saxophone, musical instrument invented in the 1840s by Adolphe Sax. Although it uses the single reed of the clarinet family, it has a conical tube and is made of metal. By 1846 there was a double family of 14 saxophones, seven in F and C for orchestral use and seven in E flat and B flat for bands. The latter are by far most common today, the alto, tenor, and baritone being used most frequently. The saxophone has a powerful tone, between woodwind and brass in quality and blending well with both. Valuable to bands and occasionally used in the orchestra, it is now best known for its extensive use in dance and jazz music. It has a small serious solo literature. All saxophones except those in C are transposing instruments.