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Identifying Saxophone Types
Q.  I know very little about horns. Another eBay user told me a while back that a sax with a crooked goose neck was a tenor. After I listed one as a tenor a different eBay user told me that this sax was a C-melody. Do you have any info that would help me know for sure what type a sax is?


A. These are true statements: 1) Tenors have the crooked or serpentine neck. 2) Some C-Melody saxes have crooked or serpentine necks. 3) Some C-Melody saxes have a straight or slanting neck like an alto.

What makes a sax a certain type is the total length of the tubing. This is because there is a direct relationship between tube length and pitch. It is problematic to measure a saxophone’s total tube length, but it is easy to measure just certain portions in order to get a clue. An experienced eye can also tell from visual signals, but there are acid tests anyone can use. If you will measure just the straight part of the sax body, from the neck opening (no neck or neck plug installed) down to the bottom of the big bend (the bow, and ignore any decorative crest like you find on old Martins and Bueschers), you will see that the following measurements are standard to within a very small tolerance:

1) Tenors = 29.5″; 2) C-Melodies = 24″; 3) Altos = 22″

You are also welcome to go to our site and view actual pix of the various saxophones, and of course you are welcome to write here any time.

Additional Comments
The above measurements are for Low Pitch saxes. A High Pitch tenor measures 27.5″, or about 7% shorter than a Low Pitch horn. The differences for the other types in High Pitch should roughly follow that pattern, such that if you find any sax that is not within a fraction of an inch of the Low Pitch standard measurements you should consider the possibility that it is a High Pitch instrument. Other relevant measurements for Low Pitch saxes are: 1) Bb straight soprano 25.5″; 2) Straight C tuned soprano 22.5″; straight Eb sopranino 18.5″. Please write in if you find instruments of measurements that differ substantially from these standards and we will help you determine what instrument type you have. Please write us also for help with some of the rarer instruments such as curved and semi-curved sopranos, tipped bell sopranos, straight altos, and such.



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