Different Types of Saxophones

Looking to purchase a new saxophone or simply brush up on your musical knowledge? You’ve clicked on the right page! Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about the various types.

Since its creation in 1846, the saxophone has been created in many different variants, sizes, and styles. However, each saxophone on the market is typically made up of 4 main types: the sopranos alto, tenor, and baritone.

So, to help you decipher the differences between them all, we’re going to be providing you with an easy to follow guide that will cover the different types of saxophones. Let’s begin! 

The Saxophone: Background History

Wondering about how the saxophone was created? Well, look no further. Back in 1846, the saxophone was created by Adolphe Sax - hence the name!

According to Sax himself, he wanted to create a woodwind instrument that would be the most powerful of all, all the while being an adaptive brass instrument, too.

Adolphe Sax wanted to create an instrument that would be able to mix the orchestral styles of the woodwind family with brass, and so the saxophone was created in order to offer the same tonal, stylistic qualities of a woodwind combined with the resonance of a brass instrument.

Since its creation, the saxophone has become very popular for all types of music genres and styles including classical, rock music, and, of course, jazz! Legendary jazz musicians (including artists like Coleman Hawkin and Lester Young helped to solidify the saxophone as one of the most popular and defining solo instruments for the musical genre.

These players also helped to showcase the versatility of the saxophone, by each developing their own unique styles. This is all thanks to the way that the saxophone can be used with various mouthpiece designs, varying degrees of reed hardness, as well as the way the musician chooses to place it in their mouth.

Interestingly enough, as the saxophone gained popularity in the jazz community, the mouthpiece was changed so that the sound would be louder.

To help you gain a deeper understanding of the differences between the saxophone categories let’s take a closer look at the different types of saxophones below.

The Different Types of Saxophone

1. Soprano Saxophone

The first type of saxophone is called the soprano saxophone and is not only the smallest of the family but also the one with the highest pitch.

Due to this, the soprano saxophone is commonly used as a second instrument for alto or tenor Jazz players, as the shorter length makes it one of the most difficult types to properly tune and play. It is also usually pitched to B flat, and the body style is usually designed to be either curved or straight.

Though it is claimed by many to offer the ‘sweetest’ sound out of all the saxophone types, the soprano saxophone is deemed to be one of the most difficult to use, as it is very hard to play a consistent note. The mouthpiece of a soprano saxophone is also the smallest of all types, which makes it even more difficult for beginner to intermediate players.

2. Alto Saxophone

Next up, we have the alto saxophone. The alto saxophone is considered one of the most popular types of saxophone, as it is the type that is most suited to beginners, or those who do not have much experience playing.

This for a number of reasons, including:

  • Alto saxophones are designed with a neck and shoulder strap, which makes them more comfortable to hold.
  • Unlike other types of saxophone types, the alto saxophone does not require much effort to produce a strong, clear sound.
  • Due to their smaller and more lightweight design, alto saxophones are easier to handle, and the most suitable for children to use.

In addition to its convenience, the alto saxophone is also popular because of its versatility. Players across all musical genres use the alto saxophone, including jazz players, rock, and even pop.

3. Tenor Saxophone

The tenor saxophone is the most popular type of saxophone as it is deemed as having the richest sound due to its larger size and lower pitch.

Though it produces a deep and powerful sound, it requires a lot of effort to play, which is why it is not recommended for players who are just starting out.

Nevertheless, experienced saxophone players often tend to choose a tenor over an alto, simply because many feel that it produces a nicer sound.

4. Baritone Saxophone

This type of saxophone has the lowest pitch of all and is the largest out of all four categories of the saxophone. Out of all the types of saxophones, the baritone is widely considered the least popular choice due to its very low pitch and lack of versatility.

Though it’s relatively easy to play (many agree that it takes the same amount of effort as a tenor saxophone) this type of saxophone is usually very heavy to hold for prolonged periods and is often not required by bands.

What Materials are Saxophones Made of?

Regardless of the category, all saxophones hold a similar ‘anatomy’ in order to ensure a consistent, distinctive sound.

Technically speaking, the saxophone is considered to be part of the woodwind family, even though they are typically made of brass, and the reason for this is pretty simple.

Unlike other brass instruments, saxophones feature a reed mouthpiece and, sometimes, can even be made of additional metal materials such as copper or nickel.

In addition to the metal, some saxophones feature an exterior plating of either gold or silver, as this helps to give the finished look a more polished appearance.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading our guide on the different types of saxophone, just as much as we enjoyed writing it!

To recap, there are 14 different types of saxophone, with the four most common begging baritones, tenor, alto, and soprano.

Now, all that’s left to do is for you to decide which saxophone is right for you. Happy playing!