Saxaphone vs. Trumpet...Which do you prefer?

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about it, but it came up again last night as I was listening to Quintessence volume 2, Stan Getz and Chet Baker recorded live. (an amazing disc) I have to say that for myself, I prefer the saxophone because it seems capable of infinite textures and subtle shadings as well as eye opening dynamic shifts. Of course I love the trumpet too; especially in the hands of a player like Chet Baker.

B187ac10 5526 4e5e 8dc4 e2c49a0f7083roxy54

The most fun band I was ever in had two sax players---a tenor and a baritone. Great combination sound, heard on a lot of 50's Rock 'n' Roll records (Little Richard a personal favorite). The band, a Jump Blues/Swing combo, added a trumpet, and none of us dug it.

The worst fad in Rock was when hippie bands started adding a flute to their instrumental line-up. I was in one of those, too, and had to put my foot down. The bass player backed me up, so the flute was out. Too feminine. ;-)

The saxophone is my favorite. Preferably the tenor! BTW, if you like the sax you should give these guys a listen!
Depends who's playing and what they're playing. Its not the instrument, its the music. 
Saxophone for much the same reasons as yourself. It does take someone like a Chet Baker or Louis Armstrong to get a halfway pleasant sound out of a trumpet. All too often trumpets just sound shrill and noisy whereas saxophones just ooze life and sensuality.

Probably also explains why I prefer Coltrane over Davis too. 

It is the sax for me but the trumpet between the right lips can be very satisfying. And agree with @bdp24 , hate the flute.
You can’t rule out one instrument over another. They each have their purpose. Even the Doors could have used a bass player, despite how good Manzarek was on the organ. 
Well the sax is big and heavy and you have to suck on the reed and stuff and if your embouchure isn't perfect it just makes the most hideous sound like a whipped dog or something. Plus there's a whole slew of things to keep cleaned and lubed. Trumpet on the other hand is small and just the three slides to take care of, but talk about embouchure, can't hardly get anything out of it at all less you get your lips nice and tight. At least with the sax if you blow right its gonna play. Trumpet you're just not getting squat no way without the right embouchure.

So played both, dunno, guess that's why I prefer harmonica.

There's only 2 types of music; good & bad.
There's only 2 types of musicians; good & bad.

Sounds like there's a few of you that's never heard a good trumpet or flute player.  2 instruments that are truly capable of infinite sensitivity and beauty.  I would never handcuff my love of music with a blanket statement stating I hate an INSTRUMENT!  Talk about waste, you're effectively blocking out a virtual universe of music!

poorly played sax = camel in protracted labor

Gotta love all the tenor players who worked with the Duke over the years.

The Doors used Bruce Botnick in the studio.
Hi Roxy54,
You posted a very fun question for a committed jazz fan such as myself.
As has been stated above both are tremendous in the hands of a talented musician. In the spirit of this thread where a preference is requested I’ll go with the magnificent trumpet.

Simply sublime with Bop, ballads,blues, modal etc. Upper register pyrotechnics or mid/lower register sensual introspective from the soul playing. Just think, Miles, Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Chet, Art Farmer, Wynton, Kenny Dorham,Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove and on and on😊😊. Trumpet and Fugelhorn = sheer beauty.
Hi Charles,
You mention some great ones, and as I said, I love the trumpet as well. Being more of a novice to jazz than you, I will be sure to check a few of those names which are unfamiliar to me.
I'll give you a hint...
Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, and Freddie Hubbard 

Odd thread. It’s the expression of the musician that matters. These instruments greatly compliment one another. Think about Coltrane and his tenor sax and Miles Davis’ trumpet. Some of the best music, not just jazz, ever created. The obvious that come to mind are albums like Kind of Blue, which even though it is quite mainstream and accessible is still one of the greatest albums of all time in my opinion.
I have no doubt that Roxy54 is keenly aware of and recognizes the musician’s expression is of paramount importance and the highest priority (along with talent). Roxy is a music lover and the question posed is a fun and interesting way to generate a sharing of individual perspectives of musicians we greatly admire and their respective instruments.

I could easily assemble a list of superb saxaphonists. Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Johnny Griffin, you get the idea😀. It’s fun discussing these marvelous people (- and the instruments they have surely mastered).
OK, so how about we split the difference? I vote for the saxhorn. It’s a real thing, you know...
I'm with Charles. Trumpet.  Check out Tine Thing Helseth and Alison Balsom for diversity (gender and Classical).

Nice thread Roxy. Happen to agree with and understand all of the posts so far!
Serge Chaloff
Ben Webster
What’s a better color, blue or red? 
Post removed 
Maynard Ferguson - enough said
Donald Byrd on Cristo Redentor
John Coltrane on A love Supreme
Got it?

@roxy54, Bruce Botnick was the recording engineer on the doors (I’m spelling it as they did---with a lower case d, as homage to e e Cummings, I believe. Yes, Morrison was a tad pretentious ;-) albums. They had a number of different bass players on their recordings, including Larry Knechtel (The Wrecking Crew) and guitarist Lonnie Mack.

I twice saw the doors live, and ’cause my momma taught me to not speak ill of the dead (though I above made an exception for Morrison), I won’t say anything about Manzarek. ;-) . Let me just add that Jerry Garcia also didn't care for the doors.

The doors never had a bass player. It was Manzarek’s organ. 
Sax, Trombone, Trumpet - in Jazz.
If this was Classical, I think that the French horn is without a doubt, the most underappreciated instrument in an orchestra.

(yeah, I'm trolling, but it's in fun and actually related to music - :D )
I am pretty sure that on one of their albums, a credit was given to Bruce Botnick for "occasional bass". I am aware of course that they didn't have a regular bass player.
the doors did not have a bass player in live performance (Manzarek played the bass parts on, not his cheesy Farfisa organ, but on the almost-as-cheesy Fender Keyboard Bass which sat atop his organ. Live, it sounded somewhat like a child’s toy version of the Rhodes electric piano), but they absolutely did in their recordings (not all---Manzarek did play that horrid Keyboard Bass on some of their songs.). Uncredited on the albums of course, but subsequently identified. A number of them, infact.
+1 Chazro....and I’m a saxophone player.  +1 Charles...all in fun.

Btw, spelled saxOphone.  Freudian slip? 😉

Hi Frogman,

 If anyone  could answer this question it would be you. Is the baritone saxophone more difficult to play/master due to its size and bulk compared to the smaller saxophones or is this just urban lore?


Trumpet all day long. Disclaimer: I am a trumpet player, of 41 years. Classical, jazz, dixie land, pop, liturgical, you name it. Trumpets can sound bright, dark, soft, powerful, airy, all depends upon the quality of the player and his or her ability to be truly musical. 


Do you also play the cornet or fugelhorn as well? I am enjoying this thread.


In jazz, it's probably a toss up. But in pop/rock, except for Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, saxophones are clearly used more often. Think of Springsteen (the great Clarence Clemons), Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Carole King, and many, many others. There are countless pop/rock songs with a nice little sax solo as the bridge and not nearly as many with a trumpet solo. Probably because the sax just has a little softer and more pleasing sound.
In case anyone is interested, there's a great "biography" of the sax here:

When first introduced, the sax was controversial for more reasons than the sound.
One trumpet player who never seems to have received enough attention for his gorgeous tone was Thad Jones.

+1  Thad Jones very much under appreciated IMHO. Fabulous talent and tone. The same could be said of trumpeter Fats Navarro, enormous talent who died too early.


+1 Thad Jones. Charles mentions the cornet. Thad Jones often played cornet. He was probably responsible for reintroducing the cornet to jazz while a member of the Count Basie orchestra. The instrument, once very popular, had been practically forgotten in more modern (jazz)times.

While it is true that the saxophone inspired controversy when first introduced, I have to take exception with the impression that the title and overview of Erik’s book recommendation. The saxophone was invented by Adolf Sax in the late 1800’s as an orchestral “bridge” between the general sound of the woodwinds and that of the brass. It had the flexibility of the woodwinds and the power of the brass. It was (is) considered to be the instrument closest in sound to the human voice and, as such, its first use by composers was in choral music. It was intended to keep choral singers on pitch while blending well with their timbre. It became very popular and just about every major Classical composer at the time scored it in at least one major work. With the arrival of early Jazz there literally ensued a saxophone craze in popular music. There were many saxophones created in different keys (and sizes) other than what we know today which are now obsolete. Adolf’s very first saxophone creation was actually a bass saxophone. Re the baritone and Charles’ question:

Urban myth. While it is true that a person of very small stature or a beginner child would do well to play a smaller instrument, the baritone is actually easier to play than the smaller horns in some respects. Due to its larger bore there is less internal resistance. The low register in particular is easier to play than on smaller horns. The key work is necessarily spread out more to the hand; less tight and crowded for potentially more relaxed hand position. All instruments within any given family of instruments (and across families) present the player with unique and idiosyncratic difficulties. The idea that any one instrument is “easier” than another is mostly myth. Some such as the flute may seem easier to make a reasonable sound on AT FIRST, but may be more difficult to take to the next level of proficiency. They are all equally difficult for the most part.



thank you very much for your informative reply. I knew if anyone could provide a  reas
onable and thoughtful reeponse it would be you. Regarding the baritone saxophone I find it interesting that two recognized masters of this instrument (Gerry Mulligan and Pepper Adams)  have such distinctly different sounds. I enjoy both of them immensely.


I'm really glad that I started this thread! I'm learning a lot about jazz musicians that I'm not familiar with as well as the instruments themselves.

Thanks Charles and Frogman and everyone else. Keep it up!


And a combination of a sax and a trumpet is ..... a strumpet. Just had to get that one in. 
Oh, yeah? Jazz saxophone great Eddie Harris beat you to it 😊. He would sometimes play his creation the reed trumpet; trumpet with saxophone mouthpiece.

How about the slide saxophone (and more):
Playing Clora Bryant in memoriam. Lone female trumpeter to perform and collaborate with Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. She passed on August 25th at the tender age of 92.
These instruments are not that comparable physically or acoustically. In the hands of master players, each can sound sublime.

I follow numerous jazz players on each instrument, past and present, including trumpet players such like Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry, Blue Mitchell, Tom Harrell, Bix Beiderbecke, Ryan Kisor, Dave Douglas; and sax players like Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderly, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Chris Potter. I could go on for pages more...

I have learned one thing about trumpets courtesy of Latin jazz & ensemble genre music: the trumpet is perfectly adapted to play rhythmic lines/figures along w/the rhythm section in an ensemble, thus amplifying the overall rhythmic depth/impact. This capability has been fully exploited by many larger ensembles that play Cubano/Bop music over the years. To see what I mean, listen to the mambo cuts on Tito Puente's "Top Percussion," where sections of 2-4 trumpets double & build on the patterns played by various rhythm instruments.

Saxophones can do this, too--but due to the reed/tongue/embrochure interface (more complex physically than the mouthpiece/mouth interface of the trumpet), it's somewhat harder for saxes to exactly produce & follow very fast, repetitive rhythmic figures. 
This question is most easily answered in just two words. Maynard Ferguson
"Saxophones can do this, too--but due to the reed/tongue/embrochure interface (more complex physically than the mouthpiece/mouth interface of the trumpet), it's somewhat harder for saxes to exactly produce & follow very fast, repetitive rhythmic figures."

It may be harder, but this statement seems wrong.  I own so many recordings of blistering sax sections (especially within the Latin Jazz/Salsa genre, my absolute favorite!) keeping up with and augmenting the trumpet sections.  I imagine most of us do.  Perhaps I misunderstood it, because as it reads, it's practically nonsensical!  

Sax or Trumpet

Unless your systems can reproduce the subtle reed vibrations of the SAX or the hard Brassy ring of the Trumpet to your ears from your system.

"Then you haven’t got the RIGHT gear." according to Michael Fremer of Sterophile Mag and Audio Planet.

So There all!!

p.s. I play both for 30++ years.

Mostly Sax, but I can always listen to some Harry James. 🎶