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I saw an interesting YT vid a few months back explaining why saxophones never became an established part of Western orchestras. The basic argument that it was motivated by a kind of "closed shop" mentality among existing woodwind players or professional jealousy. We are I think talking about an instrument that was patented and so very much in the commercial sphere.

The video debunked the idea that saxophones don't meld with other instruments well. Major composers have included them in their works, including Vaughan Williams in his London Symphony. I think the alto sax produces a very "orchestral" sound for sure.

Any thoughts from people on this?

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I was a violinist in an opera company for years. I was also their saxophonist. Not much call for sax, yet it did happen.


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
If you know the history of the saxophone, it was created late in regards to the available classical literature. So that plays a big part in them being relatively a rare instrument in most orchestras. That said, most woodwind players in orchestras play the sax as required.
Listen to any military band and you will hear saxes blending in and doing their bit amongst the wind section. In the British Army wind musicians normally have to play clarinet family, sax family and flutes or clarinet family and oboe family. Bassoonists seem to be specialist but hard to recruit. Not many are used on the parade ground meaning bassoonists do something else such as cymbals or clarinet. I was a bass clarinet/baritone sax mainly so played literally anything in treble clef b flat parts (wither higher parts the volume departs so I put it down an octave on sight if it went up too far), eb sax parts and anything at all in bass clef. By adjusting accidentals and reading as treble you can play all bass clef parts. This makes me incredibly flexible for the band and provides some lovely parts for you. Yes you can march with a bass clarinet. Ive done it for years if you have a plastic one and can have someone bend a clarinet lyre through 90 degrees and fit it on the neck.I was the only person in the UK to do it but was noticed often.

Bands take music as seriously as orchestras. Dont be afraid to try one. The tonal differences can be amazing and more varied even before considering the jobs you do. Half the Royal Netherlands Custom Band is made up from the Royal Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra! They asked questions when we did a Tattoo together in 2007.
As a band musician Ive still played 1812, symphonies, Elgar marches, Toccata. Theres an arrangement of everything and are just as taxing. Being a wind player will not limit you.
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