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Saxophone Glossary (inc accessories & playing)

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Saxophones | Mouthpieces | Reeds | Ligatures

(also see the miscellaneous music/playing glossary)



How the keys feel to the player. This could include the height of the keys, smoothness of the movement, the amount of springiness etc. Not quite the same as ergonomics which often refers to the inherent position and angle of the keywork as part of a saxophone design.

Adderley trill​

Saxophone effect using tremolo using high C#, D D# - E. Used mainly in R&B and jazz. How to play the Adderley trill.

Articulated G#​

Mechanism that allows lower keys to be operated while still holding the G# key (see tabbed G#)

Alternative fingerings​

See false fingerings.


The technique of playing high notes not using the instrument's standard keys in the higher range. This enables the player to play notes above high E/F. High E and F often have standard and altissimo fingerings (on modern horns).

Aux F (Front F)​

A key which allows an alternative fingering for top F. This makes it easier some passages, e.g. going from top C to top F and back.


The flared bell shaped part of a saxophone.


The main (straight but conical) part of the saxophone where most of the keys are.


The U-shaped part at the bottom of the instrument that connects the body to the bell. A likely place to get dings.

Chu Berry (saxophone)​

Nickname for the Conn New Wonder II. The tenor player Chu Berry actually played a later (Transitional) model.

Crook (aka neck)​

The curved part with cork on the end which the mouthpiece fits onto. The other end of the neck fits into the body via a tenon. Often not removable on sopranos or other straight saxophones.


A dent in the saxophone.


Design of the keywork in relation to how it feels to the player and how easy it is to reach and move with your fingers.


What you do with your mouth, lips, teeth and facial muscles to play the saxophone. Often mis-spelt as Embrasure which is kind of large recessed window reveal you see on castles.

False fingerings​

An alternative fingering for a note that sounds different either tonally or with a slight pitch variation. Alternating the two can be used for an effect.


A fluttering effect creating by your tongue as if rolling the syllable "r" - "rrrrr". How to fluttertongue.

Front F​

See Aux F key.


Singing or humming while playing a note to create a growling sound due to the disturbance of the sound wave causing distortion. How to growl on the saxophone.

Key cups​

The circular parts that hold the pads.

Key Touches​

Where your fingers go on the keys. This refers to the shape metal on the ends of levers rather than the pearls on the actual key cups. On older instruments these were often spatial shaped but now are often more streamlined, for better ergonomics. Although there are some levers with pearls.


This means there is not an airtight seal between the pad and tone hole. It can cause increased difficulty in getting notes to sound easily and possibly squeaks.


A small electric bulb which can be used to detect leaks. Works well in a darkened room but may not detect all leaks, e.g. a leak at the tenon.

Naked Lady​

Nickname for the Conn M series saxophones introduced in 1935 (named due to the engraving of a naked lady on the bell).

Neck (aka crook)​

The curved part which the mouthpiece fits onto. Fits into the body via a tenon and receiver. Often not removable on sopranos or other straight saxophones.

Octave pips​

The (usually two) holes on the neck and high up on the body which are used for venting. This helps the player to player an octave higher In then upper register) as it tends to cause the first overtone to play.


No idea how to succinctly define these.....More on overtones.


The (usually) leather covered felt pads which fit into the key cups and close down over the tone holes to create a (hopefully) airtight seal.


Long fluffy thing that fits down the saxophone to clean/dry the pads

Palm keys​

The set of top keys operated by then palm of the left hand.

Palm key risers​

Material (rubber, cork etc) added to build up the palm keys by some players who find it easier to play that way.

Pants guard​

shape plate covering the key mechanism between body and bell. This is to protect ones apparel (e.g. pants, trousers, skirt, kilt etc.) from being snagged or worn. See trouser guard


Discs made of mother of pearl, abalone or plastic fitted to key cups or levers for the fingers to touch.

Pinky table (aka cluster)​

The set of keys operated by the left hand pinky finger = G# | C# | B | B♭. Right hand pinky table = C | E♭.


This refers to what happens if a neck has gradually (or suddenly) taken on more of a bend due to being pulled on. Theoretically even if only mild it could have an effect on the sound or intonation of the instrument.

Purple Logo​

Refers to a Yamaha 61 or very early 62 or 32 model saxophone. These had the Yamaha logo stencilled on the bell in a purpl(ish) colour. Believed by some aficionados to have magical properties. Later models had a stamped logo on the bell.

Ralacquer (relac)​

Verb: to remove and replace the saxophone's lacquer. Noun: a saxophone that has been relacquered. Collectors consider these to be inferior to original finish.


The range of notes defined by their pitch based on the overtones. The lower register refers to the fundamental, upper register refers to the first overtone an octave higher.


The keys on the right hand side (from the player's perspective). Top E , side C and side B♭

Slap tongue/Smack tongue​

An explosive and percussive articulation created by covering the reed with your tongue and suddenly releasing it. It can be used either with a pitched note or to sound a more or less unpatched percussive slap sound. How to slaptongue.


Extremely pointy things that stab you viciously when you attempt to dismantle your saxophone. The longer ago you had a tetanus jab the more likely a spring will get you.


A sound you get when there is something wrong, e.g. a leak, or a problem with reed or mouthpiece. Uncontrolled altissimo.


A set of connected keys. There is a left-hand stack (G | A | B | and a right-hand stack D | E | F


A tone characterised by a predominance of lower overtones to create a soft warm sound. Often associated with ballad playing.

Tabbed G#​

Mechanism that allows the C# pinky key to operate both G# and C#.

Tenon and tenon receiver​

The tenon is cylindrical part at the end of the the neck which fits into the body via the tenon receiver. Which receives the tenon and holds it in place with a screw.

Texas Wobble​

An effect that causes a wide shake on B♭. Especially the great Texas tenor players such as Illinois Jacket and Arnott Cobb. See the Texas Wobble

Tone holes​

The holes in the saxophone which are opened and closed by the pads to change the pitch.

Transitional (aka "Tranny")​

Nickname for the later Conn New Wonder II models 1931 - 35 that started to be produced with some of features of the subsequent xM series model. (see Naked Lady)

Trouser guard​

shape plate covering the key mechanism between body and bell. This is to protect ones apparel from being snagged or worn. See pants guard


This means the octave pip and octave key mechanism are underneath the neck as opposed to being more conventionally on top.
View attachment 25056

Saxophones | Mouthpieces | Reeds | Ligatures



The part between the tip and the chamber. This is sometimes built up to provide a brighter sound


The part of the mouthpiece that the upper teeth or lip touch.


The inside of the back of the mouthpiece (shank) that fits over the neck cork.

Break point​

The point where the reed separates from the mouthpiece rails. This may not be exactly where the facing curve starts as reeds generally bend a bit.


The main "hollow" part of the mouthpiece between the baffle and the throat/bore.

Facing curve (aka lay)​

The curve of the rails. This curve away from the table allows the reed to vibrate.


Device which holds the reed onto the mouthpiece.


The tubular part of the mouthpiece which fits onto the saxophone neck.

Side walls​

The walls of the front part of the mouthpiece, between the baffle and side rails.


The flat part which the reeds sits on.


Between the chamber and the bore. It may or may not be narrower or wider.


The pointy end.

Tip opening​

Distance between the tip of the reed and tip of the mouthpiece. (Assuming as flat reed)


The open part of the mouthpiece between the two side rails and between the tip and table.

Mouthpiece images:​



Cross section:




A thin piece of material made from either cane (which is grass not wood) or plastic. This is held against the mouthpiece table by a ligature and tends to squeak when blown. But our life's work is to convert the squeak into music.


The curve of the top of the reed


Thicker middle section of the cut part


back of the reed


The bark has been filed where the vamp starts


The sides of the vamp


The outer edge of the vamp


The underside of the reed which fits against the mouthpiece table.


The bark is not filed where the vamp starts


The vibrating part of the reed where the bark is exposed.



The thing that tightens or clamps. Unless it's a cable tie, shoelace or other kind of screw less ligature.

Other bits​

Everything else

Saxophones | Mouthpieces | Reeds | Ligatures

NB: work in progress
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