The octavin is a woodwind instrument with a single reed and cone-shaped bore. It is said to be very similar to the saxophone especially in length and range but it also has its differences. Compared to the saxophone’s, the cone-shaped bore of the octavin has a smaller taper.


It has a similar shape with the bassoon with two parallel divisions attached at the base. A bell made of metal is at the top of one division and the mouthpiece is fastened to the other division’s top. It is constructed with wood and the only metal section is the bell. There are some octavins that resemble the tarogato yet with a smaller taper. These have wooden bells and are straight rather than conical.

It was created in C and B flat with a range of G?3 to G6. According to a piece of a writer known as Altenberg, there is a bass octavin which is an octave lower. Unfortunately, there is no such instrument that has been produced based on what we know.


The octavin was said to be invented by Julius Jehring around the time of 1890 but the patent rights belong to Hermann Jordan and Oskar Adler. Although Jeff Britting who is an American composer has made a sonatina for it, the instrument did not catch the heat and became an enormously scarce instrument. It is described by The New Groove Dictionary of Musical Instruments as an instrument that sounds the same as a soprano sax yet less pleasant.

Based on records, Cavaillé-Coll introduced it in France as a 2' Flûte Harmonique. At times, it was given the name octavin harmonique. It was also called the doublette and open flute. A few claim that it is the same as the superoctave but some object. The origins of the name of the octavin are not certain though there are some presumptions. As stated by Grove, octavin is listed as a synonym of ottavina by Venetian builders which date back from 1790.

What does it look like?

The odd shape of the octavin singles it out from the others. Like a bassoon it is somewhat folded and has two parallel straight bores attached at the underside. This structure is fitted for a bassoon because it becomes very long when straightened out but it is actually very peculiar for an instrument that is soprano-sized.

If you know what a bassoon looks like, then let us picture out the octavin like this. Visualize removing an entire twelve inches off the bassoon. Then, think about putting a cylinder with a mouthpiece of a regular clarinet at the top on one section and for the other section, imagine placing the alto-clarinet bell. That is how an octavin would roughly look like.

A change to the octavin

During the young twentieth century, it would seem that the odd shape of the octavin has caught the negative attention of a few instrument designers. It is would be strange right now but some straight octavins were created which made it look like a clarinet at first sight. But the conical shape gave it away. This cone-shaped bore causes the octavin, whether or not it is folded, to overblow at the octave. Its key scheme becomes simpler than the clarinet’s because of this.