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Arts Why The Saxophone Is Increasing In Popularity In The Klang Valley

Why The Saxophone Is Increasing In Popularity In The Klang Valley

Why The Saxophone Is Increasing In Popularity In The Klang Valley
By Samantha Lim
By Samantha Lim
September 01, 2020
Intimidating at first glance, the saxophone is an intuitive instrument that’s increasingly being taught at international schools in the Klang Valley, say Chung Ping Wei and Zoe Chan of The Saxophone Store in Chinatown
Zoe Chan (pictured) and Chung Ping Wei founded Kuala Lumpur's first and only specialist saxophone store
Zoe Chan (pictured) and Chung Ping Wei founded Kuala Lumpur's first and only specialist saxophone store

Tell us about the invention of the saxophone in a nutshell.

Chung Ping Wei: Invented in the 1840s, the saxophone is a very modern instrument compared to say, the flute or the clarinet. Its maker Adolphe Sax was Belgium but the saxophone was invented in Paris, and its history is intertwined with that of military bands.
 
Where are the majority of the world’s saxophones made?

Chung Ping Wei: Japan and Taiwan are now the biggest manufacturers of saxophones. It used to be France, but Europe could not cope with the production demands.
 
Who is considered the world’s most famous saxophonist?

Chung: Kenny G. Everyone knows him, as he was the first to play pop, blues and oldies that the public was more familiar with. Previous saxophonists mainly played jazz or classical music.

Who is a contemporary saxophonist we should know about?

Zoe Chan: Leo Pellegrino and the bandmembers of Too Many Zooz were busking in a New York City subway when they were discovered and endorsed. The fact that Pellegrino plays a baritone saxophone is also unusual, as smaller saxophones are more popular.

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How many types of saxophones are there?

Chung: The most common ones can be broken down into four: the soprano (which was popularised by Kenny G), the alto, the tenor, and the baritone.
 
What is the best age to start playing the saxophone?

Chung: Seven years and above, but there is no age limit for the saxophone.
 
When buying a saxophone, what accessories should one anticipate buying?

Chung: You will need a mouthpiece and a cane reed. The latter needs to be frequently changed. There are limitations to a reed—some 10 million vibrations will wear it down. A strap is optional—it’s more of a fashion statement.

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Zoe Chan, head of marketing and PR at The Saxophone Store, is adamant that the sax is easier to pick up than the piano
Zoe Chan, head of marketing and PR at The Saxophone Store, is adamant that the sax is easier to pick up than the piano

What makes the saxophone a special instrument?

Chung: The sax is a very cool instrument, both in appearance and popular culture. It’s got a wow factor and because it’s transportable, you can easily show it off.

Chan: You don’t need good musical sense to play a song on the saxophone. It looks complicated, but trust me, it’s really easy. In fact, complicated-looking instruments are usually built for your ease, whereas more technical skill is required to make a simple instrument sound better.
 
Another thing that’s cool about the sax is that it sounds different depending who wields it. Think of it as singing through the instrument instead of creating fixed sounds. If you and I played the sax, we would both sound different.
 
Chung: There are also variances from coast to coast in the United States, like listening to different slangs.
 
Chan: Take, for instance, KL Hokkien versus Penang Hokkien!
 
What is the Malaysian mindset towards the saxophone?

Chung: In Malaysia, the saxophone is still a very ‘fresh’ instrument next to the piano and violin, but more and more music lovers are willing to try it out. Prior to this shop opening, you’d have to go to a general music store that sold a bit of everything. We are the first store to specialise in only saxophones. I also teach lessons here, in the store itself.

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Notable Students of Sax

Duke Silver, Ron Swanson's alter ego in NBC's Parks and Recreation (Photo: The National Broadcasting Company)
Duke Silver, Ron Swanson's alter ego in NBC's Parks and Recreation (Photo: The National Broadcasting Company)
  • Bhumibol Adulyadejaka Rama IX
    A passionate fan of the saxophone, the late king of Thailand was so loved by his people that many Thais continue to pick up the instrument.
  • Essence Carson
    Born in Peterson, New Jersey, the professional basketball player representing the Washington Mystics in the Women’s National Basketball association plays not just the sax, but also the electric bass guitar, piano and drums.
  • Nick Offerman
    Best known for his portrayal of Ron Swanson in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, the American actor also plays the sax in real life—it's pure coincidence that his character moonlights as a sultry jazz musician named Duke Silver.

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Arts saxophone saxophone store music musician

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