What if you live in a rural area, and you want to learn saxophone, but there’s no teacher near you?
How can you learn sax with no teacher nearby? What if I told you, that even with no teacher close by, that you could go from playing your very first notes, and within a couple of years, you could be making recordings. And you could getting involved in collaborations, playing sax with other saxophone players all around the world.
That sounds incredible – right?
And just a few years ago, it would have been actually impossible. But now it’s something that we hear from our members regularly.
Jon is our Sax School Legend
Today I’m talking with one of our Sax School members called Jon. He’s our Student of the Month.
And guess what? He’s a farmer in rural Wales. He’s been with Sax School for about two years and he started his first notes about two years ago. And now he’s making collaboration recordings with people in Singapore, people in Australia… I mean, it blows my mind.
So today we’re going to be having a chat with John, to find out how he’s managed to do this so quickly and how Sax School has helped him get there.
Nigel: So, John, congratulations! It’s a real pleasure to have you as our Legend for May 2022.
Jon: Thank you. I’m absolutely thrilled and surprised. Thank you very much.
Nigel: Well, we’ve been loving the videos, with other members, and you’ve also been putting up your own videos.
And I know you’re on the Accelerator Program with Joel, and you spent some time with Chris as well and both told me how hard you’ve been working on it. So I thought that you were the perfect choice for a Legend.
How to learn sax with no teacher nearby
I wanted to find out what inspired Jon to learn sax with no teacher nearby – and how he discovered Sax School.
Nigel: So you’ve been with Sax School for three years. But what’s your background on saxophone?
Jon: Well, I’ve always loved the saxophone. I think it came from the saxophone riff in ‘Echo Beach‘ by Martha and the Muffins. And I think that’s probably my childhood first introduction.
But I’ve never done anything with the saxophone, until 15 years ago. I bought one secondhand and for about two months I play it, and I enjoyed it. But it didn’t get anywhere. There weren’t any lessons available locally, and it just didn’t work.
And then a friend suggested I try the internet. And I was inspired by my niece and nephew. They get so much enjoyment from the music they play. My niece plays trumpet and my nephew plays guitar and clarinet. I thought they were having so much fun – I want to have a go with that.
And so I thought I’ll see what’s on the internet. And I found Sax School, and joined, and didn’t look back!
I started slowly and then about three or four months after I’d registered, I really dived into it. I just got some momentum behind me with the 30-day Challenge and I haven’t stopped. It’s been two and a half years and I’ve had about three days without [playing].
Nigel: Okay, so you are based in Wales, right? So there are no teachers nearby where you are?
Jon: No. There’s a guy in the local town who plays jazz saxophone. He’s an older guy and he’s brilliant. He’s inspiring and I’ve been to see him have a chat. But he’ll say “no, no, I’m not a teacher! I can’t give you any advice.”
Connecting with musicians
Nigel: It’s a challenge to learn sax with no teacher nearby, when you live in a rural area. But also it’s hard to connect with musicians too. So have you found that it’s been good to be able to reach out and connect with musicians through Sax School?
Jon: It’s one of the best things I’ve found. I wasn’t a member of Facebook and I’d got no interest in being a member of Facebook, but I was tempted to join for the community for Sax School. And then I did, and I don’t do anything else on it, but it’s such a resource. It’s so supportive and friendly and gives you ideas. It’s great. And then through that, I’ve done the collaborations. So I haven’t played with anybody, locally but you know, Singapore and Australia, Yes! I’ve joined up with these people. So it’s great.
Nigel: That is amazing. I noticed you did a collaboration with Sybille in Australia. And Alice in Singapore. It’s marvellous. I love it. If you think about it too hard, it blows your mind, really, that you can be in Wales playing with somebody in Western Australia, or in Singapore. And that’s so stuff’s happening all the time in the Sax School community. It’s wonderful.
Jon’s musical journey
Nigel: So ‘Echo Beach’ was the first thing that got you going. I don’t think we’ve done a lesson on ‘Echo Beach’, but there are lots of those sort of songs in Sax School. Is that the sort of music that you liked most – that classic eighties stuff?
Jon: I like everything. I’ve got a really broad sort of interest. I enjoy the piece that I’m learning at the time. But in terms of listening to music, although that was where I started, and that’s what I really know, my eyes have been opened to jazz with Take 5. I heard ‘Take Five’ when I was in my late teens, and I thought, “wow, What’s this? this is different.” I really enjoyed that jazz style.
So working with Joel on the Accelerator Program, I’d like to be able to improvise. That is my real aim, and doing that through the jazz standards is great.
I wasn’t musical in any way, until this journey with Sax School. It really opened my mind. And it’s an incredible learning curve for me, in terms of how it fits together.
Nigel: Right. That’s interesting. Well, as you’re saying that, I’m thinking that it’s great that you are now exploring jazz. Obviously starting off with the eighties stuff and then ‘Take 5’ – which is classic 50s, 60s jazz.
But there’s also there’s a video that you did a while back in the Community where you were playing Pavanne – a classical piece. So you’ve done the whole gamut there! From classical through to early jazz, to eighties pop, and then straight ahead stuff with Joel as well. Fantastic.
And the other thing is I enjoyed the video you put out about. It was playing through Corcovado. It was a Greg Fishman study.
Learning to read music
Jon: I couldn’t read music until maybe six, or nine months ago. I was very slow at reading music. And so Joel has been giving me pieces to help me read music. Corcovado was a lovely piece. And I’m working on another bossa nova now, and I do enjoy those. It’s a pace that I like and I like that sort of sound. It makes me feel like in the seventies. I don’t know why that’s the case – whether it was something that the BBC used in its introductions, or programmes or something. It really makes me think of the seventies.
The Accelerator Program
Nigel: I just want to double back on what you said about Joel helping you out with the Accelerator Program. So, it’s brilliant that he’s helping you with reading music and that he’s helping you to open the doors with improvising as well. Are you You enjoying the whole process? What’s been the best about using the Accelerator Program?
Jon: The whole process is really, really great. With Joel, and with Chris as well. Chris was fantastic. That was last year.
And then with Joel, he really opened my mind, literally – in terms of the psychology! So, learning that if you think the notes, you’re more likely to get the note – and believe that you can play.
So recently, he said, “you know, you can be learning the saxophone without the saxophone in your hands.” And so if out I’m walking, I’ll be moving my fingers to my chest, trying to work through a little bit of one of the songs that I’m practicing. Or maybe I’ll be doing some scales with my fingers while sitting in the car.
So it’s more than just learning the music and the tunes for the Accelerator Program. Joel’s given me exercises on rhythm structures to try to build that knowledge of different rhythms. So hopefully I’ll be able to get those into my improvising.
Nigel: That’s awesome. I loved what you said there, that it’s not just about learning the skills. It’s about opening your mind and changing your perspective, I suppose, on how you can learn. That’s wonderful. That’s one of the reasons why I love having guys like Joel and Dean and Fred and Chris and all those guys on the Tutor Team. Because I learn stuff as well, which is cool.
Jon’s Goals on Sax
Nigel: So what about moving forward then? What’s your big goal that you’re working towards with your playing?
Jon: Quite often, I think one of the important things is “what’s yours why?” “Why are you doing it?” And for me, I think it changes. And I think my original reason to do it was it’s a challenge. So, can I achieve something here? And also it’s a good change for me from work and other hobbies. It’s something that makes me sit down, because I’m fairly active with things other than work.
So I need to be active, and keeping the mind going. So for me, my original ‘why’ was just to try and learn if I can play this thing. But I think that’s changing.
And something that is really lacking is the confidence to be able to perform in front of others. Hardly anybody knows! There are probably 10 people who know that I play saxophone, apart from the thousands in the community of Sax School. And obviously, when this goes out people will find out as well!
So my goal would be to be able to get the confidence, to be able to play in public. And if I can do that in the village hall, that would be at a level that I’d be happy with.
Nigel: Well, that’s a brilliant goal to work toward. And I reckon making plenty of videos for our community would be a good step in the right direction for that.
Jon’s Tips for New Starters
You have made such good use of the resources in Sax School. I mean, you’re living in a more rural location, And you’ve found a way to learn sax with no teacher nearby. You’ve taken advantage of the fact that you can learn online through Sax School. You connect with musicians around the world. You’re collaborating, you’re advancing your skills and you’re taking advantage of our high-level Accelerator Program as well.
So you’re using everything available in Sax School. What’s your best advice for new people that are just joining Sax School, who see all the success that you’re having in your playing and want to get there quickly? What’s the best thing they could do to take advantage of Sax School?
Jon: I think for me, it was being methodical in terms of going through the processes. And to not try and run before you can walk. But also, have a go at running, but don’t be surprised if you fall down when you try it! Because it’s pushing yourself, but also not over-pushing yourself and becoming demoralised when you’re not achieving when you think you might be.
But [it’s also] putting in the basic legwork of playing through the keys, key signatures, and doing the rhythm exercises. Those for me were the real core, for getting to grips then with putting those skills into the tunes.
Nigel: That’s good advice actually because I think a lot of people are so eager to get going and they put a lot of extra pressure on themselves. And, if you just enjoy the process, it’s a lot more fun. And I think you make more consistent long-term progress as well. Brilliant advice.
Thanks a bunch, Jon. Hey, it’s great to have you in the community. And this is what I love about Sax School. I love seeing guys like you enjoying the process of using Sax School, and making wonderful progress too. It’s fantastic. Keep up the good work.
Jon: I will, it is a joy playing the saxophone and seeing what other people are doing. So many people in the community are doing such good things. It’s a real variety to see. it’s great. And Sax School is a brilliant resource to have found online.
I hope you enjoyed our conversation. I think John’s amazing. And what he’s doing is a great example of what’s possible within Sax School, and how it’s possible to learn sax with no teacher nearby. If you’d like to check out Sax School, right now we have a 14 day free trial running. Click here to get access to that. It’s just a really easy way for you to come and try Sax School and see if it’s a good fit for you.
We’ve got over a thousand lessons, courses and masterclass replays in there. You can also connect with our tutors to get some help. And you can connect with our community. You can start one of the monthly challenges that we’re running or get involved in one of our live masterclasses. There’s tons of stuff to keep you busy, whatever level you’re at, whatever style you’re into. It doesn’t matter where you live. You can learn sax with no teacher nearby. We can help you in Sax School.
Try Sax School today. Get your 14 day free trial here.