Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax was born November 6, 1814 in Belgium.
His father was an instrument designer that made several changes to the horn.
Adolphe began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of 15.
He subsequently studied flute and clarinet at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
After school, Adolphe began to experiment with instruments, making an improvement of the bass clarinet design which he patented at the age of 24.
Then in 1841, Adolphe relocated to Paris and began working on a new set of instruments.
These were valved bugles, and although he had not invented the instrument itself, his adaptations were so successful that he exhibited them as saxhorns in 1844.
His saxhorns laid the groundwork for the creation of the flugelhorn.
Adolphe also developed the saxotromba family of instruments in 1845, which were valved brass instruments with a narrower bore than his saxhorns, though he gave up them rather quickly.
Soon, his saxhorn instruments were spreading rapidly around the world. His saxhorn valves were accepted as state of the art and are still largely unchanged today.
These advances made by Adolphe were soon followed by the British brass band movement, which exclusively adopted his saxhorn.
During this period, Aldolphe unsuccessfully designed what he called a clarinette-bourbon, a sort of contrabass clarinet.
Soon, Adolphe developed the instrument for which he would become best known for, the saxophone.
He had developed the instrument for use in both orchestras and concert bands. By 1846, he had designed, on paper, a full range of saxophones (from sopranino to subcontrabass).
Then on June 24, 1846, Adolphe Sax patented his saxophone in two groups of seven instruments each.
Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition.
Even though Composer Hector Berlioz wrote approvingly of the new insturment, the saxophone did not become a standard orchestral instrument right away.
The success of his saxophone did however increase Adolphe’s reputation, and secured him a job teaching at the paris Conservatoire in 1857.
Adolphe continued to make instruments, as well as presiding over a new saxophone class at the Conservatoire.
However, rival instrument manufacturers attacked Adolphe Sax and the legitimacy of his patents.
He endured a long campaign of litigation, driving him into bankruptcy twice, once in 1856, and again in 1873.
Adolphe Sax died February 4, 1894 in Paris and was interred in section 5 (Avenue de Montebello) at the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.
While proving very popular in military band music, today the saxophone is most commonly associated with jazz and classical music.
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