I noticed that in the last couple of days some people have been searching for “subcontrabass sax” and getting hits to my blog. I go to Jay Easton’s Subcontrabass Sax page or Helen’s Bassic Sax blog for my researching needs. But in case that or the Wikipedia info disappears, I decided to capture it here for my future use.
“The subcontrabass saxophone is a type of saxophone that Adolphe Sax patented and planned to build but never constructed. Sax called this imagined instrument saxophone bourdon (named after the lowest stop on the pipe organ). It would have been a transposing instrument pitched in B♭, one octave below the bass saxophone and two octaves below the tenor saxophone.” ~ Wikipedia
If I were to purchase an instrument like this I would once again see Benedikt Epplesheim who has provided me with a modern bass sax keyed to low A, a soprillo sax, and a modern C soprano sax. His Tubax is so sexy that there are few saxophonists who don’t dream about it at night!
There are also some nice audio samples on the Epplesheim Tubax page. You can find more information on vintage subcontrabass saxes on my friend Helen’s blog in the post titled The World’s Largest Saxophone, Then & Now.
One of the more interesting subcontrabass sax projects is the J’Elle Stainer’s instrument. I looked all over the web for a current picture and was glad I saved this picture from a number of years ago:
Subcontrabass Sax History
Until 1999, no genuine, playable subcontrabass saxophones were made, though at least two gigantic saxophones seem to have been built solely for show. Although the smaller of the two (constructed in the mid-1960s) was able to produce musical tones, with assistants opening and closing its pads due to the instrument’s lack of keywork, witnesses have stated that it was incapable of playing even a simple scale.
“The B♭ subcontrabass Tubax was developed in 2000 by instrument manufacturer Benedikt Eppelsheim of Munich, Germany and is described by Eppelsheim as a “subcontrabass saxophone”. This instrument is available in both C and B♭, with the B♭ model providing the same pitch range as the saxophone bourdon would have. A contrabass-range Tubax in E♭ is also available.
The question of whether or not the Tubax is truly a saxophone is debatable: it has the same fingering as a contrabass saxophone, but its bore, though conical, is narrower (relative to its length) than that of a regular saxophone. This makes for a more compact instrument with a “reedier” and “fatter” timbre. While some argue that the Tubax is akin to the double-reed sarrusophone, the Tubax’s bore is much larger than that of the corresponding size of sarrusophone. Some authorities regard the Tubax as a separate family of instruments rather than as a type of saxophone.” ~ Wikipedia