Easy Guide to Blues Scales on Saxophone

Written by Greger Hillman, Saxophone teacher and music educator

Learning Blues Scales on Saxophone opens up a whole new set of vocabulary for you as a musician. They unlock a new sound a ability to improvise on you saxophone with fairly easy means while sounding really cool.

Just as with all saxophone scales, the blues scales follows a distinct pattern which means that once you learned the intervals between the notes (the distance) you will be able to transpose your blues scales into every key on your saxophone.

The Blues Scale

The Blues Scale has 6 individual notes starting from the root, moving in set intervals up. However, it's common to add the octave (root note again) when playing the blues scale on sax up and down.

The good thing is that once you've cracked the code on blues scales you can use them in all 12 keys on your saxophone.

The intervals of the Blues Scale

Interval is referring to the tonal distans between the notes within the Blues Scale. It's a mixture of Minor Thirds, Whole Steps and Half Steps as you can see in the notation below.

The intervals of the Blues Scale are:

  • Root › Minor third › Whole Step › Half Step › Half Step › Minor Third › Whole Step

Example with the C Blues Scale

Saxophone C Blues Scale illustration and sheet music explained

The notes in the C Blues Scale starting on the root and ending on the octave are: C › Eb › F › Gb › G › Bb › C

A visual look at the Blues Scale

I often use the keys on the Piano when I explain the intervals of the Blues Scale. Simply because it's visual and it's much easier to learn when you can see the correct answer infront of you.

Visual illustration of the Blues Scale notes on a piano keys

In this example you can see the C Major Scale on Piano. I use this as it shows clearly where the larger and smaller intervals are.

I'm a visual person myself and I found that using the piano keys as a visual aid when learning a new music theory concept really helps. This is the exact method I've personally used to teach my saxophone students about the blues scale for the past 20 years.

Looking at the image of the piano keys above you can see how the Major third, whole step and half step applies to the blues scale. And the good news is that these intervals translate to all instruments.

That means once you've learned the music theory behind Blues Scales, you can apply it to all 12 keys on your saxophone as well as other instruments.

Learning Blues Scales on Saxophone

There are a total of 12 Blues Scales on Saxophone that you need to learn. Even though the blues scale use the same intervals in all 12 keys, some of them are easier than others to learn on your saxophone.

That has to do with the sax fingerings you need to use and some combinations are a bit tricky, especially if you are a beginner sax student.

Based on that and from my experience of teaching this to 1000's of students I suggest that you start with the easy Blues Scales first.

The “Easy” Blues Scales on Saxophone

I categorize these four Blues scales as the “Easy Blues Scales on Saxophone”. That's because they have easy fingering combinations and therefor are easier to learn, especially as a beginner sax student.

The four easy Blues Scales are:

Once you feel comfortable playing these blues scales on your saxophone you should move on to learn the remaining 8 blues scales. So that you finally can play all 12 Blues scales on your saxophone.

Blues Scales on Saxophone PDF

I've put together a Major Scales PDF for Saxophone, so that you can learn the scales in an easy way. These come in the Major Scale Starter Pack for Saxophone which is free to download.

Feel free to use that as a reference as you work through all the major scales on your saxophone.

Practicing the Blues Scale on Saxophone

The first step to learning to play the blues Scale on Saxophone is to learn the intervals between the notes. Once you know them by heart it becomes easier to transpose the Blues Scale to all twelve keys on your sax.

The first Blues Scale exercise:

Play the 6 note blues scale and land on the octave note.

Here's an example with the C Blues Scale

  • C › Eb › F › Gb › G › Bb › C

The second Blues Scale Exercise:

This builds of the first exercise and you play the scale both up and then back down again.

  • C › Eb › F › Gb › G › Bb › CC › Bb › G › Gb › F › Eb › C

The Third Blues Scale Exercise:

The Root, minor third and fifth are all present in the Blues Scale. These notes also make up the minor chord. Using the C Blues Scale as an example below, you can see that these three notes, C › Eb › G are present.

For this exercise you will practice both ears and fingers. The goal is to establish the sound of the minor chord, so that you can hear how it relates to the blues scale.

The first part of the exercise is to play just the Root, the minor Third and the Fifth note and really listen to the sound of each note. You should do this slowly, so that you can focus on the actual sound of each note and how they relate to each other.

For this example with the C Blues Scale the notes are: C › Eb › G

The second part of the exercise is to play the first 5 notes of the Blues Scale. Basically adding the fourth and flat five notes to the mix which makes the sound a bit more interesting.

For this example with the C Blues Scale the notes are: C › Eb › F › Gb › G

The third and final part of the exercise is to switch in between the two previous steps, going back and fourth playing the minor chord notes and then the first 5 notes of the blues scale.

The benefit of this exercise is that you will develop a better understanding of the relation between the Blues Scale and the minor chord.

The combination of ear training and fingering technique helps you become a better sax player and overall musician. Try it out for yourself and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Learn all 12 Blues Scales on Saxophone

I've but together guides for each Blues Scale on Saxophone to make it easy for you to learn them. Click through to start learning them below. If you are a saxophone beginner I recommend that you start with the easy Blues Scales as they are easier to play on your sax.

List of Blues Scales on Saxophone

Transpose Blues Scale for Saxophone

If you want to play with a C instrument like the Piano, Guitar or Bass you need to be able to transpose your Blues Scale to match that concert pitch.

Depending on what type of saxophone you play, you need to transpose accordingly. To help you with that, I've put together a transposition chart for the Blues Scales that makes it easy to identify how to transpose.

Concert Pitch (Piano)

Alto and Baritone Sax

Soprano and Tenor Sax

C Blues Scale

A Blues Scale

D Blues Scale

D♭ Blues Scale

B♭ Blues Scale

E♭ Blues Scale

D Blues Scale

B Blues Scale

E Blues Scale

E♭ Blues Scale

C Blues Scale

F Blues Scale

E Blues Scale

D♭ Blues Scale

F♯ Blues Scale

F Blues Scale

D Blues Scale

G Blues Scale

F♯ Blues Scale

E♭ Blues Scale

A♭ Blues Scale

G Blues Scale

E Blues Scale

A Blues Scale

A♭ Blues Scale

F Blues Scale

B♭ Blues Scale

A Blues Scale

F♯ Blues Scale

B Blues Scale

B♭ Blues Scale

G Blues Scale

C Blues Scale

B Blues Scale

A♭ Blues Scale

D♭ Blues Scale

The chart has three columns representing C instruments (Flute, Piano, Guitar etc.), E♭ instruments (Alto & Bari Sax) and B♭ instruments (Soprano & Tenor Sax).

Here are some examples of how you would transpose using the chart above:

Blues Scale for Soprano Saxophone and Piano

If the Piano plays a C Blues you need to transpose and play the D Blues Scale on you Soprano Saxophone. The interval between the C instrument and your Soprano saxophone ( B♭ instrument) is always a whole step apart.

This means that you can take any note or Scale in C concert pitch and transpose it to Soprano Saxophone by moving a whole step above the Concert Pitch note.

  • C concert Pitch = D on Soprano Saxophone
  • D Concert Pitch = E on Soprano Saxophone

Look at the Blues Scale transposition chart above to see all 12 keys.

Blues Scale for Alto Saxophone and Piano

If the Piano plays a C Blues you need to transpose and play the A Blues Scale on you Alto Saxophone. The interval between the C instrument and your Alto saxophone ( E♭ instrument) is always a minor third apart.

This means that you can take any note or Scale in C concert pitch and transpose it to Alto Saxophone by dropping a minor third below the Concert Pitch note.

  • C concert Pitch = A on Alto Saxophone
  • D Concert Pitch = B on Alto Saxophone

Look at the Blues Scale transposition chart above to see all 12 keys.

Blues Scale for Tenor Saxophone and Piano

If the Piano plays a C Blues you need to transpose and play the D Blues Scale on you Tenor Saxophone. The interval between the C instrument and your Tenor saxophone ( B♭ instrument) is always a whole step apart.

This means that you can take any note or Scale in C concert pitch and transpose it to Tenor Saxophone by moving a whole step above the Concert Pitch note.

  • C concert Pitch = D on Tenor Saxophone
  • D Concert Pitch = E on Tenor Saxophone

Look at the Blues Scale transposition chart above to see all 12 keys.

Blues Scale for Baritone Saxophone and Piano

If the Piano plays a C Blues you need to transpose and play the A Blues Scale on you Baritone Saxophone. The interval between the C instrument and your baritone saxophone ( E♭ instrument) is always a minor third apart.

This means that you can take any note or Scale in C concert pitch and transpose it to Baritone Saxophone by dropping a minor third below the Concert Pitch note.

  • C concert Pitch = A on Bari Saxophone
  • D Concert Pitch = B on Bari Saxophone

Look at the Blues Scale transposition chart above to see all 12 keys.

Conclusion

Practicing Saxophone Scales may not always feel like fun. However, it makes ALL the difference and it's one of those fundamental building blocks you need in order to become a great player.

I've been playing saxophone for 35 years and i STILL incorporate scales into my practice sessions. That's just one of those thing you need to keep doing.

Saxophone teacher online Greger Hillman

Written by Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher with +36 years of experience playing saxophone. 

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Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher and musician from Sweden.

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