AskDefine | Define saxhorn

Dictionary Definition

saxhorn n : any of a family of brass wind instruments that resemble a bugle with valves

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of a group of similar brass instruments, resembling a bugle in shape, but with valves

Extensive Definition

For the anti-tank missile, see AT-7 Saxhorn.
The saxhorn is a valved brass instrument with a tapered bore and deep cup-shaped mouthpiece. The sound has a characteristic mellow quality, and blends well with other brass.

The saxhorn family

The saxhorns form a family of seven instruments (although at one point ten different sizes seem to have existed). Designed for band use, they are pitched alternately in E-flat and B-flat, like the saxophone group. There was a parallel family built in F and C for orchestral use, but this seems to have died out.
There is much confusion as to nomenclature of the various instruments in different languages. This has been exacerbated by the debate as to whether the saxhorn family was truly new, or rather a development of members of the previously existing cornet and tuba families. The saxhorn is also commonly confused with the flügelhorn, a German instrument which has a different configuration and predates the saxhorn. This confusion probably arises from the common substitution of the flügelhorn for the saxhorn when no saxhorn is available (and vice versa).


Developed during the mid to late 1830s, the saxhorn family was patented in Paris in 1845 by Adolphe Sax. Sax's claim to have invented the instrument was hotly contested by other brass instrument makers during his lifetime, leading to various lawsuits. Throughout the mid-1850s, he continued to experiment with the instrument's valve pattern.
Saxhorns were popularized by the distinguished Distin Quintet, who toured Europe during the mid-nineteenth century. This family of musicians, publishers and instrument manufacturers had a significant impact on the growth of the brass band movement in Britain during the mid-to late-1800s.
The saxhorn was the most common brass instrument in American Civil War bands. The over-the-shoulder variety of the instrument was used, as the backward-pointing bell of the instrument allowed troops marching behind the band to hear the music.
A contemporary work featuring this instrument is Désiré Dondeyne's "Tubissimo", for bass tuba or saxhorn and piano (1983).


  • Treatise on Instrumentation
  • Orchestration
  • Gli strumenti d'orchestra
saxhorn in German: Saxhorn
saxhorn in French: Saxhorn
saxhorn in Japanese: サクソルン
saxhorn in Norwegian: Saxhorn
saxhorn in Polish: Sakshorn
saxhorn in Portuguese: Saxotrompa

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alpenhorn, alphorn, althorn, alto horn, ballad horn, baritone, bass horn, brass choir, brass wind, brass-wind instrument, brasses, bugle, bugle horn, clarion, cornet, cornet-a-pistons, corno di caccia, cornopean, double-bell euphonium, euphonium, helicon, horn, hunting horn, key trumpet, lituus, lur, mellophone, ophicleide, orchestral horn, pocket trumpet, post horn, sackbut, saxtuba, serpent, slide trombone, sliphorn, sousaphone, tenor tuba, tromba, trombone, trumpet, tuba, valve trombone, valve trumpet
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