The bass saxophone, built by Adolphe Sax, was the first saxophone ever.
It is said that Sax walked 186 miles from Brussels to Paris to present the instrument to the world. We certainly have to thank him for that. Such a heavy instrument? One wouldn’t think of doing that today.
The idea behind this saxophone was to build an instrument that would have the power and volume of the ophicleide, a member of the tuba family.
The instrument should also be as agile as the bass clarinet. The instrument was first heard in concert on February 3, 1844.
The bass saxophone is larger than the baritone saxophone but smaller than the contrabass. Its design is similar to that of a baritone saxophone. But it’s loop, near the mouthpiece extends further than that of the baritone. The instrument is not widely used. It is pitched in B-flat. Sheet music for this sax is written not in the bass clef, but in the treble clef like other saxophones. You simply play two octaves and a major second lower than how the music is actually written.
There are two versions of the instrument. One comes with a tall neck projecting high above the mouthpiece leadpipe. In the other version the neck extends below the leadpipe.
The bass version of the saxophone was quite popular between World War I and World War II. It played a major role in jazz combos during that era and was used primarily for bass lines.