I heard my saxophone instructor say that there are 14 sizes of saxophones. I've only heard of 4 (soprano, alto, tenor, baritome). What are the other 10 types?


Today, saxophones are either in Eb or Bb, but C and F saxophones were produced in the early 20th century, so some of the standard horns had C and F counterparts. The most common of these was the C melody sax, which was a C version of the soprano that was popular because it used to read piano music (without transposition). There was also an F mezzo-soprano that has been used by a few performers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezzo-soprano_saxophone).

Some other obscure ones include sopranino (smaller than a soprano), contrabass sax (bigger than bass), and even the sub-contrabass sax (which was used by the Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra).

There are other types that have been specially produced, like this G mezzo-soprano: http://thesax.info/blog/jessen-g-mezzo-soprano/

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    I believe the number 14 comes from Adolphe Sax's original vision of the saxophone family; that is: sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, bari, and bass, each in Eb/Bb versions and C/F versions. Not all of these versions were ever actually mass produced though. – Peter Nov 9 '18 at 17:55

From Yamaha there were 14 types, but according to Yamaha now only 5 are in wide spread use: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass.

I tried to dig deeper to verify the claim of 14, but I could not find anything conclusive. Some sources claim the number comes from a patent that Sax obtained, but even that cannot be easily confirmed. In fact, I found this article about the saxophone patents: McBride, The Early Saxophone in Patents 1838-1850 Compared.

There is a image online which is supposed to be from Sax's original patent...

enter image description here

...no definitive claim could be made from just that picture, nor does it give names.

You can easily Google for a list of names of instruments in the saxophone family and find page like...

...but I'm not going to attempt making a list here, because I can't confirm anything other than the well known list of five above. At least with those I have seen them all with my own eyes!

  • That could be augmented by one - the straight soprano, as opposed to the sax-shaped usual. – Tim Nov 9 '18 at 17:19
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    @tim There are also straight alto saxophones. I would call these variations, but not different sizes, so they wouldn't change the list. – Peter Nov 9 '18 at 17:51
  • Saxe patented what he designed; many more (of absurd range) were built later on. – Carl Witthoft Nov 9 '18 at 18:24

There are 9 Saxophones in the primary family (marked with a dagger (†)). And there are as many as 15 types of saxophones, depending on how you define the word. The first four in the list are the most common. Instruments marked with an asterisk (*) are not always considered true saxophones and any one of them may not have been considered one of the 14 by the instructor.

The list is as follows:

Tenor† - In the key of B♭ (one octave below) - sounding range from A♭2 to E5

Tenor Sax

Alto† - In the key of E♭ - sounding range from D♭3 to A♭5

Alto Sax

Soprano† - In the key of B♭ - sounding range from B♭3 to G♭6


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Baritone† - In the key of E♭ (one octave below) - sounding range from C2 to A4


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Sopranissimo†* - in the key of B♭ (one octave above) - sounding range from B♭4 to D♭7


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Bass† - Key of B♭ (two octaves below) - Sounding range B♭1 to F4 (I think)


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Sopranino† - In the key of E♭ - sounding range from D♭4 to A♭6


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Contrabass† - In the key of E♭ (two octaves below) - sounding range D♭1 to A♭3 (I think)


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Tubax* - Available in E♭, B♭, or C (all two octaves below) - sounding range of E♭ (the lowest) model is the same as Contrabass - D♭1 to A♭3 (I think)


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C Melody - Key of C (one octave below) - sounding range B♭2 to F5


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Slide Saxophone*


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Connosax (aka Conn-O-Sax)*


Subcontrabass† - Key of B♭ (three octaves below!) - Sounding range B♭0 to F3 (I think)

Subcontrabass Sax

Mezzo Soprano - Essentially a Soprano sax in F - Sounding range E♭3 to B♭5 - This may not have been counted separately from the soprano sax by the instructor

Mezzo-Soprano Sax

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    I'm not sure this accurately answers the OPs question because he asked about different sizes, not variations. For instance, the Tubax is a variation on the bass sax, the Saxello is a brand name version of the soprano, and the Conn-O-Sax is a variation on the F mezzo soprano that was only produced for a couple years. Similarly, the Slide Sax was a novelty instrument from the 1920s that was never widely played (and it was the same size as a soprano). The Sopranissimo sax is smaller than a sopranino, but it is only made by one company and goes by the brand name Soprillo sax. – Peter Nov 9 '18 at 18:12
  • I agree that slide saxes don't really count. That's a mechanism, not a range. – Carl Witthoft Nov 9 '18 at 18:22
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    This answer would be a lot more useful if you explained what the nonobvious ones are, such as "tubax", "saxello," "connosax" . – Carl Witthoft Nov 9 '18 at 18:23
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    This is a great example of a question with no really definitive answer. Exactly what counts as a saxophone? – Scott Wallace Nov 10 '18 at 14:51
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    @ScottWallace - moot point. I wonder if my xaphoon would be counted..? – Tim Nov 11 '18 at 17:05

i understand there supposedly 14 but i found more...Sopranino, soprano, curved soprano, mezzo soprano, alto, c-melody, tenor, bari, bass, contrabass, and sub-contrabass, tubax, slide, saxello, connosax, saxophones. that doesnt include some of the variations in key

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