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Q: saxophones ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: saxophones
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: grahamr-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 27 Dec 2002 09:40 PST
Expires: 26 Jan 2003 09:40 PST
Question ID: 133940
please tell me what the difference between a bass and a treble
saxophone is. both in appearance and sound.

Subject: Re: saxophones
Answered By: tehuti-ga on 27 Dec 2002 11:04 PST
Hello grahamr

The most common saxophones played today are the alto and tenor, but
there is actually a whole family of these instruments.

If you go to the web site of the Sax Section, you can see a picture of
five out of the saxophone family on the home page

The person on the left of the picture is playing a soprano (ie.
treble) saxophone, and the one on the right is playing a baritone
saxophone, and you can clearly see the difference in size as well as
in shape.  More pictures at

Going deeper into the site you will find the information:

"It is true that saxophones usually have a curved tube but clarinets
are straight.  However soprano saxophones are often absolutely
The soprano saxophone: "often arouses the curiosity of on-lookers who
do not always realise that it is still a saxophone without the
characteristic bent shape of the larger ones.  (Curved sopranos do
exist, but they are small enough that the fingers can reach the holes
without this being a necessity, and so the straight form is more
usual.)... in general the soprano looks enough like a clarinet... but
sounds so different that one must marvel at the vast accoustical
difference which is made by a slight difference in the geometry of the
tube.   The soprano sax can produce a particularly poignant sound."
From where you can also see
a picture of a soprano saxophone

The bass saxophone is curved like most of the saxophones you see, but
bigger.  However, it is not the biggest in the saxophone family.  The
whole family from highest to lowest consists of thirteen instruments,
which are in different keys:

"The soprano saxophone plays in the key of Bb, one octave higher then
the tenor, and two octaves higher then the mighty bass saxophone."

"The C Bass saxophone was the first saxophone ever made.  Adolphe Sax
made the first C Bass saxophone in 1842...  the Sax family...  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. "

"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... 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 bass saxophone stands about 5 feet high.

If you want to know about the very largest "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."

This information came from, where you can see
pictures of these and other members of the saxophone family.

In terms of the pitch these instruments can play. the soprano
saxophone plays from Ab below the treble clef staff to high Eb above
the treble clef staff. The bass saxophone plays from Ab below the bass
clef staff to Eb above the bass clef staff.

from Harmony Clarinets and Harmony Saxophones by Frederick W. Westphal
in his Guide to Teaching Woodwinds, 1990

Search strategy: range saxophone family
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