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Saxophones Low A bari


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What is the reason that baris have been developed play low A, and other saxes haven't? I read Stephen Howards tongue-in-cheek article on how to convert a Bb with a rolled-up magazine, and having played a Bb bari, which is not much heavier than some tenors, and an A which of course has an extra foot of plumbing in it and requires the neck muscles of Sly Stallone, I wondered why that extra semi-tone was considered so important that so far as I can see, you just cannot buy a Bb bari new?

Also interesting when it is argued that the reason that saxes are in Eb and Bb, and not C, is that the length and diameter of the instrument to achieve the desired sound dictates the pitch. And yet an extra lump of metal can be happily added to a bari without anyone complaining that it affects the sound.

I await a tsunami of learned and informed responses. :)
I've not tried or even heard a Low A bari, but during my research before buying mine, I believe it's all in the tone. What you gain in tone with a low Bb apparently out weighs (ahem!) the weight, and the tone suffers for the extra semitone. There you go, clear as mud!
Now I'll wait for the more experienced bari blasters to shoot me down in flames!!!
The baritone low A is low C concert which is a useful note for arrangers to have available in many keys. A useful root note right down at the bottom of the sax section in big bands.

Much more useful than the low A on alto saxes, which just doubles up a note already available from the tenor and baritone sax. That's why the low A alto has never caught on in the same way as on the baritone.

I have also heard that the low A on the baritone can cause problems with intonation and with sound quality for the lower notes, but my Selmer SA80 II is just great up and down the whole instrument. I wouldn't mind a modern low Bb bari as well for easing the strain on my neck muscles.

Rhys (proud owner of low A baritone, low A alto and low A bass saxophones !)

PS You can also use a couple of tricks for getting low A on the tenor. Rolled up magazine works and also playing Bb with your left knee inserted in the bell of the instrument to just the right depth. An appropriately-shaped buttock can work too, but this usually involves an unsuspecting female bystander.
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There are saxes to low a beside baris: Selmers Mk VI alto, Keilwerth bassax to low A (I think Rhys have one), Conn-O-Sax in F to low A and Selmer made a C-melody to low A in the 30’s.

The composers and arrangers understood the important half step and began they wrote for the low concert C. The low A bari became standard in big bands an concert bands and other music as well. So the allround pro-bariplayer didn’t had to own two baris the just had one low A. The qualty of the tone Selmer baris werer the same, with or without low A.

Selmer introdced the Super Action low A bari in 1952 and was the only manufactor for a long time. But aren’t there some manufactors that are still producing baris to low Bb?

I don’t know why the kept the Eb and Bb saxes? The F and C saxes disappeared in the early 30’s. The F saxes were meant as an alternative to the French horn and English horn(?) in orchestral works. New C-saxes are built today.

I find low A very useful too. I don't believe there is a consistent difference in tone between low A and Bb baris - there is as much difference between different makes. I've played a lot of baris but the only long term comparison I've done is between my Yanag B900 and my brother's Conn Crossbar. There are plenty of differences but the one that everybody goes on about is the tone and I prefer the Yanag. There is very little to choose between them in terms of volume - the only note that the Conn is louder on is, unsurprisingly, low Bb. Ergonomically and for intonation the Yanag wins hands down.

Going back to the OP - I thought that saxes were produced in Eb and Bb to fit in with the brass instruments in military bands and like many things in instrument manufacture it has persisted due to the intertia in mass production. Don't get me started on clarinet keywork.
A little potted history. The idea of low-A saxophones was around in Sax's time. He apparently built a low-A alto. Baritones only went down to B for a long time. Part of the reason appears to have been Sax's ownership of the patent which didn't permit others to introduce technical innovations. As it happened, the patent had to be renewed in about 1890, and that was about the time of the first Bb baritone. The low A took a little longer. It really must have been quite difficult to develop a practical mechanism for low A. Even Bb was not easy.

The low-A baritone was of course welcomed by composers and musicians who are always keen to explore the possibilities offered by a bigger range. By coincidence it matches the lowest note on the cello, but I don't think that was an important factor. Today it seems that players of classical music need to have low A, but the jazz world is getting on very nicely without it. The determining factor clearly was a wish to make the instrument more versatile and useful. The range was extended at the other end, too. It is worth remembering too that until about 1915 sopranos commonly only went up to Eb. And you can get a tenor that goes up to G, but I assume that people needing that note would often be more comfortable to rely on altissimo.
Thanks for the insight guys. In anticipation of the possible arrival of a bari, I spent last rehearsal working out the bari part on alto. NOW I understand the importance of that low A!
Thanks for the insight guys. In anticipation of the possible arrival of a bari, I spent last rehearsal working out the bari part on alto. NOW I understand the importance of that low A!

So, off down the M5 to tomorrow to collect a nice low A bari with an interesting history.
It's a John Packer Cadence model - ex-demo. Packers loan out instruments to pro players for tours then sell them off at a discount when they get them back. This particular baby went out with the all-girl horn section of Seals backing band on a European tour. There is a picture of it with the previous owner in the shop - she's definitely prettier than me. Fair bet she's a better sax-player as well....

Anyway, it's a bit of a belter (the bari, just to avoid confusion) - absolute delight to play, even with the OE mouthpiece, although I did pick up a Yamaha mp as well. Quite a looker as well (see above).

Yes, they clearly don't hang around - they had 2 when I phoned them, but just the one 4 days later when I got down to Taunton. If you speak to Andy or Claire in the single-reed department, they might be able to give you a clue when they are expecting some more ex-demos in.

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