Ten Habits of Effective Beginner Woodwind Players

P1000724From my friend JBT, “I read this great link which had some very worthwhile and practical information for beginners on an instrument: http://www.bretpimentel.com/seven-ha…ive-beginners/.

However this was obviously written by a university professor and was based on habits observed in his most successful university students. This got me thinking that there might be a need for more down to earth list, say for beginning band students in elementary band programs. Having taught beginning bands for 27 years here are some of the habits I observed in my more successful saxophone students.

1. Blow in the small end. It is important for two reasons, first you look much more “professional” to the teacher and other students and two it is far easier to get your lips around the small end.

2. Put the mouthpiece on with the reed facing down. A more satisfactory sound can be achieved when your top teeth are not on the reed, and if you hold the saxophone so that the lower lip contacts the reed, your arms will tend to get tired very quickly holding the saxophone above your head.

3. Have the left hand on top and the right hand on the bottom. It is quite possible to play some of the notes this way, but like batting “cross handed” it doesn’t work as well and you could injure yourself playing fast runs.

4. Swallow what’s in your mouth BEFORE you blow. This is critically important. You paid good money for that candy bar or those chips. You don’t want them wasted stuck down inside your instrument.

5. When there is a substitute teacher day, always play a different instrument. The substitute will never know the difference, thinking the class always sounds like that, and you get a chance to try a lot of different instruments. Who knows, you might want to be a band teacher someday.

6. Be sure to tell your mom at 6 pm the night of the concert which starts at 7:30 that you need dark slacks and a white shirt. If you wait till after 6 to tell her it would be inconsiderate, and might result in you being the only one not dressed the same.

7. When you squeak in the rehearsal, turn and give your stand partner a dirty look. The director will think he did it, and your stand partner won’t know for sure.

8. When you break your only reed right before the concert, be sure to tell your director as you go onstage. He will appreciate you caring enough to let him know.

9. Play very softly in all of the practices and then really loud in the performance. Your mom and dad paid a lot of money to rent or buy that saxophone, you owe it to them to hear you in the concert over everyone else in the band.

10. Always stop playing immediately when the conductor stops waving his arms. This is true even if you are only part way through the song. It gives the director the false impression that he is in control of the music. This rule doesn’t apply the night of the concert when you are far too nervous to look up.

Happy New Year ~ JBT who sez, “I’m glad you liked it. A sense of humor is a must when you teach beginners as long as I did.”

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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