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My 1st experience with a teacher almost killed my joy for the sax!

Hello
When I was a kid and was the age to start “band”, I wanted to play the saxophone. I was told I could not because it was a boys instrument (ya, that was back in the late 60’s). They put me on flute, which I did not have any desire to play, and I stuck with it until my first rental period was over, then quite. Fast forward to 2018. I purchased a used saxophone and started taking on-line lessons at Sax School (McGillMusic.com) which I think are fantastic. For a couple of months I worked with those lessons, and stuff on youtube, and was making great progress. I loved everything about it. I worked a lot on just making lovely tones - even working on long tones with a tuner was a pleasure- I remember the I first time I got a tone “centered” and my whole body vibrated in tune with the instrument - it was truly magical for me.

So I purchased a brand new Yamaha YTS-26 (the used sax needed some work) and then got to a point where I felt it would be a good idea to get a teachers input. I signed up for a month of lessons at the local music store. My first lesson was not a positive experience. There was no place to set up my horn before the class, the lesson rooms were cramped, hot, stuffy, and full of distraction from the other classes going on…the list goes on.

The first thing the teacher points out to me is that I have a “student horn”. I respond “I am a student”. He asks to see my mouthpiece. I show him, a S.M.L. Paris R3 and he immediately suggests I get a different mouthpiece. Then on to reeds. I was using 2.5 reeds - he suggests I use 3.0 reeds at least. ( BTW, I had settled on my mouthpiece/reed combination after a lot of experimenting with the S.M.L., a Meyer 5, Selmer C*, and Yamaha 4C. Reeds ranging from 1.5-3 of various brands.)


He still has not heard me play my horn. Finally, he asked me to play some scales so he could “see where I was at”…lesson over, go buy the Standard of Excellence Book 2, think about getting a different mouthpiece. Bye.

Next week, first question, what mouthpiece have I been using? “The Selmer C*”…ummm, should consider the XYZ one I suggested. What reed? " I tried using 3.0, but with the Selmer, it was just too difficult, so I have been using 2.5’s". Hmmm, really should get to the 3.0 for better tone. What did you work on? “You did not give me an assignment, so I started on page 1”...(I was feeling a bit sarcastic at this point). The lesson was downhill from there - he was simply a lousy teacher!

After 3 weeks of lessons, I had gotten to the point that I hated to pick up the sax. The mouthpiece/reed combination made it so difficult to play that it had sucked all of the joy out of it. I did not go back for my last lesson. I packed up my sax and put it away, and thought maybe this is not for me.....but that did not last long, it kept calling to me... I finally decided to go back to the mouthpiece/reed combination that was working for me - and the joy immediately returned. :)

What did I get from all this besides a bunch of frustration?

1 - some teachers should not be teachers
2 - the mouthpiece/reed combination is very specific the individual and can make or break it in terms of playability and joy.
 

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yes,some teachers are not teachers.
i recommend when you hear a great saxophone player at a gig,talk to them and see if they want to give you a one off lesson.this can sometimes be a great experience.
good luck.
 

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Welcome to SOTW. In reading your post, I got a bit angry. Sorry you had to go through an "attitude" - the last thing you needed. Regardless of age, a hired teacher should not treat clients that way. But as one ages, one learns to take immediate action when confronted with boorish behavior and a condescending attitude.

Easy for me to say you should have immediately walked out, after telling off this jerk. Life is too short (and the saxophone is too much fun) to put up with what happened to you. DAVE
 

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So sorry to hear about your bad experience. Chalk it up to bad luck and move on! Don't let some random person interfere with your joy.

There are crappy teachers out there, as you discovered. But there also amazing ones! My teacher is so insightful and deep that sometimes I think he's giving me life lessons as well as sax lessons.

Keep looking, you will find someone that you enjoy working with.
 

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The qualifications for private lesson teachers at some music stores is "can walk upright and recognize own name". The pay is awful after the store gets their cut and like you said the rooms are often terrible. The "good" teachers choose not to work under those conditions because they can do better than that. As a saxophone teacher and music educator for 32 years before retiring I am well aware of the "charlatans" posing as private teachers (there are also some posing as band directors, but let's not go there). Not all good players make good teachers. Many do, but some of those to whom the instrument came very naturally and easily often don't understand or know how to solve problems with poor playing fundamentals because they never had to overcome those themselves.

To find the best "teachers" in your area contact the music department at a local college or university and ask for recommendations. Find out which secondary schools in your area have the "showcase" band programs and contact the band directors. They know who the best private teachers are because they encourage (or require) students in their top bands to take lessons. Good luck and don't get discouraged.
 

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Bad to mediocre music teachers are not just a possibility, they are in many areas a likelihood. I think of that every time someone says "get a teacher" as if that's a panacea worth saying without qualification.

I've had a few awesome teachers on various instruments, and twice as many that were mediocre to awful. Several of the bad ones were working musicians who were either working because they were in a small pond, or were just not equipped to deal with anything but advanced students.

OP--good luck, I hope you end up finding a good one.
 

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Saxoclese is spot on with his recommendation. Do not go to the local music schools with 6 to 10 4x6 ft insulated, hot rooms. Do contact your local college saxophone department and ask for teacher recommendations. You might pay twice the rate, but get 10 times the lesson.
 

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I feel bad for this teacher's young students. The 12 year old kid complains to mom that he hates the teacher and mom, not knowing any better, says he has to stick it out. Hopefully parents will listen to their kids for the signs of a bad teacher. You, as an adult, can take your money where you want and find a better teacher. The poor kid is stuck with him until he quits in frustration.
 

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That kind of teacher may be found in any kind of learning environment: in a music store, in a school band program, even in a university music department (or ANY university department). When I was studying in a university, I got a double whammy: first, it was the strings pedagogy class (cello). The teacher was such a jerk that he mocked me before the class. (Strings I , second class!) and for the duration of the semester, he wouldn't hand me the sheet music or set it on my music stand like he would for other students. No, he'd drop it on the floor in front of me. The next semester, I took piano pedagogy and I got HIS WIFE! A rerun. Professor X said that I would never play professionally. I didn't tell him that i was playing in all of the college bars in town.

After that, I studied music privately and changed my major.

Don't let anyone spoil the experience for you. There are a lot of wonderful teachers out there. Keep looking.

And congratulations for picking up the sax later in life. The learning process may be difficult at times, but there's no reason why it can't be fun.
 

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Bit like my clarinet teacher when I was a kid.
To be fair, it was a bad combination; bad teacher and bad student. But it did mark the end point of my interest in playing music for 40 odd years.
Now, I'm much more clued into how I, personally, learn things... No teachers for me till I'm good and ready.
 

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welcome to SOTW, sorry to hear about your disappointing experience , I started this journey late in life @57 now 64, through this time I have had a few teachers and I will tell you, you did the right thing I don't think I would have lasted the entire month either, one of the teachers that I had was a young Fella from the university, music major and his instrument was the sax also he is/was military reserve and plays in the military band, great kid excellent teacher I was glad and happy to have met and studied with him, he has since moved on I believe living in NYC as a working musician
so as some of the above posts say visiting a local school/university may be beneficial in finding a good teacher, I agree, I am currently taking lessons again I personally find the input and instruction very helpful, but sometimes you reach a point where you just need to take a break and digest all this new knowledge practice what we learn and when ready go back for more.
anyway congrats on staying with it
 

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Re: My 1st experience with a teacher almost killed my joy for the sax!

I think everyone has one or two horror stories with bad teachers. If you live in a decent sized town, there’s always another one. Just don’t bad mouth the first one by name to anyone else.

I had a really bad experience in a college audition that was similar to yours. The teacher told me he’d accept me into the program as long as I ditched my (brand new) Yamaha for a Selmer.


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At least you now know what you do NOT want in a teacher :) Don't get discouraged, and keep looking for someone that fits your style, expectations and approach. And don't be afraid to take the initiative and interview the instructor before you agree to hire him or her. Ask them about their teaching approach, whether they have worked with adults, their attitude regarding equipment, their workload expectations and how they match to yours, etc., and try to get a feel for their personality. Remember, they work for you, not the other way around. And don't be afraid to walk away if it's not working. Btw, I agree with looking for an instructor at a music college. I found a great one that way. Best of luck!
 

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Sorry to hear about your experience, especially since you are an adult and should receive the respect due an adult peer. I'm an engineer by education but became an adjunct professor in 1999, an academic program for adults who want to get an advanced/different degree. Proper pedagogy goes a long way, and you teach adults differently than kids (although no less respectful...I'm also a scout leader). Now, playing music is more more "doing" and "hands-on skill" than abstract academics, so teaching is a little different approach but there are still elements of pedagogy. (Side note- I know Yamaha isn't everyone's cup of tea but my son has a YAS-26 and it is an excellent horn, *I* would use it on a gig as a backup.) Did he give you any explanation why "3" reeds instead of "2-1/2"....even as simple as "your mouthpiece is a closed tip"? Hmmmm....

Lots of good advice here and I hope you don't give up, there ARE good teachers out there. I like the suggestion of listening to a local pro and doing a single lesson (first) to see how it works out. I've had a couple of excellent sax teachers in the past take be from basics to proficient tone-making. Actually, I'm taking lessons from a superb jazz guitarist on jazz phrasing and improvisation for a different view on rhythm and chords; but many years with a sax teacher to help me with breath support, tone, etc. Best wishes!
 

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A good teacher should guide you in the direction you want to go musically. If you like jazz get a jazz teacher. If you like Funk get a funk teacher. Rock and Roll teacher etc. The point is to try and find people who play the main music you like and learn from them. That will keep the fun and enthusiasm for the music. It's how you use the fundamentals that makes them fun to learn. Good teachers take pride in the progress of their students.
 

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I'm not going to read this thread because there's probably a degree of redundancy, but to reinforce suggestions I would simply say:
1) Dump this teacher. His/her first priority seems to be a profit motive from sales, and,
2) get another teacher who does not seem to be so inflexible. There's a whole world out threre of good teachers. Surely you'll find one. Good luck.
 

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On a bit of a tangent: doesn't Lou Donaldson, and didn't Cannonball Adderley, use 2.5 reeds on alto? And don't they both sound pretty good?
Hell, Lenny Pickett on tenor uses a 2.

Reed strength is all relative anyway. I have played Hemke 3.5 for years, and it appears that they are phasing the line out, so I’ve been trying others. The reeds I’ve tried have ranged anywhere from a 2.75 (Legere Signature) to a 4.


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I have played Hemke 3.5 for years, and it appears that they are phasing the line out
Really? Why? Back when I relied primarily on cane, Hemke was probably my favorite reed on alto and soprano. Very easy-playing and dark-sounding.

Perhaps try a Black Bamboo 3.5 or 4. You might be pleasantly surprised. It is probably the most Hemke-like of the synthetics.
 

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I think it's a different affair to work with a teacher when you are an adult beginner.

My wife had one bad experience and a couple of good ones. When I sought out a teacher for bass as an adult beginner, I exercised some care in interviewing candidates and found a great guy, probably 30 years my junior, who wanted to meet me where I was, rather than according to some pre-fab expectation.

So, you just need to keep looking.

As to the equipment thing, if I were to take on an adult beginner student, I would say that as long as you are working with a fairly standard MP and reed, you are probably OK. Detailed steering of a beginner student is just silly. A Selmer C* will work just fine for a beginner, or for that matter for an experienced professional (I still play Selmer C* on soprano and alto quite often).

You mentioned a Selmer C*, a Meyer 5, and a Yamaha 4C. Any of these could be a standard recommendation for a beginner MP. I don't know anything about the SML MP. If you were to show up for a lesson with me with that piece, I would probably want at least to play a bit on it to ensure that it's also a middle of the road MP.

As a rank beginner I certainly would not say you needed to go up in reed strength from a 2.5. Heck, I have been playing for more than 40 years now, am generally regarded as having "chops like iron" and I use reeds that are in the #2.5-#3 range.

Do some more searching and interviewing. You can definitely find a better match for who you are and where you are. If the candidate doesn't ask you at some length what your personal goals are, that should be a red flag right there. As an adult you can have various goals that are different than the 10 year old who just wants to keep up with the school band and eventually make All-State.
 
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