Subcontrabass saxophone

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Subcontrabass Saxophone
Full-size Subcontrabass Saxophone.jpg
An Eppelsheim Full-size Subcontrabass Saxophone

Wind Woodwind

Playing range

Written range

Sax range.svg

In B: sounds three octaves and a major second lower than written.
Related instruments

Military band family:

Orchestral family:

Other saxophones:

More articles or information

The subcontrabass saxophone is a type of saxophone that Adolphe Sax patented and planned to build but never constructed. Sax called this imagined instrument saxophone bourdon (named after a low pitch stop found on many pipe organs). It is a transposing instrument pitched in B, one octave below the bass saxophone, two octaves below the tenor saxophone, and three octaves and a major second below its written pitch.


Until 1999, no genuine, playable subcontrabass saxophones were made, though at least two gigantic saxophones were built.[1] Although the smaller of the two (constructed in the mid-1960s) was able to produce musical tones, with assistants opening and closing its pads due to the instrument's lack of keywork, witnesses stated that it was incapable of playing even a simple scale.

The B subcontrabass tubax,[2] which was developed in 1999 by instrument manufacturer Benedikt Eppelsheim of Munich, Germany, is described by Eppelsheim as a "subcontrabass saxophone". This instrument is available in both C and B, with the B model providing the same pitch range as the saxophone bourdon would have. A contrabass-range tubax in E is also available.

The question of whether or not the tubax is truly a saxophone is debatable: it has the same fingering as a contrabass saxophone, but its bore, though conical, is narrower (relative to its length) than that of a regular saxophone. This makes for a more compact instrument with a "reedier" and "fatter" timbre. While some[who?] argue that the tubax is akin to the double-reed sarrusophone, the tubax's bore is much larger than that of the corresponding size of sarrusophone. Since several conical single-reed instruments with bores narrower than the saxophone are known (Octavin, Tarogato, Heckelclarina), analogies to a double-reed instruments can only relate to range and overall dimensions. Some authorities[who?] regard the tubax as a separate family of instruments rather than as a type of saxophone.

A Brazilian company, J'Elle Stainer, produced a working compact subcontrabass in 2010, which was shown at Expomusic 2010.[3]

In September 2012, instrument manufacturer Benedikt Eppelsheim of Munich, Germany completed building the first full-size subcontrabass saxophone. This instrument stands 2.25 meters (7 feet 5 inches) tall.[citation needed]

In July 2013,[4] J'Elle Stainer of Brazil completed building a 2.8-meter (9-foot-2-inch) full-size subcontrabass saxophone.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Subcontrabass Saxophones (?)". Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  2. ^ "Tubax B subcontrabass saxophone". Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  3. ^ "Elle Stainer". Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  5. ^ Attilio Berni plays the giant J'Elle Stainer sub-contrabass saxophone, Attilio Berni, Moonlight big band, conductor: Augusto Travagliati, accessed 2020-02-01

External links[edit]