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TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Just remember that miss-saxophone has a teacher, and rather than issuing too much advice remotely, the teacher would be best placed to recommend when a change of reed is needed. Even worse if our advice is conflicting.
Hi Kev!

As long as you do not give teachers too much credit. I have had various lessons from approximately 13 music teachers. Only two had given me any helpful advice on mouthpieces, reeds etc. The vast majority knew very little about equipment, reeds, mouthpieces etc. and five bought new equipment on my recommendation. Most teachers that I have seen know a lot about music, a lot about good teaching methods, much less about equipment, and usually have a very narrow knowledge of what is available today.

The reality is that truth and insight does not belong to those who may teach musical instruments, and can often be lacking.
I have learnt more online than I have done from my 13 teachers, though have very much enjoyed their input too!

3 have been brilliant! Not all have been sax teachers!
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Tom's made an interesting, but rather controversial statement here. What do you think?
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,268
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

I have learnt more online than I have done from my 13 teachers
Begs the question 'How much do we or should we believe what we hear or see online' ? a lot of bad information out there, how does a beginner decipher what is good information and what is not ?
 

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,890
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Information that helps is good information. Some of my teachers have really wanted to help and have, and some, sadly, really just wanted the money. Over here I have a good, qualified, interested teacher for sax all for 15 euros an hour. Its hard for the Costa musicians just now, but very good for the not really musicians like me.
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,885
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Tom's made an interesting, but rather controversial statement here. What do you think?
Tom is speaking from personal experience and has a valid point. You hope when you engage a teacher that they will have your best interests at heart and do all they can to help you. There are a great range of people out there calling themselves teachers and whilst you can always learn something from someone you will learn more from some than others. I think this and forums like it are great to use as a sounding board if you are not convinced by what your tutor is saying. How much you listen to your tutor depends on your assessment of them.:)

Jx
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,940
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

It's like everything else - there's a vast range of talent and capability out there. ;} In general terms, the practice of teaching an instrument, i.e. the essential "mechanicals" of how to play, do not change very much over time. So, if someone has been teaching 35 years, what they are passing on is as valid now as it was when they started.

However, knowledge and understanding do evolve and develop over time and with some instruments teaching methods have changed considerably in recent decades. Various organisations such as ABRSM, ISM etc provide professional development courses to enable teachers to keep up-to-date.

A major area of development for both playing and voice, is a better understanding of physiology and bio-mechanics.

Another factor is learning style - people work differently, I prefer to have someone show and demonstrate and work with me. Some people are happy with a book. However, I think you need to see someone who knows how to do something technical demonstrate it and then observe you trying to do it. It is very easy, especially in the early phases, to pick up a flawed technique which can not only hamper development, but which in some cases could lead to long-term harm (e.g. RSI type injuries - pianists and string players in particular).

The internet is a useful resource if used carefully. The main risks are: video quality is usually poor and so it is usually hard to see precisley what is going on; sound quality is usually so poor that it cannot be used to make qualitative assessments or judgements; unknown provenance - there's a lot of unproven 'fadism' - just because there's a well-written and presented item on a nice-looking web site doesn't mean it's credible, or right.

Some people make brilliant teachers, but may not be the world's greatest performers (they may suffer from stage fright for example). Equally, great performers are not necessarily good teachers.

For what it's worth my experience is as follows.

My singing teacher I found at random from a small-ad in the local paper. Turned out that he was an ex professional opera singer, but had gone into teaching and ran alocal authority music service and taught privately. He was a very good teacher.

My viol tutor had played professionally with one of the well-knonw consorts - he decided to have a day job that paid the bills so gave that up. Teaching is a sideline and he teaches a few people like me and on an ad-hoc basis for the RNCM if they need a viol or lute tutor. He's very good but I think he's now slightly out-of-date on the latest thinking on technique, which has developed a lot over the last 25 years.

I've tried two cello teachers and I've not settled on that yet. One is a well-known (in the NW at least) pro player with a very good reputation. He has a whole world of expertise at his finger-tips, but I'm not sure he understands how to teach someone at my level (probably about grade 4 ish). He is also very expensive at £40 per hour, which is about double any of my other teachers. The other one I've tried is much younger (mid 20s) and a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music. He's full of enthusiasm and has a lot of ideas, but is obviously finding his feet as a teacher. I'm not sure either is right for me at the moment and I may try someone else.

My sax teacher is probably 60ish. He's a very experienced player on both clarinet and sax and has performed a lot on both. He's also a woodwind/brass tech. He's very good on technique etc but is a little unstructured in his approach.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

The only point that I was making was that I would not expect any teachers to know everything about everything, though some do have interests/knowledge beyond just teaching individuals to play an instrument. The majority of the 13 teachers (covering sax, trumpet, trombone, bass guitar and piano) that I have seen have all been really good at what they do.

On the internet I have learned a lot of other stuff - about equipment, music theory, styles of music and playing etc. This is different to what I expect to get from seeing a music teacher, and in my limited time with them I only have a certain focus - quality of sound, technical issues, playing certain pieces, timing, rhythm etc. When I have had lessons it is usually for 1hr every two weeks. At home online I am likely to spend about 1hr per day on similar issues, so expect to have learned more from that, but that is different from what I have got from music lessons, which has been irreplaceable.
 
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jbtsax

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Subscriber
Messages
7,999
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

I can see by Tom's signature that he is really into his equipment and places a lot of importance on what mouthpiece, ligature, etc. that he plays on. There is nothing wrong with that. My point of view is different. Every teacher I have had has been much more focused upon teaching me how to perform better with the equipment I have rather than trying to make me a better musician by telling me to go out and buy stuff. For that I am grateful and I consider that money for lessons well spent.
 

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,910
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

I'll make a point of not dropping in on Tom for a cuppa if i'm ever round by the Rhonda, look at the state of that cup!!!
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Kev has raised an interesting but impossible task.

THINK?

My brain hurts, however doesn't it depend on what standards are required before you are allowed to use the term "Teacher".

Should there be a need to complete some educational training and if so, should they be subject to review?

Maybe there should be at least two grades, an "Initial" for the rote part of training and an "Advanced" for those who have satisfactorily completed a "Teaching" qualification? Could we even suggest a third category, "Specialist Instrument Teacher"? Maybe some countries insist on some "Teaching" qualifications before allowing paid tuition rather than the British, "Have a go, Joe" system.

So that raises costs and does not get over the problems that some are naturally accomplished, yet other 'trained" teachers should be struck off.

Ducks and leaves it to you lot.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

My online research & experience would reveal the following:

1. A number of "teachers" are, in fact current university students who have probably achieved up to Grade 8 in ABRSM or equivalent, and are looking for some experience and some cash while studying.

2. Some are university graduates that do a mixture of performing, weddings, teaching and other part time work.

3. Some are older musicians that have been playing/gigging for quite some time (together with opther part/full time work) and have a long term interest in their field.

4. Some have done further study to Masters level, including a music teaching qualification, and teaching is their main employment.

5. The majority of female sax teachers have often majored in clarinet or flute, and done a more classical training. They often teach all three - but mostly just alto sax only.

6. Many more male teachers are gigging musicians and are more likely to teach jazz, rock, blues etc.

7. Some are current or retired school music teachers/brass band teachers/military musicians &/or teachers.

There ARE teaching qualifications about, including PGCE's, but the majority of teachers do not seem to have done them particularly
.
My main/favourite sax teacher - whose name was Tom, coincidently, was a gigging musician, university graduate jazz musician, knew his equipment, had done teaching qualifications & taught in a university junior music department, and was only half my age when I first met him. Sadly he moved to London!
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Is that scientific research Tom!?
In my (granted limited) experience I've met quite a few players/teachers on the circuit, and I don't know if the gender bias you suggest is there, certainly it's not exclusive. In the main though I think you're right.
Often I worry that I have no formal teaching qualification, and in fairness I haven't done a grade exam since I was about fifteen, but I think playing for a living teaches you enough to be able to start teaching. The thing that has taught me more about the instrument than that though, is the teaching itself. Explaining to someone else what's going on really clarifies it in your own mind, and allows you to work on your own technique.

Jeanette makes a good point below, and I hope I live up to it in that my intention is always to foster a bit of fascination with the instrument and with music in general. The world needs more sax players, as Jules might say. Keeping them interested is part of it!

I would hope I charge fairly - I could perhaps justify raising my charges if I were 'qualified', but given all we've said I don't know if charging more puts off more people than the qualification attracts. Mostly I make sure I don't undercharge, while also trying to make students feel that they're getting value for their money. Am I doing it wrong?!

I don't profess, as Tom says, to know a great deal about kit - a lot of what I know is from sources like this. This is primarily because the saxophone isn't my hobby, it's my job. I have a setup that I like, and I don't tinker with it unless I find it restrictive in some way. GAS is not affordable in my position! I don't have a £6,000 sax in the same way I don't drive a Merc, the Mondeo does the job. What I can tell you is that I wouldn't claim that changing your setup makes you a better player because that cannot be true. If your setup is restrictive, removing the restriction by upgrading will free you up to play better, but this is not the same as becoming a better player. Changing mouthpiece for instance may help your playing become more appropriate for a particular band or occasion, but that sound is still more down to technique than kit IMHO.

Rant over...

Nick
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

Good evening, Nick!

No "scientific research", just lots of reading of biographical details on various websites, especially www.musicteachers.co.uk , including my own actual search for teachers in South Wales (sax, trumpet, trombone, bass guitar and piano, as well as looking online whenever a cafe member is looking for a teacher in their area. The science would therefore be a very accurate reflection of what is advertised online in the UK on various websites, but not including many visits to local music shops where music lessons are often advertised.

This only became a thread because I thought that Kev might have too high a view of teachers' depth and breadth of knowledge, especially as their main scale is to help individuals to learn to play an instrument, read music etc. Of course I have no experience of the German music scene, just aspects of the UK scene.

My advice regarding finding a teacher is to choose someone who you "click " with, where there is a choice. I have changed teacher a few times, mainly because I feel that I have got what I can from a particular person and need a change for a specific reason.

I think that the internet etc. does provide access to all sorts of info that players can benefit from, and appreciate that teachers cannot be expected to know everything - being realistic.

From what I know about you, I would have no hesitation in approaching you for sax lessons if you were in South Wales, and am sure that we would get on well!

Night night!
Tom
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

I intended to stay out of this, mainly because it's really different in Germany.

But a touch of backgound on how it works here.

There are independant music teachers here. Some qualified, some not. Most of the teaching is done through the music shools, and also through the econdary school which offer music programmes. It's also possible to learn through the local Stadkapelle - a music performance society. Anyone teaching through a school and afik through the Stadkapelle will be qualified - as in doing a music degree.

There tends to be a wide range of musical ability in the teachers - from the technically and artisticly superb, right down to the studied it, passed the course, but can't really do it level. Same goes for their teaching skills.

While we see some excellent performances from some students/student orchestras, we see the opposite as well. It's really odd to hear african music led by a guy who's main musical sympathies/talents lie with Oompah band style of performance... A language equivalnet would be an english speaker speaking french with a strong british accent, for instance. Grammatically correct, but missing all the nuances and colloquialisms you'd expect from a native speaker.

Many of the better teachers in the music schools have sidelines performing in bands/orchestras/ensembles. Quite a lot compose as well. Usually the standard is really high. As long as they stay within their own areas of expertise.

As for teaching methods, it depends a lot. And it depends on the pupils as well. A match of pupil to teacher is imho more important in music, where sessions are one on one or conducted in small groups, than in the school classroom, where you have the opportunity to be more invisible as one out of thirty or so. My daughter teachers switched a couple of years ago, and she's now a different person. Vastly improved.

But for adult learners, I think there's a much bigger emphasis on self tuition. You're doing it because you want to, it's up to you to define what you want to achieve - and it's up to you to direct the studies to meet your own goals. And part of this is questioning.

I take Nick's comment about equipment really seriously. We tend to parade our instruments as jewellery/status symbols. Probably to make up for our lack of skills. Overcoming deficiencies in kit is important. But so is learning to play.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Like Saxnic's approach.

It is about working out why it works for you but accepting that a different approach might be/is required for each pupil, rather like a parent baby relationship where a response is sought, encouraged and praised.

If you think you've found the only way, give up teaching. The only way is the one that suits that individual client and rather than criticising, wouldn't it be better to gently lead the client to a conclusion that they believe is better?

As for equipment advice, when I've previously argued on this forum that you should not be allowed a driving licence unless you are conversant with modern car technology and can detect and repair the prime mover, suspension, brakes and steering, it has always been poo-pooed on the grounds that they are different technologies. Might not the same apply to music teachers.

BTW If you are a masochist, there is a teacher originally described as Miss Whiplash but who is gradually being converted to modern methods by a fellow board and by now bored, member.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Saxnic covered Tom's post well, so enough from me.

Just want to add that one size fits all desn't work for the outsize people. Have seen this with the German sausage factory approach to education, amongst other things.

I've also found that many music teachers are pretty good. My guy plays wicked sax, uses narrow tips and very soft reeds.... It's all in the work you put in and the level of control you build as you learn.
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

My online research & experience would reveal the following:

1. A number of "teachers" are, in fact current university students who have probably achieved up to Grade 8 in ABRSM or equivalent, and are looking for some experience and some cash while studying.

2. Some are university graduates that do a mixture of performing, weddings, teaching and other part time work.

3. Some are older musicians that have been playing/gigging for quite some time (together with opther part/full time work) and have a long term interest in their field.

4. Some have done further study to Masters level, including a music teaching qualification, and teaching is their main employment.

5. The majority of female sax teachers have often majored in clarinet or flute, and done a more classical training. They often teach all three - but mostly just alto sax only.

6. Many more male teachers are gigging musicians and are more likely to teach jazz, rock, blues etc.

7. Some are current or retired school music teachers/brass band teachers/military musicians &/or teachers.

There ARE teaching qualifications about, including PGCE's, but the majority of teachers do not seem to have done them particularly
.
My main/favourite sax teacher - whose name was Tom, coincidently, was a gigging musician, university graduate jazz musician, knew his equipment, had done teaching qualifications & taught in a university junior music department, and was only half my age when I first met him. Sadly he moved to London!
Oooops!! I am definately weird (as I often say out loud!) l I come under your category no. 6 :))):thumb: (plus a little from the others too ;} )
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Re: Struggling to sound certain notes

As "Head of Random Classification of Woodwind Teachers" (HORCWIND) you are forgiven. My sense FWIW is that the balance is probably around 70/30 male/female in terms of players who also do some teaching. Good to have a wider choice in my opinion.

Kind regards
Tom
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
I’m with Tom on this one. My sax teacher didn’t actually care much about which reeds, ligatures, mouthpieces, straps, stands or in fact saxophone I played with. All he wanted to do was play the sax! The only thing that did bother him was when I switched to the tenor as he is an altoist and didn’t like the weight of the sax and often ran out of breath after 45 minutes of playing. Therefore, online research, trial and error along with conflicting advice from numerous café members led to a severe burnt hole in my pocket as well as leaving me with an incurable form of GAS which attacks more frequently as I get older or should I say develop as a musician in search of that sound?

That said my teacher was a classically trained clarinetist that plays the alto sax. In fact he knew the fingerings of a clarinetist and didn’t bother learning other fingerings available to saxophonists. So I had to teach myself those fingerings. God bless the internet and books!

I will say the he never actually taught me the mechanics of play the saxophone such as posture, embouchure, etc … apart from that C, D, E, F and so forth!

Does that make it 3-0? :)))

I was however, fortunate enough to hook up with him as he diversified from classical to blues, jazz, etc … I do believe in the importance of classical training especially when composing and I’m often drawn to studying the works of Debussy and Bartok in particular. Nonetheless, I did find it useful to start playing songs that I was familiar with rather than the usual kiddies song book that so many teachers prefer using as they are simply too lazy to tailor lessons for adults.

I also liked the understanding he showed me in allowing me to play transcribed arrangements from the likes of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane. In fact he had a great time playing them until I realised they were simply too difficult to master in the first month of playing! That’s when he took the opportunity to play some simpler Jazz Standards which had easier timings and rhythm. Then once I could play those well enough and I developed all the necessary basic such as embouchure, dexterity he then moved onto various transcriptions I had.

I do remember mentioning altissimo fingering and he said play the clarinet! I must admit I love the clarinet, a lovely instrument!

A blast to the past … I remember my very first music teacher I had when I was six. God I had a crush on her as she taught me the organ. She was lovely and after about a year she went to uni and her mother took over the lessons. Now she was like the iron lady! Very stern. Each note had to be played perfectly as written on the score within three attempts along with the correct fingering. I’m sure she used to be in the army as she taught like a demented sergeant major! No kidding, she literally drilled it into you! Mind you never forgot a thing she taught me! Maybe that’s why I play the scales so much now! Is it love or fear? One thing for sure it helped when I studied Modal Jazz!

These days I have mentors rather than teachers. I think teachers can you take you so far. They start you off on the right path and lead you for a while, then you out grow them or go a direction that they can’t or won’t follow. Whereas mentors help you to develop as an individual but gently guide you in a constructive way. I think adults need mentors more than teachers once the basic mechanics are out of the way. After most are doing it for the sheer pleasure of it!
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
One of the worst music teacher stories I heard of recently was where children in a school were asked to blow into a clarinet to see if they could make a noise. Those who could were deemed "musical" and given lessons on the instrument, and the others were just returned to singing in assembly instead.

Many years later, the adult who re-told the story, had decided at an early age that she was not "musical" because of that one experience.

It is amazing how many people carry these experiences right into adult life
 
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