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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, hoping somebody has a bit of time to discuss the trade offs between baritone and bass?

I had in my mind thought to extend the range of my sax contribution by getting into bari from tenor, since most of my playing exploits my low register sound.

I transpose as I go from c to Bb no problem so getting in to bari will take some brain strain (i play flute, clarinet, sop and tenor atm).

But more of a concern is that a basic bari (probably excl. mpc etc.) is going to be about £1k so essentially I am buying each tone for £200!!!

I'll admit that I will sometimes consider trading an organ for a low A-and I'm not talking about a Hammond here! - but on balance I am kind of thinking yes, the bari is the whole package, more than just a couple of extra notes BUT wouldn't a bass be all that and a bit more?

Staying in Bb guarantees that a bass will be easier for me to slot into my existing repertoire, and there really aren't a huge amount of players offering the bass sax sound so this could be a good edge.

But, of course there's the eye-watering price tag!

Not exactly sure if I could handle a real bass, would have to be a short wrap. I'm about 5'8" and, ahem, a girl. In practical terms all this means is that my shoulders aren't particularly broad and strong.

Would love a bit of advice from experienced players,especially those who double up.
 

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You could get a special bass sax stand to hold the horn while you play. However, that's one more thing you'd have to buy (or make) and carry around.

The reason there aren't many players offering the bass sax sound is that there aren't many groups that want the bass sax sound (aside from academic saxophone ensembles) or current compositions or arrangements that call for the bass sax sound. Think carefully before committing yourself.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Hi, hoping somebody has a bit of time to discuss the trade offs between baritone and bass?

.......

But more of a concern is that a basic bari (probably excl. mpc etc.) is going to be about £1k so essentially I am buying each tone for £200!!!
I have both bari and bass - I think it's wrong to just think of the baritone as giving you 5 extra notes - it's a whole big thing by itself. so it's actually less than £200 per note, OTOH it's a bit optimistic to think you'll get a half decent one for 1000 quid.

I enjoy playing both, but the baritone certainly gets more use.


Not exactly sure if I could handle a real bass, would have to be a short wrap. I'm about 5'8" and, ahem, a girl. In practical terms all this means is that my shoulders aren't particularly broad and strong.

Absolutely no problem if you use a saxholder.

The reason there aren't many players offering the bass sax sound is that there aren't many groups that want the bass sax sound (aside from academic saxophone ensembles) or current compositions or arrangements that call for the bass sax sound. Think carefully before committing yourself.
This is the real point, you have to really know you have an opportunity for plying it with people. Baritone can fit in whether it's classical, jazz, pop, funk whatever and it has that funky grunt that I find you don't really get with bass.
 

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The bass saxophone is a true bass and is most suited to playing bass lines whereas the baritone sounds great for playing slow ballads or other melodies.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
[/QUOTE]

it's a bit optimistic to think you'll get a half decent one for 1000 quid.
.....

Baritone can fit in whether it's classical, jazz, pop, funk whatever and it has that funky grunt that I find you don't really get with bass.[/QUOTE]

True! I am looking at a couple of second hand baris around the 1k mark, vintage stencils, low Bb. As primarily a way to supplement my low range I couldn't really start with a big outlay on a bari, unless it becomes a more regular thing down the line when I might upgrade.

I am disappointed to hear that the bass doesn't have that grunt in your opinion, one problem is that barely anybody has a bass , I certainly don't know anyone in real life who plays one enough to judge.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The reason there aren't many players offering the bass sax sound is that there aren't many groups that want the bass sax sound (aside from academic saxophone ensembles) or current compositions or arrangements that call for the bass sax sound. Think carefully before committing yourself.

Good point well made.

I have reason to supply bass in the outfit I'm working with at the moment, but if that were to change I could see the bari being more use in the long run.
 

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I recently spent a weekend (Super Bowl weekend) playing in a band with a wonderful bass saxophone. That horn laid down about a foot of bass all over the floor . . . meaning, it was resonant, punchy, and really helped the band sound good. It was a 1920's model.

It was a trad-jass band and admittedly, I rarely, if ever, see or hear a baritone sax in such an ensemble, so I don't really have a way to compare the two. Oh, I've heard many baritone saxes in modern big bands and swing-era bands. But every time I listen to an old recording of Adrian Rollini's or Joe Rushton's bass sax, it makes me wonder if I went the right direction with soprano.

As far as the OP's question, I think it depends on what kind of music he intends to play. If he needs to read music, I'm guessing there is a lot more of that for baritone than for bass. If it is jazz, then you must go where you are most comfortable. Money-wise, I suspect your outlay will be about the same. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well at the moment I'm playing original music with a ska/rock band and developing my own line within that. I wouldn't rule it out completely but reading music is not on the horizon right now.
 

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Good comments above. Also, let's be aware (you sound like you already are)....if you gonna buy a Bass...you really want it to be in good playing shape...as in 'needs no repair/servicing'. So you really are looking at, gosh, I dunno....a good $4000-5000 for a vintage one in good tack. I do see chinese ones for like $3700 on eFlay now and again...but IMHO, that'd be a hecka roll of the dice.

Either way. Are you ready to commit those kinds of funds ?

A good used Low Bb Baritone in serviced condition can be had for around $800-1500. Good, reputed brand, in good playing shape. Too bad you didn't arrive here a week ago, I had a Pierret Low Bb I just sold for $700, refurbished. I have a bunch of others in storage too (but not for $700, that was an outlier)
A used Low A in good tack = $1750-2500 on the current market.
So relatively speaking, the Baritones are a bargain.

IMHO while a Bass typically would be used in 'traditional' sort of Bass sax scenarios....I have also seen one played in a Funk horn section (in lieu of the Baritone being there)...and it was pretty darn cool sounding, actually. My recollection is Pete has done some recordings with his which are quite fun.
But, as noted by others as well, the flexibility of the Baritone tends to make it the more 'practical' choice. Even if one could creatively segue a Bass sax into other musical contexts (which is certainly possible, yar, for one who is creatively minded)...it is gonna be more or less playing the bass-like parts of almost all genres I can think of.

then again, one could argue it would also give you a very signature identity as a musician, to be the only player in town (likely) to play one of those...Hmmm....
 

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The biggest drawback about the bass is that it doesn't fit on the back seat of most cars, you need a mini van or a pick-up truck to get to the gigs unless you flip the seats. I know it sounds like a small thing but after awhile and playing many gigs, the bari is way more convenient. What I mean is that it is not just the issue of holding the horn while on stage, it is also the issue of getting to the venue and up the spiral stair case. On the upside, playing bass is just too much fun but better bring a few cans of spinach, if you play longer gigs, these keys will start to grow heavier by the minute.

Additional considerations: You can easily find a combo stand for your sop, alto/tenor and bari so you have everything in one single piece but you'll need a separate stand for the bass. The reason I mention this is because you probably want to switch in between - simply because of fatigue - unless those are relatively short stints. I played a 5 hour R&B gig last weekend with bari, tenor and c-soprano and in the last set I didn't even want to touch the bari anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
This is the thing, I am no way ready to actually buy a bass right now. Guaranteed. I'm kind of just wondering if baritone really is the right way to go for what I want?

I am based in the UK and from what I gather I am not going to find a bari very easily and most of those are the Japanese or Selmer so again the price tag is hefty. We don't see a very many vintage baris, at least not to the degree you have in the US.

Either everyone else here is a Mozart or they are underestimating how tricky it would be to transpose to e flat! I would pick it up I suppose, but when the rest of my instruments are c or Bb an Eb is daunting!

Also, this practical advice re cars is very useful!
 

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Only you can tell, whether you want to play baritone saxophone enough to do it.

We can only tell you whether you want to play bass saxophone, and it looks like we can sum that up as "no." Like soybean said, in its most useful application it serves as a bass, and if you were inclined in that direction you'd know. People who play bass sax often play tuba too, or string bass or other bass instruments. It's an interesting place to be, at the heart of the music if you like. It has nothing to do with playing tenor. And honestly it isn't the most effective bass ever. A band is usually better off with a tuba.

I guess one could say the same of the bari - it isn't just a big tenor, in the way that tenor/alto/soprano relate to each other - but that's only a little bit true. It sure can be used that way, but (it seems to me) this voice that's sort of a bass but usually has a real (contra)bass beneath it, is one of the less well understood roles in music. For those who know what to do, it can tie the bass in, it can add a very effective sense of direction and movement to the music, while the upper horns flit about and tweet out their little passions.

"... the rest of my instruments are C or Bb ..." - do you easily read bass clef in concert pitch? A bari part actually looks quite similar: concert Eb is the ledger line below the staff, where "middle C" is in the sax-transposition bari part. Etc. Accidentals are off of course, but that's easy enough to overcome. Bass sax players also read concert pitch bass clef, by the way, because that's how bass parts are written.
 

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I am based in the UK and from what I gather I am not going to find a bari very easily and most of those are the Japanese or Selmer so again the price tag is hefty. We don't see a very many vintage baris, at least not to the degree you have in the US.
Fair enough but aren't there are plenty of used Baritones on the European market ? Maybe not as many old American ones, but certainly German, French (other than Selmer), and the occasional Italian, as well as a fair # of decent asian ones ?

It also sorta depends on what your price point is....

I guess it's fair to say that if that price point is low (i.e. equivalent of $800-1300usd), Europe is gonna be a harder market to crack.
 

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... Bass sax players also read concert pitch bass clef, by the way, because that's how bass parts are written.
I didn’t know that.
 

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I didn’t know that.
Most pro saxophone players can transpose from concert pitch. It is probably very useful for bass saxophone players if for instance they were to need to read from a bass trombone, tuba or double bass part.

But of course a bass saxophone part should be written as normal in Bb on treble clef
 

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Well, yes, that's what I'm talking about. I guess there may be such a thing as a pro bass sax player, but I'm not one, just a casual amateur. When I was playing bass saxophone, the bass saxophone part was so rare that it was kind of an inconvenient adjustment.

As for buying a baritone saxophone - I'm glad I don't have to worry about this, but apparently many players need a low A, and on the other hand a few really would rather not have it, for various reasons. If you really don't care, I think some European makes offered a low B version, and I imagine one could be had rather economically if they still exist.
 

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The biggest drawback about the bass is that it doesn't fit on the back seat of most cars, you need a mini van or a pick-up truck to get to the gigs unless you flip the seats. ...

Yup. I would have to buy another vehicle to shift one. Subcompacts getting 40mpg will not cut it.
 

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Well, I am a bass sax player, a baritone sax player, and incidentally an upright bass player.

Let's dispose of the car issue first. If you have a normal US sized car you will be able to figure out a way to carry the bass sax.

As to neck straps, being a huge super-muscled bruiser, etc., let's face it, you need to play bass sax on a stand. Figure out which one works for you, and declare victory.

Now if we talk about the musical issues: one issue with bass sax is that it's been quite rare in the band setting since the 1920s. Whatever kind of music you're playing, it would be well worth your time to check out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xo47zs7cLE

where you will hear one of the finest bass sax band players ever, Adrian Rollini, constructing parts that are not stereotypical copies of tuba parts.

But since then, generally the lowest part written in most arrangements is the baritone sax. The bass sax has a DIFFERENT character than baritone, even though their ranges overlap a lot.

I have had several runs at playing the bassax in a big band, but so far I haven't stuck with it long enough to get the transposition well under control.


I would urge you to experiment with bass sax and if you find a good role, let all the rest of us know. It's a beautiful instrument.

Check out, also, Uwe Ladwig and "Bixology" for some other examples of what the bassax can really do.
 
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