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What are Saxophonists?

A saxophonist is a solo, usually professional, musician who plays the saxophone. There are a variety of saxophones, such as soprano, alto, tenor and bass, and saxophonists will usually specialise in at least one of these types.

Usually made of brass, the saxophone bridges the gap between the woodwind and brass sections, producing a full, resounding sound.

Packing a big punch, from pure and powerful to soft and subdued, saxophonists are wonderfully expressive and extremely versatile. They can perform a wide range of musical styles that are sure to give you and your guests goosebumps – from funk, jazz and pop to soul, blues and RnB, and even classical arrangements. They can perform solo, over high-quality backing tracks or alongside other musicians. They’re always in high demand, and are perfect for a range of occasions, such as cocktail parties, corporate functions, weddings and private parties.

What music will a Saxophonist play?

Saxophonists can blast a broad range of musical styles to suit whatever tone you’d like to set at your special occasion. You can expect music from artists such as:

  • Al Green
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Bach
  • Ben E King
  • Bill Whithers
  • Billie Holliday
  • Bob Marley
  • Bruno Mars
  • Drake
  • Duke Ellington
  • Earth Wind and Fire
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Frank Sinatra
  • George Michael/Wham
  • Gerry Rafferty
  • Handel
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Irving Berlin
  • James Brown
  • Jason Derulo
  • Jess Glynne
  • Justin Bieber
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Mark Ronson
  • Michael Bublé
  • Michael Jackson
  • Mozart
  • Norah Jones
  • Ray Charles
  • Robbie Williams
  • Rudimental
  • Sade
  • Sam Smith
  • Santana
  • Shirley Bassey
  • Spyro Gyra
  • Stevie Wonder
  • The Bee Gees
  • Van Morrison
  • Wild Cherry

Many of our saxophonists will also perform showtunes and film and TV themes. The repertoires of each of our saxophonists are shown on their profile pages.

Popular types of Saxophonists


1. Jazz and blues saxophonists

From old school jazz, swing, middle of the road jazz standards, and blues music, a jazz and blues saxophonist will perform a huge variety of songs, creating various atmospheres, from smooth and chilled to lively music to strut to, and everything in between! Saxophonists will cover music from artists such as Duke Ellington, Louise Armstrong, Cannonball Adderley, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublé.

2. Soprano Sax

One of the smaller saxophones, the soprano sax has a higher register than the alto, tenor and baritone (discussed below), pitched one octave below the tenor sax. Less popular than alto and tenor saxophones, the soprano sax sounds similar to an oboe. Soprano saxophones come in a variety of neck shapes, from slightly- and fully-curved to completely straight. The straight version looks a lot like a clarinet. Often featured in classical and jazz music, famous soprano sax players include Christine Rall, Kenneth Tse, Sidney Bechet, Lucky Thompson and Grover Washington Junior.

3. Alto Sax

Bigger than the soprano sax, but smaller than the tenor, the alto saxophone is one of the most common saxophones, often used in classical and jazz music, and in military and marching bands. While all saxophones share common fingerings, the alto is one of the hardest saxophones to play. It’s been the instrument of choice for a wide range of sax virtuosos, such as Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, Sonny Stitt, Otis Murphy, and Marcel Mule.

4. Tenor saxophonists

A medium-sized member of the saxophone family, the tenor is one of the most commonly-played saxophones, regularly used in classical music, marching bands, and jazz. The one with the curvy bend in its neck, it’s pitched one octave below its soprano cousin. Many pioneering saxophonists have played the tenor sax, including John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins.

5. Baritone Sax

One of the biggest members in the saxophone family, the baritone sax has a low pitch. It has a ‘Q’ loop at the neck and is usually played with a harness strap worn around the saxophonist’s shoulders to counterbalance its cumbersome weight. It’s often used in classical music, jazz, funk, blues and soul bands, as well as military bands and musical theatre. Famous baritone saxophonists include Harry Carney, Scott Robinson, Pepper Adams, and Stephen Kupka. It’s also the instrument of choice for TV’s smallest virtuoso, Lisa Simpson!

Is a Saxophonist suitable for my event?

With a wide variety of musical styles and repertoires, a saxophonist can be a flexible entertainment option. They can set a lively, fun and funky atmosphere, perform chilled jazz tones for a relaxed vibe, or play arrangements of classical compositions for a quirky twist at your event. Whatever mood you’d like to create, a saxophonist can provide attention-grabbing evening entertainment or lively background music for a wide range of events, such as:

Usually performing in the afternoon and early evening, providing the backdrop to drinks receptions and cocktail parties, a saxophonist will give your event the real ‘wow’ factor. Your guests will be amazed by the all-encompassing, expressive nature of the instrument.

Space considerations at your event

Usually standing up while they perform, most solo saxophonists require a performance space of around 2 square metres. For approximate requirements, see ‘How much space will a saxophonist need?’, below.

Volume – how loud is a saxophone player?

There are quite a few elements that will play a part in the volume a saxophonist will play at. A professional saxophonist will have good control over the volume they can pump out, so they can play relatively quietly, as background music, or perform louder, more dramatic tones. They may also be amplified if needed, which will obviously increase volume. The type of instrument is important too: a tenor saxophone will be much louder than its cousins, owing to its large size. The acoustics of your venue will also play a part in the volume produced. Generally, the volume can vary between 80–110 decibels (dB).

It’s important to check with your venue whether they are constrained by noise restrictions, since this can influence the ambiance you and your musician are trying to create. If a venue has a sound limiter fitted, this can impact the entire event. For more information on sound limiters, please visit our guide to Sound Limiters.

How much does a Saxophonist cost?

The approximate costs for Alive Network’s saxophonists are summarised in this table:

Type of Artist Cost Range
Solo saxophonists £195 – £800+
Saxophone quartet £650 – £995

Selecting a musician local to your venue can help to minimise travel time and costs – our musicians’ home area is listed on their profile page. However, as travel cost can be nominal, this needn’t be an issue. Your dedicated Entertainment Coordinator can discuss this with you, and recommend a range of great saxophonists for your event.

Who are the top 10 Saxophonists in the UK right now?

These are our top UK saxophonists who we believe are currently blasting away the competition, based on a variety of popularity, originality, and fantastic performances:

How long will a Saxophonist play for?

Most saxophonists perform two 45- or 60-minute sets, or three 45-minute sets, usually with a break of around 30 minutes in-between. Many will also offer the option to play shorter sets or for longer, so you can select the performance options that fit best with the schedule for your event.

How much space will a Saxophonist need?

Most solo saxophonists don’t need a massive space, so they’re great if you need a performance that packs the most punch per square metre! The table below gives a rough idea how much space different saxophonist performers will need:

Type of Saxophonist Performance Space Required
 Soloists: 2 × 2 metres
    Saxophone quartet: 4 × 3 metres

How long will it take for a Saxophonists to set up?

As long as they can park relatively close to the performance space at your venue, it usually takes around 30 minutes for a saxophonist to unload, setup and sound-check in preparation for their performance.

When their set is over, it can take 15 – 20 minutes to pack away and load out again.

What equipment will a Saxophonist need?

Our saxophonists are relatively easy to look after! Before playing at your special event, they may need a few additional things to optimise their performance, such as:

  • refreshments – for example soft drinks and hot food, depending how long they’re performing for you
  • a secure changing room
  • parking provision with easy access to the venue
  • a dedicated, suitably-sized, dry, safe, and flat performance area
  • a minimum of one 13 amp power socket, depending on the line-up and whether they’re fully amplified or acoustic
  • shelter from the elements, if they’ve agreed to play outside
  • decent lighting – especially important if they’re playing somewhere like a marquee

Most of Alive Network’s saxophonists have their own microphones, and PA sound system or amp that they can bring for the performance.

For information on the following, see our Frequently Asked Questions:

If you have any other queries, simply visit our FAQ page.

Alternatively, our dedicated expert entertainment coordinators are on-hand to help. Simply call 0845 108 5500 or email enquiries@alivenetwork.com.

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