The Revolutionary Method For Learning to Play Sax By Ear
Enroll in the FREE “play sax by ear” 6-part video lesson course about how to start playing the saxophone by ear using just 5 notes! Whether you’re a beginner, or have been playing for years, you need to know how to play melodies by ear, and you need to learn to use the pentatonic scale as your anchor…
This is the most important page on this website. Please read this entire page because I’m going to give you the secret right up front.
There is a crucial difference between what I teach and what everyone else does, and it is why my students get faster results and eventually achieve their goals on the saxophone rather than staying stuck in a rut or worse, give up.
It will work for you too, absolutely guaranteed. I know this because this secret can be found in all of the music you listen to, love and would like to learn to play.
One of my students summed it up best like this:
Ok, here’s the secret…
Instead of having to learn very complex music theory
how to read sheet music
and a long list of other things…
We are going to start out by learning a simple group of 5 notes called the pentatonic scale.
I’m going to show you how you can get incredible mileage out of these 5 notes and before we ever even talk about all the other complexities of music, we can learn to play popular song melodies and improvise solos that sound great.
Don’t believe me?
Just listen to the fantastic Gary Herbig play this world famous solo using only these five notes. (30 second clip below)
Have a look at Gary’s recording credits here.
If someone with a resume like that can play solos with only 5 notes, then so can you!
Every note that you heard him play came from this pentatonic scale I’m going to teach you about. (he plays 2 other notes at the very end, but I can show you those too.)
Btw, the trumpet solo that follows…
Only notes from the pentatonic scale were used to build that solo as well.
Not only can this group of notes be used to play solos like the ones you just heard, it is also the foundation for countless melodies throughout the history of every musical style.
Here’s one melody out of literally hundreds of examples you most certainly know already:
Superstition by Stevie Wonder (30 second clip below)
Believe it or not, every note you just heard was from the pentatonic scale that I’m about to show you.
So, maybe you’re asking yourself, “if this secret is so simple and can really be heard in all styles of music, why am I hearing about this for the first time from you?”
The reason has to do with the standard, conventional way music has been taught for centuries.
No One Ever Told Me
In my own quest to learn how to play the music I love, I went to a 4 year music school studying classical and jazz saxophone performance, then did a 2 year masters degree in jazz performance where I learned all the intricacies of music at a very deep level and no one ever told me the secrets I’m about to reveal to you.
I figured it out on my own while touring the world with an acoustic cover band that played private parties for very rich folks in exotic places. (that’s a story for another time)
Everyone, including myself, learns to play saxophone by one of 2 approaches, which are basically the same thing.
The Classical and Jazz Schools of Music
Both of these schools make what should be very simple and direct into a very complex process that, according to them, requires you to take lots of lessons and classes with professors and buy textbooks and method books, and learn a helluva lot of stuff that will leave you scratching your head thinking:
Do I really need to know all of this to play the thing I started out wanting to learn?
In my case, the thing I really wanted to learn was how to play…
Listen to this 25 second clip…
That was the legendary B.B. King who was one of my personal guitar heros along with the other gentlemen seated next to him. Jimmy Vaughan (SRV’s brother), Robert Cray, and Eric Clapton.
And yes, once again, what you just heard was played using exclusively the 5 notes I’ve been talking about.
When you get a minute watch the full version of that video. They each take a solo and about 98% of the notes they all play in all of their solos are from… you guessed it, the amazing, versatile and not to mention bluesy, pentatonic scale.
If this all sounds good to you so far, it gets even better.
The best part is that you can and will learn to do all of this…
WITH NO SHEET MUSIC
So if you don’t know how to read music, great, it just makes what we’re trying to do more complicated.
If you do already read music, that’s fine too, but I’m going to ask you not to, and for this system to work, you will have to trust me and put the sheet music away for a while.
So, if you’ve been wanting to learn to play music like you heard in the above audio examples, but felt that it was out of your reach, or too complicated, you were wrong.
Many of my students are able to play familiar songs by ear without looking at any sheet music within the first hour of taking my Pentatonic Foundation Course. Playing completely improvised solos follows shortly after.
This system works for saxophone players of all levels.
Even total beginners are able to advance quickly when they follow this method as a recent student explained in his email to me below…
If you are interested, I’d like to reveal to you my simple system for learning how to play tons of music like the examples you heard on this page and more, entirely by ear.
Interested in more BetterSax courses? Check out the BetterSax Products Page.
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17 thoughts on “Play Sax By Ear Crash Course”
jay a couple weeks ago you played a lick from the top of the horn to the bottom and was told i could down load it but when i tried to download it it took me to another program i would like to learn that lick in every key how can i get it
Art, You can get that download in the members area since you are a member. Here’s the link: https://members.bettersax.com/lessons/fingering-tutorial-for-accuracy-and-speed/
Jay. ..I would really love to learn more about saxophone. .I have the instrument but no teacher..I will be grateful if u get to tutor me ..
Ownen, I hope you learn something valuable in this course.
Finally i found a teacher to learn something off instead of most show off’s. Thank you for doing this. Greetings from Belgium
thank you Jay for your courses ! It is a real happiness to do what you teach . the words are simple , clear , easy to understand and play .
I just have one regret : to be too far , I shoud like to come to school
Thank you Pierrette. I’ve got more on the way.
I appreciate this course offer (along with your other clips, classes, etc.) I have been playing by ear since I started playing sax (& flute), but I am sure this will help me to improve. I have a gig this weekend that I am preparing for, but when that is done I should have a little more time and will sign up for the course. Your exercise pages will be also be a help for me to learn how to read better. Thanks.
I have never player a saxophone. As a matter of fact I don’t even own one. But looking at your videos it has sparked an mistreat in learning. I love music and have always loved the sound of a saxophone. I plan on buying one soon. I am buy the Jean Paul ($500) saxophone you did a review on as a starter sax. My question is, once I receive my saxophone, which course should I first start with and what courses should I continue with before I start with your five essential pentatonic notes? I am looking forward in hearing from you and learning how to play the saxophone just as a hobby.
Glad you are going to take up the saxophone! I’ve got some YouTube videos in this playlist that you should watch: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWMjC05R8fbX92AKF4SIyXa5kNEdHa0m2 Then I recommend going through the free Play Sax by Ear Crash Course https://bettersax.com/psbe
Thank you for your reply Mr. Metcalf. I will definitely review and learn from the videos you have recommended. I do have a question, so is the Jean Paul AS-400 is a good sax to start off with? I am leaning on getting this one, just wanted to get your opinion.
Again, thank you for the feedback, Tex
Watch my video review of this horn here: https://youtu.be/UlraFvFZd9s
This is an excellent saxophone to start with.
First, I’m really enjoying your videos!
Pentatonic scale: To me it sounds too good to be true that you are getting better making a solo by the use of the pentatonic scale. To make a solo, it must take much more that knowing a scale where two notes are left out? If a song is written in the key of C, the pianist is paying chords in C. What Chords are of course depending on what song. When I’m having a solo, I know the song and I hear the chords, and I’m playing accordingly. Where does the pentatonic scale coming into the picture?
I’m sure that I might be missing something out here?
I did it! I completed the Pentatonic Crash Course!Feeling very pleased with what I’ve learned and been able to accomplish in the span of a week. In Lesson 6, I had so much fun improvising that I forgot to play the melody a second time. Bonus- after that lesson, I was able to quickly pick out the notes and play “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for the first time. Interestingly, that melody follows a similar form to “Oh! Susanna”.
The next, logical step is to go deeper with the full Pentatonic Foundation course… You are an amazing sax professor, coach, and Sherpa, Jay!
Great to hear this,Thanks!
Hey, I am struggling so much with lesson 3. When you say play to the top of your register and then come back down, I get to the second octave (upper register) and I just don’t know what keys to use…. so lost. Please help lol.
just go as high as your comfortable range allows.