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Saxophone Pentatonic Scales – Major and Minor

by Neal

Got this question from Jeshurun yesterday about scales.

good day neal.. neal may i ask some help? do you know a site that teaches pentatonic scales or chromatic?

For a chromatic scale, you just start on one note and go up and down chromatically.  Certain fingerings make it easier to play faster.

A pentatonic scale has five notes- in the key of C, C, D, E, G, A.  So you take the notes from the major scale and play the root, 2nd, third, fifth, sixth.

A minor pentatonic is somewhat similar, starting on  C, it would be C, E-flat, F, G, B-flat.  It has the root, minor third, fourth, fifth, and lowered 7th (relative to a major scale).

Knowing your major and minor scales will help you with playing these.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

xastram January 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

correct .
to spice things up – going into blues scales –
you add the note between the 2 and the 3 ( major)
or between the 4th and the 5th ( minor )
pick up the pentatonic pieces and keep on playing in all keys


Daniel November 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

You have a great set up. I’m of small stature and getting at low b and bflat are
a burden to me, and to others as well. Is there an alternate key to those keys?

I’m in the intermediate range on tenor sax, and own alto as well. My brand is Yanagasawa. I need customized low keys.

You have a very professional site. I had a site years ago. I write novels. One is published and the other to be published shortly.


Neal November 8, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Thanks Daniel, there’s not really a natural alternative to the low B and Bb keys on a given saxophone. You might be able to modify it somehow to make it easier to reach. I have seen players do that with the palm keys, so that they fit more naturally to their hand.
That’s cool you write novels, I see parallels between writing and music a lot of times.


Solomon November 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Greetings Sax kings. I’m a beginner and I wish to be a professional saxophonist. Perhaps, I don’t know where to source right materials for my development.
Please help me out.


Neal November 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Hey Solomon,
Starting by learning the major scales is a good harmonic foundation. Maybe get a method book (something like Rubanks). And listen!


jerry arjona January 16, 2011 at 4:05 am

dear sir,
may i request to have a copy a complete scale start from key of C to B
thanks a lot jerry,


Neal January 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Hey Jerry,
The major scales or major/minor pentatonic scales?


jerry January 19, 2011 at 7:34 am

yes sir,if you dont mine my i know from you the notes of pentatonic scales of alto saxophone and to use these scale to a group band.
thank you verry2 much,


Hamza April 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Hey Neal,

i do understang some things but can you post something ( like a video or just a sound file) so that i can hear them and play them with harmony

Cheers people :D


Neal August 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Hey Hamza,
Probably could do that. I’m getting more into doing video/audio lessons these days. Will think about how to approach that for pentatonics.


Lou canning August 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Hi Neal can’t seem to get the improvisation will your cd or course help i’v been playing 2 years I have Tenor,Alto, curved, soprano, & vibrato A1s on it’s way I’m keen but the words mastery puts me of???????????Lou


Neal August 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Hey Lou,
I think it could help you. I use the word mastery since you won’t learn 700 songs, you’ll learn two in the class. Focusing on less material and really mastering it will make you sound good. And starting with ‘simple music’ will let you sharpen them and realize how deep you can go with something that is ‘simple’.


Tosin October 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Well done Neal, I just wanna ask this that how will I be able to practice those minor scales very well during my rehearsals?
Also am a type that loves to play on a particular key. How will I overcome this?


greg April 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Hey Neal,

I really appreciate your work it has been very helpful.


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