Learn to Play All Major Sax Scales in Western Music: A Guide

As a saxophone player, building a solid foundation is a must. One of the best ways is to learn to play all major scales. For one, this can help you master the chords and the harmonic style of written music. It can also help you learn the correct finger pattern, so you enjoy faster fingers when playing the sax. Whether you’re an advanced sax player or just one of the students, understanding the following is crucial.

The Structure of Major Saxophone Scales

Each major scale is built with a similar pattern of tones (whole-step) and semi-tones (half-step). You’ll see it as tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semi-tone.

By learning this pattern, you get to develop your “ears.” As a result, you can play the scales on all keys.

Circle of Fifths

If you’re taking free lessons, your teacher may talk about the Circle of Fifths. It’s an excellent way to organise scales, after all.

Picture this: you go around the circle one way and add a sharp (#) note. You put a flat note when you head in another direction (♭).

They can become trickier as they progress, that’s why you need to practise scales!

Learning the Major Scales

Like most saxophone players, studying the major scale in just one octave is better. Once you build familiarity with how the scales work, it’ll be easier for you to do the entire range.

The first thing you need to practise is the D-scale. As the first one in the saxophone scale, it contains the notes F-sharp and C-sharp.

It plays as: Low D * E * F-sharp * G * A * B * C-sharp * D.

Other Major Scales

Once you’ve mastered the D-scale and music theory, you won’t have a problem playing these other scales:


Once you’ve followed all the tutorial videos for playing D-major, you may proceed with the next lesson: the E-flat scale.

True to its name, it includes three flat notes: E-flat, A-flat, and D-flat.

Here’s what this scale should sound like:

E-flat * F * G * A-flat * B-flat * C * D * E-flat


Unlike most major scales, this contains four sharp notes: F-sharp, G-sharp, C-sharp, and D-sharp.

The patterns are as follows:

E * F-sharp * G-sharp * A* B * C-sharp * D-sharp * E

F-Major Scale

This pattern includes one flat note: B-flat. Like the ones above, it has seven notes. However, the first note is played at a higher octave at the end.

F-major goes something like this:

F * G * A * B-flat * C * D * E * F


Going a notch higher is the F-sharp scale, which contains six sharp notes. They are F-, G-, A-, C-, D-, and E-sharp.

Whenever you play it, it should sound like this:

F-sharp * G-sharp * A-sharp * B * C-sharp * D-sharp * E-sharp * F-sharp


Like the other essential major scales, this one has seven notes.

When you play it on the saxophone, you need to hit the following:

G * A * B * C * D * E * F-sharp * G


Here are the tones you’ll play on the A-flat scale:

A-flat * B-flat * C * D-flat * E-flat * F * G * A-flat


This example contains three sharp notes: C-, F-, and G-.

When you play your instrument, you need to practise these notes:

A * B * C-sharp * D * E * F-sharp * G-sharp * A


Equipped with two flat notes (B- and E-), you’ll hear this pattern as:

B-flat * C * D * E-flat * F * G * A * B-flat


This blues scale has five sharp notes: C-, D-, F-, G-, and A-.

The B-major music goes something like this:

B * C-sharp * D-sharp * E * F-sharp * G-sharp * A-sharp * B


There’s no sharp or flat key in this one. So when you play it, it’ll sound as:

C * D * E * F * G * A * B * C


In contrast to the former is the C-sharp scale, which contains all seven sharps.

In other words, your lesson will bill it as:

C-sharp * D-sharp * E-sharp * F-sharp * G-sharp * A-sharp * B-sharp * C-sharp

Final Thoughts

Now that you know each major tonality, these good habits should help you master them in no time:

  • Play it by ear. Sometimes, you have to ignore the sheets and slowly play the keys yourself.
  • Use a metronome. Begin with 90 bpm. You’ll eventually be able to increase the speed as you practise every week.
  • Learn the scales by families (major then minor). Doing it chromatically is not only fun—it’ll help you get better, too!

Remember: practise always makes perfect. As long as you watch and follow your sax lessons intently, you’ll excel in playing these major chords.