Saxophone Warmup

Taming The Saxophone vol 3

Patterns, scales & licks for intermediate to advanced players. Examples in this section
Lots of great stuff for myself and my students - I wish I'd had the book fifteen years ago! -Dan Forshaw

A great book, I use it every day to keep the chops in order - Bobby Wellins
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Why is it important to warm up first?

This first of exercise will get your fingers loosened up. Just like an athlete, it is best to stretch your muscles before sprinting. However, this is not only a physical (fingering) exercise but it is also great at focussing your mind so that you are practising thoughtfully, not just fingering “muscle memory.” This exercise will also help you think about some of basic chords that we use for improvising, and how they fit in with the scales and arpeggio practise.


Get your Fingers, Mouth and Brain in Gear

The first of this series of exercises is one that a great warm up exercise for the saxophone as well as being one of the best exercises for learning harmony. It consists of an ascending four-note (7th chord) arpeggio and a scale down which brings you neatly into the arpeggio built on the next scale tone. You should practice this in every key, I have written roman numerals rather than the chord name to help you get used to thinking about the function and structure of chords built on each tone of the scale. As you play the exercise, think of the root note names for the arpeggios as well as the numeral, so in C major:

  • Chord I = C major 7
  • Chord II = D minor 7
  • Chord III = E minor 7
  • Chord IV = F major 7
  • Chord V = G7
  • Chord VI = A minor 7
  • Chord VII = B minor 7 b5 (Ø7)


Additionally this is helpful with voice leading or guide tones. This means that one arpeggio flows melodically to the next via a logical step rather than an interval leap
In the book, this is written out in all keys

Play Audio

Example 1-1

saxophone warmup exercises 1

Video demonstration:


Try this with various articulations:

Warm Up Articualation

  1. legato
  2. legato tongued, (soft tongued)
  3. staccato
  4. bebop

You can use straight quavers (8th notes) or varying amounts of triplet feel. Any speed but you must keep a steady tempo throughout. Don’t slow down for tricky passages then speed up, you should start at a slower tempo. Practise any difficult bits on their own until you can play them as fast as the easy bits.

More Warmup Exercises From Taming The Saxophone Vol 3

Ex 1.02

This exercise is good once you know all your scales, it’s a useful way of playing the scales but with short 4 note groups that are less boring to practice and often more useful for improvising. Practice this in all keys, you will need to adapt slightly to fit, but try to cover the entire range of the instrument not just from tonic to tonic. Try it with harmonic and melodic minor too. When practising the melodic minor it’s more useful for jazz to use the ascending version for both up and down. Makes life easier too.

saxophone warmup exercise 1-02

Ex 1.03

Practice this in all keys, where possible play over two octaves or else adapt to fit the whole range of the instrument. This is a particularly useful pattern which sounds good in improvisation.

saxophone warmup exercise 1-03

Ex 1.04

This pattern is based around triad arpeggios, but with the diatonic note above and the chromatic note below each chord tone. This is useful for tonic areas of chord sequences.

saxophone warmup exercise 1-04

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