The Contrabass is not as widely used as its other family members although you will come across it in Jazz and Rock music.
Read more on the Contrabass sax in the full description below.
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Due to its large body and wide bore, the sound of the contrabass saxophone has a great acoustical presence and a very rich tone. It can be smooth and mellow, or harsh and buzzy depending on the player, and on the mouthpiece and reed combination used.
Its middle and upper registers are warm, full, and expressive. Because its deepest tones vibrate so slowly (as with the contrabassoon or pedal notes on a pipe organ) it can be difficult for listeners to perceive individual pitches at the bottom of its range; instead of hearing a clearly delineated melody, listeners may instead hear a series of rattling tones with little pitch definition. However, when these tones are reinforced by another instrument playing at the octave or fifteenth, they sound clearly defined and have tremendous resonance and presence.
In some contemporary jazz/classical ensembles, the contrabass saxophone doubles the baritone saxophone either at the same pitch or an octave below, depending on the register of the music.
In recent years, the rock group Violent Femmes have incorporated the contrabass saxophone into the band’s live performances as well as their newest albums. Blaise Garza’s contrabass saxophone often doubles the bass guitar, and is featured heavily on their ninth studio album We Can Do Anything.
The contrabass saxophone has most frequently been used as a solo instrument by woodwind players in the genres of jazz and improvised music who are searching for an extreme or otherworldly tone.
The difficulty of holding and controlling the instrument (let alone playing it) makes performing on the instrument a somewhat theatrical experience in and of itself. On older instruments, playing is difficult too; it takes an enormous amount of air to sound notes in the low register.
Thanks to refinements in their acoustical designs and keywork, modern contrabass saxophones are no more difficult to play than most other saxophones.
An increasing number of performers and recording artists are making use of the instrument, including Anthony Braxton, Paul Cohen, David Brutti, Jay C. Easton, Randy Emerick and many more.
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