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, the saxophone 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 and booking a saxophonist as easy as possible!
- The Basics
- Equipment & Setup
What types of saxophones are there?
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 hiring a solo saxophonist, unless you specify soprano or baritone saxophone specifically, the saxophonist will usually play either an alto or tenor saxophone.
What kind of music can a saxophonist play?
The beauty of the saxophone is its versatility; saxophonists are capable of playing most 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.
Will saxophonists play solo, with backing tracks, or with other musicians?
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.
Oh, so you really want to blow your guests away? In this case, a dedicated saxophone ensemble should 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!
Which parts of my event should the saxophonist play during?
Typically, the best time for saxophonists to perform is in the afternoon, or evening, when your 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.
Equipment & Setup:
How much space does a saxophonist need?
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.
What equipment will I need to provide?
A seat for breaks in-between their sets, as well as a good source of light.
Will I need to provide a PA system?
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!
How much setup time does a saxophonist need?
Approx. 10–15 minutes without a PA system; 20–30 minutes with a PA system.
Can a saxophonist play outside?
You will need to agree upon this with the saxophonist beforehand, but so long as you can provide adequate shelter, it should be fine!
How long will a saxophonist play for?
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!
Should I provide food?
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.
Do I need to provide parking?
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
Can a saxophonist play my favourite song / take requests?
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!)
How far in advance should I book?
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.
What’s the typical price for a saxophonist?
Every saxophonist will set their own rates, but expect a fee of £200+ for two 45-minute sets, plus travel expenses if applicable.
Do I have to pay travel fees/porterage?
You may have to factor in travel costs if the musician isn’t local. Most musicians have a set radius from their home (generally 15-20 miles) and charge extra for any travel outside that area.
How do I handle contracts and payment?
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.