Alto saxophonist shares his astonishing trick for playing 128 notes in an octave

25 September 2017, 14:07 | Updated: 27 September 2017, 10:39

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

This awesome musician proves there are more than just eight notes in an octave.

In Western tonal music, we generally say a full major or minor scale is made up of eight notes (although there can be up to 24 in middle eastern music which uses the Arab tone system). But this alto saxophonist has proved it is possible to squeeze 128 notes into an octave, starting on A1 and ending on A2.

Philipp Gerschlauer explains his video is the result of a technical exercise. “Practising the 128 notes per octave resulted in finding out a greater number of fingerings and listing them,” he says on his YouTube channel. 

“My quest was to explore microtonal possibilities on the alto saxophone. Johnny Reinhard introduced me to the eighth octave of the overtone series which divides it into 128 - unequally spaced - notes. The distance between each note at the bottom is around 13 Cents and at the top around 7 Cents.”

He adds, “almost every [one] of the 128 notes per octave has its own fingering.” Pretty impressive stuff, if you ask us.

Philipp plays a Selmer Super Balanced Action alto saxophone from 1951. For more of his videos, and to buy his new CD ‘Mikrojazz - Neue Expressionistische Musik’ released on September 29th, find him on Facebook and YouTube.

If you’re in the mood for more note-based geekiness, try watching this piano piece which uses every note on the keyboard exactly once...