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I've had a number of private students that started college as music performance or education majors. 75% changed majors to music production. It's much easier (when you've grown up with computers) to "make music" on a keyboard. It's heartbreaking to me.
My youngest daughter was a music major in college. Half way through, she slipped on ice and fractured a wrist bone that caused her to give up playing the clarinet because of the pain. She ultimately graduated with a BS in Animal Behavior which probably earns a little more than the average music major - especially the performing arts these days.
She makes music on her computer and has impressed me with her complex orchestral compositions.
 

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I think there's multiple questions here, between "why aren't there saxes in popular music at the moment," vs "why aren't there more people playing sax," vs "kids these days, it's easier to make beats than finger notes."

In pop music, there are trends and then they get overexposed. The Seinfeld theme made casual use of slap bass a cliche for a decade (even though I think it was actually played on a Korg synth-bass sound).
 

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Unfortunately, it seems all instrumentation is “out” in regards to “popular” music these days. It seems all that is done is to have a snippet of something occasionally loop through multiple times.
 

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It's an interesting article, but I'm not the least bit concerned about the saxophone in popular culture and whether it has a place in modern pop music. Perhaps the fact I only listen to folks such as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, and Joe Henderson let alone Donald Sinta, Clifford Leaman, and Claude Delangle says something about my musical interests. I love the saxophone, but not enough to listen to "music" just because there's a saxophone featured in it. Thanks for posting the article!
While I understand your feelings/position...what you post is also an example of how the sax (and really, most other wind instruments if we must say, right ?) HAS lost its footing. It's fine for academics or aficionados of a particular genre to state "I only listen to THAT"...the Jazz and Classical genres are most often cited as having tuirned into 'museum pieces' (regardless of whether we agree with that or not, it is a reality that this view is prevalent)...
...so what you write... it also implies a certain rigidity which, IMHO, as a musician, may be doing one more harm than good...

...but it is certainly fair to observe/posit and even lament that sax, trumpet, etc....is just no longer commonly heard in pop music like it used to be (and honestly, 'like it used to be' doesn't mean much...even in the 80's, although one can give classic examples of sax in pop, it's not as if the horn appeared 'commonly', really).

Personally, I cannot just dismiss this 'trend' as irrelevant. Sadly, culturally....I think it IS relevant. Popular culture when it comes to the arts... is relevant, regardless of whether we'd prefer it not be.

On the positive side, there IS sort of a counter-balance to all of this as well. Popularity of certain genres (Gypsy Jazz for example, where a reed often appears) plus a sort of 'new wave' of ...I dunno what one calls it these days...they are sorta rock/dance bands which have soul-groove vibe and good horn sections (my 20-something trumpet player was playing their stuff while we were driving to and from a gig a few weeks ago...Melt, Ripe, Lawrence, Sammy Rae)...it was good stuff, horns were quite prevalent. Never heard of them ? Neither had I, but apparently they are very popular and things are going quite well for them....

These, again, are NOT 'pop' examples, it is a rung or two up the ladder as far as listener sophistication...but is still 'popular' by most definitions....so it becomes a matter of some creativity and effort being applied to elevate and diversify the music/material while still keeping it broad enough to appeal to a wider audience.

Has always been this way, really, if you think about it....
 

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I think there's multiple questions here, between "why aren't there saxes in popular music at the moment," vs "why aren't there more people playing sax," vs "kids these days, it's easier to make beats than finger notes."
They're really all the same question though. For it to be popular to listen to, there have to be players. For there to be players, they have to aspire to play what they hear. To play, they have to practice; and it takes years to get any good. All those points are interrelated.

Public schools were great at having kids play for years. And like it or not, that meant marching bands for football games. Music programs are fading however, and marching bands are fewer and farther between. So the avenues for those years of practice at an early age are getting slimmer.

Saxophone has been lucky, as it's been a mainstay in popular music for a hundred years now. And you know who kept it on life support for about the last thirty years? Kenny G. Folks hate to realize that, but it's true. And now with his music no longer popular or inspiring, and with kids not taking the time to learn the instrument, we're a dying breed, us saxophonists. Anyone with a computer can now create what they want in music, and that no longer includes us.
 

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with kids not taking the time to learn the instrument, we're a dying breed, us saxophonists. Anyone with a computer can now create what they want in music, and that no longer includes us.
Ahahahahahah

This thread has been most entertaining for me. Thank you all for the laughs!
 

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On the positive side, there IS sort of a counter-balance to all of this as well. Popularity of certain genres (Gypsy Jazz for example, where a reed often appears) plus a sort of 'new wave' of ...I dunno what one calls it these days...they are sorta rock/dance bands which have soul-groove vibe and good horn sections (my 20-something trumpet player was playing their stuff while we were driving to and from a gig a few weeks ago...Melt, Ripe, Lawrence, Sammy Rae)...it was good stuff, horns were quite prevalent. Never heard of them ? Neither had I, but apparently they are very popular and things are going quite well for them....

These, again, are NOT 'pop' examples, it is a rung or two up the ladder as far as listener sophistication...but is still 'popular' by most definitions....so it becomes a matter of some creativity and effort being applied to elevate and diversify the music/material while still keeping it broad enough to appeal to a wider audience.

Has always been this way, really, if you think about it....
I felt that this was a very important point that you nailed down. I've been thinking of this more and more lately. Avoiding the idea of pop music, and replacing it with popular music really changes things. A lot of the popular modern music I listen to (mostly Alternative and Alternative Rock) has developed more musically than I would have expected. I've heard horn parts in a far greater number of songs than the past 20 years or so. Lots of bands are pulling feel and style from older generations for their modern numbers. My wife is always happy to point out a wind instrument part in a modern song she's listening to, and I'm always grateful she does!

An interesting note for some. I work in close proximity with many Air Force/Space Force personnel these days - almost all of them under the age of 25 - lots in the 18-20 year old range. In the past 12 months specifically, I've began to notice something very unusual. When they put on music, its no longer just your top 100 billboard songs. They are listening to Lo-Fi, neo-soul, groove style music, or even pulling up old jazz and talking about how much they enjoy it over the modern music being released. Of course this is a small sample size of the world, but it does provide hope. Just today, as I sit here at work, one Space Force member, who is 25, turned to the other next to them and said "Hey! Sirius XM added a Miles Davis station that was a really cool listen on the way in." I had to smile :)
 

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I think there's multiple questions here, between "why aren't there saxes in popular music at the moment," vs "why aren't there more people playing sax," vs "kids these days, it's easier to make beats than finger notes."
"why aren't there saxes in popular music at the moment,"

Well, this isn't new. First of all when rock & roll came along, they complained that there was only one saxophone instead of 5

Then when the beat groups came along they complained there was a a guitar solo instead of saxophone.

I see one of the problems is that a lot of music education whether it's schools, universities seem to concentrate way too much on old forms of jazz when it comes to learning saxophone. Bebop, standrads etc. Actually same applies to just people on Youtube (or the few remaining forums) seem to think the be-all-and-end-all is back in the 50s. Maybe all copies of the real book should be burned and playing Blue Bossa or Donna Lee a capital offence.
 

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It described a very top-level history of how saxophones have lost their appeal in modern music given their popularity over the ages.
On the positive side: the saxophone is currently still more popular than in the 17th and 18th century! ;)
 

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While I understand your feelings/position...what you post is also an example of how the sax (and really, most other wind instruments if we must say, right ?) HAS lost its footing. It's fine for academics or aficionados of a particular genre to state "I only listen to THAT"...the Jazz and Classical genres are most often cited as having tuirned into 'museum pieces' (regardless of whether we agree with that or not, it is a reality that this view is prevalent)...
...so what you write... it also implies a certain rigidity which, IMHO, as a musician, may be doing one more harm than good...

...but it is certainly fair to observe/posit and even lament that sax, trumpet, etc....is just no longer commonly heard in pop music like it used to be (and honestly, 'like it used to be' doesn't mean much...even in the 80's, although one can give classic examples of sax in pop, it's not as if the horn appeared 'commonly', really).

Personally, I cannot just dismiss this 'trend' as irrelevant. Sadly, culturally....I think it IS relevant. Popular culture when it comes to the arts... is relevant, regardless of whether we'd prefer it not be.

On the positive side, there IS sort of a counter-balance to all of this as well. Popularity of certain genres (Gypsy Jazz for example, where a reed often appears) plus a sort of 'new wave' of ...I dunno what one calls it these days...they are sorta rock/dance bands which have soul-groove vibe and good horn sections (my 20-something trumpet player was playing their stuff while we were driving to and from a gig a few weeks ago...Melt, Ripe, Lawrence, Sammy Rae)...it was good stuff, horns were quite prevalent. Never heard of them ? Neither had I, but apparently they are very popular and things are going quite well for them....

These, again, are NOT 'pop' examples, it is a rung or two up the ladder as far as listener sophistication...but is still 'popular' by most definitions....so it becomes a matter of some creativity and effort being applied to elevate and diversify the music/material while still keeping it broad enough to appeal to a wider audience.

Has always been this way, really, if you think about it....
I appreciate your comments. When live music was alive and well, one could hear the saxophone being played in almost every live spot New Orleans had to offer (let alone the street corners). That music was blues/funk/street beat jazz/Ragtime/etc. I used to very much enjoy those styles when presented live, but I have little interest in them from a recorded perspective when I’m trying to learn more about jazz and classical saxophone in the finite amounts of time I have to listen. As for popular music, my two teenage daughters have kept me fully aware of the the latest and greatest music pop culture has to offer. I have little interest in listening to any of what modern popular music provides regardless of whether the saxophone is included or not. As for whether the saxophone is a museum piece, from what I saw and heard on the streets of New Orleans pre-Covid, no. The saxophone is alive and well. And it will be again once Covid restrictions are lifted. But whether it’s alive and well in the top 10 charts of popular music— I just don’t care. I have a lot more to say, but I have an appointment at 11:30. Best, Ben
 

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Uh oh - Please don't come crucify me in my Learning standards thread ;)
I'm not saying nobody should play standrads, just that music from the old days (like over 50 years ago) seems to predominate. Of course we should know all kinds of music from the past IMO. And I think you are right to concentrate on learning them rather than reading.
 

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They're really all the same question though. For it to be popular to listen to, there have to be players. For there to be players, they have to aspire to play what they hear. To play, they have to practice; and it takes years to get any good. All those points are interrelated.

Public schools were great at having kids play for years. And like it or not, that meant marching bands for football games. Music programs are fading however, and marching bands are fewer and farther between. So the avenues for those years of practice at an early age are getting slimmer.

Saxophone has been lucky, as it's been a mainstay in popular music for a hundred years now. And you know who kept it on life support for about the last thirty years? Kenny G. Folks hate to realize that, but it's true. And now with his music no longer popular or inspiring, and with kids not taking the time to learn the instrument, we're a dying breed, us saxophonists. Anyone with a computer can now create what they want in music, and that no longer includes us.
But you know that these computer-generated tracks are perfect and perfect is the enemy of good. And it is just like with partners (of the opposite or preferred sex), Ken and Barbie are cute for about one night but then they become utterly boring. Maybe we need a Butlerian Jihad for music.
 

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As for whether the saxophone is a museum piece, from what I saw and heard on the streets of New Orleans pre-Covid, no. The saxophone is alive and well.
New Orleans is sort of its own vacuum, however. Their music is its industry and a huge part of their tourist trade. Kids there grow up to want to play in brass bands, which seem to be pushing zydeco in gaining popularity again. Thankfully.
 

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In my experience, kids these days are far more omnivorous in terms of musical taste than I was at that age. One daughter loves classic rock, from the Beach Boys to Queen. The other loves the newest hip-hop and dance music. But they listen to EVERYTHING from sea shanties on TikTok to whatever music is on Just Dance. And honestly, saxes are more present in current music than they were in the popular music of the 90s that I listened to in high school. Between Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars, we have horns and horn sections.

And don't get me wrong--I spent the morning listening to Max Roach and Clifford Brown. But the musicality of today's pop music is at least as sophisticated as pop music from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Live instruments are still there--check out almost any hip-hop or pop Tiny Desk Concert from the prepandemic days. My elementary school son just chose to do a report on Trombone Shorty as part of Black History Month. And honestly, the idea of production supplanting performance? That was late-period Beatles and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys.
 

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I share much of your optimism, samdb -- I don't have kids myself, but I teach for a local college in Austin, focusing on jazz and contemporary piano and composition/arranging. These younger folks are into a huge array of good music, and some of them have introduced me to great modern musicians I'd never encountered before. One student of mine from last semester is a genuinely brilliant writer and producer, but he wanted to actually start learning how to play the piano and understand harmonic terminology. He got good QUICKLY. Since any kid with a Macbook can produce a beat nowadays, actually playing an instrument well is cool and special again. See Domi and JD Beck.


Not saxophonists, of course, but as samdb said, artists like Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars prioritize horns frequently. Terrace Martin, who produces for Kendrick and numerous other hip hop artists, is a great alto player and tours with Herbie Hancock in normal times. Kamasi Washington has been enjoying a huge amount of success, and of course my old Snarky Puppy buddies have earned legions of followers around the world.

I think pop music is ignored by the majority of the world these days, just like network television. People find what they want on the internet now. This means there's a huge amount of brilliant modern music out there, it just isn't being crammed down our throats as effectively by Universal and Sony. In the long run, this will be a good thing, but we haven't figured it all out yet.
 

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I share much of your optimism, samdb -- I don't have kids myself, but I teach for a local college in Austin, focusing on jazz and contemporary piano and composition/arranging. These younger folks are into a huge array of good music, and some of them have introduced me to great modern musicians I'd never encountered before. One student of mine from last semester is a genuinely brilliant writer and producer, but he wanted to actually start learning how to play the piano and understand harmonic terminology. He got good QUICKLY. Since any kid with a Macbook can produce a beat nowadays, actually playing an instrument well is cool and special again. See Domi and JD Beck.


Not saxophonists, of course, but as samdb said, artists like Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars prioritize horns frequently. Terrace Martin, who produces for Kendrick and numerous other hip hop artists, is a great alto player and tours with Herbie Hancock in normal times. Kamasi Washington has been enjoying a huge amount of success, and of course my old Snarky Puppy buddies have earned legions of followers around the world.

I think pop music is ignored by the majority of the world these days, just like network television. People find what they want on the internet now. This means there's a huge amount of brilliant modern music out there, it just isn't being crammed down our throats as effectively by Universal and Sony. In the long run, this will be a good thing, but we haven't figured it all out yet.
Well put Brian. The accessibility of music (and anything for that matter) has changed a lot of media's control over what is and isn't popular. Its no longer turning on the radio/tv/media source and then getting forced to listen to whatever is on. My friends, who are slightly younger, still heckle me everytime they are in my car because I DO listen to the radio. They are perplexed why I wouldn't want to choose my own songs.

That's a little off point, but I agree that things are coming along and it is a good thing. Now if we can find a way to reward these musicians properly through this instant access, things will really start to take off. It still has a ways to go, but I like the road we are on in terms of music and even television.
 

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Well, you guys have now spoiled this thread with your critical thinking and broader mentality. I was enjoying it when it was still the loathing and the "back in my days was the real deal" vibe going on.

Now I'm sadder :(
 
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