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All Types of Saxophones Explained

different types of saxophones

The saxophone is possibly one of the most different and popular woodwind instruments. But how much do you really know about the saxophone? We break it down for you.

In this guide, I’ll explain the different types of saxophones, including hybrid models that seem to be getting more and more popular, which will open your eyes to the world of ukulele and hopefully help you decide which saxophone to buy.

Are you having trouble figuring out what type of saxophone to buy? Maybe you’re trying to figure out what type of saxophone you have? Whatever your questions, we will discuss all types of saxophones and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

There are 4 most common types of saxophones:

  1. Soprano
  2. Alto
  3. Tenor
  4. Baritone

By “most common”, I mean that they are used more in contemporary music. All saxophones have the same fingerings, so it’s easy to switch between them.

What are the Different Types of Saxophones?

There are originally 14 different types of saxophones in the saxophone family.

The 4 most common types are soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.

  • The alto saxophone is ideal for beginners, especially for younger students due to its small size.
  • Tenor saxophones are the most popular saxophone and are usually what people think of when they think of a saxophone.
  • The soprano saxophone provides the highest tone among the four commonly used saxophones.
  • The baritone version provides a powerful and deep sound.

There are a handful of different sizes of saxophone, and each offers its own benefits, drawbacks, and tonality.

all types of saxophones
All Types of Saxophones

As you will discover, there is no “one size fits all” when playing the saxophones, but there are unique benefits and drawbacks for everyone. In fact, after reading this, you will probably want saxophones of all sizes!

Let’s take a look!

Soprano Saxophones

A soprano sax is a great sounding saxophone however due to its shorter length it is more difficult to play than a typical sax and therefore is not recommended for beginners.

Yamaha YSS-82Z Soprano Saxophone

The Yamaha YSS-82Z Soprano Saxophone – a great soprano saxophone

In my opinion, it is better to start with a clarinet, and then when you are comfortable with playing a reed instrument, you can give the alto sax a try.

  • High-quality construction
  • Great for jazz players as you can hit high notes
  • Keys are comfortable and ergonomic
  • Lightweight due to its brass alloy
  • Adjustable pivot screw
  • Hand-engraved design on the bell
  • Not the most versatile soprano sax
  • Doesn’t come with enough reeds

This type of saxophone is more difficult to learn and is not recommended for beginners. The correct position of the embouchure of the mouth is essential to successfully play this type of saxophone.

In general, beginners should avoid soprano saxophones. These saxophones require very precise techniques to be played correctly. Most beginners will not possess this technique.

For more info, see our reviews of the best soprano saxophone. Take a listen to the following performance on a soprano saxophone.

Alto Saxophone

The alto saxophone is one of the most played saxophones out there. This type of saxophone is widely used in all types of music, including classical, jazz, and rock.


The YAMAHA YAS-280 – a great alto saxophone

A great beginners saxophone, the alto sax is a bit smaller than a tenor but it looks and sounds like you would expect from a saxophone.

However, most of these people never sell their alto once they realize the tremendous versatility of the instrument.

  • Ease of control for beginner learners
  • High-quality design
  • Professional feel
  • The finish is clean, smooth, and shiny and is ready to be on stage
  • It is made of quality materials that will last against normal wear and tear
  • The tabs can be a bit finicky
  • Heavyweight

Alto saxophones are quite small in stature, which makes them not only easy to hold but also easy to play. Therefore, they are ideal for beginners.

For more info, see our reviews of the best alto saxophone. Listen to the following performance on an alto saxophone.

Tenor Saxophone

The tenor is one of the most widely used saxophones in the world. This saxophone is widely used in various genres, from jazz to classical music, rock, and much, much more.

Yamaha YTS-62III Tenor Saxophone

The Yamaha YTS-62III Tenor Saxophone – a great tenor saxophone

However, these ones are typically not for beginners.

  • Contoured keys make for quick action
  • Narrow bore for easy control and fast response
  • The 62-style neck provides better airflow for pitch-perfect sounds
  • Intricate hand engraved patterns along with the bell
  • Fully adjustable screw cap stoppers on each separate keyguard
  • Very expensive
  • Maintenance can be a bit complicated for players who want more traditional style saxophones

For more info, see our reviews of the best tenor saxophones.

Baritone Saxophone

The baritone saxophone, although big and bulky, is a great sounding sax with a deep rich sound that provides bass.

Yamaha YBS-62 Baritone Saxophone

The Yamaha YBS-62 Baritone Saxophone – a great baritone saxophone

  • Nice engravings
  • Powerful sound projection
  • Excellent intonation
  • Durable and sturdy body
  • Relatively Expensive
  • A bit too heavy

For more info, see our reviews of the best baritone saxophones.

How do Saxophones work?

Saxophones use a reed as a vibrating membrane to create sound. The position of the mouth on the mouthpiece and reed is called the embouchure, which controls the pitch and pitch depending on how much pressure the lower lip applies to the reed.

As the keys are pressed, the instrument drops in pitch, although some fingerings are in places you wouldn’t expect them to be.

Bottom line

There are many types of saxophones. Each has its own qualities. There are four main types that are used in contemporary music.

The more you become familiar with each saxophone, the more aware you will be of each of its unique tonal qualities. Soon you will be able to identify each type of saxophone by listening to recordings.

To begin with, however, you will at least be able to identify each one by its appearance.

If you are new to the saxophone, I recommend starting with the alto.