These pointers are to help you make the most of your practice time, and ensure you don't get stuck in a rut. The more you play the saxophone, the more you realise there is to learn. Be patient, practise regularly and over time you will be rewarded in terms of your tone, technique and enjoyment of the instrument.


  • Warm up with some scales or recently learnt patterns / phrases.
  • Play some long notes, hold them steady and check your tuning.
  • Play along to a recording, listen closely and mimic the phrasing.
  • Take a simple phrase (from written music, or something you’ve heard), play it, write it down and memorise it. 
  • Keep a book of favourite phrases (also called licks), and try to add a new one each time you practice.


  • Play throughout the range of the sax, listen closely to the evenness of tone and quality of each note. Use your embouchure to control the tuning.
  • Vary a phrase by altering the timing, the emphasis you place on the different notes and way you start and end the phrase.
  • Play a phrase in different keys. 
  • Learn to play a tune, start with something simple, and memorize it.
  • Work through the different scales in all 12 keys. This takes time, so don’t get disheartened !


  • Work out the relative notes of a pattern (e.g. 5th, root, b3rd, 4th, b3rd, root), then play the pattern in all 12 keys. The cycle of 5ths is a good way of working though the keys (i.e. D -> A -> E -> B etc.). Vary the accents and rhythm.
  • Look at the chords used in a tune, and for popular chord sequences e.g. II-V7-I, cycle of fifths.
  • See which of your phrases you can fit against the popular chord sequences. This is a great way of building solos and being able to improvise.
  • Develop your ear by listening to phrases and playing them back on the sax. Once you have the notes, concentrate on the phrasing and tone. Transcribe tunes or solos as a way of developing your ear, and your ability to write what you hear.
  • Play along to sax players with very different styles. Over time, this will help you find your own sound.

© 2011