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What to practice on Saxophone

There is nothing in your playing that practice will not fix. This is the bottom line.

If you want to improve quickly, I would recommend regular practice every day. This doesn’t mean you need to try to learn difficult passages and frustrate yourself, this just means you should be playing something every single day for at least 15 minutes. Every day. By keeping a regular routine, you will strengthen your embouchure to be able to comfortably play longer, and then practice longer.

Long Tones

I know, it pains me to tell you this, but the best thing you can be doing is….long tones. Yes, possibly the most boring thing you could play, but it is in fact the best thing you could do as a beginner. I would also recommend playing your long tones with a tuner handy. Make sure the notes you are playing are in tune and that you can hold them there without wavering or going flat as your mouth gets tired. This will help your mouth but also more importantly, your ear as you will begin to recognize the notes in tune allowing you to make subconscious minute changes to your tuning using your embouchure while you are playing.

Long tones can be made more interesting by playing them in patterns. This also helps you learn certain scales scale patterns. I will discuss some of those later in this post.

Practicing Sales

Lets be honest, there are a lot of scales to practice. Start simple with the 12 major scales. IMPORTANT NOTE: When playing your scales, regardless of which one, play them the entire range of the instrument. So if you were playing C Major, you would start at low C, pinky finger on the right hand…and go C D E F G A B C then into upper reg D E F G A B C then palm keys D E F then into Altissimo if you can, as high as you can, then back down through the palm keys F E D upper reg C B A G F E D C lower reg B A G F E D C and then into the low range B (and A on some Baritones) then back up to C again. Make sense? So your 8 note octave to octave scale actually becomes a nice long run, the entire range of the instrument. Why? Because you will never play the scale in just one range during your playing, you will use the whole horn, so you should practice it like that.

Then learn all 12 major scales. I know you will be faster at some and slower at others, try to play them all at the same tempo, using a metronome, in order to be as comfortable with all of them as possible and as evenly as possible. You will thank me for this later.

Major Scales

Start with a simple pattern of major scales. Start at the scale root in the lower register, all the way to the palm keys, all the way to the bottom of the horn and then back to the starting point at the root.

Here are some patterns to practice your 12 major scales with.


C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C

So using this pattern, you would start with the C Major scale and play it the whole range of the instrument. Then move onto the C# Major Scale, play that the entire range, then onto the D Major and so on.

Circle of Fifths

C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# F C – Going up a fifth or down a fourth

C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G C – Going up a fourth or down a fifth

The circle of fifths is most commonly associated with jazz. As degrees of the scale, it is a phone number, 473-6251. Many jazz tunes use this progression or parts of it, the most common being the 2-5-1 turnaround. Playing your scales in this pattern will train your ears to hear the progression of fifths (or fourths, depending on which way you think of it).

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