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The saxophone was originally invented by Adolphe Sax in 1846, he wanted an instrument that could be the most powerful of the woodwinds whilst being the most adaptive of the brass instruments and fill the vacant mid ground between the two. Since its invention the saxophone has become popular for use in a variety of music styles including, jazz, rock, classical, and marching bands. If you are not familiar with the saxophone you may already be a little overwhelmed by the wide range of saxophones available, to help make things a little easier we are going to look at the different types of saxophone.
The saxophone family in full is made up of nine types of saxophone, which are the Sopranissimo, Sopranino, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Contrabass, and Subcontrabass. However the four that you are most likely to come across are the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Baritone saxophones.
The alto saxophone is one of the most popular types of saxophone and is particularly popular with student players. Most saxophonists will have started with an alto saxophone before moving to another type of saxophone. The alto saxophone is pitched to E flat (Eb) and the smaller size and small mouthpiece make it easy to learn, even for younger players. Because the fingering for all saxophones is very similar, alto saxophonists can easily graduate to other types of saxophone as they develop their skills. The alto saxophone is typically found in jazz bands.
The soprano saxophone is the smallest and has the highest pitch of the four. The soprano saxophone is pitched to B flat (Bb) and the body of the instrument can be either straight and curved.
Due to its higher pitch it is commonly used for jazz music. Because the soprano saxophone can be more difficult to play it is not recommended for beginners and is better suited to already proficient alto or tenor players.
The tenor saxophone is the most popular choice of saxophone. It is larger than the alto saxophone and has a lower pitch (Bb). Because the tenor saxophone is a larger instrument and requires more air to be blown through it to produce a sound it difficult for beginners or younger players to play. Most saxophonists will start with an alto and move up to a tenor saxophone when they have developed their breathing and fingering skills. The tenor saxophone is not only popular in modern jazz but is also regularly used in pop and rock music.
The baritone saxophone is the largest of the four with a much lower tone (Eb). Because of its size, weight, and the large amount of air needed to produce a sound it is also the least used of the four. The baritone is not recommended for beginners and younger players but is a great choice for more advanced saxophonists. Those that play the baritone will often wear a harness to help support the weight of the instrument. The baritone saxophone is most commonly found in music ensembles and jazz solos that require a deep bass sound.
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