The Sopranino Saxophone
The saxophone family of musical instruments, as patented by its original developer, Adolphe Sax, included the bass, baritone, contrabass, soprano, alto, tenor and the sopranino. This last instrument, although not as popular as the other members of the sax family, is a truly remarkable piece of technology.
The sopranino sax is the smallest* of the entire family and it also has a distinctive characteristic of always being straight, instead of curved like the other saxophones (although recently, altos, sopranos and other kinds of saxophones are produced as straight ones, the sopranino holds the patent, so to speak). From a strictly musical point of view, the typical sopranino saxophone is 1 octave above the alto.
*There's a smaller saxophone currently manufactured by the German manufacturer, Benedikt Eppelsheim, called a soprillo or sopranissimo saxophone.
With the large variety of quality alto, baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones, the sopranino steadily plunged into obscurity and is rarely used in orchestral works today, despites its pleasant characteristics and its lightness. And although this may be a general case, there are still particular orchestras that make heavy use of this type of saxophone. Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” for example has its fair share of sopranino in it.
Sopraninos are usually tuned in E-flat, which gives them the higher octave count and its cheerful sound. As a comparison to larger C or B-flat sopranos, this sax is around 4-6 inches shorter and also noticeably lighter. This of course, is also a case of design. And speaking of design, the same way as altos, sopranos or other saxophones strayed from their curved look and can now be found in straight designs, some companies went out as far as to produce curved sopraninos, which are truly a sight worth seeing.
It’s somewhat of a strange fact seeing how the sopranino saxophones survived the market, although they are not very popular in orchestra work. Major musical instrument producers still manufacture sopraninos and their use is most likely aimed at individuals rather than orchestras, or for collectors. This goes out to prove that the ‘nino, as it is often affectionately called by its fans, still has a lot to say in the musical sphere. And although it is the smallest brother of the saxophone family, the sopranino is a welcomed guest in any cheerful, fast and merry musical piece.
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