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The Bass Saxophone is a member of Adolphe Sax's saxophone family that is part of the original saxophone family that was developed and patented by Sax in the mid 19th Century. The modern bass saxophone is pitched in B flat, being a tuning complementary to the other members of the saxophone family. It is a brass instrument with a vibrating reed that allows the player to make sound by adjusting the length of the tube and changing the strength of their breathing.
The tube length is adjusted through the opening of valves that are controlled by buttons on the tube. The sound of a Bass Saxophone is justifiably a low one, pitched to give mellowness to the rest of the Saxophone family when used in ensemble playing. The music is written in the same way, and the basic principles of operation are fundamentally identical. Being an instrument made of brass, the Bass Saxophone has a bright, cheerful tone, despite its low register.
The origins of the Bass Saxophone lie within the German conservatorium's for Classical Music, being utilized in orchestral compositions since the mid 19th century. Though solo performances did occur, it more commonly occurred as an adjunct to other musical instruments, commonly being used by jazz ensembles of the 1920's in their popular tours around the Continental United States. Though there is a lower member of the family, the Contrabass Sax, its huge size and large expense meant that the Bass sax was the most commonly seen saxophone at the low range. Being significantly smaller and lighter than its Contrabass Cousin, the Bass Sax has an air of portability that means it is useable in a marching band situation.
This portability led to the evolution of compositions that incorporate significant elements of the Bass Saxophone. One notable composer was Boyd Raeburn, a big band leader in the 1940's avant garde era. The place of the Bass Sax has been recognized and cemented within musical ensembles by its large presence and showy disposition. The use of the bass sax by revivalist jazz performers in the modern era shows that the sound is loved and that the instrument was well designed by its inventor. Musical composition on the bass is as simple as it is for the other common members of the saxophone family.
Care of Instrument:
As with the other members of the saxophone family, if the instrument is not looked after the quality of its playability will deteriorate rapidly. By cleaning the instrument after playing, making sure the spit valves have been purged, and performing regular oiling and polishing of moving parts the instrument will hold its value and enjoyment value for years. Care should be taken when working with the delicate reed, and it is always a good idea to carry a spare, in case it snaps far off the beaten track and there is a crowd of angry villagers with machetes demanding that a song be played to appease the angry volcano god. Being unable to produce a fine rendition of Star Spangled Banner to calm the spirit of the volcano due to a broken reed could be detrimental to the health of the musician.