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I've asked this question in a few different places and have gotten lots of different responses, so I figured I'd put it here as well!

My questions are this:

Do you think one needs to be a great player to be a great teacher?

Do you think one needs to be a great musician to be a great teacher?

I know someone is going to say this so I'll just get it out of the way - being a great player/musician does not guarantee one to be a great teacher! There are a lot of great players/musicians that are terrible teachers. That's not what I'm asking ;)

I'm really looking to hear your thoughts on this, and thank in advance!
 

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I like that you differentiated between player & musician. I've studied with a lot of pros - some of which were phenomenal players AND musicians but poor teachers & others who were top notch in every regard.

The most interesting case I can think of is where I had a teacher who was not a great player...but a very fine musician...and probably strongest in terms of pedagogy of anyone I've ever studied with. I was primarily studying jazz improvisation with him - this guy couldn't play a hip ii-V7 line to save his life, but he was able to give me the resources I needed to get me on that journey & I'm still working through materials he put in front of me a decade later. He also changed some very small things for me that had a significant impact, like angle of the horn, and some minor equipment adjustments.

I feel player, musician, and pedagogue are very different things. This particular teacher might not have been able to really play jazz well, but he was a fine classical saxophonist & I feel comfortable saying he was a great musician - just not a great jazz musician. The word musician is all-encompassing for me whereas player is not. Almost like the difference between a drummer & percussionist.

All teachers have their strengths and weaknesses - I feel a very important aspect of teaching is to be able to recognize where the greatest deficiencies lie in a student and have the knowledge to create a game plan to help them make improvements. That sounds obvious but is something where people who fall into the player category often lack. I studied with someone else early on that I would consider a world-class player and musician...but he failed to see where I was struggling the most (counting rhythm...not even saxophone related) & I feel it really held be back. Had I been able to "read" better from the get-go, I would have gotten a great deal more out of my time studying with him.

All that being said, I think this makes the case that it's important to study with a variety of people if you can. I've picked up a little bit here & there from all of my past teachers & am grateful for them all because of the impact they've had on my development and playing.
 

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I've asked this question in a few different places and have gotten lots of different responses, so I figured I'd put it here as well!

My questions are this:

Do you think one needs to be a great player to be a great teacher?

Do you think one needs to be a great musician to be a great teacher?

I know someone is going to say this so I'll just get it out of the way - being a great player/musician does not guarantee one to be a great teacher! There are a lot of great players/musicians that are terrible teachers. That's not what I'm asking ;)

I'm really looking to hear your thoughts on this, and thank in advance!
I think it depends on the level of teaching. I had a couple of great music teachers as a young beginner, who themselves admitted they could not cut it as full time professional players. But they were what I would call "competent professional players" and great teachers, and they were just what a beginner needed.

On the other hand, as an adult, developed player, my inspiration and lessons came from top flight professional players who could model things for me. In that case I am not sure someone at a lower level of skill would have been able to do that.

If you have a problem, on the other hand, again it may not take a fantastic player to be able to spot what you can't see for yourself, point it out, and give you exercises to fix it (for example, an embouchure or playing position problem).

Just my $0.02 coming from a mid level hack.
 

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A: No.

One does not have to be a great performer in order to be a great teacher. Plenty of great performers are terrible teachers. Using a new millenium buzzphrase which I abhor....there are different 'skill sets' for both of those niches.

For a teacher, the ability to learn/know/absorb then translate material into a form which then becomes transmittable/teachable/graspable to others is just one of those skill sets.
One need not be an amazing player/performer in order to successfully do this.
And an amazing player need not have this skill in order to be an amazing player.
 

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I've asked this question in a few different places and have gotten lots of different responses, so I figured I'd put it here as well!

My questions are this:

Do you think one needs to be a great player to be a great teacher?

Do you think one needs to be a great musician to be a great teacher?

I know someone is going to say this so I'll just get it out of the way - being a great player/musician does not guarantee one to be a great teacher! There are a lot of great players/musicians that are terrible teachers. That's not what I'm asking ;)

I'm really looking to hear your thoughts on this, and thank in advance!
No not really, especially if you're teaching beginner/intermediate types. My experience as a teacher is that those are 99% of your students, and what makes you a great teacher is being able to inspire them to practice and stick with it. As a teacher I have seen students with zero talent work very hard, and students with great natural talent show now interest whatsoever. But I will admit I also ruined a couple of the latter types for saxophone by pushing them too hard into the mundane stuff like scales and rhythm exercises. Above all a teacher should make learning fun, and I finally figured out that the funnest way for people to learn is to learn by about half by ear, and doing songs they enjoy, and then a tiny bit of the skill building stuff, at least at first.
 

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I answered this before, my condensed version is I think being a good musician is more important in being a good teacher than being a great player. I don't remember what the responses were in the other forum you asked this, seems a lot of people are of the same mind. There are a lot of teachers who are accomplished as performers, Harvey Pittel comes to mind.
 

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Nope. I can't play for ****, but I've taught several people how to do overtones, play altissimo, etc. I've spent the past 12 years shedding mostly overtones (I've worked on horn cyclically, mostly for evaluation purposes of my playing on other instruments and compositional purposes - recently taken the dive to get it together).
 

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Absolutely no. I had a string of great performers at Berklee when I was a trpt major and I was their students . They had lots of idea on how to play a fast set of changes and blow double high Cs.they had no idea on how to guide me through embouchure problems that I had. And they had so many sessions in NY they weren't around much anyway. A great teacher is someone who' understands what your hangup/problem is and then cares enough to walk you through all the intermediate steps to solve a problem or get to the next level. I took a sax lesson from a local guy who I considered the best player/performer in the area. His advise was to drink/smoke and just play free. I taped the lesson so I could hear what he played/pick it apart and figure out what he must have practiced. But he had next to no ability to teach. In my local area I can name a few very good players who cant' teach. You'd be surprised what a music ed degree does for your ability to explain anything. Ive even taken lessons from a few and they either have no idea on a system to make someone better/or have no idea how you could have a problem with something they never had an issue with, or not have the patience to fix a problem that might take longer than an hour. The combo of a good player along with someone who can assess whats going on with you give you a next step is key. I think just now to some hot ship player in Marin county. Our lesson was him playing changes and then telling me to stop him and ask him what he's doing if I liked it? Thats not worth 60 bucks an hour. K
 

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One other thought. You do need to actually be able to play. I took a lesson from a woman who has Julliard in her background. Only problem is she doesn't bring her flute to lessons. So she can tell me things but not show me things. She didn't give me bad advice but I like to hear someone demonstrate a technique , not talk about it K
 

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I think just now to some hot ship player in Marin county. Our lesson was him playing changes and then telling me to stop him and ask him what he's doing if I liked it? Thats not worth 60 bucks an hour. K
I have had way too many teachers like this. They think you're there for a performance rather than a lesson, and can't stop ****ing long enough to teach you anything at all. In fact my very first instructor was like this, not for sax but guitar. I was a poor 6th grader with a paper route to pay for my own lessons, and this jerk was wasting my money every week, taking my guitar and showing off his van halen solos, then at the would circle a tune in the alfred book and say, "learn this and I'll see you next week." I gave up and didn't pick up another guitar for 10 years. Jerk.
 

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The answer to the first question is "of course not". Does one need to be a great athlete to be a great coach? Virtually none of the successful coaches working with professional athletes are themselves great athletes (at least not compared with their trainees).

The answer to the second question is a bit more dicey because it depends on what you mean by "great musician". Being a great teacher certainly requires a deep understanding of the craft that you are teaching, but it does not necessarily require the ability to execute that craft well.
 

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The answer to the first question is "of course not". Does one need to be a great athlete to be a great coach? Virtually none of the successful coaches working with professional athletes are themselves great athletes (at least not compared with their trainees).

The answer to the second question is a bit more dicey because it depends on what you mean by "great musician". Being a great teacher certainly requires a deep understanding of the craft that you are teaching, but it does not necessarily require the ability to execute that craft well.


This would apply in any aspect of life. There are people who are great at academics and make straight A's all through their school career, but are unable to turn around to translate that information to becoming a great teacher. Conversely, I have had exceptional teachers who lived the struggle of academics and were just average. Probably because of their struggle they were able to deliver the information to there students because of the way that they learned. Really exceptional teachers are the ones who know the content but are great delivery people to whomever their student is, no matter what skill a student is trying to acquire.

Maybe my analogy doesn't fit but I understand it. Maybe I'm not such a good teacher or maybe I am.
 

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One needn't be a great player to teach 6th graders, but musicianship is important. Most important to me when I was teaching beginners was to try and instill a sense of fun in playing in the hopes that they'd play into adulthood because it was fun to do. High School kids need competent demonstration of how their solo and ensemble piece is supposed to sound. Being a great player helps to inspire college students and adults to up their game.

But for sure, being a great player or musician doesn't make a great teacher. The best teachers have teaching as their ideal, not playing.
 

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You need three things:
1) musicianship/training in music
2) excellent ability to communicate
3) Love of teaching and inspiring others


We can all learn from people who are great musicians and who don't play our instrument, but to be a great saxophone teacher, you need to be a great saxophonist. Great teachers are going to push students to do things that those students didn't think were possible for them. If you as the teacher can't do it, it is improbable you will convince a student that they can do it.

With wind instruments there is also the idea of sound. You just can't get this from listening to recordings. If you've ever played next to a great saxophonist you will know what I am talking about. You need to be in the physical presence of the great sound to get the full experience. There is nothing better for development (and nothing more inspiring) than playing and interacting musically with someone on your same instrument.
 

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I once attended the Jazz Band director academy at Lincoln Centre.
Ron Carter (the sax player) said something about teaching that made me think. He said that you must really want the student to be become than yourself-that's a big deal statement when you think about it, and that's why great teachers are special people.
 

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A good player to whom everything came easily and naturally often has difficulty helping younger players who are struggling with the basics, since they themselves did not have to work through these issues. They wonder "why can't they just get it?" Saxophone tone production came quite easily to me, clarinet tone production did not. I found in my years as a beginning band teacher I was somewhat more effective teaching clarinet because of this. I actually took some lessons on how to "teach saxophone" from a former student of Eugene Rousseau which helped a lot.
 

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I feel player, musician, and pedagogue are very different things.
I agree, except I would say a player has to be a musician, a musician is not necessarily a player.

To teach an instrument (such as saxophone) you need to be a good teacher of saxophone. You need to be able to play saxophone to some degree but not not necessarily be a great player (although if you are a great teacher and a great player that could be a big plus)

Same applies to any aspect of music, for which you need to be a musician who can teach, not necessarily a great musician but it won't do any harm. So whatever music you teach, whether it's playing/singing, conducting, improvising, performance, composing you need to at least owne a bit of that discipline (ideally more than a bit!) but above all ability as a teacher is crucial.

But then there is another distinction, some people may think of a difference between a coach and a teacher. Perhaps the word coach implies less of the doing it yourself compared with a teacher who may be expected to be more of a practitioner.
 

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Absolutely no. I had a string of great performers at Berklee when I was a trpt major and I was their students . They had lots of idea on how to play a fast set of changes and blow double high Cs.they had no idea on how to guide me through embouchure problems that I had. And they had so many sessions in NY they weren't around much anyway. A great teacher is someone who' understands what your hangup/problem is and then cares enough to walk you through all the intermediate steps to solve a problem or get to the next level. I took a sax lesson from a local guy who I considered the best player/performer in the area. His advise was to drink/smoke and just play free. I taped the lesson so I could hear what he played/pick it apart and figure out what he must have practiced. But he had next to no ability to teach. In my local area I can name a few very good players who cant' teach. You'd be surprised what a music ed degree does for your ability to explain anything. Ive even taken lessons from a few and they either have no idea on a system to make someone better/or have no idea how you could have a problem with something they never had an issue with, or not have the patience to fix a problem that might take longer than an hour. The combo of a good player along with someone who can assess whats going on with you give you a next step is key. I think just now to some hot ship player in Marin county. Our lesson was him playing changes and then telling me to stop him and ask him what he's doing if I liked it? Thats not worth 60 bucks an hour. K
WORD.

The answer to the first question is "of course not". Does one need to be a great athlete to be a great coach? Virtually none of the successful coaches working with professional athletes are themselves great athletes (at least not compared with their trainees).
A very apt parallel.
 

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I think you have to be at least a competent player. I've known some great teachers who weren't the absolute best but could demonstrate ideas and concept. They usually are very inspirational in the way they handle students.
 
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