The Subcontrabass Saxophone


Let’s discuss the subcontrabass saxophone. Of the nine types of saxophones, this is the largest. The smallest saxophone is the soprillo or sopranissimo saxophone, followed by the soprinino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and the largest, the sub contrabass saxophone. Actually, Adolphe Sax patented this monster saxophone and planned to build it, but it was never finished. It was supposed to have been tuned in B-flat, two octaves below the tenor sax, and one octave below the bass sax. The project was called saxophone bourdon.

An instrument that never was.

This saxophone never really existed. If you do an online search you will find several pictures of the gigantic instrument. But they are not exactly playable instruments. They are simply for show. In the 1960s an instrument was built but I’m not sure you can call it a real saxophone. My research has shown that it was not tuned properly. While it was able to produce musical notes, one could not even play a basic scale on it.

More than one person was required to play it, where one person would have to open and close the various pads. An instrument so big, you would need to have giant hands to play it. No single musician would have been able to play it with only two hands.

In the 1920s C.G. Conn shipped one around the country. It was to be used for advertising purposes.

What exists today?

Can one find a subcontrabass saxophone today? Well in 150 years, since the instrument was patented by Adolphe Sax, several attempts have been made to construct a real, playable one – an instrument that was deeper than the contrabass saxophone.

Today, the closest thing would have to be a subcontrabass tubax. It was developed in 1999 by Benedikt Eppelsheim of Munich, a German instrument maker. It was constructed as a larger and deeper version of the Eb “Tubax” contrabass saxophone. It has the same tonal range as what the subcontrabass was supposed to have had. While Adolphe had designed this saxophone to be tuned in B-flat, you will find the tubax tuned in C as well as B-flat. The subcontrabass tubax is one octave below the bass saxophone, or a fourth below the contrabass saxophone.

Learn about other types of saxophones, like the alto, tenor and baritone.



Leave a Reply