The curious case of the Subcontrabass Saxophone

December 8, 2014


Adolph Sax was nothing if not a creative genius. His original patent illustrated 8 sizes of saxophone – each with the option of two different pitches – for a total of 16 different instruments.  All but one were built.


Sketch from Sax’s original patent.

From right to left:

Subcontrabass (bourdon), Contrabass, Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Soprano, and Sopranino.

The saxophone was meant to be a bass family as evidenced by the emphasis on the lower forms.  However, the lowest instrument was never made – until very recently.  The immense size made this instrument the hardest to manufacture.  In a specialty shop, like Sax’s, it wuold have been no problem, but with the industrialization of instrument manufacturing it became almost impossible.  Today, the best wind instruments are again being made in smaller shops, sometimes by a single craftsman.  New experimentations and reenvisioning of old ideas are taking place.

And so we…

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