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The tubax is both a group of redesigned saxophones first created by a German instrument maker named Benedikt Eppelsheim in 1999, and in particular an Eb instrument with modern saxophone fingering, the mouthpiece of a baritone saxophone, and a range an octave below the baritone saxophone. It is thus equivalent in range to the contrabass saxophone in Eb, but it avoids that rarely used instrument’s heavy tone and lack of agility, though the tubax also lacks the contrabass saxophone’s power. Its narrower bore means that less air is required and that it can play softly throughout its range.
Eppelsheim also offers the tubax pitched in Bb, or, in other words, a type of subcontrabass saxophone. A design for a subcontrabass saxophone had been patented by Adolphe Sax, but he never finished building it. A working model of the instrument is now The Bb tubax sounds a fourth below the Eb tubax, and an octave below the bass saxophone. It uses a bass saxophone mouthpiece, and due to being folded four times instead of two, it is not much taller than a baritone saxophone. There is a C tubax, but it is only available by special order.
The tubax in any key is a transposing instrument. Like the other saxophones, it is written from Bb3 to F#6 on a treble staff. The Eb tubax sounds 2 octaves and a major sixth lower than it is written. The Bb tubax sounds 3 octaves and a major second lower. All types of tubax have an additional altissimo register key, providing an expanded upper range.
Noted tubax players include Randy Emerick, Jay Easton, Scott Robinson, Thomas Zoller, and Fred Bayer. Thomas Zoller has also composed pieces for tubax, as have Andreas van Zoelen, Vinny Golia, Chaya Czernowin, and Guy Barker. And if you thought contrabass instruments weren’t cool, check out the tubax videos on MySpace and YouTube.