Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bass Saxophone

I would be totally remiss if I wrote about anything but bass saxophone for today's alphabet blog.  There's a really good reason that my blog URL and twitter account reference the 2nd largest of the saxophone family.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year at UC Davis, I was an ennui-suffering clarinet player in the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh!  At that time, I was good enough that the clarinet was just not providing enough challenge to hold my interest.  I was looking for a change.  And boy, I sure found one, in the suggestion of then faculty director Jonathan Elkus, who clued me in to the existence of a 1920's Buescher bass saxophone sitting idle in the music department.  I acquired it, started playing it with the Aggie Band, and have been forever hooked on bass saxophones ever since.

I was fortunate enough to play that Buescher horn for 2 years, during which I learned to play it (without hyperventilating from lack of oxygen), high step using just a neckstrap during football shows and the like, sight transposed and memorized music hodgepodged together from sousaphone and bari sax folders, and enjoyed the sound of it and attention I would get whenever I would play.  After graduation, I had thought I would never again have such an opportunity to be able to play such a wonderful horn.

Years later, I would be fortunate to acquire a Depression-era Holton bass sax, which today is still my absolute favorite horn to play.  I play with several organizations, including the Cal Aggie Alumni Marching Band-uh!, California Repercussions and LSJUMB (Stanford Band).  I have enjoyed playing in the annual San Jose Saxophone Christmas event for the past few years, and have managed to get myself recorded in various venues.  I figure I had better play as long as I can, because at some point I know that hefting around a 19 pound horn with most of the weight resting on my right thumb might eventually become too much to do.  I guess I could always switch to bari sax :-)  Or piccolo lol.

I feel fortunate that I have been able to find a way to express myself musically that is both unusual and eclectic. It won't ever make me any great amount of money, but that's not what this is about.  I love bass saxophones!


  1. And thank you for being my alto sax and bari sax tutor honey. I love you!

    A Ladybug's Life


  2. So glad you joined A-Z Shaggy!! I've seen pics of you with the sax and am amazed that you can carry it around, much less do any kind of marching routines with it! Glad that you are teaching Sonnia too. Loving that you have a depression-era sax. You have to wonder who owned it before you? Was it played in any of the famous swing bands of the 30s and 40s?

  3. Yeah, I don't know much about the history of the horn, but given that it is over 80 years old, the possibilities of where and how it might have been played before allows the mind to daydream, to be sure.

  4. That's so cool. I've never learned to play any instrument, but admire those that can. I've never heard of a bass saxophone. I love learning new things. Thanks for posting.

    1. Glad to have you aboard. The bass saxophone was actually the first type of saxophone invented, though these days it is pretty rare to see one in action. Bon Iver has a guy that plays one in concert.