Have you ever wondered why the basic fingerings for the notes on the sax are the way they are? To answer that, you actually have to go back and look at the history of the flute and a certain Mr.
Like the sax, the flute is effectively a pipe with holes along its length and, as more holes are covered, the lower the note. The flute in various forms has been around for ages, but from the 18th century, it grew in popularity. More music was written for it and technical advances made the instrument more sophisticated.
However, the big problem was that the holes had to be of a size and positioned so that human fingers could reach and cover them. This meant that they were small, so not much volume, and not in the best place on the instrument to ensure accurate tuning. It is reported that fingering got so complex that players had to be able to cross over fingers to play certain passages!
Enter Mr Boehm. In the 1830s, he was looking at how to improve the flute. He decided to turn the whole thing on its head, and design a flute with big tone holes, optimally positioned so it was in tune and loud. Now, of course, the holes couldn’t be covered by human fingers, and so by 1847, he had developed the pad mechanisms to accommodate comfortable hand positions and the intuitive finger combinations we know today – the Boehm System.
So what about the saxophone? Wheninvented the saxophone in the 1840s he chose to incorporate the Boehm system, but with adaptations to better suit the instrument. However, it was the Americans who really got things going as it became more popular in the 20th Century. They added many of the notes and key mechanisms that are standard today, but behind it all is Mr Boehm.