It may seem tedious, but learning major scales is an important skill for every saxophone player. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed.
This post from Sax School Online on how to play all major saxophone scales is a great guide to learn easily and efficiently. After you took your time playing one major scale at a time and made sure to get the fingerings right, let’s have a recap, then start building your technique.
Why Should You Learn Scales?
Constantly practicing a major scale helps you understand chords and harmony and gives a solid foundation when you play any other piece of music. You also become sharp when playing as your hands get faster learning different finger patterns.
It doesn’t matter what level you’re currently in. By including major scales in your saxophone practice routine is going to help you master the instrument. Even if you ask professional sax players, they’ll tell you that practicing major scales is important.
You often hear that learning major scales is essential in playing and mastering the saxophone. However, you don’t hear enough about what you can do with a major scale once you’ve learned one or two about them.
Once you’ve learned a major scale, you unlock many musical doors for playing the sax. There are many things you can do with scales, two of which are building speed as well as good technique.
Scales are important, but they aren’t magic. If you don’t carefully listen, just playing through a major scale won’t give you any special skill. There are two main reasons to play scale: first is the technique, second is improvisation.
When you play a piece, it’s easy to hide any inconsistencies behind the natural expression of music. But with major scales, you have no room to hide. A major scale is like a control center for experimentation with techniques, any errors will be obvious.
Enrolling in a sax school ensures that you practice every major scale with rhythm to avoid bad habits. If you’re unable to play the saxophone fast with a good rhythm, slow down until you get the hang of it.
You have to take the time to learn different sets of notes so you can follow any chord changes. This is trickier when you practice major scale. If you’re planning to play solo, you don’t want to just run up and down. You need to know every major scale intimately.
If you notice, you won’t find any sheet music in this post. This is so that you can focus on thinking and internalizing instead of merely reading passively. By giving you nothing more than numbers of the scale degrees, you’re forced to “see” clearly what music you’re playing on your saxophone.
These tips can help once you start developing techniques and improvising.
Let’s begin with a simple example in C Major. If you’re to play a series of ascending notes like scale degrees 1-2-3 or C-D-E, you can then move that to all the other different degrees of the scale:
Given how flexible C Major is, playing it on the saxophone may not seem difficult. However, if you choose one of the thornier keys on the sax and try to do each note cell repeatedly and as fast as you can, you’ll definitely run into some challenges that you can work on.
Play in Sequence
Again, in C Major, let’s sequence something more advanced. Take C-G-F-G-E-G, which is expressed numerically in scale degrees as 1-5-4-5-3-5. When you move this little cell or pattern around to the other degrees of the scale, you’ll end up with:
Again, this may seem easy for you in C Major, but try it in Ab Major and for more challenge. Or, you can try a simple six-note scale arpeggio like 1-3-5-7-5-3 or C-E-G-B-G-E in C Major. If you move this one around, you’ll end up with:
This is actually an arpeggiation of every seventh chord in the scale. And as you practice your scales, you’re only limited by your imagination in creating a new sequence with your own ideas.
Here’s another set to help you get you started:
Take Your Time
There are two ways you can approach when practicing a major scale. You can either play each repeatedly, at the beginning from the same note, while increasing speed as you get comfortable. Or, you can play them one time from every note before you sequence to the next note up or down.
If learning saxophone on your own doesn’t seem to work, take some lessons from a sax school. As always, take your time with practice and make sure not to leave out correcting any mistakes. Remember, technique isn’t always about speed, be it a saxophone or any other instrument you’re playing. It’s about precision and making a good connection between notes in a relaxed manner that will further all aspects of your sax play.