A member of the saxophone family, the tenor saxophone is one of the most common types of saxophones. With a larger mouthpiece, reed and ligature as well as with the noticeable bend in the neck and crook near the mouthpiece, the tenor saxophone is easily distinguished from the alto and soprano saxophone. A diverse member of the woodwind family, the tenor saxophone is used in concert bands, big band jazz groups, small jazz ensembles and marching bands playing pieces ranging from classical to jazz.
Patented in 1846 by Adolphe Sax for use in military bands, the tenor sax first gained popularity as a military instrument – a role it continues to this day. After the American Civil War the tenor sax was introduced to the American public as former military band instruments fell into the hands of the general public. It wasn't until the Age of Jazz in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s that the tenor saxophone came into its own. With the musical genius of Coleman Hawkins, the tenor sax was lifted from its traditional support role to a highly-effective melody instrument. Since then, many of the prominent jazz musicians have been tenor sax players each adding their own style to the tenor sax from the heavy and strong sound of Hawkins to the light and jaunty approach of Lester Young. As a result of its prominence in jazz music, the tenor saxophone has also featured in other genres including rhythm and blues as well as rock and roll. It is said that tenor saxophonists pioneered many of the innovations in American music.