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Basic Saxes
The 2 most used saxophones are the alto and tenor, but that doesn't mean they are the only saxes.  Adolphe Sax originally created ten saxophones and patented the saxophone in 1846.  Since then, many have been added, and taken away.  This page will give images, history, and possibly audio samples of the saxophones, from the common alto, to the rare sub-contrabass.
The Eb Sopranino Saxophone
The Sopranino saxophone is the highest pitched of all saxophones.  It playes one full octive above the alto, and 2 higher then the baritone.  The sopranino pictured is a Selmer series II, model number 50.  The sopranino isn't very popular for many reasons, the lack of literiture and accessories, especially reeds and mouthpieces, and that there many "big" names whom play this instrtument.  I would manly get this instrument for if you just want to fool around with one.  You can identify the sopranino from the soprano since it is slightly smaller.
The Bb Soprano Saxophone
The Soprano saxophone is the second highest pitched saxophone, second to the sopranino.  The soprano saxophone playes in the key of Bb, one octive higher then the tenor, and two octives higher then the mighty bass saxophone.  This saxophone offers a medium sized range of literature, and a rather large amount of available accessories, such as mouthpieces and reeds.  This saxophone has started gaining rather large appeal since the great Kenny G started performing with it, if you have never heard Kenny play this beautiful instrument, you are missing a lot.  The soprano pictured is the Selmer Series III, with a high F# key  and a new high G key.  Also, the Selmer series III soprano has two necks, the normal straight neck, and a more comfortable slightly bent neck.  The soprano requires a stronger embosure to play, much stronger then the alto or tenor saxophone's "loose" embosure.  Also I have been told that hitting notes in the altissimo register is harder due to it's straight body.  YOu can identify the soprano from all the saxophones under it because it is generaly straight, not curved like the alto tenor.
The Eb Alto Saxophone
The alto saxophone is by far the most used and popular saxophone today.  Usually the alto saxophone is tought to the beginner to learn the basic ideas of the saxophone, and then later plays multiple saxophones such as the tenor and soprano.  The alto has a nice mellow quality to it, one that many people have grown to love.  The alto has by far the most literature and accessories ton offer, and many different brands of reeds and mouthpieces.  The alto plays in Eb, one octive below the sopranino, and one octive higher then the baritone saxophone.  One of the reasons the alto is so popular is the fact that it is the middle saxophone, not to high and not to low.  Altissimo is easy to play on this instrument mainly due to the fact it is curved.    The saxoiphone pictured is the Selmer Series II alto.  The Selmer series II has a high F# key and many other features that have become "sttandered".  You can identiy the alto from the tenor because it has a straight neck, not like the slight dip in the neck of the tenor.
Straight Tenor and Alto Saxophone
The straight alto and tenor saxophone has the same charectoristics of their curved counterparts, except they are straight.  They were originally made in the 40's, and have recently been made by L.A. Sax.  The straight alto and tenor saxophones e said to have a brighter sound, similar to the soprano.
The Bb Tenor Saxophone
The Tenor Saxophone is usually called the jazz saxophone, altough it is ussed for all styles of music.  The tenor saxophone played in the key of Bb, one octive lower then the Soprano, and one octive higher then the Bass saxophone.  Altissimo is very easily achieved on the tenor, due to it's size and shape.  A wide variety of literature and accesories are available for the tenor saxophone, a close second to the alto saxophone.  The saxophone pictured is a Selmer Series III tenor with a high F# key, model 64.  The series III tenor has a neck simolar to the famous mark VI.  You can tell a Tenor fom an alto saxophone simply by looking at the neck, the tenor has a slight bend in it.
The C Melody Tenor Saxophone
The C melody saxophone was most popular in the 1930's.  Most families had one of these since it played in the key of C, so no transposing was needed from vocal or piano music.  C-melodies are usually quit stuffy and in need of repair.  One intereesting C-melody was the Conn gooseneck.  Also most C-melodies come silver plated.  This saxophone had a slightly bent neck similar to that of the newer sopranos.  The C-melody lacks literature made for it, but you can use most string music.  Since the C-melody hasn't been made in about 60 years, it is quite hard to find accessories for it, mainly mouthpieces.  Usually you have to use the mouthpiece that comes with it, or buy one used.  C-melodies can use regular tenor reeds, but the tenor mouthpiece is to large, and the alto is to small.  If you find one under a hundred dollars and in good shape, you might want to get one simply to mess around with.
The Eb  Baritone Saxophone
The baritone saxophone plays in the key of Eb, one octive lower then the alto saxophone, and two octives lower then the sopranino.  The baritone saxophone is usually used in jazz ensambles, but can be used in other types of music as well.  The baritone does have a variety of accessories, as well as mouthpieces and reeds, but these can get costly.  The baritone saxophone pictured is a Selmer series II.  You can identify the baritone from the saxophones that play in the higher keys because of the looped neck.


The BBb Bass Saxophone
The bass saxophone is the largest saxophone that is still made today.  It playes in the key of Bb, one octive lower then the tenor, two octives lower then the soprano.  The bass saxophone lacks both writen music, accesories, mouthpieces and reeds.  The bass saxophone pictured is a Selmer series II.  If you get one of these, get ready to pay a lot of money, these saxophones are hard to come by, usually special ordered, and have a lot of metal in them so obviusly, they are EXPENSIVE.  You can identify the bass saxophone from the baritone sax simply by the curve in the neck being much larger on the bass, and the saxophone in general is larger.
The Contrabass Saxophone
Only 17 contrabass saxophones are believed to be in existence today.  One of the only companies that made this monsteris instrument was Conn.  I believe it plays in the key of Eb, but I may be wrong.  If you want to hear what this sounds like, a few small saxophone ensambles use the contrabass saxophone.  One of them is the Nucleus Whales.  The Contrabass saxophone has very little use now-a-days.  It is just amazing how large these instruments are.  Of course written music and accessories, mouthpieces, and reeds literally don't exist to my knowledge.  You can identify the Contrabass from the other saxophones mainly because of it's size.  Also the curve in the neck is VERY large.  Recently, LA Sax has reintroduced this instrument, at a coast of around $37,000.
The Sub-Contrabass Saxophone
The Sub-Contrabass Saxophone is the largest saxophone in existence.  About three are believed to have been made, one was for the 1899 Paris Expositioin.  It was built by Avions Bleriot, and is in the key of C.  Quit obviusly, the Sub-Contrabass saxophone has little use, except for show.  It is much to large to move easily, and it takes at least 3 people to play.  There is an on-gowing debat as to if any of the sub-contrabass saxes were ever playable, but they are still quite marvolus to see.
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