Learning Saxophone Solely Online - Is it really possible...?

By dan

You know, wouldn't it be amazing if I could play that solo from...

I've now taught thousands of hours of Saxophone; people of all shapes, sizes, ages and every mature student that has walked through my door in response to me asking: "Why did you take up the saxophone?" has replied with a sentence beginning with "I've always wanted to be able to play the Sax part in...".  Now that's motivation.  They may be a parent, doctor, dentist, Managing Director and in a role with massive responsibility but "...if I could play Careless Whisper my dreams will have come true."  

But in a digital age of freely available information it's surely easier than ever to get there, right? 

He whom seek-eth Knowledge must YouTube-eth...

The internet has impacted all kinds of learning in a massive way.  If you need to learn how to unscramble a set of rather heavily beaten eggs there's probably a video on how to do it on YouTube.  This is great right?  You are now in COMPLETE control of your Saxophone learning, no need to pay someone to teach you the secrets when someone is willing to totally do it for free!  However, if you were the reader who dared to click the link to the unscrambling of the proverbial egg you probably fell "Fowel" (sorry! ^_~) of one of the largest problems of YouTube.  Anyone can post anything.  Without some kind of time machine there is no way to unscramble an egg and without a lot of hard experimentation, no YouTube video can show you exactly why your beloved (and very shiny) Saxophone is making nasty noises.  

Now don't get me wrong, there are some amazing pearls of wisdom to be found on YouTube and I'd be the biggest hypocrite in the world (having quite a large collection of Online Saxophone Video Tutorials on this site...) if I said I never use YouTube to check things out. But doing research or discovering a new technique is quite the contrary to learning saxophone entirely online.   

Technical Tantrums - The Titillating Truth

Lets take a technique like Tonguing. Now, hopefully most of you, who have been kind enough to read up to this point, should know what Tonguing is in a Saxophone context. (If you do not and you are Sax player, you should. And if you don't - definitely check out this video). On YouTube, MrEpicSaxTonguer999 has posted a nice tutorial on "Everything you need to know about Tonguing your Saxophone" a budding Saxophonist then comes along wanting to learn all there is about the said technique and watches intently. MrEpicSaxTonguer999 tells the viewers in YouTube land that they should say "Dah" when they tongue the Sax. Great "Dah", easy. They now fall for one of the biggest and most common beginner errors on Sax, they start to bunch up their tongue and hit the reed with the underside of it, oops. They develop an extremely spitty sound, probably start squeaking every time they try to tongue and generally get fed up, annoyed and frustrated. Their ambition of being able to play Careless Whisper is fading faster than Marty's Portrait in Back to the Future. Information that you cannot query can easily be misconstrued, poorly delivered, false or simply does not work for you as an individual. 

This is especially true with learning to play Saxophone, there is no hard and fast, one size fits all way of doing anything. I've spent 20 years trialling out, with varied degrees of success, different ways to achieve certain techniques, and from one student to another I rarely teach the same technique in the same way twice. We are all individuals and we all need to be treated as such, especially when learning a new skill.

Pwoar this is tough...ohh...a video of a cat, falling into an empty box....

One of my biggest gripes about YouTube is really the vast amount of flashing moving imagery that you have to do a Matrix Style bullet dodge of. Every video has some advert or another there to get in the way of your concentration. Are you really able to get the most out of your valuable practise time if you're watching Several instances of Kevin Bacon monologues? Or will you really be able to extract the full value from an online saxophone tutorial when in the related videos section there is a picture of dog skateboarding alongside a beach path? When you can, perhaps you have reached true enlightenment, but for most of us we can never truly ditch the one to one, full 100% dedication and attention of a real, in-the-flesh saxophone teacher.   

A true teacher is....

A listener, a friend, a mentor, motivator, judge, jury and in certain cases, executioner (just kidding, I'd not have many students left ;)) to a certain degree you can get some of these aspects from a video tutorial and more so on Skype Saxophone Lessons. But, you can never replace the truly bespoke and focused learning experience of a 1 to 1 lesson. So my closing advice to you as a friend and teacher is; Check out YouTube, enjoy the dancing bears and cats and definitely check out some of the YouTube tutorials but take them with a pinch of salt, be sceptical, does this person really know what they are saying? Does it work for you? Ask questions if possible and definitely invest some money in some private lessons. You won't regret it and you'll soon be on your way to playing like Sexy Sax Man or Sexy Sax Girl (Thanks Sue!) in your local department store.   

Catch you all next time, thanks for reading!

So, what do you all think about learning Sax Online?  Comment below and let me know!


RSS Feed




Other Posts