Skip to main content

Saxophone Trills – Some Common and Some Not So Common

By March 10, 2016December 18th, 2017sax lessons, saxophone articles, saxophone exercises, Saxophone Tips

The saxophone trills examples from the above video are taken from videos that I attached to the end of two recent song videos to demonstrate how to play these trills that were heavily featured on these songs.

To hear all these saxophone trills in context check out these videos:

Soul Serenade music video here
Ghost Riders in the Sky music video here

The first one which is demonstrated on soprano sax is from the video “Soul Serenade”
If you’re working on this song great, but even if you’re not, you can take these trill examples and use them in a lot of pop, rock, and blues style music you may be playing.

It starts out with a typical whole step trill F to G which looks like this when written:

F to G trill


The second one on this soprano section of the above video is a different type of saxophone trill that can also be referred to as a “shake”. It’s a kind of trill with a slight twist and I use it quite a bit, as you can see it’s a very effective gimmick that works in solos or an ending note. Check out how to do this specific technique in the video. (Second one in the soprano section)

The third trill example is on the tenor sax and it starts on the high C trilling up to an Eb making it a minor 3rd trill… these minor 3rd’s are my favorite types of trills and probably the ones I use the most:

tenor trills

The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th examples from the tenor part of above video are also shown on the music example above.

Trills are a great way to add some color and spice to various parts of your playing. A quick semi-tone, whole-tone or even a minor 3rd tone trill can be thrown in to work almost anywhere you can hear it or have the time to do it.

How Do You Know Which Type of saxophone Trills to Play in the Music You’re Doing?

Well, normally we will play the next note up (or down) that’s part of the scale the music is in. But this is just a general rule.

In Blues and rock I will usually do a minor 3rd trill: G to Bb, F to Ab, A to C etc. These sound great and can be further played with by dropping your lip pressure to give it a slow-falling tone which is also a great little trick, especially in a solo.

So, anytime you’re playing a blues type tune and using any kind of blues scale you can always incorporate a minor 3rd trill like the ones in the video lesson above. The general rule here would be to start the trill on the root note, so if playing in the key of G, you would play the G to Bb trill. This would obviously work for a minor blues but also for a major…it just creates more tension. If you don’t want that specific kind of tension just trill the G with the B, making it a major 3rd trill.


  • sxpoet says:

    Great stuff JF – thanks for taking time out to share!

  • sxpoet says:

    Hi JF !

    Been trying out some trills of late!

    On a completely different tack, when will you be releasing some new tracks?
    I haven’t seen you lately in the forums, but i still keep looking in the music section for anything new.


  • john says:

    I been traveling in Europe over the last 6 weeks ur so
    Back home now and have several things on the go as far as new songs
    I’ll send an email soon saying what they are
    I will say it’s a new collection of easy songs for saxophone and it will be around 5 or 6 tunes this time

  • sxpoet says:

    Thanks JF – that’s great news!

    When you create the music sheets, would it be possible to include the chord names above each bar?
    The only reason i ask, is i’m doing lots of improvisation, and any sheets with the chords written at the top is an asset for studying.


  • john says:

    ya you bet. I’ve been including the chords for some time now. many beginners either don’t know what they are or just aren’t there yet in using them but it’s really good to at least look at the changes as you’re playing the melody. you can see the chords and the melody underneath and see how they are related… this of course is the essence of improvising.

  • sxpoet says:

    I’ve just noticed, by the time you’ve done the latest 5 new tunes,
    you’ll be starting on the next batch of new x-mass tunes?

  • john says:

    ya no kidding…time has a way of just flying by.
    the new tunes are really coming along now and I’ close to putting the first one up.

  • sxpoet says:

    Good to hear that, i will wait till all of them are done, then i will buy them all in one go.

    How about an advanced daily practice routine course?

    I’ve got an appointment with my Pro in 3 weeks time, to thrash out a tailor made weekly
    practice routine – to make more efficient use of my daily time available for constructive progressing.
    It’s similar to having a personal trainer – so i’m ‘not wasting time’ or ‘need to spend more time’ on the various areas of sax playing.

  • john says:

    thats the other thing I have been looking at as well. since a lot of people have gotten onto the daily routine I know it’s time for a more advanced one.
    unfortunately I can’t get that together in the next few weeks!

  • sxpoet says:

    just sat on Richard Wagners piano stool and played a note on his grand piano where he composed music – how cool is that!

Leave a Reply