Mastering the saxophone is no mean feat. It takes hours of practice, learning the correct posture, coordination of your fingers, and perfecting the art of breath control.
You can begin to learn these skills and techniques in your lessons, but also in the pieces of music that you learn. Different songs can help you to improve everything, from playing in different time signatures to nailing rhythms and scales.
With this in mind, we have come up with 15 easy songs for beginner saxophonists, and these will help you develop as a player whilst (hopefully!) being fun and enjoyable to play. You can play all these on the soprano, alto, tenor, or baritone saxophone, so without further ado, let’s get started!
1. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a song that was written by slaves in the USA, known as a spiritual, and is set in a call-and-response style. This perfectly illustrates the concept of question and answer in musical phrasing.
The song uses the pentatonic scale (a scale consisting of five notes) which is also a scale that is commonly used as a basis for improvisations and has good use of the octave key.
In addition, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a great beginner song as it is slow, with a simple, memorable melody, and can also be used to train dotted rhythms and practice tonguing.
Once you have got the song under your fingers, why not try improvising a new melody using the same pentatonic scale? This is a great way to start learning improvisation.
Arguably the most well-known of songs from George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, the melody of “Summertime” melody is actually taken from a Ukrainian folk song. It has been recorded thousands of times and fits nicely into both the jazz and blues genres.
Being able to play “Summertime” is a must for every saxophone player. Again, it is based on the pentatonic scale and is the ideal way to get to grips with the 6/8 time signature.
Once you have the notes nailed, “Summertime” is a great song to help you express yourself through rubato, and you could also have a go at improvising around the melody.
3. “Fly Me To The Moon”
“Fly Me to the Moon” was a song written by Bart Howard but made famous by Frank Sinatra. Despite being a good beginner song, it is a jazz standard, and this is why it is so satisfying to play. It sounds impressive while not being overly complicated.
The melody of “Fly Me to the Moon” mainly moves in step, meaning that it is quite simple to remember, as well as being relatively repetitive. The song introduces the concept of accidentals but can be played as fast or slowly as you like.
This is a great song to help you to develop your improvisation skills, although the harmony is more complicated than the previous songs.
4. “House Of The Rising Sun”
Another famous folk song turned blues classic is “House of the Rising Sun.” The most famous versions were probably recorded by the Animals and Bob Dylan, but the song is a staple in every saxophonist’s repertoire.
Learning the song gives you extra practice in the 6/8 time signature and is great for practicing movement between octaves. It is played mostly in legato (smooth), which can help you to work on your tone.
It can be played with rubato, which can help you to perfect your expression, and once you feel comfortable with the melody, this is a great tune to use to practice your improvisation.
5. “Let It Be”
Written by the Beatles, “Let It Be” is a well-known ballad that is the title track of the band’s 12th studio album. The song, although it has a simple tune, can be made as complicated as you like and is based on a common chord sequence.
The melody of “Let It Be” is based on the arpeggio, making it a little trickier than melodies that move in step and can also help you to practice the use of upbeats. This is a song that is full of expression, allowing you to practice your dynamics and rubato.
6. “Amazing Grace”
“Amazing Grace” is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. It was first published in 1779 and has since been used as religious as well as secular music. It has been estimated that the song is performed about 10 million times each year—so why not make it 10 million and one?
The tune has a simple rhythm, enabling you to concentrate on getting the notes right and as good as possible, and the simple melody can be embellished once you have the basics nailed.
The song can be easily divided into four separate phrases, which makes it easier to learn. “Amazing Grace” is also the perfect song to practice playing in 3/4.
Written by the Champs, “Tequila” is one of the most famous saxophone solos that you will be almost certainly asked to play once people find out that you play the instrument. It is fun to listen to and fun to play and can be great for your playing for many different reasons.
One of the biggest bonuses to learning to play “Tequila” is that it gives you great practice in your rhythm skills. This is especially good for syncopation, and at a fast speed.
It is easy to learn and has plenty of repetition and, frankly, is a good way to practice playing loudly! “Tequila” also helps you to practice accented notes and maybe even a growl if you’re feeling adventurous!
8. “Silent Night”
The much-loved Christmas carol “Silent Night” was written in Austria and first performed in 1818. There will almost certainly be times in the festive season when you are asked to play a carol or two, so having this one under your belt is a great option.
“Silent Night” gives you a real workout in breath control and tone. Playing relatively long notes quietly and with feeling is not as easy as it sounds, and this is the perfect song to practice it. It gives you more practice in playing with a 6/8 time signature with expression, but not necessarily a lot of rubato.
9. “Blue Danube”
Composed by Johann Strauss, “Blue Danube” is a famous waltz loved the world over. It is one of the most commonly played pieces of classical music, featuring in orchestral repertoires, TV adverts, and film soundtracks.
Since “Blue Danube” is a waltz—set in a 3/4 time signature—it can be a bit tricky to get your head around at first. Tonguing is essential to ensure that you play repeated notes in the correct rhythm, and accents are vital for the piece to get the waltz feel.
It’s a great piece to learn that can help you to hone a number of essential skills. The song is one of the reasons why you should practice your arpeggios as it makes use of them throughout.
Leonard Cohen’s uplifting song “Hallelujah” was originally released in 1984 and has since been recorded by other artists, most famously by Jeff Buckley. It has been used in the film Shrek and many other movies and TV soundtracks, and it has been estimated that over 300 covers of the song have been recorded.
Playing “Hallelujah” on the saxophone is as close to singing it as it gets. It is in a lyrical 6/8 and gives you the chance to express yourself with all your glory.
“Hallelujah” generally moves in step, building toward the high notes, giving you practice in playing a whole range of notes with the control that is necessary. It also gives you tonguing practice and a chance to go wild with dynamics.
11. “Stand By Me”
The song “Stand By Me” was first performed in 1961 by Ben E. King but later became the title track to the blockbuster film of the same name. It has since been covered by legends such as John Lennon, Otis Redding, and Tracy Chapman. And now you!
The song is based on the major scale, and the melody generally moves in either a step or arpeggio style, making it easy to remember. With its mixture of slurred and tongued notes, it is a great way to practice your articulation, especially at speed.
“Stand By Me” can be played as a simple or embellished version, and its chord sequence is a common one, meaning that it’s fun to try out improvisations to.
12. “Watermelon Man”
Taken from Herbie Hancock’s first album, “Watermelon Man” is a jazz standard loved by saxophonists around the world. The good news is that although the harmony can sound complicated, in fact, its base is very simple, and it is, therefore, easy to improvise over.
The song is a great place to start for budding jazz players. It has interesting harmony, makes use of accidentals, and also has some important syncopation to get your fingers around.
“Watermelon Man” can be used as a good introduction to Latin-style music and includes octave leaps that are great for training your tone and tuning.
13. “Happy Birthday”
What easy song list is complete without this one? “Happy Birthday” is arguably the most famous song in the world—it is certainly one that is sung the most often. It is also a song that you will always be asked to play—and useful, as you will already know the melody inside out.
The melody of “Happy Birthday” uses mainly a combination of step and arpeggio notes, although it does also have an octave jump. Once you have the notes under your fingers, try speeding it up and playing it faster or perhaps with a different rhythm to expand your technique.
14. “Can’t Help Falling In Love”
First recorded by Elvis Presley, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” features in his film Blue Hawaii. The melody is based on the French love song “Plaisir d’Amour” and has also been covered by British reggae group UB40.
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” has a straightforward melody that is short, repetitive, and easy to remember. Although the melody is simple, the trickier part of the song is the rhythm.
It helps you to train your triplets in 4/4 or 12/8. It also includes leaps of a 5th that are useful in training your intonation, and the longer notes are great for practicing your tone.
15. “Blowing In The Wind”
Written by Bob Dylan, “Blowing in the Wind” is world famous for being a protest song. It has also been recorded by artists such as Peter, Paul, and Mary, and even Stevie Wonder.
The ultimate hippy classic, “Blowing in the Wind” is sure to get everyone singing along with you whilst you train some core saxophone skills. The melody of the song stretches across the octave key, giving you good practice in moving between two registers.
It is also a good song for working on your syncopation skills and getting your phrasing nailed down. Try playing each phrase in one breath to work on your breath control.
Summing Up Our List Of Easy Saxophone Songs
It is important when you are learning to play any instrument, that you learn songs that you enjoy, that are at the right level of skill, and that give you a sense of achievement when you have mastered them. This way you stay motivated whilst seeing that you are improving.
We hope that you enjoy learning these saxophone songs. There are some in there that you will certainly come back to time and again as you develop your playing skills.