Bass Saxophone

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The bass saxophone is a woodwind instrument and one of the lowest-pitched aerophone of the saxophone family. Like all other saxophones it has a single reed and is played using keys. The bass saxophone has a range an octave below the common tenor saxophone and it stands at a very large 4.5ft tall.
History of the Bass Saxophone
The bass 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, Belgian inventor 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 gave way to the invention of piston-valve based instruments in the 18th century, that have become the foundation of modern brass instruments.The saxophone, however, is not a brass instrument as it has a wooden reed which makes it a woodwind instrument. Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone and its 14 variations in Paris during a boom that also saw the invention of the euphonium and bass tuba. The bass saxophone was reportedly one of the very first saxophones completed by Sax, as reported in written records by French romantic composer Hector Berlioz. In 1844, the bass saxophone had its first performance use in Berlioz’s ‘Chant sacred’ arrangement. In the early 20th century, jazz bands and woodwind bands adopted the instrument and soloists like England-based saxophonist Harry Gold, adopted the bass saxophone into their early 1900s recordings. Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ from the 1950s included a score with parts written specifically for the bass saxophone. This low instrument can now most often be found in jazz bands and saxophone ensembles but is less common than other low saxophones like the baritone.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$5,000 - $20,000

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How to Play

A large, low-pitched saxophone with a deep, powerful tone. Played using a combination of fingerings and breath control.

In Popular Music

Bass saxophone has been featured live on stage with artists such as Frank Zappa and also featured on popular recordings by They Might Be Giants and Arcade Fire. It is a much more popular instrument in jazz, where the bass saxophone has taken a larger role for albums such as Red Lanta (1974) by Art Lande and Jan Garbarek.

Famous Players

Joe Temperley, Adrian Rollini, Colin Stetson

Close Relations

Subcontrabass Saxophone
Video Credit: Sax
Understanding the Bass Saxophone
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USA

Country

1838

Year

Woodwind

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