The Saxophone is named after Mr Sax who invented it in Paris in 1842. At the time Adolphe Sax was 28 years old and was already a great success as an instrument maker because he had previously created the first bass clarinets suitable for use in the orchestra. You can see some saxophones that were actually made by Adolphe Sax on this page.
During the 20th century the saxophone's popularity spread all over the world mainly because it is so frequently used by jazz musicians. The sax is also frequently used in rock and pop music and in many other types of music. For example, in Nigeria everyone knows the music of the masked saxophone playing Lagbaja. (You can listen to some Lagbaja at the bottom of this page.)
The saxophone first appeared in an orchestra in 1844 in Georges Kastner's opera, Last King of Juda. Since then it has been used in a great many orchestral works from Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to Puccini's opera Turandot and Ravel's Bolero.
Most cultures around the world have some type of bowed string instrument. In China there is a two string violin called the Erhu and in India a type of violin called the Sarangi, but when people use the word 'violin', they usually mean the European violin. It was developed into its current form about 400 years ago by instrument makers working in northern Italy. Since that time the instrument has remained virtually unchanged.
Some of the best quality violins ever made were produced about 300 years ago by makers such as Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu. Many of their instruments still exist and are in daily use by today's great violinists. Because these violins are so rare and so good, they are also very expensive. Many of these instruments cost more than a million dollard and some have sold in recent years for as much as $5m.
The clarinet is a German invention and was first developed about 250 years ago. Because it is quite loud it was immediately popular with marching bands and for outdoor events. For many years it was only occasionally used in the orchestra. Mozart loved the sound and often included clarinets in his pieces. Since that time it has been a permanent member of the orchestra. The clarinet is a 'reed' instrument. This means that it uses a thin piece of a dried reed plant (a sort of grass) to make the sound. Clarinet reed manufacturers grow the reeds on special plantations.