Saxtuba - Compass


Like the saxhorn, the saxtuba was a transposing instrument. According to Berlioz, its music was always written in the treble clef as though for an instrument pitched in C, but the actual sounds produced depended on the size of instrument used. For example, if a piece of music were performed on Halévy's soprano saxtuba in E-flat, it would sound a minor third higher than written. Halévy's score of Le Juif errant is in general agreement with this, though, curiously, the part for the bass saxtuba in B♭ ("Sax horn basse en Si♭") is notated in the bass clef, sounding just one whole-tone lower than written.

In the following table, all eight saxtubas from Le Juif errant and the contrabass saxtuba in C from Massenet's Esclarmonde have been included with their probable ranges. I have followed Forsyth (1914):

Name Key Fundamental Transposition Sounding Range
Sopranino B♭ minor seventh higher
Soprano E♭ minor third higher
Alto B♭ major second lower
Tenor E♭ major sixth lower
Baritone B♭ major ninth lower
Bass B♭ major ninth lower
Bass E♭ major thirteenth lower
Contrabass C two octaves lower
Contrabass B♭ octave plus a major ninth lower

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