So you rented a saxophone, purchased one or are about to do one of the other. Actually this part is typically the easiest part. The real work and issues are how to help your child get the most out of learning to play the instrument.
After teaching countless students over the years it is my humble opinion that if it is not enjoyable then it is really hard to excel at learning to play the saxophone. The first real trick is to get your kid enthusiastic. There is no real fool proof method for this unfortunately. But one show stopper is the force to play routine. One one had it is good to get a practice routine, but on the other, if it is implemented to rigidly at first, you run the risk of killing the fun. Some ways to approach it may be to try listening to music that includes saxophone. If you listen to Jazz and big band music this is easy. If not there is plenty of R&B, Hip Hop, Rock, Salsa, Latin Music, and even classical music for the Sax.
Perhaps it is easiest to start with what you know and what excites you. Excitement and Joy are easily transferable in your expressions and voice when you listen to some music that you dig. Your kid will see this and get excited too. Later you can always reach outside your comfort zone and listen to something else that may inspire you and your child. Listening to music as a daily event is as important to any young musician or any musician. The more you hear, the more are familiar with different sounds, and the easier it is to play them.
Often I find that most beginners want to practice some, however, by the time they get home, particularly with kids, they do not always remember or know how to focus on the details of the lesson. In addition, they are not always able to get around the difficulties of a particular lesson. I often encourage communication with parents of my students at the end of each lesson. I try to point out what issues in fingering the note, or problems with the lip and mouthpiece etc, etc, and try to explain in very simple terms to the parent on how to instruct their child around these obstacles. Something as simple as learning to move your hand a certain way. Or just repeating a movement with the hands over and over to get the fingering correct without even blowing on the mouthpiece can make or break learning a new note or concept. In addition understanding how the mouthpiece and reed work together and taking home tips each week on when your child needs to loosen or tighten their lip to get a note is really something you can help them with if you take a few minutes to understand it.
Just driving them to and from the lesson and getting them a saxophone will work for those students that have a natural desire to play. -But even these students would progress so much faster and easier if you went into it a bit further with them.
Finally, selecting a saxophone is important. There are many good brands at different price points to rent or buy. Whatever price point you are able and comfortable with the most important thing is that it is in good playing condition and the notes are easy to play. A saxophone with leaks because the pads do not close properly will make it very difficult for a student to learn and frustrate them to a point that even if they did really find it fun they would soon not.
The major brand names recommended by many teachers are a safe bet. There are also some brands not on the recommended list that will typically serve the purpose just as well for less money. Rental programs are good for the obvious reasons of not having to buy and the maintenance is typically included. However, rent to own and rental programs obviously have less financial incentive. So if you wish to be more financial savvy buying one new or used or one which is a good value off brand will typically safe you money.
In summary to simplify this if you think of three questions every week with your kids lesson it could be:
- Is my kid having fun?…If the answer is no, you need to fish around some with music and listening to it with them to find the sweet spot.
- Am I engaged with my child’s instructor and grasping the concepts of what challenges them in each lesson to be able to show them how to get around the difficulty?…If not you need to make sure you ask the teacher and get some help on how to teach them during the week
- Is your kid’s instrument playing at it’s best potential? Your child’s teacher will be able to tell you if some notes are not playing well. However, unless they repair themselves which is possible, you should take it to someone who does and get it fixed if need be.
If you can figure out the above balance and walk the line needed to keep it fun, keep it moving and keep it fixed then you are doing your part.
Kathy Perkins, Woodwind Instructor, Worcester MA