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Play Sax By Ear - Crash Course

Bb Instruments

PSBE Lesson 4

Oh Susanna

Welcome Back

I’m sure you’re excited to start today’s lesson and you should be.

We are now going to learn to play a very popular melody by ear on the saxophone.

There is no sheet music to look at, and please don’t cheat and search Google for the notes.

Trust me, if you have completed the assignments from lessons 1-3, you can do this!

Before we begin, get warmed up by playing through PE1 from the last lesson. Set your metronome to a comfortable tempo, and play through the exercise at least 3 times with a good sound and plenty of air.

Once you’ve done that, watch the video below.

The first time you watch, I want you to just listen and read the instructions on screen. (less than 4 minutes)


Once you’ve watched the video through once just listening, try to play the melody on your own.

**The first note is 1 of the major pentatonic scale.

Use your ear to find the rest of the melody notes.

Remember, all the notes come from the major pentatonic scale that you now know inside and out.

There is one oddball note that is not in the scale. It is the first note of the B section. I bet you can hear it and find which one it is on your own no problem. (hint: it’s 4)

Take Your Time

For some of you it will come very quickly, but others might feel blocked.

If it doesn’t come easily, you most likely have not mastered the scale and exercises from the first 3 lessons.

Sometimes, students who have always relied on reading sheet music feel a bit lost when the training wheels come off. Stick with this. You CAN do it.

Now, study the diagram below…

Understanding Song Form is essential. This is the first thing you must know about a song when learning it.

The diagram above explains in detail the song form of Oh Susanna.

Other songs will have different forms, but the concepts remain constant.


I’ve created a backing track for Oh Susanna. You may listen to it below and use it to practice playing the melody. Please learn the melody notes on your own without the track before using it.

Oh Susanna - Backing Track

Once you have learned and memorized the melody. Practice it along with me several times using the lesson video.

When you can play the melody along with me with no mistakes, practice it on your own with the backing track.

Stay in sync with the music and keep your place in the form. Don’t get lost!

The Next Lesson

Now things are getting interesting right?

Well, up next is my favorite kind of lesson. I call it AET.

You won’t want to miss it, so look out for my email with the link. Till then…

***Remember, the next lesson can only be accessed using the link in the email you will receive tomorrow, so look out for it in your inbox, and if you haven’t done so already, add to your list of contacts or whitelist my email address.

Just because you received an email from me already does not mean that future emails won’t go into spam or junk mail.

PSBE Lesson 4 Assignment

Extra Challenge:

If you have more time and want to work on some more stuff before you get the link to tomorrow’s lesson, here’s a bonus assignment for extra credit.

Can't Wait?

If you really can’t wait, and want to dive in and get all of my training on how to learn to play melodies by ear and improvise great solos using only the 5 notes of the pentatonic scale you can always jump ahead of the line and order the full Pentatonic Foundation Course here.

image of Pentatonic Foundation Saxophone Course - Learn to play sax by ear and improvise solos

Pentatonic Foundation

Learn to play melodies by ear and improvise solos using the 5 notes of the pentatonic scale.

Blues Foundation

Develop your ability to play improvised solos using the Blues style and language.

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