The Saxhorn Families

Research output: Contributions to books, editions, reports or conference proceedingsConference contribution



The saxhorns, widely used from the middle of the nineteenth century, did not have a tidy, well-ordered development in Adolphe Sax’s mind and manufacture as the saxophone family appears to have done. For a period Sax envisaged two families of valved brasswind, the saxhorns and saxotrombas, with wider and narrower proportions respectively. Sax’s production of included both instruments with bell-front wrap and bell-up wrap: in military use these were intended for the infantry and the cavalry respectively. Sax’s patent of 1845 made claims for both families and both wraps, but introduced an element of confusion by using the term ‘saxotromba’ for the bell-up wrap as well as for the instruments with narrower bore profile. The confusion in nomenclature continued for a long time, and was exacerbated when Sax (followed by other makers) used the term ‘saxhorn’ for the tenor and baritone members of the narrower-bore family in either wrap. The present article examines in more detail the identity of the saxhorns (as they are known today) and draws on a larger sample of extant instruments. In particular, the consistency of Sax’s own production of saxhorns is discussed, together with the question of how close to Sax’s own instruments were those made by other makers.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdolphe Sax’ Blechblasinstrumente im Kontext ihrer Zeit
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings, 3rd International Romantic Brass Symposium, Bern, February 2014
EditorsAdrian von Steiger, Daniel Allenbach, Martin Skamletz
Place of PublicationSchliengen
PublisherEdition Argus
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-3-931264-93-2
Publication statusPublished or Performed - May 2020