Baritone saxophone: Wikis


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Baritone saxophone, or Bari Sax
Baritone saxophone.jpg

Wind Woodwind

Playing range
Sax range.svg

In E: sounds one octave and a major sixth lower than written.(ie. from D to approx. A). Many models include the low A, a half step below the saxophone's normal lowest note, and some models have a key to facilitate the playing of the F at the top of the range. Through the use of overtones the high range can be extended..
Related instruments

Military band family:

Orchestral family:

Other saxophones:

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The baritone saxophone, often called "bari sax" (to avoid confusion with the baritone horn, which is often referred to simply as "baritone"), is one of the larger and lower pitched members of the saxophone family. It was invented by Adolphe Sax. The baritone is distinguished from smaller sizes of saxophone by the extra loop near its mouthpiece; this helps to keep the instrument at a practical height (the rarer bass saxophone has a similar, but larger loop).


Technical specifications

The baritone saxophone is the largest saxophone commonly seen in modern ensembles. The other common saxophones are the alto, tenor and soprano. It is a transposing instrument in the key of E, one octave lower than the alto saxophone, although Adolphe Sax had originally also produced a baritone saxophone in F intended for orchestral use. Despite its low register, music for the baritone saxophone is written in treble clef. It is also possible to read parts written in the bass clef for instruments pitched in C as if the part was in the treble clef, while adjusting the key signature from C to A and any accidentals as necessary. (In other words, the player simply pretends the bass clef music were written in treble clef and adds three sharps to the key signature.) This is often useful for reading tuba or trombone parts in songs without a written baritone saxophone part.

The exceptional weight of the instrument (15-20 pounds or 6.5 kg), as compared to the other three commonly used sizes of saxophone, makes it difficult to use in marching bands. Baritone saxophone players in marching groups often use a special harness that distributes the weight of the instrument onto the player's back instead of around his or her neck, as is the conventional way of supporting the instrument. Even so, it is very hard to march with. The baritone saxophone can still be used in a marching band with the standard neckstrap, but that is unadvisable. Its reed size is notably large, twice that of an alto saxophone reed and noticeably larger than that used by the tenor saxophone.

The fingerings for all of the instruments in the saxophone family are essentially the same and many players play more than one type of saxophone. The baritone saxophone, however, is the only member of the saxophone family which usually possesses a "low A" key (sounding concert C, the same pitch as the lowest note on the cello), whereas most other saxophones descend only to a fingered B, though altos and basses have been manufactured with low A keys, and Benedikt Eppelsheim now makes a contrabass saxophone with one; (sounding pitch depending on the key of the particular instrument).

In classical music

The baritone saxophone is used in classical music (particularly as a member of a saxophone quartet), but composers have rarely called for it in orchestral music. Examples include Richard Strauss' Symphonia Domestica, composed in 1902-03; Béla Bartók's Wooden Prince ballet music, Charles Ives' Symphony no. 4, composed in 1910-16, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. It has a comparatively small solo repertoire although an increasing number of concertos has appeared. When the baritone is used in an orchestral setting, it often doubles the tuba, although a number of composers and arrangers have included solo parts for the baritone saxophone.

In popular music

Saxophonist in a military band of the Italian army, carrying a silver-plated baritone saxophone

Baritone sax is an important part of military bands, concert bands, jazz bands, wind ensembles and is common in musical theater, especially those of the more "jazzy" type, e.g. Anything Goes, Mack and Mabel, Chicago. In concert bands, it often plays a part similar to that of the tuba, bassoon, and bass clarinet. The baritone player usually plays rather simple rhythms in order to maintain the musical pulse of the group. Often, this consists of quarter notes on beats one and three in 4/4 time.

The baritone plays a notable role in many Motown hits of the 60s, and has often been heard in the horn sections of funk, blues, and soul bands. It is sometimes also used in rock music. For example, it is featured along with a tenor sax in "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd from the album Wish You Were Here. Paul Simon often includes a baritone saxophone in concert performances of Late in the Evening.

Prominent baritone saxophonists in contemporary American popular music include David Bowie,[1] Dana Colley of Morphine and A.K.A.C.O.D., Skerik of Critters Buggin, Clarence Clemons, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Clifton Hyde of Tinpan/Blue Man Group, and Justin Harris of Menomena. Linnell and Colley also play bass saxophone on occasion. Many saxophonists also play a baritone on occasion including Dick Parry, Dave Koz, Clarence Clemons, Ben Ellman of Galactic, [2], the late Leroi Moore of the Dave Matthews Band, [3], and David Sanborn.

Nigerian Afrobeat singer, musician, and bandleader Fela Kuti typically featured two baritone saxophone players in his band (most American jazz big bands feature only one).


In jazz

Although few classical saxophonists perform exclusively on the baritone saxophone, a number of jazz performers have used it as their primary instrument. The baritone is an important instrument in the big band, being the largest size of saxophone used in that ensemble (although the larger bass saxophone was occasionally used up to the 1940s). One of the instrument's pioneers was Duke Ellington's longtime baritone player, Harry Carney, who played both accompanying bass lines as well as exuberant solos and improvisations.

In big bands, the role of the baritone player usually involves doubling with the bass trombone, bass, or first alto saxophone but in some cases it has an independent part. (The saxophone section of a standard jazz band contains two altos, two tenors, and a baritone.) The baritone player is usually expected to double on bass clarinet.

Since the mid-1950s, master baritone saxophone soloists such as Gerry Mulligan, Lars Gullin, Cecil Payne, and Pepper Adams achieved fame, and Serge Chaloff was the first player of the instrument to achieve fame as a bebop soloist. In the 1970s, a jazz band called the Baritone Saxophone Retinue consisted of between six and ten baritone saxophones, backed up by a rhythm section. A similar group, the International Baritone Conspiracy, which featured six baritones, was formed in the 1990s.

More recent notable performers include Ken Ponticelli, Hamiet Bluiett (who has also led a group of baritone players), Zu, John Surman, Scott Robinson , James Carter, Stephen "Doc" Kupka of the band "Tower of Power", Nick Brignola, Clifton Hyde, Gary Smulyan, Ronnie Cuber, Frank Vacin and Claire Daly. In the avant-garde scene, Andy Laster and Tim Berne have doubled on bari. A Noted Scottish performer is Joe Temperley, who has appeared with Humphrey Lyttelton as well as with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The Baritone Saxophone Band, a tribute to Gerry Mulligan, featured three baritone saxophonists: Ronnie Cuber, Gary Smulyan, and Nick


The bari sax has become a more commonly seen instrument in ska punk and third wave ska bands including Streetlight Manifesto, Less Than Jake, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. The sax is popular for its lower register notes, however, the size and bulk of the instrument, along with the cost, can prevent many bands from using it.

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