Learning the A flat Major Scale on saxophone can be a bit challenging as it has four flats (♭). They are B♭, E♭, A♭ and D♭. Just reading them out in sheet music can be a challenge and from my experience as a saxophone teacher this Major Scale is often a hurdle to overcome for my saxophone students.
It comes down to the “unusual” fingering combinations which takes a while to get used to. That being said, studying and learning the A♭ major Scale will make you a better sax player for sure.
Please note that G♯ Major Scale use the exact same notes on saxophone. The only difference is the naming convention for Sharp (♯)Major Scales compared to Flat(♭) Major Scales.
If you're a saxophone beginner I recommend that you start with the G Major Scale, a half step down, as it makes a much easier scale to play. Ideal when you are just getting started playing sax as there's a lot to learn and focus on at the same time.
That being said, studying the A♭ major Scale is a natural progression as you become more familiar with playing all the Major Scales the saxophone.
Playing the A♭ Major Scale on Saxophone
The A♭ Major Scale can be played over one octave on the Saxophone. From low A♭ to middle A♭.
Here's the A♭ major scale in the 1st octave. A good starting point for learning the A♭ Major Scale on your sax and as you can see in the image you have the note names labeled above each note.
Related resource: Saxophone Fingering Chart
Basic facts of the A♭ major Scale
The notes in the A♭ Major Scale are: A♭ – B♭ – C – D♭ – E♭ – F – G – A♭
The intervals of the A♭ Major Scale are: W – W – H – W – W – W – H
The letter W stands for Whole Step. Observing the piano keys, you can note that the interval between A♭ and B♭ is a Whole Step (W) as it spans the distance of two half steps.
The Letter H stands for Half Step. On the piano keys, instances of this are between the notes C and D♭ and the notes G and A♭ in the A♭ Major Scale. These half step intervals don't have other notes in between, marking them as true half steps.
Practicing A♭ Major Scale on Saxophone
A♭ major Scale intervals explained
I like to use the keys on a piano as a reference for this scale as it makes it easier to learn when you can se the intervals visually.
Looking at the image above, you can see that the A♭ Major Scale on Piano has four flats (♭) and uses both white and black keys. Those four black keys represent the B♭, E♭, A♭, and D♭ notes.
Begin practicing the A♭ Major Scale by starting on the root (A♭) and moving through each note until the octave (A♭). This helps familiarize you with the fingerings and lets you become used to and absorb the sound of the Major Scale.
As you become familiar with the scale's sound, it'll become easier to transpose and play other Major Scales on your saxophone as well.
Basic A♭ Major Scale patterns to practice
Ascending and Descending Scale Practice:
The A♭ major scale can be played in one octave thoughout your saxophone. Start by ascending from the root note (middle A♭) to the octave (high A♭), and then descend back to the root.
Keep a solid embouchure and proper air support for each note to maintain a clear and even sound. Based on my experience as a saxophone teacher this can be a challenge for beginners.
That is totally normal. Just do your best and practice the scale slowly as it helps you master the fingering. Over time, this builds a “finger memory” which helps you learn and play the A♭ Major scale fluently on your sax.
Start on the root note (A♭) and skip to the third note (C), then return to the second note (B♭) and skip to the fourth note (D♭). Continue this “ladder” pattern until you reach the 9th note (the B♭) and land on the octave A♭ note.
The Scale interval pattern looks like this:
- A♭-C, B♭-D♭, C-E♭, D♭-F, E♭-G, F-A♭, G-B♭, A♭.
Practicing the A♭ Major Scale Arpeggio on your saxophone will help you go beyond the basic exercises where you play the scale up and down.
With Arpeggios it looks like this:
- Start on the Tonic (middle A♭) » Play third (C), the fifth (E♭), and the octave (highe A♭).
- The Arpeggio Sequence ascending is: A♭-C-E♭-A♭
- The Arpeggio Sequence descending is: A♭-E♭-C-A♭
Practicing arpeggios helps to reinforce “the sound of the primary chord” (A♭ Major) within the scale.
I like to introduce this exercise to my students when they've learned the A♭ Major Scale well as it adds another layer to the complexity. At the same time it helps you stretch both your fingerings and mind.
A♭ Major Scale Triads
Moving beyond these exercises there's the Major Scale Triads which help you really stretch both your mind and fingering capabilities on your saxophone.
Think of it like trying to play a complex video game without first mastering the beginner levels. If you skip straight to the hardest stage without practicing the basics, you'll likely find it too challenging and might not enjoy the experience.
So, with that analogy it's time to start practicing the A♭ Major Scale on your sax.
Learning the A♭ Major Scale by heart takes you one step closer to mastering all 12 Major Scales on Saxophone.
Once you've learned the intervals of the Major Scale (W – W – H – W – W – W – H) you can transpose it to any Major key as they all follow the exact same pattern.