What Are The Different Types Of Saxophone?

When first delving into the world of the saxophone, many aspiring musicians are immediately met with a flood of questions: What type of saxophone do you want? What reeds do you want? What style of music do you want to play? With so many questions going on, it can be difficult for the beginner to even know where to start!

That’s why we’ve broken down the different types of saxophone for you in an easy to follow guide to help you decide on what is going to be the right instrument for you!

The origins of the saxophone: 

As with most things, a great place to start is the beginning! The saxophone was first invented by Adolphe Sax in 1846 after he designed an instrument that could both act as a powerful woodwind accompaniment whilst being also able to blend seamlessly between brass instruments. This fundamental area is the reason why the saxophones is so versatile and remains one of the most adaptable instruments around!

Due to it’s sheer versatility, the saxophone has found homes in: Jazz, classical, military, reggae, rock and even some metal songs!

Because of this variance in sound, the instrument has continued to adapt and left us with NINE (yes nine!) different types of saxophone around today. All look similar, but there are countless differences between them, so to make things easier for newcomers today we will be focusing on the main four types of saxophone that can be mostly found and suited to beginners.

Alto
Tenor
Soprano
Baritone

So what makes each saxophone different?


The main differences between saxophone ranges comes from the pitch, meaning how ‘high’ or ‘low’ the instrument sounds and feels. For example the more earthy tones found in the likes of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’  and even The Pink Panther theme tune, both use a Tenor saxophone. Whereas those higher sounds from the likes of ‘Epic Sax Guy’ utilise the slightly higher sounds found in Alto saxophones.


Alto Saxophone – The Best Saxophone For beginners:

For beginner saxophonists, we would generally recommend an Alto saxophone such as thisYamaha Alto Sax. For those who are still looking to find their sound, or who just want to get a feel for the saxophone, you can’t go wrong with an Alto saxophone. Having a slightly smaller size and mouthpiece than the Tenor saxophone, the Alto saxophone makes playing easier for younger children and newcomers to woodwind instruments. As it is pitched to E flat, the sound of an Alto saxophone is highly versatile and can dip both to lower tones and maintain that mid to high range especially well – This allows players to get a real feel for their playing style and finger technique before moving to either a soprano, baritone or other type of saxophone.

Tenor Saxophone – Iconic Saxophone sound

As mentioned, if you’re looking for a real ‘earthy’ feeling sound, or the idea of a ‘classic’ saxophone sound, a Tenor saxophone such as a Trevor James ‘The Horn’ Classic II is the place to be! The rich texture within it’s sound has firmly landed the Tenor saxophone as the most popular amongst saxophone players. It’s larger size means that it requires a little more technique to be able to master and is why we would still generally recommend the Alto for beginners and younger musicians, once your breathing and fingering technique has progressed, a tenor saxophone is a fantastic instrument to move to. It’s lower pitch at B-flat means that the user is able to produce a slightly more hard hitting bassy sound that finds itself in so many pop, rock and jazz songs today.

Soprano Saxophone – High pitched, perfect for saxophone solos

Pitched a full octave above the Tenor saxophone, the Soprano saxophone is the smallest of the common saxophones and as such, created the highest pitch. Due to this incredibly unique sound and piercing tones, it is a difficult instrument to make work as part of a collective and is generally recommended for proficient players. For those especially looking for a Soprano saxophone however, an Artemis Curved Soprano is a great place to start. It’s also worth noting that Alto saxophones can be both curved or straight.

Baritone Saxophones – Lower tones with a feel good groove

The largest of the four and the lowest tone by a long way (an octave lower than an Alto saxophone), the Baritone saxophone is a fantastic creator of deep tones that help blend beautifully as part of an orchestra or collective. Due to its size, weight and requirement of more air, it’s generally not recommended for beginner players or younger players – Even the most proficient baritone players will continue to wear a harness to help support good playing posture and protect their backs.

Of course, there are many other types of saxophone on the market, however these four are the most commonly used and the ones that, if you are just looking to start your saxophone journey are fantastic places to begin and adapt to as your skills develop. If you are still unsure on which is the right saxophone for you, or would like some further information regarding our saxophone range, our woodwind specialists would be happy to help find the right instrument for you!

Want a little further inspiration? Check out our favourite saxophone players of all time!

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