A substantial advancement in saxophone keywork was the development of a method by which the left thumb operates both tone holes with a single octave key, which is now universal on modern saxophones.
Further developments were made by Selmer in the 1930s and '40s, including offsetting tone holes and a revamping of the octave key mechanism, beginning with balanced action instruments and continuing through their celebrated Mark VI line.
An instrument that overblows at the octave has identical fingering for both registers.
Sax created an instrument with a single-reed mouthpiece like a clarinet, conical brass body like an ophicleide, and some acoustic properties of both the horn and the clarinet.
Sax's original keywork, which was based on the Triebert system 3 oboe for the left hand and the Boehm clarinet for the right, was simplistic and made playing some legato passages and wide intervals extremely difficult to finger, so numerous developers added extra keys and alternate fingerings to make chromatic playing less difficult.
While early saxophones had two separate octave vents to assist in the playing of the upper registers just as modern instruments do, players of Sax's original design had to operate these via two separate octave keys operated by the left thumb.
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Like the clarinet, saxophones have holes in the instrument which the player closes using a system of key mechanisms.
Some of the alternate fingerings are good for trilling, scales, and big interval jumps.
This enables a chromatic scale to be played over two octaves simply by playing the diatonic scale combined with alternately raising and lowering this one digit.
However, this keywork never gained much popularity, and is no longer in use.
As an outgrowth of his work improving the bass clarinet, Sax began developing an instrument with the projection of a brass instrument and the agility of a woodwind.
He wanted it to overblow at the octave, unlike the clarinet, which rises in pitch by a twelfth when overblown.