula keys. Down along the bow, a person might also find various protective key guards.

Capping off the bow is the bell. The bell is the flared-out part of the saxophone. Saxophones come in various sizes, so the exact size and shape of the bell varies. Two large, round keys, called bell keys, are located along the sides of the bell.

There are other less-obvious saxophone parts that nonetheless have important roles. Most saxophones have a thumb rest located toward the base of the body, before the bow. The thumb rest is a hook-shaped metal or plastic piece where a player places his or her right thumb to help support the instrument. A few inches above the thumb rest, many saxophones have a small, metal loop. This loop is used to attach a neck strap for more comfortable playing.

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