Saxophone Sucks

One of the sites I started – – has articles about vintage saxophones, including C Melody saxophones, which some folks use to play in worship bands, because they are better suited for playing in the sharp-heavy guitar keys of most modern worship choruses.

I have had many reader questions about saxophones in general, and a few about sax in church.

I have played sax – mostly tenor – in many worship bands over the years, and I always enjoyed it thoroughly and felt like I was really pouring all that I had into spiritual worship. Frankly more than when I’m playing guitar, which I do far more often these days. So I was amused when I received the following e-mail out of the blue from a complete stranger.

I hate the saxophone because there is no way for it to not sound jazzy. I hate jazz- it does not belong in church, period.

In the words of of the early Internet users: ROTFL.

Obviously the writer has never heard me play, because I am somewhat classically trained, and when I “loosen up,” I tend to play Rock sax, not Jazz styles.

I contacted the writer back and asked what they played. Piano and handbells. Handbells! Now THERE’S a discussion worth having.

All told, the writer made my day. Right up there with the people who groan or make stupid cracks when I take out my banjo, but who can’t help but listen intently once I start playing. And I’m not that good!

Claiming you hate any instrument is just talking because you enjoy the sense of your mouth moving. And, frankly, enough people enjoy saxophone or banjo or accordion or whatever that even if you do hate the thing, saying so does not devalue the instrument or its players, it betrays what your other opinions are worth as well.

Although I appreciate ANYONE who gives me a good belly laugh.


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like,, and to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.


  1. My dad purchased a c melody in 1956 or so it’s silver satin finish with brass inside the bell. I played it in the 50s and it seemed to work just fine. I think it has a straight neck and says Conn in the bell I don’t believe there are any scratches or dents. It has the original case with purple velvet lining all in good condition.
    I believe it’s a pretty decent instrument and would like to see it in the hands of someone who understands and appreciates it.
    Thanks. Gordon Smith

  2. Hailing from the birthplace of the instrument in question I beg to differ.
    It’s a crooked trumpet that sounds like a heffer contracted pleurisy no matter what style it is played. And no wonder if you know Belgian history and are aware that Adolphe Sax was drunk on Belgian trappist ale when he designed it in a state of delirium after having taken a bad fall on one of our notoriously bad roads.

  3. Dear Not That Adolf:
    Thanks for the link to the museum. The collection includes several instruments that would look quite at home in Whoville or Hogwarts.

    Your remarks reminded me of an incident that happened in a practice session in church some years back. A Boomer female member of the church’s (contemporary) worship team was facing the auditorium so she didn’t see me setting up. When I came in on Tenor during the first chorus of a song, she turned around smiling, but also laughing. She told me, “I wanted to play saxophone when I was a child, but my mother told me it was the Devil’s instrument.”

    I told her “It is, until you learn to play in tune.”

  4. P.S. I dabbled in C Melody for a while because our songleader kept pitching songs in B, which put my Tenor in C# or my Alto in F#. (It was a refurbished, relaquered Buescher-built Lyon & Healy.) But I could never get the tone I wanted with the original Buescher mouthpiece, and no alternatives were available.
    I sold the horn and went back to Tenor. That didn’t last long at any rate because a violin player, jealous that I could play on songs there wasn’t any sheet music for, asked the song leader to tell me to stop bringing my sax. {Later, she made rude comments about my acoustic guitar – you just can’t please some people.)

    That was years ago. I recently found a Buescher-built Wurlitzer stencil for $100 at a thrift shop. Original silverplate but repadded at least once and in VERY good condition. Nowadays there are better mouthpiece options for the things than there used to be. So I tried a new $60 mouthpiece from an eBay vendor. The horn also came with a Steve Broadus C Melody mouthpiece that the original owner must have purchased – you don’t see many of those. The new cheapy mouthpiece made the horn sound much better than it did with the original Buescher mouthpiece. I couldn’t properly try out the Broadus mouthpiece because the cork was too thin to hold it. (In fact, the horn also came with an Alto mouthpiece that the most recent user must have been using.) But even the $60 mouthpiece gave me hope that this one was worth keeping. It’s in the shop today for recorking and tweaking, but will be home soon.

    Of course the church we belong to now doesn’t use horns of any kind if they can avoid it. I’ve been playing bass guitar. So the C melody will be used for other projects, and maybe for busking for the Salvation Army.

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