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The 10 most iconic solos to play on the saxophone (with sheet music)

Written By
Marie Elizalde
About the author
Born in the Basque Country from a family of accordionists, Marie Elizalde learned to play the alto saxophone from the age of 14. After learning music theory and classic sax, she has played for years in several "bandas" (festive marching bands) touring everywhere in the South West of France. Retired for the cause of "there is no marching band in the country I live now", she remained a musician at heart ever since, developing a passion for mean playlists, nonstop singing, and constant fear of out-of-tune sounds. Passionate and generous, she loves to share her love for music with the Tomplay community, using wit and humor.
Date published
07/01/2022
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The 10 most iconic solos to play on the saxophone (with sheet music)

When Belgium inventor Adolphe Sax created the saxophone in the early 1840s, he had no clue how his main creation would become one of the most expressive instruments in modern music. Melancholic, cheerful or sexy, it is perfect for solos!

You can express your talent and emotions with Tomplay! Our sheet music with solos for tenor, alto and soprano sax, come with an audio background and with different levels of practice. If you want more, you can also download our 2 collections below:

▶️️ Six legendary saxophone solos to play on the Alto Sax, Advanced

▶️️ Six legendary saxophone solos to play on the Tenor Sax, Intermediate

1. Baker Street

▶️️ Play the Baker Street sheet music with a saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Baker Street was composed in 1978 by Scottish songwriter Gerry Rafferty, as part of his album City to City. Baker Street is located in the city of Westminster in London. It is originally well known for being the place where Sherlock Holmes lived, but that’s nothing related to the reason why it’s mentioned in the lyrics. At that time, Rafferty was facing a couple of legal issues following the split of his former band Stealers Wheel. So he had found comfort and inspiration playing the guitar and chatting in a friend’s flat, in Baker Street.

The piece is famous for its alto saxophone solo, played between the verses. Released as a single in 1978, it instantly became a hit, staying several weeks in European and American charts. The riff became so popular that it created a trend called the “Baker Street phenomenon”: a noticeable increase in the sales of saxophones and their widespread use in modern music!

Play your own version of the pop-rock classic Baker Street with Tomplay, arranged in different levels of difficulty and accompanied with a band audio background. Not sure about how to play those high notes? You can check our fingering chart for saxophone and double-check that you play the piece correctly.

2. Careless Whisper

▶️️ Play the Careless Whisper sheet music with a saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

George Michael wrote and composed Careless Whisper in 1983, with the cooperation of Andrew Ridgeley, the other member of the band Wham! Michael explained in much detail how he got the idea of the song from his childhood. Initially a “fat boy in glasses” as he described himself, he started to gain in popularity after he stopped wearing glasses. With his confidence boosted, he started to date two girls at the same time. The song was born from his feeling of guilt from this story.

Michael had the idea of the saxophone riff and the lyrics in a bus but ended up working on them for 3 months. The production was done in 2 parts, one in the US, the second one in the UK, as Michael was not happy about the way the saxophone sounded in the final version of the song. It took 11 more saxophonists for him to get satisfaction with Steve Gregory! The song was finally published in 1984 as part of their album Make it big, but the song truly reached its peak after being released as a single: it reached number one in almost 25 countries and sold 6 million copies worldwide!

Play the legendary love song Careless Whisper and its saxophone solo, arranged by Tomplay for different levels of practice and with a quality play along played by real musicians!

3. Born to Run

▶️️ Play the Born to Run sheet music with a saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

In 1975, American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen was at a crossroad in his career. His label was about to drop him after the relative success of his 2 first albums, so his next album was his ultimate opportunity to become a commercial success. Well aware of those facts, Springsteen took 6 months to work on the eponym first single: Born to Run.

The song tells the story of two lovers who want to break free from a small town and try their chance in a bigger city, so they could achieve their shared dreams together. If Springsteen refused to comment on the origin of the lyrics, it is most likely that he was referring to his own will of having his own breakthrough and be known outside of New Jersey. And he did just that! Upbeat and hopeful, the single was an instant hit. The album saved his career and sold more than 6 million copies in the US, while the single became 21st in the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time!

Get your share of the American dream with Born to Run! Play the famous saxophone solo and sheet music arranged by Tomplay in different levels, from beginner to advanced. Struggling to keep up? You can slow down our music scores with the “Tempo” feature and practice until it becomes easy for you.

4. Who Can It Be Now?

▶️️ Play the Who Can It Be Now? sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Who Can It Be Now was released in 1981 by the Australian group Men at Work as the third single of their debut album Business as Usual. The lyrics tell the story of a man who is wondering who is knocking at his door, not wanting to answer and making all sorts of theories about who it could be. The song was composed by their lead singer Colin Hay who got inspired by his own story at that time. He was living in an apartment complex, next to a couple of drug dealers, and would regularly be bothered by people who often confused his door with the ones of the dealers.

The saxophone riff played by Greg Ham was supposed to be played in the middle of the song but Peter McLan, the producer of the song, convinced everyone that it had to be used in the introduction. He then asked Ham to play something, so that he could get a sound, and Ham improvised the section that we now know as the solo of the song! The song reached number 1 in Australia, then later on in the US after they had signed up with CBS records.

Overcome your introvert side and play Who Can It Be Now? with an orchestra accompaniment and enjoy our saxophone solo sheet music arranged by Tomplay in different levels of difficulty!

5. Midnight City

▶️️ Play the Midnight City sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Midnight City was the first single in the album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the 6th album of the French electro band M83. The song was written in 2011 by the Gonzalez brothers, the founders of the group, and helped by 2 other members. The authors got inspired by Los Angeles at night and created a hymn to city nightlife. The music video, however, is more linked to childhood - the main theme of the album - and shows how gifted kids escape the facility they are detained in to test their powers in a closed-down factory.

The saxophone solo at the end of the song was played by James King, a member of the band Fitz and the Tantrums. Gonzalez said about it: “Sometimes a song needs an element to be finished. You know that this element has been overused in the past and is considered clichéd or cheesy, but the song needs it”. And he got well inspired! The song entered all European and US charts, selling 1 million copies in the US alone.

Feel the vibe of Los Angeles at night by playing the saxophone solo sheet music of Midnight City arranged by Tomplay in different levels of difficulty, from easy to advanced. Struggling with high notes? You can get some help with our online fingering chart for saxophone or download our saxophone fingering chart in PDF format for free.

6. Walk On the Wild Side

▶️️ Play the Walk On the Wild Side sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Walk on the Wild Side was written by Lou Reed in 1972. Initially, Reed was requested to write a musical based on the novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. Even though it had already been turned into a movie, the musical project was abandoned. Reed decided to keep the idea as an inspiration for this song that he added to his second album Transformer. Reed describes here Andy Warhol's “superstars” band of friends, living in the New York 70’s underground circles, making this song an anthem to the counterculture. Hence, don’t be fooled by the nonchalant and soft music thought, the lyrics actually talk about subjects like drugs, transsexuality and prostitution!

Apart from its controversial subject, the song is also well known for its baritone saxophone solo played at the end of the song by Ronnie Ross, and its emblematic bassline. As the song benefited from a large radio coverage for being subversive, it became Reed’s biggest hit.

Be part of the New York underground scene with the saxophone solo sheet music of Walk On the Wild Side arranged by Tomplay for different levels of practice and play with a pop-rock orchestra accompaniment!

7. Rio

▶️️ Play the Rio sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Rio was the fourth single released from the eponymous album of the English band Duran Duran in 1982. The song features keyboard patterns, emblematic from Duran Duran at that time, and a tenor saxophone solo played by Andy Hamilton in the middle of the piece. At first, the lyrics seem to be a little bit mysterious appearing to be about a girl named Rio. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll see that the text actually talks about the US and the desire of the group to succeed there.

To a large extent, the song became popular thanks to its music video, which showed the band having fun on a yacht cruising in the Caribbean Sea. It was quite successful, reaching the top 10 of the UK Singles charts. The album was later remixed and re-released in the US where it received a double Platinum certificate and stayed in the charts for 129 weeks!

Imagine a version of your own paradise with the saxophone solo sheet music of Rio, arranged by Tomplay in different levels of difficulty, from beginner to advanced, and play-along with a musical background interpreted by real musicians!

8. Smooth Operator

▶️️ Play the Smooth Operator sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Smooth Operator was released by the English band Sade in 1984 as the third single of their debut album Diamond Life. It was composed by the lead singer Sade Adu and the songwriter Ray St John. The lyrics tell the story of a crook and the way he is making himself popular in high social circles in order to find new female victims. The song’s video shows some actors playing a similar scene as described in the lyrics, with footage of the band playing the song on stage.

The music of the song is an extremely suave ballad, brought to life by the saxophone riff of Stuart Matthewman. The single became a success reaching number 5 in US Billboard and number 19 on the UK Singles charts, helping their album to reach the 10 million copies - worldwide milestone.

Charm your audience with Tomplay’s version of the famous saxophone solo part of Smooth Operator, arranged in different levels of difficulty. Practice at home with your very own private band, with the help of our quality musical audio accompaniment!

9. Modern Love

▶️️ Play the Modern Love sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

English songwriter David Bowie released his album Let’s Dance in 1983. After Let’s Dance and China Girl, Modern Love was released as the third single to be released from the album. The song, as well as the rest of the album, was the result of a collaboration between Bowie and Nile Rodgers, the legendary guitarist and co-founder of the band Chic. Bowie later said that Little Richard and his frenetic piano playing inspired him to write the song. The lyrics tell the story of a man who distances himself from his relationships with others and with God, struggling to make connections with any of them.

The song is well-known for its saxophone break in the middle of the song. The single along with the rest of the album was a commercial success and considerably helped Bowie to gain his international superstar status. It was named Bowie’s greatest song by numerous famous publications after the death of the singer in 2016.

Find meaning and purpose in your saxophone’s practice with the music sheet of Modern Love arranged by Tomplay for different levels of practice and play along with our orchestra audio background, directly from your living room!

10. Just the Way You Are

▶️️ Play the Just the Way You Are sheet music with saxophone solo for soprano, alto or tenor saxophone

Just the Way You Are is the lead single of Billy Joel’s album The Stranger, released in 1977. The ballad tells us about a man confessing to the woman he loves how much he likes all the aspects of hers and how their love will last forever. The song was famously covered by Barry White just a few months later. In both versions, the centrepiece of the song is a warm alto saxophone solo, played here by jazz performer Phil Woods.

Joel composed the song for his first wife Elizabeth Weber but after they had divorced in 1982, he rarely played the song on stage. He explained it by the fact that he and the band didn’t like the song very much in the first place. That didn’t prevent the song from getting 2 Grammy awards in 1979 for record and song of the year, as well as a double Platinum certification for selling more than 2 million copies in the US!

Declare your love with passion with Tomplay and our saxophone solo sheet music of Just the Way You Are arranged in different levels of difficulty, from very easy to advanced, and enjoy our orchestra accompaniment to play along with!

We hope you had a lot of fun playing those solos! If you are looking for new ones to practice, you can download and play the collections below:

▶️️ Six legendary solos to play on the saxophone

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