All Things Saxophone

Baritone Sax & The Low A

Last modified 09/12/08


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So you're playing Baritone sax?  It's an awesome instrument and happens to be the first saxophone I played.  I played it because my band director needed someone to play Bari to fill out the sax section in my Junior High School jazz band.  A lot of players end up on instruments through those kind of circumstances :>

I've written this article on Baritone sax because it is a special case amongst the saxophone family.  It offers the extra note -- the coveted low "A".

· A little history

The Bari sax was like the other standard saxophones (Tenor, Alto & soprano) in its range of notes (low B flat to high F#) until the middle of last century when manufacturers began experimenting with adding the low A.  These first experiments were dreadful failures and it looked like the low A would not be accepted in the world of all things saxophone.  The problem was the low A horns did not produce the brassy, bright sound that the Baritone was famous for.  Most Bari players didn't have a low A horn, and to have one was a joke.  This was true in the 1970's when I started playing.  I used a King Zephyr Bari at that time because I liked the big Bari sound.  Every now and then someone would try a new design but they never worked, until Yamaha came out with the YBS-62 redesigned low A Bari in the 1980's and the whole saxophone world changed.  I tried one and was immediately convinced -- I bought that horn and play that same instrument today.  Here's a clip of the sound on my Yamaha YBS62 Bari:

Listen to SaxophoneMan’s Yamaha YS-62 Bari

Because there are two types of Bari saxes in the world today, the aspiring player has a choice to make.  Low A Bari or not?  The answer is in two parts:

1.          Don't get a low A Bari unless it's a good one

Because there was a shift 25 years ago in the world of all things saxophone from low B flat Baris to low A Baris, there are a lot of low A instruments out there that were made before or during the period of change.  STAY AWAY FROM THEM!  If you're buying a new Bari then it's a no brainer -- all the Baris today have low A's.  However, they are big instruments and are expensive so many aspiring players turn to the used market to save a few $$$.  So, just be careful -- a low A bari that's more than 10 years old may not have the new design features incorporated.  If you don't know for sure, seek out advice from a local pro or email me.

2.          Don't get a low B-flat unless you can't find a good low A

20 years ago I would not have said this but now the shift is complete.  Most music calls for low A on the Bari and you're going to be handicapped if you can't play one.  But, if you're just starting out and you can't afford a new low A Bari and can't find a good used one, a B flat horn will work for you for a while.  Most of the manufacturers produced decent B flat Baris in their time (no one makes them anymore).  Just make sure that the horn is in good working order, as you should with any used instrument.


A Baritone Sax that goes only to a low Bb

SaxophoneMan’s Low A Bari Yamaha YS-62