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The Saxophone Family
    The 2 most used saxophones are the alto and tenor, but that doesn't mean they are the only saxes.  Adolphe Sax originally created a bass saxophone in C and many saxes followed there after.  The saxophone was patented 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 plays one full octave 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 literature and accessories, especially reeds and mouthpieces, and that there many "big" names whom play this instrument.  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 than the soprano.  The Sopranino is available in both straight and curved versions, the curved resembling a smaller version of the alto saxophone.

The A Soprano Saxophone

    The A Soprano was made during a time of experimentation (1915-25) in the Conn factory.  As far as I know, no one else ever manufactured an A soprano saxophone, so I doubt if any mouthpieces are available for the A Soprano.  I know very little about the A soprano, so if you have any information, or images dealing with the A soprano, please don't hesitate to e-mail them to me.

The C Soprano Saxophone

    The C Soprano was made as a higher pitched version of the C melody tenor.  It was manufactured because of the "play-at-home" craze of the twenties.  The Soprano to the left is a C Soprano made by the H. N. White King company.  It was made sometime between 1923-24.  It used to be for sale by The Clarinet Doctor,  Please go to the website more more details.  The mouthpiece is slightly smaller then that of a Bb Soprano, so using a Bb mouthpiece doesn't always work, but in some cases it does.  I'm sure someone must make C soprano mouthpieces, although I'm not sure who.  After the 20's, the production of C Sopranos stopped, although the "left-overs" of the production run were still sold, and listed in the company's show books. If you have anymore information about the C Soprano, please e-mail me.

The Bb Soprano Saxophone

    The Soprano saxophone is the second highest pitched saxophone, second to the sopranino.  The soprano saxophone plays in the key of Bb, one octave higher then the tenor, and two octaves 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 embouchure to play, much stronger then the alto or tenor saxophone's "loose" embrasure.  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 generally straight, not curved like the alto tenor.  The Soprano is available in both a straight and curved version, the curved being similar to an alto saxophone.

The Eb Alto Saxophone

    The alto saxophone is by far the most used and popular saxophone today.  Usually the alto saxophone is taught 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 octave below the sopranino, and one octave 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 saxophone pictured is the Selmer Series II alto.  The Selmer series II has a high F# key and many other features that have become "standard".  You can identify 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 characteristics 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 saxophone is said to have a brighter sound, similar to the soprano.  List price for the alto and tenor is between $3000 and $4800 depending on instrument and finish..  Please check the L. A. Sax home page for more details.

Image Copyright The L.A. Sax Company 1998

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 interesting C-melody was the Conn gooseneck.  Also most C-melodies came silver plated, but there were exceptions.  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 C-melody to the left is a Buescher with gold-plating, and it has a "tenor style" neck.  The C-melody to the right is a Conn with silver-plating, and it has an "alto style" neck, and the Conn microtuner.

The Bb Tenor Saxophone

    The Tenor Saxophone is usually called the jazz saxophone, although it is used for all styles of music.  The tenor saxophone played in the key of Bb, one octave lower then the Soprano, and one octave 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 accessories 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 similar to the famous mark VI.  You can tell a Tenor from an alto saxophone simply by looking at the neck, the tenor has a slight bend in it.

The Eb  Baritone Saxophone

    The baritone saxophone plays in the key of Eb, one octave lower then the alto saxophone, and two octaves lower then the sopranino.  The baritone saxophone is usually used in jazz ensembles, 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 C Bass Saxophone

    The C Bass saxophone was the first saxophone ever made.  Adolphe Sax made the first C Bass saxophone in 1842.  Hector Berlioz (French composer) apparently respected the instrument, and transcribed some of his music for the C Bass at a demonstration concert on February 3, 1844.  As far as I know, the Sax family (his son took over the company after 1894, when Adolphe died) were the only makers of the C Bass.  For some reason, it wasn't produced in the sax craze of the twenties, when all the other c-melody saxes were being produced.  I have no pictures, and only this little amount of information of the C Bass, so if you have any, please e-mail them to me.

The BBb Bass Saxophone

    The bass saxophone is the largest saxophone that is still made today.  It plays in the key of Bb, one octave lower then the tenor, two octaves lower then the soprano.  The bass saxophone lacks both written music, accessories, 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 obviously, 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 original contrabass saxophones are believed to be in existence today.  One of    the only companies that made this monstrous instrument was Conn.  It plays in the key of Eb.  If you want to hear what this sounds like, a few small saxophone ensembles use the contrabass saxophone.  One of them is the Nucleus Whales.  The Contrabass saxophone has few written parts, but it plays in the key of Eb, so sopranino, alto, or baritone music can be played on it, only it will sound a little low.  It is just amazing how large these instruments are.  Of course written music and accessories, mouthpieces, and reeds are hard to come by.  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, L. A. Sax has reintroduced this instrument, at a list price of around $37,500.  Image to the left Copyright The L.A. Sax Company 1998.

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 Exposition.  It was built by Avions Bleriot, and is in the key of C.  I must stress, most likely, they were not playable, most likely a prop used for show.  Quit obviously, the Sub-Contrabass saxophone has little use, except for show.  It is much to large to move easily, and appears to take at least 3 people to play.  There is an on-gowing debate as to if any of the sub-contrabass saxes were ever playable, but they are still quite marvelous to see.

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