Are you trying to become a better saxophone player? Have repetitive drills and exercises got you down? Don’t fret. One of the best ways to pick up the saxophone is by learning familiar melodies and songs.
But which songs should you learn? We think the following are among the best to get started with. Here you will find various easy saxophone songs for beginners – pop, rock, funk, folk, soul, neo-soul, and much more.
“Careless Whisper” by George Michael
Song year: 1984
George Michael probably was at the height of his fame in the mid-to-late-80s, and his music and Wham!’s sugary pop are very much a product of their time.
But “Careless Whisper” seems to be calling back to an even earlier time when the saxophone, rather than the guitar, was typically the lead instrument. The result is an emotionally evocative guilty ballad.
This song features an essential saxophone melody every saxophonist should take the time to master, and it can even be beneficial for other instrumentalists too.
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
Song year: 1970
The music of The Beatles features plenty of teachable moments, for beginners and advanced players alike. “Let It Be” is an excellent song for beginner saxophone players, though, thanks to its slower tempo and ballad-like arrangement.
Its melody is timeless. And while there are some wider intervallic jumps, there is also much repetition in the song. That makes it easier to memorize, which is great news because playing an instrument well long term is mostly about muscle memory.
But if you struggle with any song, including “Let It Be,” just remember to take it a bar at a time, or barring that, one note at a time.
“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago
Song year: 1970
In their earlier hard-rocking years, Chicago would be epitomized by songs like “25 or 6 to 4,” which featured heavy guitar power chords, the masterful vocals of Peter Cetera, and unforgettable horn riffs.
The band would increasingly favor ballads in the 80s, and while songs like “You’re the Inspiration” are timeless and masterful too, I must admit a bias to their earlier, upbeat works.
“25 or 6 to 4” was inspired, clear, and simple. How else would you characterize its incredible arrangement?
Every saxophonist should strive to add “25 or 6 to 4” to their repertoire, as it is a highly recognizable tune where the horns get to shine.
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Song year: 2014
To this day, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” can be heard in the hallways of lesson rooms across music schools in every locality.
From the drums to the bassline to the horn parts, music teachers quickly realized that the funky song was perfect for teaching simple riffs and motifs as well as rhythm and groove. As is characteristic of the genre, you can expect plenty of staccato notes.
Maybe you should learn it too? I would recommend it!
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Song year: 1984
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” stands as an example of extraordinary songwriting. From the melody to the lyrics to the chord progression, this song teaches you the ins and outs of writing and arranging music and even a bit of basic theory.
Speaking of the lyrics, fun fact – Cohen penned about 80 to 180 verses for this song. Was he inspired? Perhaps. But as history suggests, it’s quite likely he was also struggling to perfect the lyrics. No wonder it came out the way it did.
Take note of the rise and fall of the melody. This is something you can bring to your songwriting.
“All You Need is Love” by The Beatles
Song year: 1967
The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” set the template for vocal / horn call and response motifs in pop music, a style often emulated by other artists. Think of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” I’m sure you can think of other examples too.
Rumors of Beatles music being “easy” have been massively exaggerated, but if you take any part (guitar, bass, vocal, etc.) in isolation, you will find that many of them are indeed simple on their own. That is certainly the case with “All You Need is Love.”
The video above shows what’s possible if you get to the point of being able to add embellishments. Beginners, of course, should start with just the melody and no fills.
“Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful
Song year: 1965
The folk-rock flavors of “Do You Believe in Magic” were very characteristic of The Lovin’ Spoonful. The song has an easy vibe with lead guitar fills throughout, though in its time it was probably considered “heavy.”
It’s not a saxophone song specifically, but as is typical of the era, it was a foundation-setting piece that should prove very instructive to any new musicians. Learn the melody and take it from there.
“Sister Christian” by Night Ranger
Song year: 1983
Night Ranger was probably best known for attracting some of the best guitar talents in the business, be it Jeff Watson, Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, or Reb Beach. The guitar playing on their tracks was always a thing of marvel.
“Sister Christian” is more of a ballad than an adrenaline-pumping hard rocker, but of course, most bands in the genre had their power ballads too, like Def Leppard with “Hysteria” or Poison with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Anyway, while “Sister Christian” doesn’t feature the saxophone in any capacity, it does have a melody every saxophonist should study. The lyric “Sister Christian,” by the way, was chosen because it sounded good not because the song is about a nun or even necessarily a Christian.
“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2014
In her early days, Taylor Swift still had a clean-cut image. “Shake It Off” was a bit of a departure from her earlier country-pop efforts and shows more leanings toward percussion-heavy pop and hip-hop than anything else.
The music video still featured twerking and slightly revealing outfits, though, so “Innocent” probably isn’t a good descriptor here, though I would agree with “happy-go-lucky.”
The song is very straightforward from top to bottom. Instrumentation is minimal, and the riffs are barebones too. Easy. You can do it!
“How Deep is Your Love” by The Bee Gees
Song year: 1977
You can’t talk about disco without The Bee Gees. “How Deep Is Your Love” is a bit of a departure from songs like the dripping-with attitude “Stayin’ Alive” though. This one is more soft rock than disco.
“How Deep Is Your Love” is mostly electric keyboard and bass driven than anything else, though it includes strings and guitars too, as was typical of the time.
As a saxophonist, you’ll want to focus on learning the melody. Saxophone works very well with soft rock, ballads, easy listening, adult contemporary, or smooth jazz, as I’m sure you know.
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams
Song year: 2013
The neo-soul of “Happy” went off without a hitch in the early 10s. I must say I prefer it to most modern pop music, though I think it’s a far cry from the source material.
Either way, this Pharrell Williams song is largely driven by the drums, bass, vocals, and clapping, though there is a keyboard and guitar in there too.
Although there’s no saxophone in the original, it would fit very nicely. Again, focus on learning the melody and harmonies and you should have a lot of fun.
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
Song year: 2011
Starting around this time vocalists started slurring the end of phrases and it continues to this day. It’s very trendy. I don’t know about you, but it drives me nuts. It makes songs like these unlistenable to me.
Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” nevertheless, went on to become one of her biggest hits. This melodramatic piano-driven number isn’t a saxophone song. But there is still something you can pick up from it.
“All of Me” by John Legend
Song year: 2013
Thanks to its relatability, John Legend’s simple and dramatic R&B of “All of Me” would go on to become a big hit in 2013. Its verse is in a minor key and benefits from a “major lift” in the chorus. Legend doesn’t give himself much of a break on the vocals, so if nothing else his breathing technique is praiseworthy.
Oh yeah, and it’s a nice little melody to learn on the saxophone too.