Ok. So classical music is not everyones “cup of tea”.
And, “classical” and “saxophone” aren’t two words that normally go together. But should you be spending your precious practice time learning some classical melodies and will they actually help you improve?
Lets back up a bit first…
Even though I have spent my career performing in big bands, jazz ensembles and being a “jazz musician”, I actually first studied Classical Saxophone at a music conservatorium in Australia.
I wasn’t a huge classical fan if I’m honest and chose that 4 year degree course because, frankly, it was the best learning opportunity in Australia during the 1980’s as a saxophone player.
And I was still playing jazz and gigging in the background.
The music was super hard, but I loved it. And I did very well studying there. The main takeaway though was that working through classical repertoire on saxophone set me up with performing skills that were absolutely fine tuned. I was prepared for any playing situation that came my way whether that was doing a national broadcast with a top symphony orchestra, or jamming in a jazz club.
Why is classical music good for your sax skills?
When we work on simple, beautiful melodies we have the opportunity to really focus on important foundational skills like intonation, tonguing, vibrato and phrasing.
I was prepared for any playing situation that came my way whether that was doing a national broadcast with a top symphony orchestra, or jamming in a jazz club.Nigel McGill
Rarely in jazz do we get the chance as sax players to blow through super long phrases, or find the need to control a very quiet long tone.
By working on these skills when practicing classical melodies, we are preparing ourselves to play in other styles.
It’s kind of like saxophone “boot camp”!
How to start learning classical music on sax
There are a lot of published collections of standard classical melodies for saxophone and these can be a good starting point. Many books will contain some well known “pop classics” that are fun to play, but be sure to check that the standard suits you.
For my Sax School members I created a Mini-Course to make learning and practicing classical music on sax easy.
It’s called “Introduction to Classical Saxophone” and is included with the Moving On Pathway for intermediate saxophone students.
Inside this course you’ll learn some foundational skills for playing classical saxophone, plus work through a bunch of great, “classic” melodies.
The melodies you’ll learn in this course include:
✪ Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky
✪ Pavane by Fauré
✪ Melody in F by Rubenstein
✪ Vocalise by Rachmaninov
✪ Ave Maria by Bach
The lessons are for alto and tenor sax. Plus, you get backing tracks and worksheets to make practice easier.
It’s kind of like saxophone “boot camp”!Nigel McGill
Ready to start playing some classical sax music?
Why not try working on some classical tunes yourself in your next practice session.
If you are a Sax School Member, jump into the Introduction to Classical Saxophone Mini-Course. It’s a brilliant starting point!
Spending 10-15 minutes in each practice session working on slow classical melodies will help you build “rock solid” sax skills. Go for it!
Nigel McGill – FOUNDER of Sax School
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