#7 Learn The Careless Whisper Sax Solo

sax hall of fame Feb 24, 2019

George Michael's 1984 hit 'Careless Whisper' has surely got one of the most iconic and famous sax lines of all time. In this video I'll give you clear and simple instructions how to play it on alto sax, and you can download a free PDF here with the music written out for alto AND tenor sax.
This lesson is part of my Hall Of Fame series, where I teach you how to play the world's most iconic sax lines. I show you all the fingerings nice and slowly, then all the note names a bit faster, then the whole thing at full speed. You can then download the free PDF for each lesson with the music written out for alto AND tenor sax. And because I'm a bit OCD and love this stuff so much you can be sure that the notes and rhythms are all 100% CORRECT!
Here are the topics covered in this lesson, with video time stamps (min:sec). Clicking on the time stamp will take you straight to that portion of the video on youtube (in a separate tab). Enjoy! Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are at the bottom of the blog.
Who plays sax on George Michael's 'Careless Whisper'? (1:01)
  • the sax part on Careless Whisper was played by UK saxophonist Steve Gregory
  • before Gregory recorded it many other saxophonists were tried and rejected
What saxophone was used for 'Careless Whisper' by George Michael? (1:19)
  • Careless Whisper was played on tenor sax, but...
  • the track was pitched down a semitone to record, then sped back up again, giving the sax a unique timbre that doesn't really sound like tenor or alto
  • because most people play alto, and because of the pitching device described above (putting it in a tricky key for tenor) this lesson will give the notes for alto (*=2nd octave, **=3rd octave). The tenor notes can be found in the free PDF here.
What are the notes for the sax solo on 'Careless Whisper'? (2:11)
  • for this lesson the whole sax solo is broken down into 4 phrases. For alto sax, ALL the notes are taken from a D major scale...
  • the notes for phrase 1 (2:11) are - [rip up to] C#* B* F#* D* C#* B* F#* D*
  • the notes for phrase 2 (2:55) are - A* G* D* B A* G* D*
  • the notes for phrase 3 (3:20) are - G* F#* D* B G
  • the notes for phrase 4 (3:34) are - F# G A B C# D* E* F#* [end on B 2nd time]
  • the whole thing at full speed (with highlighted notes) (4:41)
So that's it for this week, now you can play Careless Whisper! As always, take your time and practice it slowly until you've got it under your fingers.
Video Time Stamps

0:00 - intro playing of the hook and titles

1:01 - background on careless whisper

1:19 - why careless whisper was pitched and doesn't sound like tenor sax

2:11 - phrase 1 slowly

2:54 - phrase 2 slowly

3:20 - phrase 3 slowly

3:33 - phrase 4 slowly

4:41 - whole thing at full speed

5:19 - sign off

Video Transcript
Greetings I'm pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and this is Get Your Sax Together. On this free sax lesson you're going to learn how to play the famous sax break from Careless Whisper by George Michael.

This free saxophone lesson is part of my Sax Hall Of Fame series where I walk you through the RIGHT way to play your favourite iconic sax hooks.

If you're enjoying the content please subscribe down below "ring the bell" to be notified of new videos and if you look in the description you'll see that there's a free pdf to accompany the lesson, so go down there check out the PDF and let's get into it!

Careless Whisper was a massive 1984 hit for George Michael and contains one of the most famous sax hooks of all time. Michael knew how important the sax was to the success of the track and went through some 12 different session musicians before finally going with the Steve Gregory version that we all know and love.

The line itself was played on tenor sax on the recording by Gregory but instead of playing it in D minor which is the original key of the song the engineer slowed the tape down and Steve Gregory played it in D flat minor avoiding the awkward high F sharp first note on tenor.

The tape was then sped back up to the original key giving the sax line a really unique tone unlike anything else you can hear on famous sax solos - not quite tenor not quite alto but really gives a distinctive sound to the track. So if you're a tenor player and you've ever tried to copy that line and you can't quite understand why it's not sounding like the original that is probably why!

To keep things simple for this video I'm going to teach you on alto sax so all the pitches I give you will be for alto sax. If you want to play it on tenor transpose it up a fourth, that's five semitones, higher. Okay let's do this!

So without further ado let's break this down into four separate phrases and the first phrase starts on a D middle and you're gonna very quickly rip up a D major scale - E, F sharp, G, A, B and then finish on the C sharp. Then followed by B, F sharp, D, C sharp, B, F sharp, D. So putting together the whole first phrase then…

Second phrase we start on an A, so A, G, D, B, A, G, D. So joining out the whole second phrase… 

Phrase 3 is going to be G, F sharp, D, B, G.

So the fourth phrase we're gonna start on the low f-sharp and we're gonna make our way up a D major scale, so, F sharp, G, A, B then C sharp, D, E, F sharp, and then we quickly rip up the rest of the D major scale so G, A, B to get to the top C sharp where the phrase starts again. And we repeat the whole thing again.

There’s only one difference the second time round and that is at the end of the final phrase, that's phrase four, we go from the F sharp instead of ripping up to the C sharp to start again we just go back to B. And that is the whole first sax break!

Okay great, now finally you can play along at full speed.

So I hope you enjoyed the video today, if you find it useful please do subscribe down below and "ring the bell" for notifications, also, don't forget to go to the descriptions and get the free pdf bonus sheet. Sign up for that one andI'll see you next time for more free great sax lessons and vlogs on Get Your Sax Together.

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