On This Day in Music History: Kenny G Sets World Record for Longest Saxophone Note

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

On this day in 1997, smooth jazz torchbearer Kenny G tooted his own horn, earning a page in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest note held on the saxophone.

“We never had a category like that before, but he wanted to do it so we put some rules and regulations together, got some witnesses, set the stopwatch and he did it,” Guinness Book of Records publisher, Mark C. Young explained to the Deseret News.

According to the outlet, those rules included that the pitch remains consistent throughout and the volume does not vary by more than 5-decibel degrees in either direction.

With an original goal of 30 minutes, the artist surpassed the mark, holding an E flat on his saxophone for 45 minutes and 47 seconds.

“He eventually was forced to stop because of all the saliva that built up inside the instrument,” Young said. “The monotony of it was also a pretty big problem.”

His secret? A technique called circular breathing was used in order for the saxophonist to play the continuous tone without interruption. Watch a demonstration of this technique from the record setter, himself.

In 2017, Afrobeats legend Femi Kuti took a turn at breaking G’s record, holding a single note for 46 minutes and 38 seconds. However, it came to light afterward that the original record had already been broken in 2000. Vann Burchfield, a saxophonist in Birmingham, Alabama, secretly set the new world record at 47 minutes and 6 seconds.

“I knew that I had broke the record,” Burchfield told NPR‘s Strange News upon Kuti’s supposed victory. “I contacted a few local radio stations here in Birmingham, Ala. But just out of respect, I guess, for [Kenny G], I just let the record stand as it was.”

Photo courtesy of Kenny G

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