In our opinion, learning the saxophone is one of the greatest things that you could ever do for yourself.
In this article, saxophonist and teacher Ben van Wyk explains the best approaches to saxophone lessons, both online and in real life.
Finding a good saxophone teacher is an important step in turbo-charging your progress on the instrument, but it can be tough to know what to look for.
Read on for a round up of the key points to consider when choosing a teacher, as well as methods to maintain and spark creativity to your practice routine and specific tips for online lessons.
Why Are Saxophone Lessons Important?
It’s no lie that lessons online have grown exponentially over the years, especially since the pandemic.
YouTube and many other platforms have become great places to learn everything from your basic DIY to learning how to play the saxophone.
But why are interactive lessons so important?
For starters, interactive lessons – be it in person or virtual (via zoom, teams etc.) – are just that: interactive. They allow for mistakes to be made and corrected immediately.
Questions or queries can be raised and answered with immediate answers and feedback.
But most importantly, lessons are a great way to build routine, which is key to making good progress both in your practice routine and overall musicianship.
How Quickly Can I Learn Saxophone?
So, you’ve just started your saxophone lessons and you have a solid routine for yourself. Just how long will it take for you to make progress?
Well, that really all depends on you.
The key word to good progress is consistency.
From experience, students who are consistent in their practice, and students who work well with their time, progress faster than those who lack a routine.
Three months to make serious progress is realistic with the right motivation.
Set goals that you wish to achieve by the end of the three-month period. Typically, you should notice some improvement in your playing and sound production within the first month.
Areas of Focus When Learning Sax
At the start of your saxophone journey there are many things that you will need to focus on. One of those things is the sound and the other is the fingering of notes.
Sound is possibly the most important aspect of playing the saxophone. However, you are not going to have the desired sound immediately.
Creating a beautiful tone will take months – if not years – of practice, but you are sure to notice decent results if you add the following technical aspects to your practice routine.
Practicing your scales in various inversions, articulations and dynamics is a great warm up and fingering exercise. The best sound production exercise is playing your long tones.
Long tones should be played after you have warmed up with some of your scales.
Try to spend intervals of 5-10 minutes on long tones at a time. Any more time and you may find yourself feeling slightly lightheaded, especially if you are a beginner player.
So, what are long tone exercises?
Basically, long tones are when you hold a note for a long length and try to keep that note stable, trying to avoid any fluctuations in the sound.
Long tones focus on breath and air control support. This is a fantastic exercise to get a good distinction between your loud and soft notes (dynamics), increase lung capacity and it really helps with overall control of the instrument.
Another great area to focus on is vibrato.
Vibrato is another method of air control but this time we are focusing on controlling the different sizes of the waves in the sound.
There are two ways to practice vibrato. You can use your diaphragm as or your bottom lip to create the waves in the sound.
Using the diaphragm for vibrato gives a more natural approach to the sound, but the bottom lip can be fun when creating vibrato for a more direct and intense approach, especially in jazz music.
In-person Sax Lessons
In person lessons are interactive and a great deal of fun.
However, the pandemic has taught us to be versatile when it comes to in person and online everything.
Here are a few tips on both ‘live’ and online saxophone lessons.
What to Look For In a Teacher
Do your homework before you sign up with just any teacher.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a good one:
- What qualifications does this teacher have? A BMus degree or teaching qualification is generally a good sign but not enough to make a firm decision.
- How much teaching experience does this teacher have? A teacher with at least 3 years of teaching experience is generally good.
- Does this teacher have a website or online portal with reviews? If the teacher has an online social media or teaching portal, have a look at their reviews. Teachers with online portals such as a personal website, company website or any other teaching platform are generally more serious about the saxophone.
What to Avoid
Avoid basing your decision on the profile picture of the teacher. Good looking doesn’t equal good teacher!
Avoid basing your decision on the price of lessons alone. Music is an important and demanding art. It will be expensive, but at the same time it shouldn’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Watch out for students. Often intermediate players with ABRSM or Trinity exams pass off as saxophone teachers. Although many of them may be good, they may not be your best option.
If you are looking for an affordable teacher with some experience, we’d recommend going for a second year, or higher, university music student.
These students are dedicated to the art, and you will be in good hands, especially if they study music education.
Where to Find a Local Saxophone Teacher?
The best places to find a local teacher would be at any music center, music school, music university or creative hubs in your surrounding area.
Alternatively, you could search the internet for music lesson sites in your country and region.
Basics Your Music Teacher Should Cover
At the start of your saxophone lessons your teacher should cover the following basics:
- How to assemble and disassemble the different parts of the saxophone
- How to maintain the saxophone and all its parts – especially the reeds!
- Embouchure placement and exercises
- The first five notes on the left hand only and exercises and music revolving these notes
Cost of Saxophone Lesson?
Saxophone lessons vary in price based on the teachers’ qualifications, experience and availability.
In other words, the more qualified, experienced and in demand the teacher the more expensive their lessons.
On average lessons could range between $25 to $100 per hour for individual one on one lessons, raising to several hundred for a well-known saxophonist on the scene.
Private lessons can be very expensive as these teachers are devoting their time and energy in teaching you the saxophone. These are skills that have been acquired over years and even decades for some.
Online Sax Lessons
Online saxophone and music lessons have been around for several years, but they became popular during the pandemic as many people could not leave their homes due to lockdown restrictions.
Although, the situation has calmed down in terms of restrictions, the demand for online lessons has remained high.
It is often difficult to find some decent online learning platforms.
Below are four learning platforms that we found quite useful for both teaching and learning online.
They are divided into Free and Paid For online options.
This is by far the most organized and user-friendly online website that I have come across. If you are searching for saxophone lessons on this site, you will come across a wide variety of teachers from across the world.
Lessonface allows the user or student to book lessons at a convenient time for both the student and teacher.
There is a brilliant communication line open 24/7 for the student and the teacher.
Lessons vary in price from $15 to about $50 per hour.
The teachers are all validated in terms of safeguarding and qualifications through the Lessonface portal. Students can view this information in the teacher’s profile before choosing to join lessons with that teacher.
This is another great online paid platform for saxophone lessons. Superprof is in most countries across the globe, promoting local musicians and music teachers in the area.
Unlike Lessonface, Superprof allows many amateur musicians and teachers to join the site and teach.
Superprof is the more affordable option of the two music learning sites but not as user friendly as Lessonface.
1) Bettersax (Youtube)
YouTube has trained many people across the world. Another great benefit of YouTube is the better sax channel. In this channel you will find hundreds of videos with useful information on learning, performing and jamming on the saxophone.
The Bettersax channel also gives you free PDF documents consisting of free sheet music and backing tracks. Should you wish to spend some money, you could further your free lessons with affordable courses as well.
2) McGill Music Sax School (Youtube)
This is another great youtuber to watch if you are starting out of saxophone or if you are struggling with some articulation or technique issues.
The channel gives you some great methods to keep your saxophone playing and practicing interesting, all for free.
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully this has given you some extra insight into how to find a saxophone teacher.
If you have other questions – or would like to see if we know any great teachers in your area – feel free to use the comments section below!
Other than that, head over to our saxophone homepage for everything sax.
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!