How is a 3 meters tall sax built?

As recently announced, Cremona Musica 2019 will also host a Guinness World Record saxophone. The Brazilian company J’Elle Stainer will bring a one-of-a-kind sax, a 3-meter-long subcontrabass. It weighs almost 30 kilos and plays an octave lower than a bass saxophone. The instrument was registered as the largest saxophone in the world. A prototype had already been made during the XIX century, but it was never realized. Now, thanks to the Brazilian artisan Joao Luiz Da Rocha, it is real. To know more, we interviewed one of the business partners behind this project, Gilberto Lopes.

 

Mr. Lopes, first of all, how was your company born?

I started almost 15 years ago, as a hobby, since I love music and the saxophone. I heard about a great artisan, Joao Luiz Da Rocha, who used to craft saxophones for the evangelic churches in Brazil. A true genius, an artisan that learned how to make musical instruments by himself. He created the original brand, then we developed an international brand together. We are a small company, just an artisan and four workers, but we are one of the few sax companies that produce all the components by ourselves, and we are specialized in the extreme ranges. We produce about 15 saxes per year.

 

How did you decide to craft a so particular saxophone?

More than 10 years ago, in Sao Paulo, I was studying the history of sax with Joas Luiz Da Rocha, and we discovered this unrealized patent from the XIX century. Already in the ‘60s, someone tried to craft a prototype, but it was out of tune. So, we decided to make it. At the beginning, we realized a compact version, that now is owned by Attilio Berni, who will exhibit it at the upcoming Saxophone Museum. Then we decided to craft a larger model. We took 4 years to build it, but it works perfectly. In 2013 we were also certified by the Guinness world record.

 

I guess it is quite difficult to craft this extreme saxophone.

You need to use steps, and consider it can be dented just by its own weight. It is also difficult to find someone that can build it, it is difficult to tune, and clearly, there are no mouthpieces or pads on sale.

 

It must be difficult to play too.

Some musicians find it hard to play at the beginning, they think you need a lot of breath, but  that’s not true, you just need a constant flow and to control your diaphragm. Clearly, you cannot make quick movements and you need to keep it on a dedicated structure to keep it upright. Consider it weighs 30 kilos.

 

Have you had it played yet?

We took it around Europe to many festivals, everyone wants to try it. At the Manzoni Theater of Milan, during Aperitivi in concerto, it was also played by the New Yorker saxophonist Scott Robinson.

 

And we will see it at Cremona Musica too.

Wherever we take it, people are curious to see it and take pictures. We want to let the saxophonists play it, but we must keep it safe too. Thanks to Cremona Musica we want to reach the European market, as we are already strong in the American one. We must thank our distributor, International Woodwind, that allows us to be at such an important fair as Cremona Musica. We will exhibit two bass saxophones, a contrabass sax Stainerphone, and then the saxes made by International Woodwind.

 

Your company is specialized in extreme saxophones, what else have you made?

We realized a more compact version of the bass saxophone (we will bring it to Cremona Musica as well) and a compact contrabass saxophone, really practical for the orchestra. We realized many prototypes, mini-saxes with a normal size tubing, but with a particular shape.

 

What do you want to realize next?

We would like to make a really small sax, a curved sopranissimo (soprillo). It would be the smallest in the world.