Mezzo-soprano saxophone

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Mezzo-soprano saxophone
Mezzo-soprano (left) and alto (right) saxophones.
Woodwind instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 422.212-71
(Single-reed aerophone with keys)
Inventor(s) Adolphe Sax
Developed28 June 1846 [1]
Playing range
Sax range.svg

In F: sounds a perfect fifth lower than written.
Sounding: Sounding range of mezzo-soprano saxophone.png
Related instruments

Military band family:

Orchestral family:

Other saxophones:

More articles or information

The mezzo-soprano saxophone, sometimes called the F alto saxophone, is an instrument in the saxophone family. It is in the key of F, pitched a whole tone above the alto saxophone. Its size and the sound are similar to the E alto, although the upper register sounds more like a B soprano. Very few mezzo-sopranos exist—they were only produced in 1928 and 1929 by the C.G. Conn company. They were not popular and did not sell widely, as their production coincided with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Harsh economic conditions forced Conn to reduce the range of saxophones they produced to the most popular models.


Conn used the surplus stock of mezzo-sopranos to teach instrument repair in Conn's Elkhart workshops. Typically, a Conn instructor would deliberately damage the mezzo-sopranos (e.g. dropping them onto a concrete floor) and the students would then be tasked with repairing them. The repeated wear and tear of these actions eventually destroyed the saxophones.

The mezzo-soprano is the only saxophone pitched in F, apart from a few prototypes of an F baritone saxophone. (Although Maurice Ravel's 1928 orchestral work Boléro calls for a sopranino saxophone in F, it is unlikely that such an instrument ever existed; nowadays the sopranino saxophone part is usually played on a soprano saxophone).

Notable players of the mezzo-soprano saxophone include Anthony Braxton, James Carter, Vinny Golia, Jon Irabagon, and Jay Easton.

More recently a mezzo-soprano in the key of G has been produced by Danish woodwind technician Peter Jessen, most notably played by Benjamin Koppel and Joe Lovano. Their collaboration can be heard on "The Mezzo Sax Encounter" (vinyl and CD, 2016) where Koppel and Lovano are accompanied by pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Scott Colley and Drummer Johnathan Blake. This instrument is more in the timbral quality of the B soprano saxophone.

In classical music

It was asked for by Richard Strauss in his Sinfonia Domestica written in 1903-1904, where included in the music are parts for four saxophones including an alto saxophone in F.

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The sarrusophones are a family of transposing woodwind musical instruments patented and placed into production by Pierre-Louis Gautrot in 1856. Originally designed as double-reed instruments, sarrusophones were later developed that used single-reed mouthpieces, at least for some of the larger sizes. It was named after the French bandmaster Pierre-Auguste Sarrus (1813–1876), who is credited with the concept of the instrument, though it is not clear whether Sarrus benefited financially from this association. The instrument was intended to serve as a replacement in wind bands for the oboe and bassoon, which, at that time, lacked the carrying power required for outdoor band music.

Alto saxophone Type of saxophone

The alto saxophone, also referred to as the alto sax or simply the alto, is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments invented by Belgian instrument designer Adolphe Sax in the 1840s, and patented in 1846. It is pitched in E, and is smaller than the tenor, but larger than the soprano. The alto sax is the most common saxophone and is commonly used in popular music, concert bands, chamber music, solo repertoire, military bands, marching bands, and jazz. The fingerings of the different saxophones are all the same so a saxophone player can play any type of saxophone.

Tenor saxophone Type of saxophone

The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor and the alto are the two most commonly used saxophones. The tenor is pitched in the key of B (while the alto is pitched in the key of E), and written as a transposing instrument in the treble clef, sounding an octave and a major second lower than the written pitch. Modern tenor saxophones which have a high F key have a range from A2 to E5 (concert) and are therefore pitched one octave below the soprano saxophone. People who play the tenor saxophone are known as "tenor saxophonists", "tenor sax players", or "saxophonists".

Soprano saxophone

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Soprano clarinet

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C.G. Conn Ltd., sometimes called Conn Instruments or commonly just Conn, is a former American manufacturer of musical instruments incorporated in 1915. It bought the production facilities owned by Charles Gerard Conn, a major figure in early manufacture of brasswinds and saxophones in the USA. Its early business was based primarily on brass instruments, which were manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana. During the 1950s the bulk of its sales revenue shifted to electric organs. In 1969 the company was sold in bankruptcy to the Crowell-Collier-MacMillan publishing company. Conn was divested of its Elkhart production facilities in 1970, leaving remaining production in satellite facilities and contractor sources.

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Sopranissimo saxophone Type of saxophone

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Contrabass saxophone

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Clarinet family

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  1. "June 28, 1846: Parisian Inventor Patents Saxophone". Retrieved 14 February 2011.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)