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Saxophone Scales: Know All the Major Scales and How to Play Them

Learning saxophone scales may seem tedious and unnecessary. But as you advance, you’ll gain the capability and ear to naturally direct your fingers without thinking about it.

Learn the major scales in sax thru this guide. Remember to download the worksheet and fingering chart to help you during your practice sessions.

Why Learn and Understand Scales?

Scales are the basis of all western music that we play. When playing any other piece of music, having a solid foundation and the best experience will come from knowing and practising scales. Scales help you:

  • Recognise the chords and the harmony in a piece of music
  • Increase finger speed because we memorise the finger patterns we’ll repeatedly use, regardless of the style we’re playing.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced saxophone player, it is essential to learn scales. There are even free saxophone lessons that will help you learn faster.

The Major Scale Structure

Tones (whole steps) and semitones (half steps) are used in all the scales.

Tone

A tone or whole step is two-and-a-half steps away from the first note, which can also be ascending or descending.

Semitone

A semitone, otherwise known as a half step, is a chromatic tone ascending or descending from the starting note.

The pattern of a major scale typically goes like this:

tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone

Knowing this pattern and how it sounds will significantly help you develop your ear, allowing you to play scales in any key.

Learn and Play the Major Scales

A scale comprises seven notes, the last of which is repeated one octave higher at the end.

Learning the major scale in just one octave is preferable for most saxophone players. It will be easier to complete the entire range once you understand how the scales work.

The saxophone has 12 major pentatonic scales, which are the following:

D Major Scale

The D major scale is the first scale you should practise. It has the notes F-sharp and C-sharp in it. It is played as follows:

Low D

E

F sharp

G

A

B

C sharp

D

Once familiar with the D major scale, you can easily play the other scales.

E Flat Major Scale

On this scale, there are three flats. The pattern of notes on the E-flat major scale goes like this:

E-flat

F

G

A flat

B flat

C

D

E flat

E Major Scale

This scale contains four sharp notes, unlike other major scales.

The patterns for E major scale should be:

E

F Sharp

G Sharp

A

B

C Sharp

D Sharp

E

F Major Scale

There is one flat note in the F major scale, which is the B-flat. This scale has seven notes, just like the ones above. The first note, however, is played at a higher octave at the end.

The pattern for F-major is:

F

G

A

B flat

C

D

E

F

F Sharp Major Scale

The F-sharp major scale has six sharps. The pattern for this scale goes like this:

F-sharp

G sharp

A sharp

B

C sharp

D sharp

E sharp

F sharp

G Major Scale

The notes in the G major scale are pretty basic. It follows the pattern:

G

A

B

C

D

E

F sharp

G

A flat Major Scale

The A-flat major scale sounds the same as G-sharp. While it’s sometimes easier to view it as G-sharp, you should generally think of it as A-flat.

This scale has four flats. The pattern goes like this:

A flat

B flat

C

D flat

E flat

F

G

A flat

A Major Scale

There are three sharps on this scale. The pattern of notes in the A major scale is:

A

B

C sharp

D

E

F sharp

G sharp

A

B flat Major Scale

The B-flat major scale contains two flats. This scale follows this note pattern:

B flat

C

D

E flat

F

G

A

B flat

B Major Scale

The B major scale has five sharp keys. The notes in the B major scale follow this pattern:

B

C sharp

D sharp

E

F sharp

G sharp

A sharp

B

C Major Scale

The C major scale isn’t hard to remember because it contains no sharp or flat keys. The pattern for this scale goes like this:

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

C Sharp Major Scale

In contrast to the former, the C-sharp scale includes all seven sharps. The pattern of notes in the C-sharp major scale is:

C sharp

D sharp

E sharp

F sharp

G sharp

A sharp

B sharp

C sharp

Tips to Better Play Saxophone Scales

Here are some quick tips to help you learn and understand the saxophone scales better.

Take Time to Practise

Remember that you are conditioning your muscles to do what you are doing. Spend time on each scale daily, and then try putting all 12 together when you’re ready.

Practise the Scales by Family

Try doing the major scales first, then the minor scales. Learning it in this method is fun and will also help you enhance your skills.

Take Saxophone Lessons

There are many saxophone playing lessons available. You can get free lessons online or hire an instructor

About Stephen Vicino

Stephen Vicino is the founder of MusicExistence.com. He created this site to give talented musicians a voice and a way to be discovered.

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