I’m writing this list at a coffee shop in Des Moines, IA before my forty fifth show on a 44-day tour. In the last 44 days I had the pleasure of playing in multiple cities in WI, MI, MN, ND, SD, WY, MT, ID, UT, WA, BC, OR, CA, AZ, TX, Mexico, NM, CO, NE and IA, and had the chance to listen to up and coming bands that opened for my group.
In addition to the shows, I got to teach many clinics in high schools and colleges and interact with the next generation of players. I met many talented musicians who are confused by the abundance of music online and the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of saxophone. I hope this list will help you find focus, advance your playing and as a result your career.
9 Pieces of Advice for Young Saxophonists
- Play all the time. Practicing is key, but not enough. If you can’t play seven shows a week then go to jam sessions or just play with your friends, but play constantly. I wouldn’t go to a dentist that only sees ten patients a year and the same applies to saxophonists.
- Your musical taste is your talent. Don’t let social media fads and peer pressure affect your center.
- When you play a solo, the spotlight is on you and the attention is directed at you. Act accordingly. Play with confidence, no one is impressed by an ironic demeanor and fake humbleness.
- Playing altissimo and wailing on low notes is great, but 99.9% of your playing should be done in the middle range of the horn.
- Use soft reeds and easy setups. It’s hard enough to play well without shooting yourself in the foot, and no one knows or cares what you play on.
- Learn how to play inside the harmony, play with good tone, and have good rhythm. If you still want to learn how to play “out” after mastering these three aspects then go ahead, but not before.
- How you play the notes (vibrato, tone, volume, attack, etc) is just as important as which notes you play.
- You’re only as good as you play. Your grades don’t matter, the licks and solos you learned don’t matter, what you know (or think you know) doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the music you make.
- The world of saxophone is endless. Make sure you stay interested and curious about it. There is always more you don’t know than what you know. Always approach music and information with an open mind. Even players you don’t necessarily love store great lessons for you if you’re open to receive them.
Now it’s your turn…
If you have any of your own pieces of advice for young saxophonists, please leave them in the comments below – the more the merrier!