The Ten Best Saxophone Books Ever
Over the last few decades as a player, composer, and educator with an insatiable hunger for new material to work on, I’ve amassed an extensive library of books for saxophone. Despite owning many of the countless books on the market now, there are very few books that I’ve found myself coming back to over and over again and always look forward to opening. I thought it would be beneficial to share a list of books that have had a substantial impact on my development that I think every developing saxophonist should have.
Here, in no particular order, are ten of them.
1. Universal Method for Saxophone, by Paul Deville, published by Carl Fischer
Although this 320-page book appears to be for beginners if you look at the first 20 pages, it quickly moves into some of the best technical and musical workouts that exist in any book. There are etudes by countless composers, slow pieces to develop sound and phrasing, short technical exercises that target the thorny parts of the saxophone mechanism, classical arias, pieces in all twelve keys, and rhythmic and articulation exercises.
BUY THE BOOK
2. 25 Daily Exercises for Saxophone – H. Klose, published by Carl Fischer
Most of these etudes are one page long and highly musical. I can’t think of any book on the market that will do more to develop speed and dexterity. Most saxophonists I’ve know have spent many hours with this book, and it’s one that has traveled the globe with me. I’ve also used these extensively for practice on the flute and clarinet.
BUY THE BOOK
3. Top Tones for Saxophone – Sigurd Rascher, published by Carl Fischer
Although the title of this book would lead one to believe it’s all about developing the altissimo (extended third) register of the saxophone, it’s most commonly used as a primer on the overtone series, which is one of the most effective ways of developing sound and good note placement.
BUY THE BOOK
4. Six Suites for Violincello – J.S. Bach (transcribed and edited by Trent Kynaston), published by Advance Music
The Bach cello suites are some of the most beautiful pieces ever written and over the years they’ve been transcribed for just about every instrument one can think of. Trent Kynaston dis a remarkable job with this book in finding the right key for each suite in order to fit the saxophone range, as well as working out the double-stops which must be written as single notes for saxophonists. Absorbing the recordings of these cello suites by any number of the great cellists will provide limitless possibilities to any serious musician.
5. 28 Studies for Saxophone – Guy Lacour (publisher unknown)
Sadly, this book has become more and more difficult to find over the years. But if you can find it, cherish it. Each study is based on one of the Messian modes of limited transposition, which have become a building block of contemporary music, both classical and jazz. This book can really help unlock the door into modern melodic and rhythmic language, and will give improvisers a wealth of material to work out for their own purposes.
BUY THE BOOK
6. 25 Caprices (and an Atonal Sonata) for Solo Saxophone – Sigfrid Karg-Elert, published by Southern Music Company
This book is also quite difficult to find, but well worth the search. Beautiful pieces that are great for performance and practice, and cover a lot of challenging keys as well.
BUY THE BOOK
7. Charlie Parker Omnibook – published by Criterion
There are a countless number of transcription books on the market, but if you’re going to just own one of them, it should be this one. Charlie Parker shaped the modern approach to the saxophone more than almost anybody else, and also transformed music forever. Even if you never intend to improvise, these pieces lay so well on the saxophone that they are worth studying. I encourage students to eventually do their own transcriptions of favorite solos by any player, but this can be a great way to see what that means and start building a basic bebop vocabalury.
BUY THE BOOK
8. The Technique of the Saxophone – Volume II, Chord Studies- Joe Viola, published by Berklee Press
Joe Viola taught an entire generation of great saxophone players, and these studies will go far in helping players develop an understanding and fluency in all twelve keys. There are workouts over basic chord types that will help any improviser build vocabulary and strengthen chordal and melodic relationships.
BUY THE BOOK
9. Studies for Saxophone – Salviani, published by Ricordi
I think I found this book many years ago by chance and it’s become one of my most cherished etude books over the years. The pieces are in a more traditional 18th and 19th century, but they flow incredibly nicely and are very enjoyable and rewarding to play and work up to speed.
BUY THE BOOK
10. Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns – Yusef Lateef, published by Sana Music
Yusef Lateef is one of the pioneers of world music and he brought an intense study of exotic modes and scales to jazz while part of a number of legendary groups in the 1960’s and 70’s. All of the material in this book fits the range of the saxophone and although many of the concepts get very sophisticated, the actual material is useful without the player necessarily studying how it is derived. You’ll find some very unusual intervals in this book which will help your ears and fingers tremendously.
BUY THE BOOK
November 17, 2010 @ 2:01 pm
My top ten would replace Rascher with Rousseau’s “Saxophone High Tones.” I find it to be comparable to the Rascher book as an introduction to overtones, and it has the added advantage of excellent altissimo fingering charts suitable for use with modern horns.
I was surprised to read that you’ve had trouble finding the Lacour and Karg-Elert books. For what it’s worth, I checked a couple of my favorite dealers’ online catalogs and they list both those titles as in stock and available. The Lacour is published by Gérard Billaudot.
There are some others here I need to check out!
November 17, 2010 @ 3:34 pm
Which dealer’s catalog had the Lacour and Karg-Elert books?
Either way, thanks for the input, and I hope that the list helped you.
October 7, 2019 @ 2:58 pm
Yes, Rousseau’s book is excellent. I also suggest Sinta’s voicing book:
I’ve use all three books, but I’ve found Sinta’s is the best for a consistent overtone workout. Racher’s is fun, but not as systematic. Rousseau’s book, as Bret suggested, also has a good set of altissimo fingering and alternate fingerings charts.
Another fantastic and comprehensive sound-production technique book is:
It includes altissimo fingerings, partial tone fingerings, multiphonic fingerings, and a chapter about special articulations (e.g., slap tonguing). This book, along with Sinta’s are my go to sound production books. Of course, Liebman’s classic “Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound” is an excellent companion to all of the aforementioned books.
Picking a favorite saxophone book is difficult for me; it is like trying to pick a favorite saxophonist.
November 17, 2010 @ 3:37 pm
What, Aebersold’s “Maiden Voyage” didn’t make the list. ;O)
I’m into Greg Fishman’s jazz etudes right. I may never be more than a hobbyist, but I know what I like.
November 17, 2010 @ 4:21 pm
Hey, better not be baggin’ on the Aebersold! Those cats were my band all through high school and even to this day! :)
But seriously, thanks for the Fishman suggestion, I’ll have to check those out at some point.
November 17, 2010 @ 5:44 pm
Thanks Sam, I have half of these, gotta check out the others.
December 1, 2010 @ 12:57 am
You failed to include the hard to find but incredibly informative book “Adolphe Sax: His Life and Legacy.” Hard to find, and expensive to buy, but it is worth every penny. I found one for a steal on eBay, paid about $90. Normally it is twice that.
Great site! I look forward to visiting regularly.
December 1, 2010 @ 10:36 am
Thanks Paul! As it happens, what Sam had in mind for this article was a list of books used for the purpose of actual saxophone practice, as opposed to books which were historical accounts meant for reading while away from the instrument.
However, I never knew that there was a book on Adolphe Sax, sounds like a very interesting read (no horrible pun intended).
Anyhow, so glad you enjoy the blog, and I look forward to hopefully seeing more of you in the comments section.
All the best,
July 23, 2011 @ 1:49 pm
Any recommendations for a beginner progressive method?
Essential Elements 2000 (and other “band” books) don’t cut it for me, and most other method books available to students (Rubank, for instance) are sorrowfully out-dated. Newer methods (Tune a Day or Ultimate Beginner, for instance) are more updated — even flashy — but I don’t feel any are as pedagogically solid as they should be. Still others are far too academic and leave me and my students snoring.
I’m hoping somebody out there has an obscure “gem” that has been missed in my (somewhat extensive) research on the subject.
July 23, 2011 @ 1:56 pm
Hmm, as much as I’d love to have some great suggestion for you, I’ve been out of the world of beginner’s sax books for some time. The only thing I could say would be to go to some stores with a great book selection and take a peek at what they have. Additionally, you could go to Amazon.com and see which books are best rated.
I hope that helps!
July 23, 2011 @ 6:37 pm
I like the Eugene Rousseau methods. Very pedagogically sound, and more interesting than Rubank.
April 16, 2020 @ 9:15 am
As a woodwind teacher, I always recommend the Rubank Series (Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced 1 & 2) The student makes rapid progress and learns more than just band tunes.
January 21, 2012 @ 8:45 pm
After 30+ years away from the sax, I have recently started playing again and loving it! I bought a very nice used Buescher Aristocrat Tenor off e-bay. A mid 1970’s model by the serial number, solidly in the Buescher post-Selmer years. It appears to have very little playing time, it’s like brand new.
So anyway, back in high school days (Way back!) I was a pretty fair hand on a sax, tenor & bari, I never played alto. And now I am in need of some resources to help get back in the groove. Are there any of the books listed above that you feel would be best suited for a more “mature” returning player to help get my chops back?
January 22, 2012 @ 4:32 pm
I would start with the Universal Method – a lot of great stuff there for intermediate all the way up to advanced players – you won’t be bored!
That’s my 2c at least.
April 1, 2012 @ 9:37 pm
Yes check out the Greg Fishman Books. Also there isn’t anything wrong w/the Lennie Niehaus books. Another really good book is Rascher’s 158 Exercise’s For Saxophone. Also for high school & early college players Voxman’s Selected Studies for Saxophone.
November 1, 2012 @ 5:56 pm
I would personally take out the 1st two books listed here, and replace them with the Marcel Mule Scales and Arpeggios books (Gammes et Arpeggios vol 1-3) and the Ferling 28 Famous Studies for Oboe or Saxophone. Much more musical and fundamental.
November 2, 2012 @ 8:11 am
Yep, when you have lists like these there is always bound to be a bit of controversy. Those are great books, so thanks for adding them to the mix as well!
June 28, 2013 @ 11:33 pm
Does anyone know if the Salviani Studies for Saxophone Vol.3 book mentioned in the article is the same as the Salviani Studies for oboe Vol.3 at imslp?
That book is a duet book.
July 18, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
I just got the book and it is a duet book but different from the one for oboe. Bit disappointing really unless you have someone to practice them with.
September 16, 2013 @ 9:31 am
I used “Universal Method” for like nearly 10 years with my teacher (RIP), from about age 10 til I went off to college. I never continued on past high school but still play for enjoyment. Some wrist injuries kept me from playing at a truly advanced level but I get out and knock the horn around a little bit when I get the chance. Anyways I am always looking around for music to practice when I get the chance, and this list is really helpful!
I would reccomend checking Scribd for scans of these books… I found this “difficult to find” Lacour in about 5 seconds, printed a copy and now I’ve got it! I don’t have a favorite music store to support since moving away from home ;/
September 18, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
Yeah, Scribd does have a lot of great stuff, but if possible, I would definitely buy any book that you discover on Scribd and go on to enjoy. You’ll be supporting an artist/author who probably could use the support, and you’ll feel quite pleased with yourself for supporting the awesome cause of a talented musician making the world a better place by helping others become talented musicians as well.
February 16, 2018 @ 5:35 am
+ Jerry Coker’s ‘Jazz Patterns’
March 7, 2018 @ 10:12 pm
Thanks you so much for your list, I have studied Alto saxophone (play Classical mostly) around 2 yrs, however I would like start to learn and play about Jazz music and improvisation.
Would you give me advise which suitable reference book?
April 22, 2020 @ 7:00 am
Thanks, great article and website. I’m please to see I’m not the only “relapsed since high school” budding sax player. I picked up my tenor during vivid lockdown and am loving getting back into it.
I’m off to find a Universal Method now.
November 5, 2021 @ 8:52 am
Now I’ll have to go through boxes and dig out the Universal and Coker. Good stuff. Motivated once again.
July 30, 2021 @ 5:16 pm
Thanks for the list. I’m surprised the Feeling 48 Studies isn’t on there.
September 2, 2022 @ 7:39 pm
All great books! Another I would consider is “The Saxophonist’s Woorkbook” by Larry Teal. A handbook of basic fundamentals. Published by University Music Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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