When talking about or even just mentioning the Saxophone, you should always raise your glass to a certain Belgian gentleman.
It was Adolphe Sax who had the idea of combining the best that Woodwind instruments could offer with the best of Brass. The result was the saxophone. By 1846 his work was complete, and he had changed the shape of modern music. Not that he knew that then, of course.
It is a woodwind instrument that looks like a brass instrument. And it has become one of the most important instruments of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Jazz and All that Stuff
In the Jazz world, it has spawned many great players. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and the great Charlie Parker, to name a few. But it has also made a strong and lasting impression on pop, soul, and rock music.
I presume you are starting to play the saxophone. If so, you may want to know the 10 First & Easiest Songs You Should Learn on Saxophone. But there might be one or two surprises.
Some are obviously meant for the saxophone. But others are just great songs. Some demand the melody; others give room for some improvisation and freedom of expression. So, here are a few suggestions for some of the best first songs for learning the saxophone you can practice with…
1 – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(Alto, Sopranino, Baritone, or Contrabass saxophones)
Let’s start with something very easy. The music was credited to Mozart, written in the 1780s for his students to practice. Although there is some evidence that his work was a variation on a previously heard theme that had disappeared from existence.
It is a nice easy, comfortable piece to learn. And even at an early stage of your development as a saxophonist, it allows a little room for some improvisation.
2 – Summertime: George Gershwin
A piece of music from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” As a song, it has gone beyond just being a piece from a show. It has been covered by great musicians and singers all over the world. The music invokes peace and warmth with a slightly bluesy feel. It is no wonder it has become a jazz standard.
It is quite easy to play, having only six basic notes. Although it does carry plenty of room for improvisation, which is one of the reasons I have included it.
Another reason is that I was privileged to hear Cleo Laine, wife of British jazz saxophonist Johnny Dankworth sing it. I will never forget that or the power of the song. A great one to learn and to use to develop as a player. Take a listen to Charlie Parker playing it on Summertime.
3 – Hit the Road Jack: Ray Charles
Made famous by the legendary Ray Charles, this will up the tempo a little bit. It is a good choice because it allows you to play the melody or join in with backing instruments. They form a vital part of the mood of the whole song.
What is great from the sax point of view is that there is a perpetuating descending riff to learn. But then you can find some harmony lines to play with it or even try an ascending countermelody. A great song for saxophone beginners looking to focus on improvisation and development.
You can play along with Ray Charles on Hit the Road Jack.
4 – I Can See Clearly Now: Johnny Nash
(Alto or Tenor saxophones)
Johnny Nash released this in 1972. It was much maligned at the time, being accused of being about suicide. The opposite was true, and it was a song about hope for the future.
It is reggae-based, so it offers you a chance to experiment with an alternative rhythm. It allows you to play along with a comfortable melody line or pick up on the brass backing that is heard on occasion.
Once again, a nice easy tempo that will allow the starter time to formulate their notes. But it also has plenty of room for improvisation.
5 – Surfer Girl: Beach Boys
(Alto, Tenor, and Soprano saxophones)
Strange choice? Not really. A great song with a beautiful melody from the “Kings of the West Coast.” When Brian Wilson wrote this and the Beach Boys played this song, it generated an easy living mood that fits great with the sax. A nice melody to learn or to provide a sax backup part of your own creating.
6 – Moon River: Various Artists
(Alto and Tenor saxophones)
One of those songs that are timeless. It sounds great when played on any instrument. But when it is played on a saxophone, it is special indeed. Written by Henry Mancini for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Sung by Audrey Hepburn, it won an Oscar for best song. You are in good company with this one.
It is easy and dreamy, and its mood is perfect for the sax. No need to worry about improvising too much. Just the fact you can play it will stop any party or gathering.
7 – Peter Gunn: Henry Mancini
Couldn’t possibly exclude this saxophone classic from this 10 First & Easiest Songs You Should Learn on Saxophone. This allows you to let rip a little bit. The basic melody has only a few notes to learn and is simple enough to master. But you can work around it and develop some good techniques.
Another Henry Mancini classic, you can either play along with the guitar riff or take the main saxophone melody. There are some breaks that allow you some freedom to create your own patterns.
A great sax song for developing style and technique. But also a piece of music that you can let your hair down on a little bit.
8 – The Sound of Silence: Paul Simon
(Alto or Tenor saxophones)
Another classic song whose words are more relevant today than when they were written. Not composed for the sax, but it is a tune that sounds great on the instrument. It allows freedom of expression, which is an important skill to learn.
But it also has a melody that fits well with the instrument. Plenty of scope for using those great sustained notes the saxophone is more than famous for.
9 – When The Saints Go Marching In: Louis Armstrong
(Alto, Tenor, Baritone, or Soprano saxophones)
I have always found when practicing an instrument; you do need to take a bit of time out for some fun. This is a song that allows you to do just that.
It is a very spiritual piece of music that was originally a Christan church hymn. It is a staple diet for Jazz and Marching bands. First recorded by Louis Armstrong and his orchestra in 1938, it swings along and allows a lot of musical freedom.
Both the melody and supporting countermelodies you can create are great fun to play. This is one of those pieces of music that improve you as a musician. But because you are having fun with it, it doesn’t seem like practice.
10 – Baker Street: Gerry Rafferty
(Alto, Tenor saxophones)
Had to think twice about this one, but in the end, I decided to finish up with it. Gerry Rafferty’s masterpiece featured Raphael Ravenscroft. He was the man who played and created a sax introduction and a solo that makes it one of the greatest saxophone recordings.
It isn’t that the notes are fast or that the style is difficult to accommodate. It is the feeling that he puts into it. And that is a skill that you will need to learn as a saxophone player.
Because when you listen to this, you realize that what you are playing is like very few other instruments. Not many can generate this emotion in a solo. Take a listen on Baker Street. And if you haven’t started yet or are a complete beginner, get a little help with How to Play the Saxophone: A Beginner’s Guide.
Need a Great Saxophone?
We can help you with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Alto Saxophones, the Best Selmer Saxophones, the Best Tenor Saxophones, the Best Soprano Saxophones, and the Best Yamaha Saxophones you can buy in 2021.
You may also enjoy our detailed reviews of the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz, the Best Alto Sax Mouthpieces, the Best Beginner Saxophones, the Best Saxophone Neck Straps, and the Best Saxophone Brands currently on the market.
10 First & Easiest Songs You Should Learn on Saxophone – Final Thoughts
Ten songs and pieces of music to practice and hopefully acquire new skills and reinforce existing ones. Have fun.
Until next time, let your music play.