If you’re considering playing the saxophone as your instrument of choice or even making it your full-time profession and are wondering what sort of music lends itself to the sax other than jazz, keep reading.
Invented in 1846 by Adolphe Sax, this warm sounding instrument, which is a combination of woodwind and brass instruments, was initially created for use in military bands by blending projection with dexterity. The patent for the saxophone was procured by Henri Selmer in 1929 and after some adjustments, the instrument was perfected to produce the sound we know today.
While there are 14 different types of saxophones, the four most common types are soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. The soprano, favoured by Kenny G, provides the highest pitch, while the baritone provides a deeper and more powerful sound. The tenor saxophones are the most popular and generally what most people imagine when they think of a sax.
In the 1840s playing the saxophone was quickly taken up by polka bands whose vibrant music soon flooded Europe and the USA via immigrants from Czechoslovakia, Germany and Poland. With its consistent sound timbre, loud volume and tolerance for rough handling, the saxophone soon became the obvious choice for Jazz when it moved into the big band era.
Popular music of the 1950s took a lot of its early influence from jazz with the harmony of rock and roll being a simplified version of the genre’. Billy Haley and His Comets “Rock Around the Clock” prominently featured the saxophone as part of an ensemble as did many other songs of that era.
The saxophones effortless and magical ability to float between the smoky sound of the crying blues to the suddenly powerful bright sky-high cheering that takes the listener through a varied emotional landscape was soon embraced by the Motown record label. With several number one hits in the 1960s, Motown became an important influence on establishing the role of playing the saxophone in pop music. Groups such as The Temptations and The Supremes featured horn sections as part of their bands, as well as saxophone solos.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” took the alto sax solo to new heights – ask anyone to sing the vocal melody and many people would be stumped.
This then led the 1980s to become the golden age for playing the saxophone as a solo instrument in pop music and many bands used the saxophone to add solos to their tracks. Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley’s, I’ve had the “Time of my Life”, the iconic hit song from the cult classic “Dirty Dancing” being one example.
In 2010 the saxophone experienced a strong nostalgic comeback thanks to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” and Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”.
Being extremely harmonious, the saxophone knows how to fit unobtrusively into a composition, with the melodies, phrases and tones it produces seems to be an outward extension of the player’s soul. The instrument is honest and perhaps can even be compared to a wordless expression of the human voice. Because it sounds as good mixed into an ensemble as it does alone, whenever a band needs a break, the sax can be elevated to a confident leader and solo artist
So, as you can see, throughout music history and still today, the saxophone continues to be one of the most versatile instruments with a multitude of applications. Its role in jazz, swing, folk, classical, rock, funk, punk, rap, pop, nu-metal, R&B, blues, reggae, ska, gospel, hip hop, soul is substantial and cannot be ignored, so need we even mention how essential a sax player is as a part of any Top 40 band?
If playing the saxophone is your dream, give us a call on 011-425 35 09 or visit us at keyboardmagic.co.za so we can assist you further in your journey to musical greatness.