Adolphe Sax, born on November 6, 1814, was a Belgian musician and the inventor of the saxophone, along with the saxhorn, saxotromba, and saxtuba. He grew up loving music and instruments, as his parents, Charles-Joseph Sax and Marie-Joseph, were also instrument designers. Sax had his first big hit at 24 when he re-designed a bass clarinet and patented it. His invention of the saxhorn and saxophone brought him great recognition during the 1840s, and in 1867 he won the ‘1e Grand Prix de la Facture Instrumentale’ at the Paris Industrial Exposition. Let’s learn more about this legendary inventor in celebration of his birthday!
Adolphe Sax is the mastermind behind the saxophone. Born November 6, 1814, Sax had always been interested in music and instruments. His parents, Charles-Joseph Sax and Marie-Joseph were both instrument designers and contributed to history with several changes made to the French horn. Working alongside his parents, Sax began making instruments at a very young age and took flute and clarinet lessons. At the age of 15, he entered his two flutes and clarinet in a competition, and as a teenager, he attended the Royal Conservatory of Brussels around 1828.Following his graduation from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, young Sax ventured out on his own and relocated to Paris to further his career in instrument design. His first big project was improving the bass clarinet design, which he patented when he was 24 years old. He began working on a set of valved bugles instruments, which later formed his famous saxhorn. It received a great response from the public, leading its inventor to design seven different instrument sizes. In 1846, he invented the saxophone, which he intended to be used in orchestras and military bands.In 1849, Sax earned recognition for his instrument inventions and was awarded the Chevalier rank of the Legion of Honour. The saxophone inventor began teaching at the Paris Conservatory, a college of music and dance, in 1857. He continued designing instruments but faced several legal troubles regarding patents for over 20 years. This led to him becoming bankrupt three times, in 1852, 1873, and 1877. Alas, Sax did not see his instrument’s success decades later, as he took his last breath in 1894.
Sax begins studying flute and clarinet.
There, he keeps working on instrument design.
Sax intends for his new invention to be used by orchestras and military bands.
He gets a job at the Paris Conservatory, a college of music and dance.
Adolphe Sax FAQs
Did Adolphe Sax steal the saxophone?
Although competitors accused Sax of stealing their instrument design, he was cleared of the accusation after his competitors had minimal information on how the instrument worked.
Did Adolphe Sax have a wife?
He did not, but he did have a romantic partner, a Spanish woman named Louise-Adèle Maor.
Why are saxophones made of brass?
Brass is used for saxophones because it has good resistance to rust and is easily manageable.
5 Surprising Facts
Mr. Sax’s House
There’s a museum dedicated to Sax in Belgium, the inventor's birthplace.
He featured in a Google Doodle
In 2015, Google celebrated his birthday with one of its widely known doodles.
He had 10 siblings
Sax was the firstborn among his parents’ 11 children.
He survived cancer
He fully recovered from lip cancer, which he suffered from between 1853 and 1858.
An asteroid has his name
The 1936 asteroid (3534) Sax was named after him.
Why We Love Adolphe Sax
He invented one of the best jazz instruments
What’s a good jazz band without the saxophone? Today, the saxophone can be enjoyed in various musical styles such as classical, jazz, contemporary music, and sometimes even rock and roll.
He didn’t allow his circumstances to decide his fate
Sax had little to no money; however, this did not stop him from making his dream of inventing instruments come true. He worked passionately on his instrument designs and gained quick recognition for them. His talent was definitely passed down from his parents to him.
Apparently, he was a die-hard
Sax had many near-death experiences during his childhood, including falling from a three-story building and drinking acidic water, and still surviving. He even adopted the nickname “Little Sax, the ghost” from his neighbors.
Adolphe Sax’s birthday dates