John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and—dare I say—the infamous Kenny G, all have one thing in common. That’s right: the saxophone.
Ever the soul of the party, a saxophonist is a staple of the jazz, funk, blues, and soul genres. Bringing its unique flavour either as a solo instrument or as part of an ensemble, the many different varieties of saxophone—and their ability to traverse multiple genres—make it extremely versatile.
There is a lot to cover with the saxophone, so we’ve broken it down into this simple guide to make finding saxophone players for hire as easy as possible!
Keep reading on for what we think you should know about hiring saxophonists.
- The Basics
- Equipment & Setup
Just like singers, there are four basic types of saxophone: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. The alto and tenor saxophone are by far the most popular of these and account for the majority of solo saxophone repertoire.
When looking for a sax player to hire, unless you specify soprano or baritone saxophone specifically, the saxophonist will usually play either an alto or tenor saxophone.
The beauty of the saxophone is its versatility; saxophonists are capable of playing almost anything, ranging from classical, to pop, to house, to jazz. While many saxophonists will specialise in one or more of these genres, it’s not uncommon for professional saxophonists to be more than able to cover a range of genres.
The most popular genres for saxophone are jazz, funk, pop, R&B, blues, reggae, ska, and soul/Motown. Saxophonists will also have an extensive song list for you to peruse should you be so inclined. You’ll find a variety of music to choose from in our extensive list of talented saxophonists – take a look to see which is your favourite!
Anne-Marie Atkins, performing Jazz and Funk live on stage
Any of the above! It simply depends on what you are after for your event. Perhaps you’re after a light touch of unaccompanied jazz, or even classical music, then a solo saxophonist would be perfect.
Perhaps you would like something a bit more upbeat; saxophonists can usually provide high-quality backing tracks to play over (from just about any genre), keeping the atmosphere lively and energetic.
The combination of DJ and sax or even DJ, sax and percussion is fast-becoming a must-have for when you really want to create a party atmosphere. If you’d like your saxophonist to be included in your DJ set, this is highly recommended to create an unforgettable atmosphere for any party or event.
If you really want to blow your guests away, a dedicated saxophone ensemble might just do the trick. These ensembles take the saxophone to a new level, often playing reimagined versions of pop/rock songs, and are usually completely mobile!
A lot of wedding bands also have the option of adding a sax player to the mix, providing you with lively music perfect for any wedding party. You can search through our list of wonderful wedding bands to see if this might be the right choice for you.
If you are thinking of hiring a wedding saxophonist, you would most likely see them perform as DJ and saxophonist wedding music in the evening. However, with the versatility of the saxophone, a wedding saxophone player could also serenade your guests during the drinks reception with backing tracks or as a solo instrument.
Typically, the best time for saxophonists to perform is in the afternoon, or evening, when your guests are beginning to relax, or just about ready to dance! Saxophonists are excellent at providing smooth background music for a cocktail reception or, alternatively, bringing their magic to the dance floor.
For one saxophonist, about 2×2 metres will do just fine—saxophonists usually stand when they play, so they can fit in tight spaces (within reason!). For a group of 4 saxophonists, about 4×4 metres will cover it.
A seat for breaks in-between their sets, as well as a good source of light.
If your venue has one, the saxophonist might ask to use it, but most professional saxophonists will come well-equipped with a microphone and PA sound system (or amp). Make sure you check with them first though!
Approx. 10–15 minutes without a PA system; 20–30 minutes with a PA system.
You will need to agree upon this with the saxophonist beforehand, but so long as you can provide adequate shelter, it should be fine!
Generally, a saxophonist will play two to three 45-minute sets. Of course, they can be flexible depending on the schedule of your event, but keep in mind they will need short 10–15 minute breaks after their sets to catch their breath! Make sure to ask one of our fabulous saxophonists how they setup up their set times, it may be that they can personalise it especially for your requirements.
Musicians will appreciate water and light refreshments upon arrival (especially if they’ve travelled a long way to perform for you!). Meals are always welcome, though generally not necessary unless your event is at dinnertime.
If the musician is planning to drive, please make provision for parking if possible. Having to drive around looking for a parking space in a town you don’t know can be stressful, expensive, and may delay the performance. It’s worth checking, though, as some may take the train (and might appreciate a pickup from the station!).
Popular jazz requests:
- The Girl from Ipanema – Antônio Carlos Jobim
- In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington
- Misty – Erroll Garner
- It Had to Be You – Frank Sinatra
Popular pop requests:
- All of Me – John Legend
- Happy – Pharrell Williams
- Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
- Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Popular soul/Motown requests:
- Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
- My Cherie Amour – Stevie Wonder
- My Girl – The Temptations
- What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Absolutely! Make sure you check their song list first, as your request might just be there.
Otherwise, let your saxophonist know early; if they’re not already familiar with your song, they will need adequate time to prepare. While most saxophonists will learn an extra song for free, please be aware that some may charge for this extra service (especially if you’d like them to learn multiple new songs!)
We advise booking as soon as possible, especially if you have special musical requests, but we handle last-minute bookings all the time at Encore and can easily find a saxophonist at short notice.
Every saxophonist will set their own rates, but expect the following fees plus travel expenses if applicable:
- 1 hour: £170-£400
- 2 hours: £180-£500
- 3 hours: £200-£600
A sax and DJ combination could cost more so it’s worth contacting your musician and asking for a range of costs for both solo or combo prices.
Check out our list of 19 of the most professional DJs that work with live musicians for more inspiration and prices.
Even if you want to “hire a saxophonist near me,” the chances are you will still have to factor in travel costs for the musician. Most professional musicians have a set radius from their home (generally 15-20 miles) and charge extra for any travel outside that area.
The simplest way to handle contracts and payment is to book through Encore. Our bookings process is straightforward, and once you have confirmed a booking with your chosen saxophonist, contracts and payments are handled painlessly and effortlessly by our secure ‘Encore Pay’ payment system.