10 Types of Saxophones

The Saxophone is a single-reed woodwind instrument made of brass. Though the saxophone is made of brass, it is considered a woodwind. It is because by using the reed the air is directed and sounds are made. The notes on the saxophone are changed by pressing the keys to close or open the holes.

Modern-day saxophones are transposing instruments in the range of B♭ or E♭. It goes like when you play a C, the note will sound like a concert B♭ or E♭. The fingerings of the saxophones are of the same arrangement.

Switching from each type would not be difficult. The saxophone has four major common types used in contemporary music. The ones included on the list are the soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, and baritone sax.

Besides the common four, other types of saxophones are popular too. Refer to the list below and get to know more about them.

1. Sopranino Saxophone

This is the smallest saxophone, it is only 46 centimeters long. Due to its size, this sax is not usually not curved. But it does have a variant, called the Orsi which is curved.

The Sopranino can play the highest pitch a sax can reach which is the E♭ or in F. The timbre of this piece is described as penetrating. Sopranino has a very sweet and expressive sound

2. Soprano Saxophone

The Soprano is another small saxophone that can either be curved or straight. The key that it plays is B♭ which is a high pitch. Modern Soprano saxophones have detachable necks that have one downward-curved neck and one straight.

A straight neck would be played outward and held upward. This position gives an energetic appearance during a performance.

The curved neck can be held a bit down while maintaining the mouthpiece position. This setup allows it to be placed on a music stand which can relieve the player’s right arm.

The curved neck’s sound is said to be warmer and less nasal. Though it is still up for debate among saxophone players.

3. Alto Saxophone

The Alto saxophone plays the key of E♭ . This is piece is quite bigger compared to the Soprano. It is commonly used in popular music, chamber music, solo repertoire, different types of bands, and jazz.

The structure of the Alto saxophone comes with a curved neck. This variant is great for easy listening and is often chosen by a lot of popular artists. The tone of this instrument is often associated with smooth jazz and is dubbed as the best jazz improvising tool.

4. Tenor Saxophone

This variant of the saxophone family is medium in size. The pitch key that is played is B♭. As a transposing instrument, it sounds like an octave and a major second lower than its written pitch.

It has a curved neck that features a larger mouthpiece, ligature, and reed. The Tenor saxophone blends easily together with its Alto, Baritone, and Soprano woodwind counterparts. The tone of this instrument is described as bright though a bit husky.

5. Baritone Saxophone

The Baritone saxophone is a large variant and its pitch is in the key of E♭. This piece is often used in funk and jazz music. The structure of the Baritone is it has a wide end that is flared taking the form of a bell.

The smaller end of it is connected to the single-reed mouthpiece. on the upper body, there is a loop that takes the shape of 2 U-shaped pieces. These are called the upper bow and spit bow, this loop was introduced to lessen the practical height.

6. Bass Saxophone

The Bass saxophone was the variant of the first-ever saxophone built-in 1841 by Adolph Sax. It was originally in high pitched C. As for the modern-day this piece is pitched in B♭ which is similar to the Tenor saxophone but about one octave below.

It is quite huge that it can measure up to a height of 1.5 meters. It also has a loop tubing and adding it all up is twice as long as a Tenor saxophone. The Bass saxophone is also popular in jazz, rock bands, and classical music.

7. C Melody Saxophone

The C melody saxophone is a non-transposing instrument and is pitched of course in the key of C. This was designed to have a concert pitch, meaning it can play music pieces intended for piano, violin, or flute.

The size of this instrument is around 24 inches in length from the socket until the tip of the body tube. This version of the saxophone is not commonly seen and is barely produced. Though it did had a good run from 1910 to the 1920s.

8. Sopranissimo Saxophone

This is the smallest saxophone which has a length of 33 centimeters including the mouthpiece. The Sopranissimo is also known as the piccolo or sopriilo saxophone. Due to its small size, the technology to make real sopranissimo was quite difficult.

It was only produced accurately from the mid-2010s. The key pitch that it is played on is written in E♭ or sometimes in G. Due to its short length the upper octave key is positioned on the mouthpiece.

9. Contrabass Saxophone

This member of the saxophone family is quite huge that has a height of 1.9 meters and is about 20 kilograms. It is set on the key pitch of E♭ the is one octave below the Baritone saxophone.

This large-bodied and wide bore instrument have a very rich tone and strong acoustical presence. It is versatile as it can range from harsh and buzzy to smooth and mellow.

10. Subcontrabass Saxophone

The Subcontrabass saxophone was planned and patented by Adolph Sax but unfortunately was never built. It was originally designed to play the pitch under the key of B♭ that is one octave lower than the bass saxophone.

In 1999 the manufacturer Benedikt Eppelsheim introduced the subcontrabass tubax. Its validity as a saxophone is under debate but it does possess the same fingering of a contrabass saxophone.

The interest for this unfinished piece is high that music instrument manufacturers like J’Elle Stainer made its version. The functioning piece was showcased in Expomusic in 2010. Then in 2012, Benedikt Eppelsheim produced their full-sized subcontrabass saxophone.

It was as tall as 2.5 meters. It was followed up by J’Elle Stainer the next year in 2013 as they released their completed subcontrabass saxophone. It was recorded to be 2.8 meters in height.

Saxophones are interesting musical instruments because of their complexity and beauty. They can be a bit of a challenge to play as your lung capacity will play a great role.

But sounds they create are very distinct due to their transposing abilities. Successfully playing and hearing these instruments is very fulfilling.

Image Credits:
Sopranino Saxophone Image by: Museum of Making Music, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Soprano Saxophone Image by: Yamaha Corporation, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Alto Saxophone Image by: File:Yamaha Saxophone YAS-62.tif: Yamaha Corporation;remove backround: Habitator terrae (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Habitator_terrae), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tenor Saxophone Image by: Yamaha Corporation, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Baritone Saxophone Image by: Sylenius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bass Saxophone Image by: MetroidPrime3 at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
C Melody Saxophone Image by: Museum of Making Music, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sopranissimo Saxophone Image by: Museum of Making Music, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Contrabass Saxophone Image by: Museum of Making Music, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Subcontrabass Saxophone Image by: TAWhite, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons