Reply To: Teaching Private Lessons

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While I can’t advise you in regards to voice, I can give you some pointers with the saxophone lessons, and lessons in general.

No matter what you are teaching, Be Confident. Yes, you will probably be making things up as you go along since it is your first ones, but that is okay. The good news, is that it gets easier with practice. For in lessons, be sure that you set your guidelines and rules for what you expect out of them, both for in lessons and for practicing requirements. Stick to your guns! Don’t back down on your expectations, and experiment to see what motivates the child to practice. For some it is guilt, for some it is incentive, while others still need to see the value of what practicing does. Every child is different, so experiment to see what works best. Next, build a relationship with the child. This will not happen overnight, or even the first day, but it will take effort on your part to connect with the child. This is where ensemble teaching and private teaching have their main difference. Your success or failure in lessons, will ultimately depend on how you connect and communicate with the child. While in short term, going off on strictly music will work, if you do not have a working, even personal relationship with the child, long term the child will not stick with it.

For saxophone, your three main things to worry about for starting out are going to be introducing the child to the instrument(parts, care, etc), embouchure/ blowing the instrument, and note reading. You can decide on whether to teach reading notes first or blowing the instrument first, but expect each of those to eat up its own private lesson. You can work in the basic introduction of the instrument into either of those lessons. For working on embouchure, try having the child work with just the mouthpiece. There are multiple ways of having an embouchure for saxophone(and it’s still heavily debated on which one is the “right” one). My suggestion is to research it out for yourself, and choose which one you deem the most accurate. From there, work on having the child learn how to blow into the mouthpiece, until they can get sound out of it, then reattach the mouthpiece to the saxophone and work on them blowing the actual instrument. Consult your method book as to which one to start with, but I find that G is easiest for a lot of them. Be SURE, that within the first month of the child learning the instrument, that you teach them how to tongue. If they do not learn it relatively soon to when they start, if they ever get into band or contest, trying to get them to tongue will be a nightmare. Again, this will probably take a whole lesson to teach. Be sure that they don’t slaptongue (tonguing with the middle of their tongue), and that the tip of their tongue strikes the tip of the reed(almost like a snake).

Don’t worry about having to talk down to your students. Bring your students up to your level so to speak, and respect their intelligence. Granted, don’t try to give them as much information as you would an adult. Depending on the child, the information you give them can take longer to explain, so focus mainly on giving the kid the information they need, with the depth of the explanation being appropriate to where they are musically. With dynamics for example, if they are a first year student, you will want to focus on the difference between loud and soft, as opposed to a third you student where you can start to focus on phrase shaping.

I hope this was helpful for you. Best of luck on your new adventure!