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Woodwind Technique 1.3: Saxophone Scales
January, 2003
Dan Higgins

FROM DAY ONE we have heard about practicing our scales. It has always been the foundation of technique on all instruments. This is certainly true of the saxophone due to the important function of scales and patterns in jazz improvisation. It's imperative to know all scales and modes in all major and minor keys to travel through the complex harmonies of modern jazz and rock.
    I have outlined a method of scale approach in a new book, Saxophone Scales and Patterns, available from I think you will find it a comprehensive study necessary for all saxophonists to learn. I continue to practice these patterns on a daily basis to maintain a smooth technique and an even sound. Playing the scales and patterns the entire range of the instrument develops a "feel" for the correct notes when improvising through chord structures. Jazz players have always explored the outer reaches of the instrument's range and these scales allow for ideas to flow smoothly from top to bottom ranges.
    Practicing with a metronome or drum machine will provide the foundation of good time which will carry over to creative improvisations. This book is designed to work in all 12 keys and develop a fluid approach from low to high. Patterns of 3rds, 4ths and triads extend the ear and provide more modern intervalic ideas. Major, melodic minor, harmonic minor, dorian mode, whole tone and diminished scales are covered in this text. These scales provide the foundation of all jazz scale study and are invaluable to the modern saxophonist. I hope you enjoy the book.


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