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I'm in highschool (Gr.11) and playing tenor in a fairly serious highshool level jazzband and I love the sound of bari and Bass sax. I'm seriously considering saving up money and investing in a bass sax. I'm assuming from what i've seen that i may be looking at spending around $6,000 or more. Though, i have seen threads like http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?197731-Info-on-Chinese-Bass-Sax this one putting in good words on cheaper chinese/asian saxes. If i did purchase one, I'd probably plan on dividing my attention equally between Tenor and Bass (especially since most material will be interchangable since they're in the same key) I'm also planning on continuing my education with music, so do you think that bass sax would be a desirable double in university/college?
 

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For years I've thought about buying a bass sax, but cost and usefulness have ruled it out. By usefulness, I mean this:
I'd probably plan on dividing my attention equally between Tenor and Bass (especially since most material will be interchangeable since they're in the same key)
Yeah they're both Bb instruments but the similarity ends there. If I was playing a bass sax, I'd assume I was playing bass lines, like a string bass or bass guitar or tuba, not melody lines and soloing like I do on tenor. I got to play my baritone last night at the regular jam I go to and that was fun, but lower than the bari means I'm down in the bass range and there's not much opportunity to play the heads of jazz tunes or take off on an improvisation. A bass sax is not the same instrument as a tenor sax. They may both be in Bb and they're both saxes but their functions are very different. And if you already have a bass in the jazz band (string bass or electric bass guitar) you'll be competing for the same sonic space. However, if YOU want to be the bass player and not have another bass in the mix, then go for it.
 

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do you think that bass sax would be a desirable double in university/college?
I have no idea. I've never been in music school. But my experience says if you want a lower pitched horn, get a baritone. If you want more versatility and a relatively easy double, get a flute. If you want even more versatility, get a clarinet. But I think the most desirable double, especially for music school, would be a keyboard.
 

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... there's not much opportunity to play the heads of jazz tunes or take off on an improvisation.
Oooh, I don't know so much. Here's my friend Jo Stevenson on the only bass sax I've ever actually played. His 1 minute solo from 1:05 is pretty hot.

 

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+1 to MartinMusicMan for advising you to pick up a Bb Clarinet as a double. While the Bass Sax is a beautiful voice that adds a ton of character and style to the ensemble that it is a part of (Check out the Bob Florence Big Band Album Bongos/Reeds/Brass. Classic!) I can't say that I know many universities that are set up to teach the Bass Sax as a primary or even secondary instrument. I imagine your future saxophone professor would be more interested in hearing you work on your Alto or Tenor saxophone first.

Good Luck with your purchase! Post some audio clips when you get a Bass Sax!
 

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Here's my friend Jo Stevenson on the only bass sax I've ever actually played. His 1 minute solo from 1:05 is pretty hot.
I didn't mean to suggest that there aren't some great solos on bass sax. And even some on contrabass. One of my favorites is Randy Emerick on "Really Big Blues."

 

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I'm in highschool (Gr.11) and playing tenor in a fairly serious highshool level jazzband and I love the sound of bari and Bass sax. I'm seriously considering saving up money and investing in a bass sax. If i did purchase one, I'd probably plan on dividing my attention equally between Tenor and Bass (especially since most material will be interchangable since they're in the same key)
Soprano's in Bb too, but it and tenor are two very different instruments, as is a bass. Bari and alto are both Eb... and so is sopranino. Same key yes, interchangeable?.. not a chance.

I'm also planning on continuing my education with music, so do you think that bass sax would be a desirable double in university/college?
Bass sax virtually doesn't exist in classical, it's a novelty at best in jazz, and practically everywhere short of Berklee it's to hell with everything else (welcome to Academia), so that's a no.


I agree that you'd be better off with a bari if you want to go lower. Granted, a full-on soloist mentality is a tad unusual even for bari, so if you could make it work on bass it would be quite interesting, but demand will still be limited no matter where you go, and as MartinMusicMan said, you'll be competing for space with the bass player if one is present. Bari's simply a more versatile horn, and it's also easier on car shopping and medical bills.
 

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I don't know anything about music school, but I have a bass sax. Actually was my first saxophone.

It's in Bb, technically, but there isn't a lot of music for it. Tenor sax parts aren't really useful for bass sax. I learned to read bass clef concert pitch right away (and that makes Eb treble notation easy to learn -- bari sax (Eb) and tuba/trombone parts (concert) sound the same note on the same lines of the staff.)

It's cool that there are a few around, but they're as much a curiosity as a musical asset.
 

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Bass sax is guaranteed to get you attention wherever you go, whether this will be kind of attention that you will be needing ( an seeking) for yourself in your future career as musician is another thing.

I have met several Bass sax players ( although one of them was more a decorative object owner rather than being a player, really!). Some of them are into traditional jazz, where , often times, this instrument plays much the same role as the Tuba or Sousaphone. Some others appear to use the Bass into a more modern repertoire as in contemporary music.

Both are a niche market, nevertheless, is something can make you different if not unique and you manage to find a meaningful way to play this instrument, rather than showing of an oddity, as so many do, than you should be doing it, by all means!

You will find, I think, that the fact that you can play this in the same key as a Tenor will help you only to a point.

If you play on a bass the same thing that you play on a tenor it will sound radically different and not only because it is lower.

So, before you get into this, try to understand if you are a Bass saxophonist or you are just a tenor saxophonist looking for an expensive thrill on a bass sax! I occasionally buy alt and bass flutes in pristine state bought by flutist who thought of extending their “ range” but, in the end, didn’t really know what to do with it.

Another thought on the instrument.

Be very careful what you buy! I have seen and also played ( although I am not a bass player or even a good tenor player) two Chinese basses. You can buy one , on line, directly from China, but there is NO guarantee that you wouldn’t need to find someone in your country, who, upon reception, will have to seriously adjust or even rebuild an unknown horn which had survived the trip from China.


Buying one of these Chinese basses in Canada or the US re sold by a western importer is not going to be cheap ( their mark up is always substantial) and you might run into some problems anyway.

If I were you I would think deeply about buying something better. The Conn and Buescher basses are expensive and their mechanics are ancient ( I had a go at one of each) but they are much appreciated for their sound.

European Basses like Selmer, Keilwerth, Noblet, Orsi ( some of these were sold for a while by L.A. Sax) , and perhaps other even rarer horns, are different with the Keilwerth being more similar to an American horns than all the other ones and with much more modern and reliable mechanics than any of the aforementioned old American chaps.

Keilwerth, if I am not mistaken, hasn’t restarted the bass production, so, you will need to find an old one. Currently there is an old model available at a Dutch shop. Hampe en Berkel of Amsterdam ( they don’t have it on their website but they have it in their window)

IF ( and IF is the operative word here) you like the sound of the Tubax ( available in Eb and Bb) they sport the most modern mechanics and they are incredibly well made.

In the last few years there has been much talk about low saxophones made in Brasil. They really specialize in even lower contrabasses but they make basses too. Can be interesting but not as well made as Eppelheim’s tubaxes.

One of my favorite bass players has to be Scott Robinson. He has a very wide repertoire ranging from traditional jazz to contemporary music and with one of the nicest modern sounds on the Bass saxophone.


 

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Thanks guys, I've decided against it. The conns outweigh the pros right now (hehe, Conns... Get it?). But, the advice is much appreciated, and i still hope to get my hands on one of those bad boys One day :p
 

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Good decision. Reminds me of the time I almost bought a contralto clarinet. I had played them in college and community bands, and then one day for some reason I thought it'd be cool to have one of my own. I came within 5 seconds of putting down $1K for one on ebay. Thankfully, though, someone sniped me out of it at the last second.

Yeah, it would have been cool to have one, but what would I have done with it? Even as a niche horn, they're quite uncommon. I'd have to find a community band or orchestra that needed one for probably one piece in a concert each year (if that). Meanwhile, it's collecting dust and falling out of adjustment in my closet (assuming I had a closet big enough for it).

Same thing with the bass sax--outside of playing solos in a jazz group, you'd have no outlet to perform on it in college. The Gershwin orchestral stuff have bass sax parts, but that's probably the only call you'd get. And as was pointed out, you can't just play tenor parts on bass--the sound will be all wrong. But yeah, looking down the road when you're out and about in the world and the word gets around, your phone will ring.
 

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There's one on display at my tech's and out of curiosity I tried to heft it after hooking it to my sax strap. Damn near broke my back. Unless you're big and strong you're going to need a crane to lift one of those to play it or some kind of stand for it and I can't even imagine trying to move that around to someplace other than your home in your car. Well forget the car... You'll need a van not a car and some kind of wheeled dolly to move it on. Very impractical instrument in my opinion for what you're trying to do with your life.
 

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I've marched with mine, or rather walked. It's lighter than my sousaphone, lighter than my accordion, both over 30 lbs.

I did give up on the "hard" case, which is rather awkwardly large, and use a padded gig bag. A.K.A. "dent bag" - not much real protection. But the big dent on the bell is actually from the case - I took a long step up onto a pier, but the case hung up on the pier and didn't come with me. That threw me off balance and pulled me back off the pier, falling onto the case, which drove a post into the case from underneath. And it ended up in the lake, so it's good that the case floats, but with the gig bag it wouldn't have been there in the first place. I forget where I was going with the case - wouldn't have fit on the bus and I probably didn't have a car at the time, might have been going to put it on my home made bicycle trailer.
 

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Wow. I am waiting for a bass sax to arrive having put down a deposit on one. Now you've all scared me that I'll just have this hulking white elephant in my office. I was aware that this would be a bit of a mid-life crisis luxury and not one I expect to play professionally but I'm surprised you are all so down on the idea of owning/playing one. Whatever happened to "the most fun you can have with your clothes on?
 

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well, since you are in the UK, the good news is that Stephen ( and other good repair persons ) can do something for you should anything go wrong.

Basses are not a sine cura , they come in big boxes and hardly ever play just as they come out of them, they need work and as Sthephen says in his beautiful article sometimes the need a lot of work! Mind you this is not only Chinese basses , once I saw a Selmer Bass which came out of a nice selmer box and couldn’t be played!

You mentioned that you’ve put down a deposit, which makes me think that you have bought this form a company?

If that is the case I would expect THEM to foot the whole bill and keep on working on it until this thing plays.

Your job will be not to accept anything like “ it’s hard to play in the beginning but you will get used to it” kind of thing! Same thing for using the whole guarantee to bring back thins thing at any time until you are fully satisfied that it works the way it should.
 
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