Rare instruments

C-melody TenorC-melody_tenor.html
Soprano in Cc-soprano_2.html
Mezzo-Soprano in FMezzo-Sop_2.html

The familly of saxophones counts 7 members, of which 4 (SATB) are usually employed, especially in the quartet form. Bass & sopranino saxophones are rarer, but are often used in saxophone ensembles of 12 saxophones.

The contrabass was almost virtual until recently, since only 20-30 models were built between Saxs’ invention in 1842 and 2000.

But the invention of a new and compact model in 2000 (the tubax, conceived in München  by Benedikt Eppelsheim) changed radically the  perception of this instrument. the compositions multiplied and almost 70 tubaxes were built till this day. Other makers joined this pioneer and many models can be found now.

The successive development of the soprillo, a piccolo sax in Bb, a little more difficult to master but who has a very specific sonority, will extend even more the limits of the traditionnal familly of the saxophones in Bb and Eb (already 120 exemplaries around in 2012).

Som pioneers decide to develop the technical and musical potential of these instruments. I’m pleased to bring my own modest contribution to this noble quest.

But this research for new sounds on the higher and lower limits of the familly hid an important notion : Adophe Sax had imagined not one but TWO saxophone famillies : the one still surviving today, in Bb and Eb, originally meant for wind bands needs, won against the other, the members of which should tune in F and C ...

Of course, Sax built few of these instruments, but ... they knew their moment of glory during a  short but memorable period of history : during the years which preceded the great depression in 1929 in the United States. The american makers, following the needs of a saxophone-crazed public, developped models of incredible diversity. Of which a few survivors can still be available nowadays.

These are far from being loin d’être anecdotic instruments : their sonorities are very specific, often «in the middle» between Bb and Eb instruments ... The C soprano, a major second higher than the Bb soprano but a minor third lower than the sopranino, sounds like an  intermediary between those two instruments. Similarly, the C-melody tenor, sounds as an intermediary between alto et ténor. As for the F Mezzo-soprano by Conn, nearer the alto by its tube length, its sonority is in fact more of a low soprano, by the fact that its section is much smaller than the alto.

What a pity that for almost 80 years those instruments were almost completely forgotten, although they might have been so practical for composers (some are not transposing instruments) ! And they could have brought so much with their specific colour palette.

A small familly of unusual saxophones :

Tubax (Eb contrabass sax) Eppelsheim 2000

Soprillo (Bb piccolo en sib) : Eppelsheim 2003

C-melody Tenor:

Conn, Buescher, Holton, King ...


C-Soprano : Buescher, Conn


Mezzo-Soprano in F: Conn


A more numerous familly than thought before

Soprillo (piccolo in Bb), C-melody Tenor, Bb Tenor, sopranino, C soprano, Bb soprano, baritone, tubax ... some extra-ordinary saxophones among some more known ones. At the back of the room, the composer Jacques Lejeune, author of «Fragments gourmands» for 7 successive saxophones and recorded background.

Three instruments looking like an alto : a Conn C-melody, a Selmer alto and a Mezzo-soprano (Conn too).

Inventivity was not asleep during the sax craze : this Buescher C-melody has a kind of silver-blue lacquer, with pink and green floral engravings ... As for the bell, it’s really a gold wash ...