In our saxophone learning program, from smallest (highest) to largest (lowest), there are: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.
The soprano saxophone is not as widely used as the alto and tenor saxophones. Nevertheless, it still comes in the top four as one of the most commonly used saxophones. The other is the baritone saxophone.
If you are a beginner, the soprano sax may not be the best instrument to learn on. It is generally considered to be one of the most difficult saxophones to learn and master. You'd be better off starting with an alto saxophone. But for more advanced players, if you have not given much thought to this instrument you certainly should. You will have lots of fun with it.
The tenor saxophone is one of the most widely used saxophones today. The other most often used is the alto saxophone. The baritone and soprano are also popular but in no way are they as popular as alto and tenor saxophones. Most times when people think of Jazz music, they think of the tenor sax. It is popularly believed to be the signature instrument of modern Jazz.
The tenor saxophone is very popular in ensembles such as marching band, concert band, jazz ensemble, and even symphony orchestras.
Alto saxophones are the most popular in the saxophone family among classical performers and composers. In fact most classical players focus mainly on the alto. Altos play a major role in concert, funk, jazz, pop, blues, and rock music.
Most students learn to play the saxophone on the alto. It is the saxophone of choice for many beginners. Many of them later switch to tenor. Many saxophonists have been known to double in success on alto and tenor. If you're a student who wants to learn how to play saxophone, this is probably the way to go. Switching from alto to tenor is not difficult. Both instruments use the same fingerings. The tenor is larger than the alto saxophone, so a slightly larger mouthpiece, ligature, and reed are needed.
The baritone saxophone is one of the larger members of the saxophone family. It is bigger than the tenor saxophone and smaller than the bass. The instrument has a single reed similar to a clarinet and its fingering system is based on that of the oboe. It has an extra loop near the mouthpiece, helping to keep it at a height that is practical.
The baritone saxophone is one of the more common saxophones in today's ensembles. The other three popular (smaller) members of the saxophone family are the alto, tenor, and soprano. But of the entire group, the tenor and alto are the most common.
Due to its exceptional weight, it is difficult to use the instrument in marching bands. The instrument is more popular in classical music than orchestral music. However, it has played a major role in concert bands, military bands and wind ensembles.