Sax at the Grammys: 9 of the Best Songs with Saxophone We All Know

best songs with saxophone
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The soulful sound of the saxophone has helped many songs reach the highest heights – Grammy awards.

Key Takeaways:

    • The saxophone is played in many Grammy-winning songs
    • This versatile instrument has won Grammys for songs of all genres
    • Anyone with a love for the instrument is a great candidate to learn>
    • Learn some of the best songs with saxophone

    Only the best in the music world win Grammys. We might just be partial, but it seems to us that many award-winning songs feature a saxophone somewhere in the melody. Coincidence? We think not. 

    The sax, as this instrument is lovingly nicknamed, was invented in the early 1840s by Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax and is known as the sexiest-sounding instrument in the world. Although initially intended for use in orchestras and military bands, this woodwind instrument is popular in the jazz genre, among others. 

    This single-reed instrument is typically formed of brass. Sound is created when the player blows into the mouthpiece, and the breath force makes the reed vibrate. The holes in the body regulate the pitch when the player opens and closes them using the leather pads on the outside of the instrument.

  • It may sound easy, but it takes a lot more than manual dexterity to make music that touches people.

    This article will discuss the saxophone’s versatility, a few Grammy-winning songs with prominent sax, and how to get started on a sax journey of your own.

    Versatility of the Sax

    The saxophone has a massive range, so its unified sound and versatility make it a prominent member of many types of ensembles. The interchangeable mouthpieces, embouchure shapes, and techniques allow myriad sounds from this elegant instrument, making it a popular choice for musicians of every type, from gospel to jazz musicians, since the 1900s. 

    The saxophone still has a firm place in music today. World-renowned artists such as Lady Gaga, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, Dua Lipa, and Taylor Swift employ the smooth sounds of the saxophone in their songs. It’s no surprise that so many Grammy-winning songs include the saxophone. 

    Nine Sax-Full Songs That Won Grammys

    The sax is so smooth and adaptable that you may only sometimes recognize its melodies. It’s often mistaken for the clarinet and even a flute. The following are nine songs with melodic saxophone sounds that have won a Grammy and are some of the best songs with saxophone of all times.

    “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel

    This song won the Grammy for Best Song of the Year in 1977, with Phil Woods, one of the world’s most famous jazz musicians, playing the sax. Billy Joel wrote the song for his first wife on his fifth studio album, The Stranger

    “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

    You’ll hear a killer sax solo about three-quarters of the way into this song, but Whitney Houston’s vocals are so powerful that it’s hard to acknowledge anything else. This song won a Grammy in the Record of the Year category in 1994. Houston also won the Best-Selling Female Singer of All Time award category for this song. 

    “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

    “Alright” won Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 58th Grammy Awards. It was also nominated for Song of the Year and Best Music Video. This song is associated with BLM, the  Black Lives Matter movement, after several youth-led activists were heard chanting the chorus. It is a song of hope during extreme personal trials. 

    “Creep” by TLC

    TLC released the Crazy Sexy Cool album in 1994, and the single “Creep” won a Grammy in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals category. This song was considered one of the first female empowerment songs of the 90s and still has a message about safe sex that has yet to be surpassed. 

    “Careless Whisper” by George Michael

    This timeless ballad features an iconic saxophone riff that instantly captures the listener’s attention. George Michael’s emotional delivery combined with the sultry saxophone melody makes this song an everlasting classic

    “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr.

    This Grammy-winning song showcases the smooth jazz sounds of Grover Washington Jr.’s saxophone. The soothing saxophone solos throughout the track create a relaxing and melodic atmosphere.

    “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty

    Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” is known for its unforgettable saxophone hook, which has cemented its place in music history. This Grammy-nominated song continues to captivate listeners with its infectious melody and remarkable saxophone performance.

    “Smooth Operator” by Sade

    This Grammy-winning song by Sade is a perfect blend of sultry vocals and the enchanting sounds of the saxophone. The saxophone solos in this track add an extra layer of sophistication and sensuality.

    “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

    This modern classic won multiple Grammys and features a catchy saxophone hook that drives the infectious groove of the song. The saxophone adds a funky and vibrant element to this chart-topping hit.

    These are just a few of the songs that include the sax that have won Grammys. There are many more, not to mention the hundreds of other awards for music and song that this fascinating and melodic instrument garners each year. It takes a dedicated and talented player to earn the coveted Grammy award, but there’s a formula for success.

    How to Get Started

    The first step to a mind-blowing career playing the saxophone is having a burning desire to take up the instrument. If the sound of this instrument sends a thrill through your soul, it’s the one for you. That’s the easiest step. It gets a little more challenging when you start the real learning.

    1. Choose a Saxophone

    Most beginners choose an alto or tenor sax as their first instrument. They are easier to pitch than soprano or baritone instruments. Baritone saxophones are larger and heavier and often harder for beginners to master. Used saxophones are typically a better choice for new players to get more value for their investment.

    2. Find an Instructor

    Saxophone lessons are the next vital step. The easy way to find a sax teacher you’ll love is to ask for word-of-mouth recommendations. Coworkers, friends, and family members can give you recommendations from a trusted source. Ask them.

    3. Teach Yourself

    Books, videos, and CDs are all effective ways to learn basic saxophone notes and melodies. You don’t have the feedback and personal instruction of a teacher, however, and that is invaluable. 

    Playing the saxophone takes time, dedication, and a healthy dose of talent. Spending time with other people who play or just love the music can help keep your focus sharp. 

    Your dream of being a Grammy-winning sax player starts the first time you pick one up. Consider renting one or buying a used one if the cost of purchasing an instrument is holding you back. Learning to play the saxophone is an award-winning experience, even if you don’t win a Grammy! 

    Let the Joy of the Sax Enrich Your Life

    Learning to play the sax – and other instruments – helps make life more enjoyable. Sloan School of Music provides music lessons (private, group, virtual, etc.) in various disciplines. We also sell top-of-the-line musical instruments and accessories, plus instrument rental programs. 

  • Contact Sloan School of Music for more information about musical instruments, accessories, lessons, and more.