Saxophone Arpeggios: The Definitive Guide

by ReverbLxnd in Saxophone

Arpeggios for saxophone players.

What are Saxophone Arpeggios?

Basically arpeggios are chords, but they are played one note at a time. Sometimes people refer to arpeggios as chord scales. Arpeggios are pretty much what a chord would be if you were playing on a harmony instrument.

As saxophone players we can’t play chords. On a piano, or guitar you can play literally different notes at the same time. To play chords or get the feeling of playing chords we play arpeggios on saxophone.

Chords and scales ultimately refer to the same thing, it just has to do with the spacing of the notes. With scales the notes are closer together, whereas with chords they are further apart.

Each arpeggio is related to a scale. You can think about how chords are built from scales.

For a scale such as C major you play C D E F G… for an arpeggio, you play C E G… you are basically skipping one note (D then F, and so on and so forth).

So for arpeggios you use the same notes as the scale. Even if you start out spacing them, eventually, you get the same notes of the scale.

The seven notes of C major are C D E F G A B, and the arpeggio would be C E G B D F A, for instance.

There are all kinds of different patterns you can do with arpeggios, just like there all kinds of different chords.

You can have major arpeggios, minor arpeggios, diminished, augmented and all sorts of different variations. The most popular pattern is taking I, III, V, VI off a major scale or i, iii, v, vi off a minor scale.

What I recommend for most people to do is learn the major scales first. Once you know the major scales, it will be a lot easier to build from them.

If you are trying to play an arpeggio that’s based on a certain scale, and you can play that scale it becomes easy. If you don’t know that scale, it becomes harder because you are now suddenly learning two things at a time.

I wrote an awesome note-by-note guide to playing all 12 major scales on saxophones if you are just getting started. You will find all the saxophone fingerings, both main and alternative, to get a proper foundation on scales. Take some time with that guide if you are struggling with major scales on saxophone.

When you are playing an arpeggios of a certain scale you are kind of just changing it a little bit–playing a variation of something you know.

So if you know some scales, trying playing some arpeggios. Try maybe starting with the triads. The triads are kind of the basic building blocks of the chords.

You might think you know them, but you basically can get further into the triads than you are at this point, and that can be benefitial.

Saxophone Arpeggio Exercises and Practice Ideas

A lot of students practice a lot of scales, itudes and other melodic techniques but a very small percentage actually practice arpeggios.

Arpeggios are really instrinsic part of building harmonic ideas on saxophone.

They can really open up your intervals, especially the size of intervals that you incorporate into your melodies. This helps you get to the heart of your melodic challenges really quickly.

I like to isolate arpeggios when I practice them.


Got a question? DM me on Instagram or Twitter @reverblxnd everywhere, or shoot me an email I'd love to hear from you.

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