Sarrusophone

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The sarrusophone is a family of transposing musical instruments patented and placed into production by Pierre-Louis Gautrot in 1856. It was named after the French bandmaster Pierre-Auguste Sarrus (1813-1876) who is credited with the concept of the instrument (it is not clear if Sarrus benefited financially from this association). The instrument was intended to serve as a replacement in wind bands for the oboe and bassoon which, at that time, lacked the carrying power required for outdoor band music.

Contents

Sizes and ranges

The sarrusophone was manufactured in the following sizes and had the following theoretical ranges:

  • E-flat Sopranino B♭-G (Sounding D♭-B♭)
  • B-flat Soprano B♭-G (Sounding A♭-F)
  • E-flat Alto B♭-G (Sounding D♭-B♭)
  • B-flat Tenor B♭-G (Sounding A♭-F)
  • E-flat Baritone B♭-G (Sounding D♭-B♭)
  • B-flat Bass B♭-G (Sounding A♭-F)
  • EE-flat Contrabass B♭-G (Sounding D♭-B♭)
  • CC Contrabass B♭-G (Sounding B♭-G)
  • BB-flat Contrabass B♭-G (Sounding A♭-F)

As can be seen, the non-transposed range of the sarrusophone is nearly identical to that of the saxophone. The traditional conventional range of the saxophone is written B♭-F. Initially, Gautrot advertised the range of the sarrusophone to high F as well, but later fingering charts indicated a range to high G. Sometime after 1868, Gautrot also released a fingering chart indicating fingerings higher still up to a top B-flat, giving a range of three full octaves.

Construction

All members of the sarrusophone family are made of metal, with a conical bore, and the larger members of the family resemble the ophicleide in shape. Like the oboe and bassoon, all sizes of sarrusophone were originally designed to be played with a double reed. Later, single reed mouthpieces were developed which resemble alto or soprano saxophone mouthpieces. It is unclear if these were available for all sizes of the sarrusophone family, the most common examples being for the E♭ contrabass.

The fingering of the sarrusophone is nearly identical to that of the saxophone. This similarity caused Adolphe Sax to file and lose at least one lawsuit against Gautrot, claiming infringement upon his patent for the saxophone. Sax lost on the grounds that the tone produced by the two families of instruments is markedly different, despite their mechanical similarities. However, because the sarrusophone never reached wide acceptance, makers were not inclined to develop its mechanism to the same extent as that of the saxophone. Although there are likely exceptions, features of the sarrusophone's mechanism generally include:

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