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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,

I've seen a lot of threads riffing about 'what do I teach?' and can understand the the theory that a teacher should already know what to teach, BUT I'm still a relative newbie, and whilst I've been getting good feedback from pupils, I'd like to keep improving my teaching technique.

I was hoping for some of your thoughts on the steps to getting a beginner to a competent stage. I'm a structured person by nature and although no lesson ever goes to plan, I'd like to get some help with setting up a long term plan for my lessons.

At the moment mine goes like this (Obviously not one lessons worth!):

  • Setting up the sax
  • Posture and breathing
  • Getting a sound from the mouthpiece
  • Getting a sound from the sax
  • Long tones around low E gradually expanding on these as their note knowledge grows.
  • Getting used to tonguing
  • Learning the notes of C Major
  • Learning basic music theory
  • Simple studies, pieces and duets
  • Expanding note knowledge with scales
  • Basic improvisation, first on pentatonics and then blues
  • Then gradually advancing all of the above as they do....

All this is depending on the level of the pupil when they come to me. One is set on performing with bands, so I'm focusing on performance etiquette sight reading and improvising, trying to get his confidence up by trading licks with him and then copying each others licks built from 3 or less notes. But others just want a relaxed hobby! (Someone should have told them learning music ain't relaxing eh?)

Does this sound ok to you? They seem to enjoy it and are definitely improving, but I don't want to be missing out any fundamentals and would like to see what you other guys consider to be important and what order you'd teach them!

Anything replies appreciated, figured it would be nice to get a tips and tricks for teachers thread going!

Peace and tooting,

D.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
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Sounds like you've got a good structured method in mind. I think one of the most important things is to establish a form of structure and stick with it, while working to develop an individualized educational program for each student. This may seem contradictory, but you do want the student to know what is expected from him/her, to a reasonable degree, when he walks into the lesson. By addressing tone, basic reading skills, and scale studies, you are establishing the foundation for a good comprehensive program.

My approach would vary slightly from yours by basing tone production/long-tones at first on a low G. I also have students learn the G scale as a first scale. This keeps the notes in the mid-register.

As time goes by, I like to work toward developing an individualized educational approach for each student, based on a combination of weak points, strong points, and personal musical interests. It's also important to approach adults and kids appropriately. Kids are usually in school band, so it's important to be sure they are well prepared for the challenges they face in band. Adults often just want to jam- but it's important that they also learn to read.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson: Shaping the Blues Scale
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Podcast Samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/saxtrax
Rhythm Changes Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrT0Xw_y9d0
 

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Teach them how to practice. Mayho
 

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The problem I've had with a lot of teachers along the way has been their tendency to do more talking than listening. How can anyone teach a student without first learning what that student wants out of the lesson and without knowing what the student already knows? Trust me, a lot of teachers have it backwards.
 

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Of course it's important to both teach folks how to practice and listen to students regarding what they want to learn and any questions, comments or concerns they may have. This is important with any student, but even more so with adults. It takes time and maturity, along with studying the learning processes of many students to really get a grasp on the best ways to work with people learning to play music. Keeping these things in mind, it is also your responsibility as an educator to provide a method that stimulates progress in the students playing, or at the very least, in their understanding of music. As a teacher, it is important to develop this form of mutual communication, while offering leadership in musical development.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson: Shaping the Blues Scale
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Podcast Samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/saxtrax
Rhythm Changes Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrT0Xw_y9d0
 

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This is a tricky topic. Teachers of any instrument are really on their own, because tradition decrees that the private lesson space is sacred.
 

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Dan, great stuff. Personally, I start my beginning sax students on a middle B. It's the shortest length of tube that they still have a grip on. It also eliminates the chance of something being wrong with the instrument. Student models can come out of alignment easily and may not be cared for as much. Starting on a lower note increases the chances of the student blowing into a leak, or not putting enough pressure down for keys (though some students use more pressure). Just my thoughts, everyone does it differently.


Sent from my iDevice using Tapatalk. Please excuse typos and brevity.
 

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I also start with the G major scale rather than C major. I find so many students have problems with the lower pitches initially. As Randy says, it keeps them in the middle range and can allow them begin to multi-task (embouchure, reading, dynamics, etc.). The added bonus for alto players is that the G major scale is the Bb concert scale and this scale is often the one used in many beginning band methods. This gives them confidence when playing in class with their peers. I find one of the common areas that needs help is how to practice. So many students practice too quickly and are frustrated when they learn the mistakes they have made by forcing the tempo beyond their technique.
 

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what reed mouthpieces are you starting them on? when do you discuss changing?

after the long tones and a scale sounds pretty good, how do you get them to play simple tunes with the same tone quality rather than squawking like a duck.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hey guys, thanks for the good thread!

It's always going to be a pain 'planning' a lesson, of course everyone is different, but I've known plenty of teachers who lack ANY structure and that's far worse!

Starting on a G scale is a great idea, also B as a first note is a winner too!

I'm very much an asker of questions as well as a talker. I always want to know what they want out of it, if it's to play with bands then we look for projecting the sound, improvising and stagecraft, if it's a hobby we work slower and aim for songs they want to learn. I do like to explain things thoroughly though, stuff like the reasons for squeaks and the science behind the instrument and why it works like it does. I find that students get more of a feel for what they're doing when they know why things are happening. Obviously this is only really useful for adult learners!

My students so far have all been 'adequate beginners' and I've not had to work very hard on getting them making noises. One of them even makes a fuller tone on his alto than me straight out of the box! (My alto setup is a bit crap though...) They appear to be mostly comfortable with their setups already which takes a load off, I had to get one to move down to 1 1/2 as he bought a mixed box of reeds with the horn and was on 2 1/2. You couldn't tell he was having difficulty for about 10 mins of basic stuff, but the moment you added some note jumps there were squeaks and losing breath and frustration all over the place. Dropped a reed and all was well!

I discuss reeds from the start since it's the most important part of the sax. It's just a case of making sure they realise that giving up and slapping a 1 on there if they're lazy isn't the answer!

Dx
 

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your steps look great. i am now seeing how middle school is teaching it. steps 1-3 have taken them 8 days. maybe by friday, 10 days, they will get through step 4 of getting a sound from the horn.

Isn't this a bit slow. It seems like 1-3 is only at most a half hour. Is this the normal speed?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I wouldn't say so. Everyone is different as the age old saying goes. You never know, once they've nailed it they might spring forward and be great at learning the theory! My first wind instrument was clarinet and I remember it taking me ages to get a true sound from it. Spent a week at least getting a grizzly subtone from it and thinking I was kickin' some serious dixie!

Is it group lessons? Could have something to do with it?
 
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