How Versatile a Sax Player Are You?

Ska SaxophoneProfessional saxophone players have it made. The online resume service [Sorry(!), but this web page has disappeared since the original publication of this article] once recommended that professional musicians should present a portfolio that represents a wide variety of musical styles, as it broadens the musician’s market appeal to potential employers. In this economy, everyone is concerned with value-for-dollar. Upon hiring a musician for live gigs, the employer generally wants to know that they’re getting the most for their money. Presenting your ability to cover a wide variety of musical styles will go a long way in increasing your appeal to potential employers. Take heart! The saxophone is one of the best instruments with respect to genre versatility. Look below for a sense of just how diverse the possibilities are when considering the genres in which you can perform:

Drum and Bugle Corps

The saxophone has become so popular recently that we often forget its original intended use. The saxophone was invented and developed primarily for use as a military band instrument. It still suits this purpose admirably. All manner of saxophones fit this genre as well. European military bands still feature all types of saxophone from soprano to baritone.

Classical Music

Classical applications for the saxophone have increased exponentially in recent years. Compositions have been trending toward the inclusion of a larger saxophone section, and arrangers are increasingly favoring the four major types of horn (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Baritone). The saxophone has also become increasingly favored as a piece for operatic or choral accompaniment.

Live Performance of Ticheli’s “Back Burner” for saxophone quartet by the Mirasol Quartet.

Rock n’ Roll/Ska

We need hardly detail the use of the saxophone in Rock n’ Roll. Finding early favor with famous recording artists at the advent of the genre in the 1950s, the saxophone was in vogue alongside the electric guitar on the Rock stages of the 1980s. After falling out of favor on traditional Rock stages after the 80s, the saxophone has made a triumphant return to the spotlight as a pop instrument with the advent of Ska music. Ska often features a brass-focused ensemble in addition to traditional rock instruments. Ska has refocused the spotlight on the saxophone as a pop-worthy instrument and an artist who counts Ska in their repertoire is trendy indeed.

LAN Party by The Kujo Kings


Of all the genres into which the saxophone effortlessly fits, Jazz is the genre most identified with the instrument. Though Jazz was not invented until nearly a half-century after the saxophone, it is as if the horn was made with Jazz and Swing in mind. Some of the most legendary musicians of the twentieth century made their reputations on the sax. There is world-famous Jazz for every type of horn. Cool or West-Coast Jazz favors the Baritone. Cool and Hard Bop feature the Tenor. Bebop and Swing can be all about the Alto. Smooth Jazz and Easy Listening are the domain of the soprano sax. Whatever style of Jazz suits you best, your horn is guaranteed to fit right in.

(if you don’t know who these guys are…)