Adolph Sax originally intended for the saxophone family to include sucontrabass instruments, but none were manufactured for over 150 years. There were several "attempts" to create a sucontrabass during the heyday of the lower saxes in the 20s--30s, but they were not correctly tuned, required several people to play, and were generally just scaled up versions of smaller saxes. Recently, Benedikt Eppelsheim has had great success with his line of bass wind instruments including bass and contrabass saxophones, and contrabass and subcontrabass tubaxes. The tubax is double-wrapped to make the key-work easier to play, just as Sax originally intended for his lower instruments (inspired by the ophicleide). The Tubax has a very narrow bore however, giving it a bell approximately the same size as a baritone (whereas a true subcontrabass saxophone would have a bell that could fit a baritone sax, or a maximum sized child, inside of it); this gives the tubax a much reedier tone than equivalent saxophones and many do not consider it a true saxophone. J’Élle Stainer created the prototype of the first true subcontrabass saxophone. It is based on their compact contrabass design, nicknamed the trashcan due to its double-wrap making it very short but very wide, but tuned a fourth lower in Bb. The prototype was unveiled in 2010. In 2012, both Benedikt Eppelsheim and J’Élle Stainer were working on building full-size true subcontrabass saxophones. In September, Benedikt Eppelsheim finished the first full-size true subcontrabass saxophone and J’Élle Stainer was close to finishing their first full-size true subcontrabass saxophone.
The subcontrabass tubax is used today mainly in saxophone ensembles and occaisionly in avant-garde music. One of the foremost performers on the subcontrabass tubax is Jay C. Easton who owns and plays every member of the saxophone family and every member of the nuclear clarinet family.
Types of Subcontrabass SaxophoneEdit
There are currently two manufacturers working on subcontrabass saxophones. Benedikt Eppelsheim is the maker of the subcontrabass tubax which has the same range as a subcontrabass saxophone but a narrower bore.
In 2010, J’Élle Stainer unveiled the first true subcontrabass saxophone. It is a prototype based off their compact design.
In September 2012, Benedikt Eppelsheim finished building the first full-sized subcontrabass saxophone to low A. This subcontrabass saxophone stands 7 feet 4.5 inches tall.
The second full-sized subcontrabass saxophone is still in the prototype phase and is being designed/manufactured by J’Élle Stainer. This subcontrabass saxophone will be over 9 feet tall.
Subcontrabass Saxophone Construction and ComponentsEdit
The subcontrabass tubax has four octave vents, three are automatic and the fourth facilitates easier playing in the altissimo register. There is not much known about the subcontrabass saxophone being designed by J’Élle Stainer except that it is double-wrapped and can fit an entire baritone saxophone, or a really fat child, inside of its bell.
The subcontrabass saxophone is tuned in BBBb and sounds three octaves and a major second lower than written. It's lowest note sounds G#0 (only 25.95 Hz).
The subcontrabass tubax uses a baritone mouthpiece and a baritone saxophone, contrabass clarinet, or bass saxophone reed. Once a true subcontrabass saxophone is manufactured it will require a special subcontrabass mouthpiece and will probably use either contrabass saxophone reeds or contrabass clarinet reeds. Larger saxophones are usually played on special stands to reduce strain on the player and also to reduce the chance of dropping such an expensive and rare instrument.
Instruments with a similar range include the contrabassoon, contrabass clarinet, octobass flute, and the contrabass sarrusophone.