Bass Saxophone – All you need to know!

Bass Saxophone – All you need to know!

The Bass saxophone is the instrument that has been mesmerizing the audience for as much as a century now and still keeps its firm place among its family members. In this article, I will try to cover all that you need to know about a bass saxophone, whether you are planning to start a career or just wondering what the first-ever saxophone is all about.

bass saxophone
Image by Julia Mastritsch from Pixabay

What is a bass saxophone

Bass saxophones are among the largest members of the saxophone family, larger than baritone saxophones, which are more commonly encountered. Saxophones are widely manufactured across the world today, with the bass saxophone being the most common large saxophone. 

Nowadays, the bass saxophone is pitched an octave below the tenor saxophone and is pitched in B♭. Bass saxophone, like the other members of the family, is a transposing instrument meaning that it produces a higher or lower pitch than indicated in music written for it.

When was it invented and by whom

Bass Saxophone was Adolphe Sax’s first saxophone and the first member of the saxophone family. The saxophone was first introduced by Adolph Sax in 1841, and his first model was a bass saxophone pitched in C.

How heavy is the bass saxophone

A classic Bass saxophone without a case weighs around  24 Pounds which is approximately 11 kg. However, modern producers of the instrument have their design alternatives thus, the actual weight of the modern made bass saxophones might vary from company to company.

When was bass saxophone first played

The bass saxophone was played for the first time during a concert on February 3rd, 1844. Pitched in B♭, the bass saxophone played a major role in jazz combos after World War I and before the beginning of World War II.

What kind of music can you play on a bass saxophone

Saxophones with this range are not commonly used in concert bands, but they can be heard on some 1920s jazz recordings; in free jazz; or in saxophone choirs.

Is bass sax a solo instrument

Although the bass saxophone can be used solo, it is usually found as part of a band rather than on its own. Bass Saxophone played a significant role in bands and was widely viewed as a bridge between rhythm and harmony, thus being the backbone of the music. Bass players usually take up the instrument because they want to play with other musicians, preferably a jazz group with drummers and players of higher-pitched saxophones

Many bass saxophone players wonder whether it is even possible to play the instrument without joining a music band. And the answer to that question is a definite yes. There are many bass sax players who enjoy playing the bass solo. When playing without a band they usually play along with drum machines, backing tracks, or various song recordings that provide a base tune to put the bass part on top.

Why to choose to become a bass saxophonist

It is true that the most famous time for the Bass saxophone was almost a century ago and it had been less popular lately. The reason behind this is the development of electrified amplifiers. The amplifiers gave the ability to upright bass to fill the low-tone space in most music groups, thus taking out the necessity of other lower tonality instruments such a classical bass saxophone, Tuba, etc.

Currently, you might quite rarely encounter bass saxophones in the music ensemble, however, if the instrument is present you can almost always feel a very strong presence and the diverse tonality in the music group. It should also be mentioned that contemporary saxophone players such as Colin Stetson play a big role in revoking this instrument’s popularity and putting it in the spotlight after so many years.

Is it easy to play bass saxophone

As we talk about the popularity and the current use of Bass saxophone it is important to mention the difficulty level of the bass saxophone.  The bass saxophones are quite a challenging instrument to play. This goes both for ergonomics as well as the ability to create a consistent sound. The size of the instrument is quite large thus the longer you play heavier it seems, also the air needed to play notes in a consistent manner is not an easy job especially if you are just beginning your saxophonist journey.

How much does a bass sax cost

As the majority of bass saxophones in the world were made in the last century, for a long time the options to get the nex bass sax was quite limited. Currently, there are more companies that are starting to build bass saxophones, thus it is easier to get your hands on a brand new bass sax. Today, there are few popular manufacturers that produce saxophones in Europe and the US. Most popular being Keilwerth, whose bass saxophones replicate the vintage style of an American bass saxophone, Selmer  with its short wrap design bass saxophone, and last but not the least another European manufacturer Benedikt Eppelsheim that also started producing the instrument with its distinct design.

The availability of the instrument is far greater, however, the price of a bass saxophone depends on the quality, and the brand can set you back $4,000  up to $30,000. It is important to mention that you may have to stand in the queue for the orders and wait up to one year after placing an order before you receive your instrument.

Buying a second-hand bass saxophone

If you ever had an experience with buying a used vehicle you would know a thing or two about buying a used saxophone as well. Sometimes buying a second hand bass saxophone might be as challenging as learning to play the instrument itself. First of all patience is the key, and noticing details and knowing what details to notice might be a real gamechanger.

There are many things to consider like the Brand of the horn, finishing, Mechanics, Dents intonation and much more. You can check out our other article to get some more details on the matter:  15 Things To know when buying a Used Saxophone

How much time do you have to practice bass saxophone

As you know there is no a definite formula to say how much practice you need to become a professional bass sax player, however as a rough estimate, you might be thinking of an average of 3-6 hours of daily practice to achieve that outstanding level.

Top bass saxophone players in the world

Adrian Rollini was one of the most influential bass saxophone players in the past century. He produced some of the most popular hits throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Most prominently Colin Stetson has become a face of bass saxophone music with his many  collaborations with various indie-rock bands like Arcade Fire, in addition to his solo saxophone work. He has acquired a decent community of followers throughout the years, has been featured in many albums and film-scorings. 

Popular bass saxophonists:

  • Deep Schrott
  • Konk Zooben
  • Boyd Raeburn
  • Mats Gustafsson
  • Andreas Kaling