Types Of Saxophones – Explanation & Visual Guide

What are the different types of saxophones? Here are the main types of saxophones:

  1. Soprano Saxophone
  2. Alto Saxophone
  3. Tenor Saxophone
  4. Baritone Saxophone
  5. Soprillo Saxophone
  6. Sopranino Saxophone
  7. Bass Saxophone
  8. Contrabass Saxophone
  9. Subcontrabass Saxophone
  10. C-Melody Saxophone
  11. Tubax Saxophone

Soprano Saxophone

types of saxophones
Man playing the saxophone.

Soprano saxophones are one of the smallest saxophone types. These types of saxophones can either be curved or straight and they produce a different sound in accordance with the shape.

The soprano saxophone is a higher-register variety of the saxophone, a woodwind instrument, invented in the 1840s. The soprano is the third smallest member of the saxophone family, which consists of the soprillo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass saxophone and tubax. 


Alto Saxophone

The alto saxophone is one of the easier saxophones to handle and its a good choice for beginners. These types of sax have a curved shape and are slightly bigger than the soprano saxophone.

The alto saxophone also referred to as the alto sax, is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments invented by Belgian instrument designer Adolphe Sax in the 1840s, and patented in 1846. It is pitched in E♭ and is smaller than the tenor, but larger than the soprano.


Tenor Saxophone

Tenor saxophones are the most popular types of saxophone and are commonly played in Jazz and Rock music. Unlike alto saxophones, there’s a slight dip in the neck and it has a larger mouthpiece, longer rods, and tone holes.

The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor and the alto are the two most commonly used saxophones.


Baritone Saxophone

Baritone saxophone types are larger than all three previously mentioned saxophones tenor, alto, and soprano. Some baritone saxophones can way up to 35 pounds and require a harness to support their weight.

The baritone saxophone or “bari sax” is one of the larger members of the saxophone family, only being smaller than the bass, contrabass and subcontrabass saxophones. It is the lowest-pitched saxophone in common use. The baritone saxophone uses a mouthpiece, reed, and ligature in order to produce sound.


Soprillo Saxophone

This saxophone is about 30 cm (12 in) long, 33 cm (13 in) with the mouthpiece. It is one of the most difficult instruments to play and there’s not much demand for it.

The sopranissimo or soprillo saxophone is the smallest member of the saxophone family. It is pitched in B♭, one octave above the soprano saxophone.


Sopranino Saxophone

This is another small-sized saxophone that’s not commonly used in music today. However, these types of saxophones do produce a melodious and captivating sound.

The sopranino saxophone is one of the smallest members of the saxophone family. It is tuned in the key of E♭ and sounds an octave higher than the alto saxophone.


Bass Saxophone

Bass saxophones are larger than baritone saxophones and they are an octave below the tenor saxophone. It is not commonly used in modern music.

The bass saxophone is one of the largest members of the saxophone family—larger than the more commonly encountered baritone saxophone. It was the first type of saxophone exhibited to the public when Adolphe Sax presented a bass saxophone in C at an exhibition in Brussels in 1841.


Contrabass Saxophone

The contrabass saxophone is one of the largest types of saxophones. It is two times the length of a baritone saxophone. Contrabass saxophones are also the second lowest-pitched member of the saxophone family.

The contrabass saxophone is the second-lowest-pitched extant member of the saxophone family proper. It is extremely large and heavy and is pitched in the key of E♭, one octave below the baritone saxophone.


Subcontrabass Saxophone

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. 


In 2012, a full-size subcontrabass sax was finally built by German manufacturer Eppelsheim.

The one used by Attilio in the clip above was built in 2013 by Brazilian J’Elle Stainer. At 2.8m high, it is the largest saxophone that can be played by one person.
The lowest note that this gigantic instrument can play is 25.95 Hz, which is just within the range of human hearing (20Hz-20,000Hz).


C-Melody Saxophone

C-melody saxophones are smaller than tenor saxophones but larger than alto saxophones. Most have curved necks and a shape similar to that of a tenor saxophone.

The C melody saxophone is a saxophone pitched in the key of C, one whole step above the B-flat tenor saxophone. In the UK it is sometimes referred to as a “C tenor”, and in France as a “tenor en ut”.


Tubax Saxophone

The tubax is a modified saxophone developed in 1999 by the German instrument maker Benedikt Eppelsheim. It is available in both E♭ contrabass and B♭ or C subcontrabass sizes. Its name is a portmanteau of the words “tuba” and “sax”. The first size of tubax to be developed was the E♭ contrabass.


If you liked this article about the different types of saxophones, then you can also check out this article about the different types of accordions.