Here but not all there? (part 2)

Another week has rolled by and its time to report back on the progression of last week’s misadventures.

My new saxophone student of observed slowness was back today for another lesson and this week I was determined not to let it descend into farce like last week (I exaggerate but it certainly didn’t go well).

After two weeks of trying to learn how to blow and tongue the saxophone I figured there was little chance of the student having figured it out themselves during the week. The mere sight of seeing him opening up the saxophone case upside down again and putting the saxophone together with the mouthpiece upside down didn’t appear to bode well for the rest of the lesson.

I kept silent and let him try and figure things out. I had to twist the mouthpiece around though.

So, tonguing…

…it wasn’t happening. There was no way I wanted to revisit this because I had a different plan. Today we just got stuck into notes.

The very first piece (if you can call it that) was just a line’s worth of crotchet B. My student couldn’t do the tonguing and just blew a separate breath of air for each individual note. It was important not to care about those details today, so onto the next piece.

It was time to play some different notes; a one-fingered B and a two-fingered A. I had to, at times, hold the student’s forefinger down as he reflexively lifted it when trying to play an A. (The result being an A and C). He got there.

Onto the next piece; two-fingered A and three-fingered G. More of the same coordination issues with fingers having all sorts of issues figuring out how to work. He got there in the end.

Now a middle finger C. It all slowly started to sink in and at one point of the lesson the student said, “this is working a lot better.”

Yes, it was. What a relief.

The lesson ended and the student still couldn’t tongue to save himself but with some notes happening, there’s a chance that he may figure it out. In the end though, if the student can get some enjoyment out of what he’s learnt in today’s lesson, then that’s a job well done and an improvement on last week.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the years of teaching is that some pieces are just too hard. When those pieces come up, don’t try and push it. Grab some other material. Even better, grab something from a different book altogether as a chance of scenery. This regularly happens with beginner students where the prescribed learner book suddenly gets quite difficult. Abracadabra is a great beginner book but there are parts in the book which don’t progress in difficulty very well and I have to source different material.

If you ever sense frustration growing and the ‘fun factor’ diminishing, bail out! Grab that other piece, other book or other exercise and start anew.

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