Q: Saxophones

I was wondering if the term “saxophone” by itself describes a group of instruments that are technically either “alto sax” or “tenor sax”? Is there a mid-range sax? Lastly, are saxophones played with a reed? And, do they belong to the class of instruments known as “brass instruments” or “woodwind”? Or, “reed instuments”, if that’s a class by itself?

Here’s a partial answer, from deep in the archives.

Saxophones range from (high to low, tone-wise) soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. These are single-reed instruments in the woodwind family.

I forgot – there is also the bass saxophone, which doesn’t get played much. The alto sax is probably the most popular.

There is also a sopranino saxophone, which is higher-pitched and smaller than the soprano.


Tenor Sax is, of course, the coolest.

Joey G
(Tenor Sax player)

The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra uses all the saxes, from sopranino to contrabass (whew, a monster!). For some photos and other info, go to http://www.nuclearwhales.com/

There’s even a subcontrabass sax. They don’t get used much, kinda for the same reason you don’t see many bass vocal solos in popular music.


I should also add there’s not much proof of them either.

Tenor sax is indeed the coolest. 'specially if it’s a Conn 10M Ladyface. I’m a bit proud of my horn, can ya tell?

IIRC the saxophones are classified as woodwinds. I did get to play an old bass sax once. Boy they take very good breath controll.

Soprano saxes however might be kicked out because of Kenny G.

I played sax for more than 10 years. A lot of times I miss playing, and I keep thinking about having my dad send it to me.

I played tenor but could switch to alto in a pinch. Bari was just a pain, and I had several worlds of trouble getting my embochure tight enough to play anything other than soul-rending shrieks on a soprano.

Kenny G might play crappy music (and he really really does), but he’s gotta have incredible facial and neck muscles to get any soud out of that horn.

And to think he played a note for 45 minutes on that thing…that’s really something.

Nah…you got to have the Buescher 400. The early-'50s model with the extra-wide bell diameter. That’s what all us copasetic saxophone cats play.

And Vandoren reeds. Got to have the Vandoren reeds.

Joe, what do you mean by this statement? :confused:
Are they the UFOs of the music world? Maybe you meant to say there’s not much use for them, being so deep-toned?

Some have posted links showing pictures of the contrabass. (I guess you could argue we have photos of UFOs, too!) Of course, isn’t this an oximoron? Wouldn’t it be subbass? Contrabass would be alto!

  • Jinx

I like some of Kenny G’s songs, but I think you’re saying he’s the kind that knows just enough about the sax to be dangerous! I guess that’s why he faded from the spotlight so quickly. But, isn’t this too typical of many so-called musicians out there on the Top 40 chart, et al.? (But, that’s a discussion for the IMHO board!)

  • Jinx

Dinahmoe, you’re just trying to blow your own horn!!! :smiley:

  • JInx

Well, this is probably the appropriate place to point out the (in)famous Pat Metheny vs. Kenny G incident.

There is a very simple yet absolute rule for determining the relative superiority of musical instruments: The lower the better. Therefore, it is quite clear that the contrabass sax (or the subcontrabass, should it exist) is clearly the greatest of all saxophones.

Oh yeah, there’s also a C Melody sax, pitched to a C above the Tenor sax.

Invented, I think, so saxophones wouldn’t have to transpose music. Didn’t catch on.