What about if you already play an instrument, but now you want to start learning saxophone as a second instrument?
Maybe you already play an instrument really well. Maybe you’re even a professional teacher of that instrument, but now you want to start learning saxophone as second instrument.
Where do you go to learn the skills that you need, so that you can transfer what you already know onto the new instrument, but also get the help so you can move ahead really quickly?
Learning Saxophone As a Second Instrument
It’s actually an interesting question. And it’s why I want to share with you a conversation that I’ve had with one of our members, called Susan.
Now inside Sax School, we’ve actually got quite a lot of professional musicians on other instruments who also learn saxophone with us.
This month we named Susan our student of the month, our “Sax School Legend”. I recorded this session with her just to find out a bit more about her background and in our conversation there’s a bunch of great information about the way that she tackled this interesting problem.
Our Sax School members share videos of their performances inside our Community, and Susan has been sharing some amazing videos which blew me and the Sax School team away. Let’s have a chat with Susan, find out a bit more about her background and how she managed to make that transition really quickly from her main instrument, onto learning saxophone as a second instrument.
Nigel: So Susan, you spent years as a flute teacher. Tell me how the move onto saxophone as another instrument came about?
Susan: Well, I spent did three years in Trinity College of Music. And then I didn’t want to go into classroom teaching so I did a peripatetic course for a year.
At that point, they gave us these most awful instruments, like a really bad clarinet, really bad saxophone – the sort of instruments you’d get in schools. And we had a crash course on those in a year. I think that it culminated in a concert with us all playing instruments that weren’t our “proper” instruments.
Nigel: that’s interesting. That’s a good challenge, actually.
Susan: It was very funny. So I had a smattering of sax. I mainly taught flute over the years and I just dabbled with sax. So I never really did a huge amount on it, and I certainly never did vibrato or any of the more bending techniques until I joined Sax School.
Discovering Sax School
Nigel: Tell me how you discovered Sax School and what were the first things that you started working on when you joined?
Susan: It must have been on a search engine, I presume it must just popped up online somewhere. I think what interested me was I was actually teaching trying to teach a child classical saxophone. And then he said, “I don’t want to do that”. He brought out a Whitney Houston song on his iPhone, and his Bluetooth speaker, and he started playing that. And I thought, “well, that sounds more fun than grade five.
I started looking around for things to do extra things for him. Butt then once I started doing it as well, I thought, “I’m hooked on this – it’s good fun!”
I really loved hearing that from Susan. That’s actually something that we’re all about in Sax School – learning music that’s actually fun to play, but in the process, also developing amazing skills on saxophone. Because you can do that while you’re learning a pop tune or a funk tune or a blues tune. You can still work on your technique and your tone and all of the little incidental details in your playing that make your saxophone sound amazing.
Creating Saxophone Videos
Nigel: When I look at the videos that you’ve put out over the last few years, you’ve really chosen some fantastic tunes and there’s been quite a spectrum. The “Slavic Dances” for example…
Susan: Well, that took me ages and ages.
Nigel: Sounds great though. But then from there to “Mr. Blue Sky” or to the “Billy Jean” arrangement and the most recent one that arrangement of “Somebody To Love” by Queen. Did you write that arrangement?
Susan: No, there’s a choir arrangement of it – I’m not that clever! I had all the notes there and I just transcribed it and it actually went quite easily into sax parts. The only thing is that some parts are louder than others, so it was just a case of dabbling around with Logic to get the sound right.
Nigel: I know from making a bunch of those multi sax videos, how much work they are. They take a lot of work. So what’s your process when you start recording one of these multi saxophone videos?
Susan: First of all, I get my Aerophone because that’s going to be in tune, and you can do it late at night as well! I’ll record the parts on my Aerophone into Logic. Then I will usually play along with each of the tracks. And then, most of the time, the intonation is going to be close. But obviously, when you listen back, there’s going to be a few iffy bits, which you can cut and paste. It’s not live recording, is it? So I think it’s okay to do that.
Nigel: That’s actually a really clever idea. So you’re recording first on the Aerophone and then using that as a guide track to record along to, so you can get your intonation, right.
You did a track where you wrote like a commercial tune. What did you call it? …” Groove Tune”. I thought that sounded really great too. You wrote in a drum loop and then you played something on your Juno [synthesiser]….
Susan: Yeah, I meant to do some more of those, but I haven’t got around to it yet.
Nigel: That sounded really good. And I think the way you did that was interesting. You described it in your Facebook posts. It was really interesting for all the other members to see what your process was. You started with a drum loop, put some chords over it, you built it up in layers. And the end result is great. I think it’s a good model for the way other members can have a go at writing stuff like that, too.
Nigel: Have you got a project that you’re working on at the moment, Susan?
Susan: Yes. Another Queen song –“Don’t Stop Me Now”.
Nigel: And is this something that you have you found an arrangement for as well and then transcribed it?
Susan: Yeah, I found it by the same person, I’ve got it on Sibelius now. I’ve just got to get round to recording it.
Making Videos, Making Progress
We’re talking a fair bit here about making videos because it’s something we really encourage our members to do – to make a video of something you’re working on, share it in our community and get feedback. It’s a great goal to work towards in your playing. I was curious to know whether creating those videos helped Susan with her playing, particularly since she was already an accomplished musician, and was learning saxophone as a second instrument. Did she find that the process of making the videos was helping her with her progress on sax?
Nigel: How do you find the process of listening to yourself back?
Susan: I think your tuning improves so much. And then perhaps you’ve done a bend that’s really too bendy… you should always listen to yourself really. I think that’s the thing. Even if it’s with an iPhone, you’re going to pick up quite a lot. And the other thing is, if you’re not happy with your iPhone, you can always buy one of these in a camera kit and you’ll get a better recording.
Nigel: Tell us quickly about the kit that you’re using then. What’s it called?
Susan: It’s the Rode NT-USB.
Nigel: Oh, great. That’s like the new version of the one that I’ve used for years, actually.
Susan: And you can get a camera kit from it.
Nigel: Then when you’re recording on your phone, you can use the audio that’s coming from the microphone. Fantastic – so you get good quality audio and, you know, And the video on iPhones these days is fantastic. You can just do loads of stuff with it.
Susan: Yeah, I always record on the iPhone it’s because I’ve got a stand for it and I just airdrop it into my Mac.
Nigel: That’s brilliant because it’s a really compact set up. You’ve got your phone, you’ve got your microphone, which is great quality and it’s all standalone. Awesome.
Getting started with Sax School
I know that new people joining Sax School would be looking at all the incredible things that you’re doing and it will just be blowing their minds. They won’t know where to even start with this. You’ve been digging around in Sax School for quite a long time. Have you got some advice for the way that people who are new to Sax School can make the best use of the resources to move their playing ahead?
Susan: I just think it’s quite good to work through the lessons that you’ve done. And don’t be too hard on yourself. Because you hear a lot of people saying“This isn’t good and this isn’t good”, but just relax. Enjoy it – that’s the main thing. People beat themselves up too much I think, really. We’re not professionals. I’m not professional, but you can get really good results, just by playing every day. A few minutes a day will do good rewards.
Nigel: Brilliant. Great advice. Awesome. Hey, thanks so much, Susan. It really is a pleasure to have you as our Legend. And I can’t wait to see the next video when it comes out. Keep making those videos.
I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Susan. I think what she’s doing is incredible.
But you know, there are thousands of people inside Sax School who are also making amazing progress. And I’d love for you to come and join our community if you want to get your saxophone playing really on track, and moving in the direction you want it to, as well.
Because whether you’re like Susan and you’re already a really proficient musician, but then transferring on a saxophone, or whether you’re like loads of our other students who are starting from scratch, we’ve got so many resources in Sax School that will help you. You’ll not only make progress really quickly, but also have a whole lot of fun learning saxophone, playing saxophone, and connecting with all of our other members and doing music together.
If you want to check out Sax School, right now you can get a FREE 14-day trial here.