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Alto saxophone

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Title: Alto saxophone  
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Subject: Saxophone, The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, Yanagisawa Wind Instruments, Paul Desmond, James Morrison (jazz musician)
Collection: E-Flat Instruments, Saxophones
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Alto saxophone

Alto saxophone
Woodwind instrument

Wind, woodwind

Hornbostel–Sachs classification 422.212-71
(Single-reeded aerophone with keys)
Inventor(s) Adolphe Sax
Developed 28 June 1846[1]
Playing range

In E: sounds a major sixth lower than written. Most modern alto saxophones can reach a high F
Related instruments

Military band family:

Orchestral family:

Other saxophones:

More articles

The alto saxophone 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 smaller than the tenor but larger than the soprano. The alto and tenor are the most common types of saxophones. The alto saxophone is commonly used in classical music (such as concert bands, chamber music, and solo repertoire), military bands, marching bands, and jazz (such as big bands, jazz combos, swing music, etc.).


  • Type 1
  • Range 2
  • Alto saxophonists 3
  • Manufacturers 4
  • In classical music 5
  • Gallery of Alto Saxophones 6
  • References 7


The alto saxophone is an E transposing instrument and reads the treble clef. A written C-natural sounds a major sixth lower (concert E) when played. Because the alto saxophone is a reed instrument, it is classified as a woodwind instrument.


The range of the alto saxophone is from concert D3 (the D below middle C—see Scientific pitch notation) to concert A5 (or A5 on altos with a high F key). As with most types of saxophones, the standard written range is B3 to F6 (or F6).[2] Above that, the altissimo register begins at F and extends upwards. The saxophone's altissimo register is more difficult to control than that of other woodwinds and is usually only expected from advanced players. By covering or partially covering the bell of the saxophone when playing B3, it is possible for the alto saxophone to reach A3 as well.

Alto saxophonists

Some notable jazz alto saxophonists include Freddy Gardner, Charlie Parker, Kenny Garrett, Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Hodges, Art Pepper, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Sonny Stitt, David Sanborn, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Phil Woods, John Zorn, and Paul Desmond.

Some notable classical alto saxophonists include Timothy McAllister, Marcel Mule, Sigurd Raschèr, Jean-Yves Fourmeau, Lawrence Gwozdz, Frederick L. Hemke, Donald Sinta, Harvey Pittel, Larry Teal, Jean-Marie Londeix, Kenneth Tse, Arno Bornkamp, Harry White, Otis Murphy, Claude Delangle, and Eugene Rousseau.


Some companies that currently produce saxophones are Buffet Crampon, KHS/Jupiter, Conn-Selmer, Selmer Paris, Yamaha, Leblanc/Vito, Keilwerth, Cannonball, and Yanagisawa. New alto saxophones range in price between €250 for lower quality student models to over €2500 for professional models.

In classical music

The alto saxophone, has a large classical solo repertoire that includes solos with orchestra, piano, and wind symphony. Two of the most well-known solo compositions are Jacques Ibert's "Concertino da Camera" and Alexander Glazunov's "Concerto in E Flat major".

Also, the alto saxophone is part of the standard instrumentation of concert bands and saxophone quartets.

The alto saxophone is also occasionally used in orchestral compositions. Several orchestral examples are listed below.


It was called for by Richard Strauss in his Sinfonia Domestica, which includes parts for four saxophones including an alto saxophone in F.

Dmitri Shostakovich uses the alto in his Suite for Variety Orchestra and it has a prominent solo in the Waltz No. 2 section. He also includes it in his Suite No. 1 and Suite No. 2.

Pictures at an Exhibition, most notably as the soloist in "Il Vecchio Castello".

Alban Berg uses the saxophone in his late orchestral works, most notably "Der Wein", Lulu, and the Violin Concerto.

Sergei Rachmaninoff uses the saxophone in his Symphonic Dances as a soloist in the first movement.

Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris.

Pierre Boulez wrote for 2 alto saxes in his composition Pli Selon Pli ("Fold By Fold").

Benjamin Britten calls for an alto in his Sinfonia da Requiem and The Prince of the Pagodas.

Leonard Bernstein includes an alto sax in his Symphonic Dances From West Side Story.

Vincent d'Indy enlists two altos in his opera Fervaal.

Darius Milhaud writes for an alto in La Creation du Monde.

Allan Pettersson makes use of an alto in his 16th symphony.

Krzysztof Penderecki scores for two altos in his opera The Devils of Loudon ("Die Teufel von Loudon").

Gallery of Alto Saxophones

Full range (from B to F) chromatic scale

Problems playing this file? See .


  1. ^ "June 28, 1846: Parisian Inventor Patents Saxophone". Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Range of the Alto Saxophone". Archived from the original on 2009-03-17. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  3. ^ Photo Gallery ::
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