Jump to content

Sopranino saxophone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sopranino saxophone
Orsi curved sopranino saxophone (c. 2000)
Woodwind instrument
Classification Single-reed
Hornbostel–Sachs classification422.212-71
(Single-reed aerophone with keys)
Inventor(s)Adolphe Sax
Playing range

      \new Staff \with { \remove "Time_signature_engraver" }
      \clef treble \key c \major ^ \markup "written" \cadenzaOn
      bes1 \glissando f'''1
      des'1 ^ \markup "sounds" \glissando aes'''1
Sopranino saxophone in E♭ sounds a minor third higher than written.
Related instruments
Orchestral saxophones:
Specialty saxophones:
See list of saxophonists

The sopranino saxophone is the second-smallest member of the saxophone family. It is tuned in the key of E♭, and sounds an octave higher than the alto saxophone. A sopranino in F was also described in Adolphe Sax's patent, an octave above an F alto (mezzo-soprano), but there are no known built instruments.[2]

The sopranino saxophone has a sweet sound and although it is one of the least common of the saxophones in regular use today, it is still being produced by saxophone manufacturers Orsi and Rampone & Cazzani in Italy, Henri Selmer Paris, and Yanagisawa of Japan.[1] Due to their small size, sopraninos are usually built straight like a clarinet, although Orsi make both straight and curved sopraninos, with the appearance of a miniature alto.[3]

Top to bottom: a curved E sopranino saxophone, a straight E sopranino saxophone, a C soprano saxophone, and a B soprano saxophone.

The original patented saxophone family, as developed by Adolphe Sax, included E♭ and B♭ saxophones in the voices of sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and subcontrabass instruments, and the same seven in the keys of C and F, though only the soprano, alto, and tenor were ever made.[2] Since the late 1990s the soprillo, an even smaller piccolo saxophone tuned in B♭ a fifth above the sopranino, was developed by the German instrument maker Benedikt Eppelsheim.[4][5]

The sopranino saxophone is a transposing instrument, with the same written range as any saxophone, from B♭3 to at least F6. Sounding a minor third higher than written, like an E♭ clarinet or soprano cornet, this range corresponds to D♭4 to A♭6 in concert pitch.



In classical music, the most notable use of the sopranino saxophone is in French composer Maurice Ravel's orchestral work Boléro. Ravel's score calls for a "soprano saxophone in F", but it is likely no such instrument has ever been built; the part is usually performed on E♭ sopranino or B♭ soprano.[6]

In recent years, rock band Violent Femmes have incorporated sopranino saxophone into the band's live performances as well as their newest albums. Saxophonist Blaise Garza plays a curved sopranino saxophone in the Violent Femmes' 2019 song "I'm Not Gonna Cry".[7] Outside of classical and rock music, notable jazz and improvising musicians using this instrument include Carla Marciano, James Carter, Anthony Braxton, La Monte Young, Roscoe Mitchell, Christophe Monniot, Joseph Jarman, Paul McCandless, Lol Coxhill, Roger Frampton, Hans Koller,[citation needed] Wolfgang Fuchs, Douglas Ewart, Larry Ochs, Vinny Golia, Thomas Chapin, Martin Archer, Jon Irabagon,[8] Massimo Falascone, Gianni Gebbia, and Ian Anderson (credited with having played the instrument on the Jethro Tull albums A Passion Play and War Child). The sopranino saxophone was also used in the six-member Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra, played by Kelley Hart Jenkins.


  1. ^ a b
    • "JBSST-420-天津市津宝乐器有限公司" (in Chinese). Tianjin: Jinbao. Retrieved 4 June 2024.
    • "Super Action 80 Series II sopranino saxophone". Paris: Henri Selmer Paris. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
    • "R1 Jazz Sopranino" (in Italian). Quarna Sotto: Rampone & Cazzani. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
    • "Sopranino". Tokyo: Yanagisawa Saxophones. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  2. ^ a b Hart, Hugh (28 June 2010). "June 28, 1846: Parisian Inventor Patents Saxophone". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  3. ^ "ORSI Saxophone Catalogue". Milan: Romeo Orsi. Archived from the original on 18 June 2009.
  4. ^ Cohen, Paul (September 2000). "Redefining the saxophone, Soprillo and Tubax: new saxophones for a new millennium". Saxophone Journal. 25 (1). Needham, MA: Dorn Publications: 8–10. ISSN 0276-4768.
  5. ^ "Soprillo". Munich: Benedikt Eppelsheim Wind Instruments. Retrieved 27 September 2023. B♭-Piccolo-Saxophon
  6. ^ Cottrell 2012, p. 233.
  7. ^ Violent Femmes (2019). "Hotel Last Resort: Credits". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  8. ^ Ackermann, Karl (1 September 2015). "Jon Irabagon: Inaction is An Action album review @ All About Jazz". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.