Contrabass Saxophone

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The contrabass saxophone is a woodwind instrument and the second lowest-pitched aerophone of the saxophone family. Like all other saxophone it has a single reed and is played using keys. The contrabass saxophone is an exceedingly large instrument that stands at roughly 1.9 metres tall and has tubing measuring roughly 4.4 metres long.
History of the Contrabass Saxophone
The contrabass 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 contrabass saxophone was one of the few large saxophone designs that Sax was able to see completed and the instrument was even adopted by Patrick Gilmore’s American woodwind and brass band during the 1890s. Evette-Schaeffer contrabass saxophones were produced for military brass bands as a spectacle for those who could obtain them. Mass production of theses instruments never became widespread and these early models are now museum exhibits. The contrabass saxophone has limited use case today as it competes with German instrument maker, Benedikt Eppelsheim’s tubax. The contrabass saxophone is still played in rare performances by jazz performers and saxophone enthusiasts.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$8,000 - $30,000

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How to Play

The largest and lowest-pitched saxophone, with a deep, rich tone. Played using a combination of fingerings and breath control.

In Popular Music

As the biggest member of the saxophone family, the contrabass has found limited use cases in popular music recording. However, it may have been used in brass ensembles like those used by Hans Zimmer and Pink Floyd. Saxophonist Randy Emerick has been instrumental in boosting the use of the contrabass saxophone with songs like ‘Stardust’.

Famous Players

Lars Karlin, François Louis, Jay C. Easton

Close Relations

Subcontrabass Saxophone
Video Credit: Daniele Vitale Sax
Understanding the Contrabass Saxophone
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