Subcontrabass Saxophone
suhb-kon-truh-bas sak-soh-fohn
Brass Instrument
The subcontrabass saxophone is a woodwind instrument and the lowest and largest instrument in the saxophone family. This single-reed aerophone is often tuned to Bb and is pitched two octaves lower than the common tenor saxophone. It is a rare instrument due to its size and limited capabilities within an orchestra.
History of the Subcontrabass Saxophone
The subcontrabass saxophone is a member of the saxophone family which bears the unique history of having all been invented by one person, the father of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax. In the 17th century, The Serpent was the most common wind brass instrument ancestor which later developed into the ophicleide (invented by Jean Hilaire Aste). These mid-century designs became the inspiration for Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax. While the saxophone was made of metal it is not a brass instrument as it has a wooden reed which makes it a woodwind instrument. Sax patented the saxophone and its 14 variations, including the contrabass saxophone, in Paris. The subcontrabass saxophone was one of the few designs by Sax that he did not live to see created from his 1846 patent as its size and complexity was a particularly difficult engineering feat. A small number of models were produced in the 20th century including one played by Attilio Berni of the moonlight big band. Over 150 years after Sax’ patent, in 1999, German instrument Benedikt Eppelsheim was able to engineer his creation, the tubax, which is the closest thing to a mass produced subcontrabass saxophone.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£28,000 - £35,000

Hear the Subcontrabass Saxophone

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How to Play

A rare saxophone that is pitched one octave below the bass saxophone. Played using a similar technique to other saxophones.

In Popular Music

The subcontrabass saxophone is a very rare instrument and has not credited in many popular music recordings. However, it does feature in some of saxophonist Tony Dagradi's recording and may appear uncredited in film scores.

Famous Players

Anthony Braxton, James Carter, Scott Robinson

Close Relations

Contrabass Saxophone, Tubax
Video Credit: Tiago Saxophonist
Understanding the Subcontrabass Saxophone
Very Large


United States


21st century






Instruments of Music

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