Chromatic finger exercises for the saxophone


After having treated mainly questions of saxophone sounds in our earlier workshops, this time I'll show you some exercises that will practice the agility of your fingers and thereby your all-over fluency on the saxophone.Whoever has already practiced technical exercises, probably did this with the help of so-called arpeggios (broken chords) or muscial scales. In such exercises, we're always limited to the notes of one musical scale, though, for example a chord. With chromatic finger practice, all the notes are applied and by that, even the harder (or unusual) fingerings are required.

Exercise 1 Chromatic musical scales

Already this chromatic scale contains some intricacies. When playing this scale, keep an eye on playing every tone rhythmically in the same way. It's so easy for the right middle finger (note F#) or the left index (note C) to slip off the key – which makes the notes change too quickly. On the other hand, you know how hard it can be to change from G to G# and then to A which causes a little delay.First, we simply play this chromatic musical scale from the low C to the high one over two octaves. Who has a certain routine, is free to enlarge this extent and to play from a low Bb to a high F. I personally noted this exercise in quavers but it could also be noted in crotchets. First of all, choose a comfortable tempo that's not too fast. Be very clean and exact when changing the notes. Before becoming faster, it should work very well for you in a slower tempo.


All of these exercises can be played with different phrasings:
- all notes are bound: This forces you to play the change of the notes very exactly                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - all notes are pushed: You can practice this with simple tonguing or double-tongue (in exercise 3 and 5) or rather triple tongue (in exercise 2, 6 and 7).

Exercise 2a – triplets

In this second exercise, we play triplets which we can chromatically played upwards. This time, I only wrote down two different tempos but the exercises should be continued in the same way. This way, you also get practice in playing by heart because it is crucial to be able to play such flows without having the respective notes. Same rule applies – first of all, play this exercise in a comfortable tempo.

Exercise 2b – triplets example

Some jazz musicians like to take the flow from exercise 2 into their soli (!!!!). Imagine you want to play a high note long and beautifully. You can even present it nicer by preparing it with a flow of the type that we got to know in exercise 2.

Exercises 3, 4 & 5

Now, I wrote down some exercises with intervals that can be quite difficult. In exercise 3, there are seconds,  exercise 4 consists of minor thirds and exercise 5 of major thirds. Again, I didn't write down the entire pattern and continued playing by heart! These exercises should first be played slowly before increasing the tempo.

Exercise 6 & 7

In this exercise, triplets are played up and down. In exercise 6, it is the major triad, in exercise 7 the minor triad. Like this, you get an excellent practice of chromaticism and great material to work on your chords.

Final words

When first applying them, all of these exercises could seem pretty tricky. If you keep on practicing them daily, though, you get a certain routine and playing them becomes less hard. I personally practice these chromatics in a daily routine and before anything else because then my fingers are relaxed and ready for other exercises or playing in general.

With this in mind: Have fun playing!