Hot Tunes for Alto Saxophone

The glory of the saxophone is its versatility. With the range extending from the sweet high notes of the soprano sax through the rumbly depths of the bari, you can play just about any genre or style. The most common of the saxes is the alto. It’s found in all bands and jazz ensembles and has the largest selection of music arranged for it. If you’re ready to expand your repertoire with new alto sax notes, here are some ideas to get you started.

Your Best Jazz Bets

Although jazz music didn’t yet exist when Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in the early 1840s, it seems as though this instrument was made for swinging and playing the blues. This is due to its amazing agility. Indeed, Sax’s intention was to create an instrument that combined the brass family’s power with the woodwinds’ fleetness. Hence the saxophone is ideal for rapid improvisatory jazz licks and soulful ballads alike.

There are so many legendary jazz alto sax notes that they could be listed for days. Here are a few you should consider for your sheet music collection:

  • “Take Five” by Paul Desmond – This uptempo swing number is a rhythmic challenge thanks to the 5/4 meter. 
  • “The Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini – A true crowd pleaser, program this classic tune on your next concert or recital.
  • “La Vie en Rose” by Luis Gugliemi – Here’s a nice ballad that’s been a jazz standard for singers for decades. You can work on developing your full, warm tone and vibrato.

If you have sax-playing friends there are plenty of jazz charts for saxophone quartet as well. Get together on the weekends and have some jam sessions just for fun.

Are there any alto sax players who don’t know the solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper?” Popular music, show tunes, and film scores provide another rich source of enjoyable pieces. Take a look at any of the following:

  • “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty – A popular hit from the ’70s, this song is famous for its grooving sax solo. It will give you a chance to work some of your higher register.
  • “Cantina Band” from “Star Wars” by John Williams – This cheerful tune may get your audience up on their feet.
  • “Journey to the Past” from “Anastasia” by Ahrens and Flaherty – Develop your dynamic range and long tones with this song.

By selecting a variety of styles for your sheet music library, you will strengthen all aspects of your technique and become a better player.

Other Genres to Explore

Don’t forget about sacred and classical music. There you will also find a wealth of options for alto sax notes. Performing arrangements of composers such as Beethoven, Bruch, and Liszt will improve your musicianship and stamina. Adding sacred songs like “Were You There” and “This Is My Father’s World” will expand your performance opportunities.

As you round out your sheet music collection, make sure you have a nice balance of genres and styles. First, choose music that you love to play. Then add some selections that will challenge you artistically and technically. Then practice faithfully and enjoy your progress.