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Saxophone Book Guide!

As you learn the saxophone, method books and other sax books can be a great way to systematically work on playing the instrument. Here are a few books that I have used and recommendations on the appropriate order to work on them. But remember that you should definitely listen to saxophone players and other music in addition to working through books! Ideally you want to play in groups and get private lessons if you can afford them too.

Beginning Saxophone

Rubank Elementary Saxophone MethodRubank Elementary Method – Saxophone

Progressive method book for saxophone. Starts slowly with notes, exercises, melodies. I would use a fingering chart like the one on Sax Station though.

Saxophone Maiden VoyageVolume 54 – Maiden Voyage

Good book to start working on improvisation. Comes with a CD that has a backing band that you can play along with. The melodies are simplified a bit and the chords are not overly complex.


Saxophone Rubank Intermediate MethodRubank Intermediate Method Saxophone

Continuation of the Rubank Method. More challenging exercises, scale studies, and melodies. Good book to work through.

Jackie McLean Saxophone Warmup Book Jackie McLean Warm-up

Scales and chords throughout the full range of the saxophone. I used this book to warmup and work on my scales/chords for a good while.

Saxophone Bop DuetsSaxophone Bop Duets

Playing duets with another sax player can be a lot of fun. This book in particular is challenging, but the lines weave together well and make some cool music.


Intermediate Jazz Conception

Advanced Jazz Conception for Saxophone: 20 Jazz Etudes

Jazz Conception for Saxophone Duets

Aebersold Series

Real Books:

The Real Book: Sixth Edition (in C)
Useful resource for learning jazz tunes
The Real Book (B Flat, Sixth edition – for soprano/tenor sax
The Eb Real Book, Sixth Edition

Volume 16 – Turnarounds, Cycles & ii/V7s to get familiar with the harmonic cycles in music




The Music Lesson
– by Victor Wooten. This book changed my perspective on music in a very good way.

Rubank Advanced Method – Saxophone Vol.1

Rubank Advanced Method – Volume 2 (Saxophone)

A more advanced book that was actually written for oboe can be played on saxophone (on the cover it states ‘for oboe or saxophone’ for a greater challenge.

48 Famous Studies

Small Book

Art of Saxophone Playing – Larry Teal

Top Tones for the Saxophone

Greg Fishman’s Books:

Jazz Saxophone Etudes For Alto & Tenor: Book & Two CD Play-Along Set

Jazz Saxophone Etudes, Volume 2

Jazz Saxophone Etudes, Volume 3

Jazz Phrasing for Beginners


Volume 64 – Salsa Latin Jazz, to play some Latin music, check this book out, it’s not at a beginning level and some of the tunes are fast.

The Jazz Theory Book. Definitive resource for harmonic theory in jazz, by Mark Levine. Playing some piano will help you understand this book.

Patterns For Improvisation By Oliver Nelson,

Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker Omnibook – E-flat, for alto saxophone and baritone saxophone

Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker Omnibook – B-flat for tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone


What do you think of these books and what sax books have you used that helped you?

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  1. Larry Weintraub says:

    Neal: you hit most of them although I’m not sure I agree with your order. For example I wouldn’t have Vol 24, Maiden Voyage in the beginner books. A student needs a certain amount of technique and some understanding of music theory, chords, scales, modes etc before they can play with this book.

    Here’s a couple you missed at the advanced level. “158 Exercises For Saxophone” by Sigurd Rascher, “Selected Studies For Saxophone” by Hymie Voxman. Joe Viola’s Series of books from the Berklee Press, “Technique of the Saxophone”, “Chord Studies” and “Rhythm Studies”. Also at the intermediate level Bugs Bower’s “Rhythms”. Also at the beginner and intermediate levels, “Saxophone Method Books 1 & 2” by Kennth Geckler & Nilo Hovey.

    • Hey Larry,
      Thanks for your feedback. You do need to know a few things to be able to handle Maiden Voyage. I figure it might not be what you work on within the first six months, but it still seemed like a beginning level class. The book outlines all the notes.

      Thanks for the suggestions at the advanced level, some of those I have. Didn’t know about Bugs Bower’s rhythms, I do like Bop Duets a lot though, so I’ll have to check that out.


      • Larry Weintraub says:


        The great thing about the Bugs Bower “Rhythms” book is it a) concentrates on just 1 rhythm, then on the next page it has another rhythm that is developed and used with the 1st rhythm. Once you get into the book all the previous rhythms are mixed in w/the new stuff. Also b) there aren’t any articulation marks except for ties and 3’s over the triplets. So the teacher has to show the student how to use jazz articulations, when to slur, when to play the notes short etc. The reason for this is because if a person looked at some charts from a pro band library they would find very few articulation marks. Lennie Niehaus says this in his forward to some of his books. So the student learns how to interpret the chart w/out the markings.

        Having a lot of articulations in jazz charts is a by product of the music education industry. Then again if the teacher doesn’t know what he/she is doing the music still gets played incorrectly.

        Have a good West Coast day.

  2. Terry Charles says:

    This is not really an instructional book however for anyone who has been hooked by the saxophone, (which is you if you’re reading this) this is a must read as it takes you through the evolution and history of perhaps the most wonderful instrument ever….imho.

    The Devil’s Horn: The Story of the Saxophone

    Published: February 11, 2006

    Michael Segell
    The Devil’s Horn: The Story of the Saxophone, From Noisy Novelty to King of Cool
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    336 pages
    ISBN: 0374159386

    I recently saw Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Munich. When the Israeli hero moves to Brooklyn, the sound of a saxophone inevitably appears, signaling The City and Sex. Saxophone’s evocative nature is just one of its myriad aspects pursued by Michael Segell, in this case from the sublime (Berlioz) to the comical (Phil Woods). Segell leaves few if any stones unturned.

    Surprisingly, the instrument’s history ends up being among the most fascinating of Segell’s topics, from corporate intrigues to eliminate Adolphe Sax’s dominance of the market to the horn’s role as a political hot potato throughout the last two centuries. How incredible that a musical instrument could engender so much opposition, from a list including Napoleans’ successors, American movie censors, Czarist and Soviet regimes, the Vatican, imperial Japan and the Nazis (thus the title “The Devil’s Horn.”

    Most of the saxophonists interviewed come from the jazz world. They include Joe Lovano, Charles McPherson, Lee Konitz, Branford Marsalis, Phil Woods, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Marcus Strickland, Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman, Ron Blake, David “Fathead” Newman and Jimmy Heath. Just in time Segell was able to interview Illinois Jacquet and Steve Lacy, with the latter issuing some surprising and profound comments on his relationship to the soprano sax. I would have preferred more attention to R&B, but Segell provides some treatment of sax’s role in that style as well as rock and classical.

    Fortunately for the layman and the technically-challenged saxophonist (such as myself), Segell doesn’t over-dwell on the horn’s technical problems. Consider this entry, however. Beset by problems with tone, Illinois Jacquet consulted a mouthpiece expert. How was the problem solved? By adjusting the tip opening half a thousanth of an inch!

    Throughout “The Devil’s Horn” Segell gives us the added treat of following his own evolution from total novice to gigging sax man. Only when he follows the Purdue University Marching Band for ten pages does the ride bog down. While I’m on a negative note, Segell actually lists Ornette Coleman among tenor players. He also gets a bit trippy over the power of saxophone in people’s lives, as in “the saxophone can lead straight to a world of trouble and pain and constant sorrow. Look what happened to Getz.” Whoa, dude. It’s not always about the sax. Getz was on the road at fifteen, not exactly normal. Drugs and alchohol were the vehicles of his catastrophes. The same things may well have happened had he taken up the vibes. Nevetheless, Segell’s book is a thoughtful, passionate, fascinating journey, definitely worth the read.

  3. Larry Weintraub says:

    I have this book by Michael Segell. It is a very good book. The author was actually at the Saxophone Symposium several years ago at George Mason University (that’s in Fairfax, Va near Wash DC for you West Coast cats) and he was signing copies of his book. I didn’t have my copy w/me but he signed a piece of paper for me. I recommend it for anyone interested in the saxophone whether you play or not.

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