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In this article, I want to show you how to play saxophone notes—specifically, how to play the entire saxophone chromatic scale, which means playing all the notes on the saxophone from the very lowest to the very highest.
In the previous guide, in the How to Play Saxophone Notes series, we looked at how to read sheet music and briefly introduced the Enharmonica Equivalents concept. In a previous guide in this series I showed you how to read saxophone fingering charts.
In this guide I will bring together the two concepts as I go over all the fingerings of the normal range of the saxophone. The normal range on a saxophone goes from a Low B-flat to a High F sharp.
If you want learn the fingerings for the altissimo range, I prepared a separate, complete guide on how to play the altissimo range on the saxophone. You might want to have a look at that instead.
Let’s jump right in.
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Let me prefix this by saying that this guide is spread out a lot, and I actually have a separate diagram for each note. I have all the alternate fingerings labelled and all the notes on there.
My intention is to make a handy little PDF, a cheat sheet of sorts, at some point later, that you can take away with you and refer at your own convenience.
How to Play the Saxophone Notes: How to Play the Saxophone Chromatic Scale
Low B-flat or Low A-sharp (B♭ or A♯)
So, we’ll start with the Low B-flat—the lowest note on the saxophone.
The Low B-flat note is also written as its enharmonic equivalent Low A-sharp.
It might be a little bit tricky to get this note out at first. It might squeak while you try to, but that just takes some practice.
To get this note, make sure that you use the O sound. You need to blow and O sound to play this note.
Low B or Low C-flat (B or C♭)
Now, we are going to go from the Low B flat to Low B. This is exactly one half-step up.
The Low B note is also written as its enharmonic equivalent Low C-flat.
All we are doing here is sliding our left pinky finger up from a Low B-flat. Actually you use your left pinky quite a bit for the lowest notes.
The low B is one of the hardest notes to play on the saxophone. This particular transition from the Low B-flat to the Low B is very hard at first because you are using all of your pinkies and you’ve just started.
So don’t worry if it gives you a bit of trouble, it just takes some practice to get it right.
Low C or Low B-sharp (C or B♯)
Next we’ll move from Low B to Low C.
The Low C note is also written as its enharmonic equivalent Low B-sharp.
Now, to make this transition, all you do is let one pinky go as shown in the saxophone finger chart above.
Low C-sharp or D-flat (C♯ or D♭)
Now we can move from Low C to Low C-sharp note. The C-sharp is also called D-flat which is its enharmonic equivalent, it’s exactly the same note.
To go from the C to the C-sharp, all you do is put your pinky down.
Note that from Low B up to now, our right pinky is still pressed.
Low D (D)
The next note up is Low D.
To do that you are simulatenously going to let go off both the left pinky and right pinky fingers.
From now on, the notes will get a little easier to blow, in general. You can start to use less of an O sound and more or E sound.
Your mouth gets a little bit smaller that way, to give a bot more support for the coming notes. They need a bit more power that way.
E-flat or D-sharp (E♭ or D♯)
The next note up is the E-flat whose enharmonic equivalent is D-sharp.
To go from Low D to E-flat, you press the upper key of your right pinky finger.
E or F-flat (E or F♭)
The next note up is E whose enharmonic equivalent is F-flat.
It’s easier to think of it as E, but if you’re in a key signature with a lot of flats, sometimes you’ll see it written as F-flat.
From E-flat, this can also be tricky because you have to lift up the two lowest fingers of your right hand at the same time.
F or E-sharp (F or E♯)
The next note up is F whose enharmonic equivalent is E-sharp.
This transition is fairly easy.
F-sharp or G-flat (F♯ or G♭)
The next note up is F-sharp whose enharmonic equivalent is G-flat.
Or, the alternate fingering.
The transition from F to F-sharp is a little bit more tricky than E to F. From the F to the F-sharp you have to switch fingers and you really have to time that right, otherwise, that transition will not go very fluidly. The f-sharp won’t come out if you botch that up.
The alternate might make the transition easier depending on your previous note. Generally, the alternate fingering is useful in situations such as F to F-sharp at high speeds.
The F-sharp is a bit hard to play for beginners so don’t be surprised if its a bit hard for you, it will be much more easier to get it out after a few weeks or so of practice.
The next note up is G.
This note is very easy, just look at the finger chart above, you just let go of your right fingers.
G-sharp or A-flat (G♯ or A♭)
The next note up is G-sharp whose enharmonic equivalent is A-flat.
The three alternate fingerings for G-sharp are:
Although the the G-sharp table key is the top one, the left pinky can be used on any of the table keys as you can see from the above alternate fingering charts.
You have a bunch of options here to get the same note out.
The next note up is A.
Here you are just taking the two lowest fingers of your left hand off at the same time to transition from G-sharp to A.
B-flat or A-sharp (B♭ or A♯)
The next note up is B-flat whose enharmonic equivalent is A-sharp.
There are three good fingerings for B-flat.
And there are two alternate fingerings.
The first is with the Side B-flat key, the second is with the Bis key, while all the others use one of the right finger keys.
The two alternate fingerings should be used only if the situation calls for it.
B or C-flat (B or C♭)
The next note up is B whose enharmonic equivalent is C-flat.
Here’s why the left first finger key is called the B key.