I'm trying to play some guitar/piano chord progressions for my daughter to improvise over using the scales she's learning on her alto saxophone and looking for some help.

I know that to transpose I play 3 half steps up from the note she plays on the sax. What I'm looking for help with is when she plays a minor scale. If she plays the E Minor scale on the sax do I go to the 3rd half step up = G and build a chord progression based on G Minor/BbMajor

Or would it be based on G Major/E Minor

Or something else entirely.

Pretty new to music theory and wanted to try and figure this out first before we tried to jam away together so any help is really appreciated

  • 1
    Musescore is a free music score software; you can add various instruments and there is a button to show concert pitch.
    – Ywapom
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 23:15
  • 1
    It seems like you are asking two questions (1) how do you transpose and (2) how do you build a chord progression. Which is more important?
    – user50691
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 14:18
  • Straight question - have you dv'd the majority of answers? If so, what reasons do you have?
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


I know that to transpose I play 3 half steps up from the note she plays on the sax. What I'm looking for help with is when she plays a minor scale ...

Well, if there is a trick behind this question I give this second tricky answer:

As your daughter wants to improvise and you are asking for some chord progression and you say you know the difference of the two pitches, there is a simple solution:

You can play in the her relative key , e.g. she plays in e-minor and you accompany in G-major (etc.) This will fit wonderfully together from the point of blue notes. That is she improvises now actually in gm an you accompany in G-major.

As you are asking for chord progressions:

  1. the blues schema 1111 4411 5411 (5)
  2. the 1625
  3. the sub.dominant cadence I Ib7 IV IVm I (V/V) V7 I

Try out the blues first: (play all chords with b7!)



Playing a C note from the music on alto will produce an E♭ note (concert) from the sax.

So it's going to play notes that sound three semitones (tone and a half) higher in effect, or nine semitones lower in reality than what's being read.

Starting on that written E note will produce a G sounding note. Since it's the Em scale being played, you'll need to play in Gm on guitar/piano. Something like Gm, D7, Gm, D7, Gm, or Gm, F, B♭, F, B♭, for the first five notes will work. After that, it will very much depend on which of the three minor scales she's playing!


Her C is your Eb. Her E is your G. Her E minor key is your G minor key. It's just a simple 3-semitone shift. Minor remains minor, major remains major.

Try to use actual songs with a strong melody rather than just abstract chord sequences. She can play the composed melody, then hopefully take melodic as well as harmonic inspiration from it in her improvisation.

Note that any potential audience will be much more interested in a stylish rendition of the original melody than in a load of 'scale-over-chord' improvisation. That's kinda fun to do, but is really a pretty small part of the musical experience.


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