The B flat major scale on saxophone has two flats (♭) which are B♭ and E♭. It builds on the circle of fifth where you have F Major with one flat and here with B♭ Major you add another flat.
If you're just starting to play saxophone, I recommend that you begin with the G Major and F Major Scales as it moves through the middle range on your saxophone which is easier to learn as a sax beginner.
Please note that A♯ 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.
That being said, learning the B♭ major Scale is a natural progression as you become more familiar playing Major Scales on the saxophone.
Playing the B♭ Major Scale on Saxophone
The B♭ Major Scale can be played over two octaves on the Saxophone. From middle B♭ to high B♭ (1st octave) and from high B♭ to the next B♭ (2nd octave).
Related resource: Saxophone Fingering Chart
Here's the B♭ major scale in the 1st octave. A good starting point for learning the B♭ Major Scale on your sax and as you can see in the image you have the note names labeled above each note.
Basic facts of the B♭ major Scale
The notes in the B♭ Major Scale are: B♭ – C – D – E♭ – F – G – A – B♭
The intervals of the B♭ 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 B♭ and C 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 D and E♭ and the notes A and B♭ in the B♭ Major Scale. These half step intervals don't have other notes in between, marking them as true half steps.
B♭ major Scale intervals explained
I like to use the keys on a piano when I explain the B♭ Major Scale to my sax students as it is visual which makes it easier to understand when you can see the intervals.
Looking at the image above, you can see that the B♭ Major Scale on Piano uses both white and black keys. Those black keys represent the B♭ and E♭ notes.
Practicing B♭ Major Scale on Saxophone
Begin practicing the B♭ Major Scale by starting on the root (B♭) and moving through each note until the octave (B♭). 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 B♭ Major Scale patterns to practice
Ascending and Descending Scale Practice:
Begin with the B♭ major scale in the first octave, ascend from the root note (middle B♭) to the octave (high B♭), and then descend back to the root.
Prioritize maintaining a consistent embouchure and proper air support for each note, so that all the notes are clear and even. This can be a challenge as you're also focusing on the fingering for the B♭ Scale.
I recommend that you practice the scale slowly as it helps you master the fingering. Over time, this builds “finger memory,” enabling you to play the B♭ scale without pondering over the fingerings at all.
Start on the root note (B♭) and skip to the third note (D), then return to the second note (C) and skip to the fourth note (E♭). Continue this “ladder” pattern until you reach the 9th note (the C) and land on the octave B♭ note.
The Scale interval pattern looks like this:
- B♭-D, C-E♭, D-F, E♭-G, F-A, G-B♭, A-C, B♭
Practicing the B♭ 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 B♭) » Play third (D), the fifth (F), and the octave (high B♭).
- Drop to low B♭ and play the same intervals starting on the Tonic (Low B♭) » the third (D) » the fifth (F) » the octave (high B♭)
- The Arpeggio Sequence ascending is: B♭-D-F-B♭
- The Arpeggio Sequence descending is: B♭-F-D-B♭
Practicing arpeggios helps to reinforce “the sound of the primary chord” (B♭ Major) within the scale.
I like to introduce this exercise to my students when they've learned the B♭ Major Scale well as it adds another layer to the complexity. At the same time it helps you stretch both your fingerings and mind.
B♭ 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.
This can be compared to climbing a steep mountain. Without first traversing the foothills and acclimatizing to the basic C Major, G Major and F Major Scale exercises you will struggle attempting the summit directly. It will not go well…
So, with that analogy you should focus on practicing the B♭ Major Scale and to master all 12 Major Scales on Saxophone before moving into more complex exercises like Scale triads.
The positive note is that 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.