Learning the D Major Scale on Saxophone is really straightforward. This is one of the initial scales I introduce to my beginner saxophone students since it provides foundational skills needed to become a proficient sax player.
The D major scale has two sharps (♯) which is F♯ and C♯, so it's slightly more complex to play than the C Major scale on the saxophone.
If you're just starting on the sax, I recommend that you begin with the G Major Scale as it moves through the middle range on your saxophone which is easier to learn as a sax beginner student.
That being said, studying the D major Scale is a natural progression as you become more familiar with playing all the Major Scales the saxophone.
Playing the D Major Scale on Saxophone
The D Major Scale can be played over two octaves on the Saxophone. From low D to middle D (1st octave) and from middle D to high D (2nd octave).
Here's the D major scale in the 1st octave. A good starting point for learning the D 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 D major Scale
The notes in the D Major Scale are: D – E – F♯ – G – A – B – C♯ – D
The intervals of the D 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 D and E 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 F♯ and G and the notes C♯ and D in the D Major Scale. These half step intervals don't have other notes in between, marking them as true half steps.
D major Scale intervals explained
I often refer to the keys on a piano as it is so visual and makes it easier to understand the intervals between notes when you can actually see them.
Looking at the image above, you can see that the D Major Scale on Piano has two sharps (♯) and uses both white and black keys. Those two black keys represent the F♯ and C♯ notes.
Practicing D Major Scale on Saxophone
Begin practicing the D Major Scale by starting on the root (D) and moving through each note until the octave (D). 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 paly other Major Scales on your saxophone as well.
Basic D Major Scale patterns to practice
Ascending and Descending Scale Practice:
- Begin with the D major scale in the first octave, ascend from the root note (low D) to the octave (middle D), 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 D 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 D scale without pondering over the fingerings at all.
- Start on the root note (D) and skip to the third note (F♯), then return to the second note (E) and skip to the fourth note (G). Continue this “ladder” pattern until you reach the 9th note (the E) and land on the octave D note.
- The Scale interval pattern looks like this: D-F♯, E-G, F♯-A, G-B, A-C♯, B-D, C♯-E, D.
Practicing the D 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 (Low D) » Play third (F♯), the fifth (A), and the octave (middle D).
- The Arpeggio Sequence acending is: D-F♯-A-D
- The Arpeggio Sequence descending is: D-A-F♯-D.
- Practicing arpeggios helps to reinforce “the sound of the primary chord” (D Major) within the scale.
I like to introduce this exercise to my students when they've learned the D Major Scale well as it adds another layer to the complexity. At the same time it helps you stretch both your fingerings and mind.
D 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 likened to diving into the deep end of a “musical pool.” Without first wading through the shallower waters of the basic C Major Scale exercises, plunging directly into the deep might leave you feeling overwhelmed and disoriented.
So, with that analogy it's time to start practicing the D Major Scale on your sax.
Learning the D Major Scale by heart takes you one step closer to master 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.