Applying a Pattern to Any Scale in all 12 Keys – Better Sax
Scales in All Keys

Applying a Pattern to Any Scale in all 12 Keys

Hey everyone, today I’m going to show you a really great scale pattern that will sure to spice things up in your practice sessions and help you understand different kinds of major and minor keys. First before you get started download the lesson pdf from the BetterSax Shed here. This will help you follow along and see exactly what I’m playing.

If you want to dive more into music theory, scales, and chord progressions – I recommend you check out my Harmonic Foundation course which you can purchase for $129.

Learning Scales

I always recommend to my students that you try to learn your scales without the use of sheet music. This will help develop your ear and you’ll become less reliant on the notes on the page later. If you really want to learn how to improvise, try to learn these scales by ear. However, the lesson pdf has all of the scales you need written out if you need to see them in front of you.

The Major Scales

Starting out we have our major scale written out in all 12 keys. This is the most important scale for you to know if you are playing western music. I recommend you start with this.

The first step to getting serious about playing your instrument is learning the major scale in all 12 keys. It is not as hard as you may think. Honestly, most people can do it in a week with minimal practice.

Read the scales off the sheet if you must, but I strongly recommend you commit them all to memory as fast as you can and then stop reading the notes.

The Major Pentatonic Scales

Next I have the major pentatonic scale in all 12 keys.

You can think of this as a simplification of the major scale. Instead of 7 notes, the pentatonic scale has only 5. It’s basically a major scale with the 4th and 7th scale degrees removed, leaving us with what are usually the most consonant notes in a given major tonality.

I’ve got lots of lessons on using the pentatonic scale for learning simple melodies and getting started to improvise so if you are new to soloing, I recommend you check those out starting with the free Play Sax by Ear Crash Course.

The Minor Pentatonic Scales

Next to those we have the minor pentatonic scales in all 12 keys. This scale can be thought of as a mode of the major pentatonic scale. It’s the same notes just starting in a different place.


Speaking of modes, we now have the Dorian mode, mixolydian mode and aeolian mode written out in all 12 keys.

These are the modes of the major scale that get used the most. However, there are 3 others: phrygian, lydian and locrian.

You can see how they are written out here grouped with the same key signature. 

Knowing all your scales in all 12 keys is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to get serious about improvising. That’s why I have my students learn as much as possible without relying on written sheet music. 

Harmonic & Melodic Minor Scales

Next we have the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. Both of tgese are very commonly used in jazz improvisation.

Symmetric Scales

Now for the symmetric scales – diminished in both the half whole and whole half versions followed by the whole tone scale.

Blues Scales

The last scales in the pdf are the blues scale and the dominant pentatonic scale. These are also very commonly used in all popular music styles. Yes, there are other scales, but these are the most important ones to learn starting out. If you want to learn more about Blues scales and patterns, check out the BetterSax Blues Foundation and Blues Language courses.

Final Thoughts

I know there’s a lot of information there already. If you want to learn more about how all of these scales work and where they come from, I explain all of that in detail along with lots of fun exercises in the Harmonic Foundation course.

Be sure to let me know how your practicing is going in the comments below!

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks

About the Author

As the founder of Jay’s mission is to help developing saxophone players break away from traditional music learning methods and discover a more efficient, practical and fun way to become a Better Sax player. The BetterSax YouTube channel’s videos have been watched by millions and thousands of students have made meaningful progress on their instrument thanks to BetterSax courses.

Jay Metcalf


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