Friday Reeds | Family Matters: Saxophone

Family Matters! On today’s #Fridayreed we share some information on common and obscure members of the saxophone family.

Alto Saxophone

The most common saxophone of them all, it's heard in most music genres including Jazz, concert bands, marching bands, swing, bebop, blues, rock, funk and gospel. The homogenous, bold tone of the alto sax has great projection, and amazing versatility. The upper, or altissimo, register is bright, piercing, and very evocative.


The second most common saxophone, plays in all the same genres as the alto. It tends to be more common in modern jazz, funk, blues, and R&B than the alto. It produces a huskier, larger sound with an edge to it. The altissimo on a tenor saxophone is ideal for “screaming” blue and rock solos.


The soprano saxophone is a featured instrument in smooth jazz, but also found in genres. Of the common saxophones, it has the highest pitch and brightest tone making it ideal for a soloist. Soprano sax is often featured in traditional European and Asian folk music as a lead melody instrument.


The bari sax is the largest of the common saxophones. Although it’s heard in the same genres as the others, due to its bigger size and weight, it’s less ideal in a matching band our outdoor concert. It is usually played with harnesses or straps for comfort. It is the lowest pitch of the common saxophones (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone).

Sopranino and the Sopranissimo

These saxophones are quite rare, very small and very high-pitched. It takes great skill to play and control them due to the smallness of it. The sopranissimo is higher than the sopranino.


The bass sax is not as agile as other saxophones due to its large size of the mechanism, reed, and mouthpiece. It produces a rich, dark, low tone and can be used instead of the sousaphone in certain bands.

C Melody

Available in tenor and soprano sizes, the C melody is the only not transposing saxophone. A player can read along with piano music and play along without the need to ensure the correct notes are being played!

This saxophone size was popular with variety bands in the 1920's, but unfortunately did not gain popularity and its now a rather obscure instrument.

Contrabass or Tubax

The largest of the saxophone family requires a great amount of air to play. It has a very slow mechanism making it less agile than its smaller family members.