Roger Rennard was a teenager when he first got the urge to learn the saxophone. But he was in his sixties before that dream became reality.
“When I was about fourteen, a guy I knew was selling his saxophone because his wife was having a baby,” explains Roger. “He wanted £80 for it. I tried really hard to raise the money, but I just didn’t manage it.”
Roger had another opportunity in his twenties. “I was passing a pawnbroker when I saw a sax in the window. I went straight in and bought it!” says Roger.
“I found a teacher and went along for my first lesson with my sax,” Roger explains. “I didn’t even know how to put it together.” Then the teacher gave him the bad news. “There was loads wrong with the sax,” says Roger. “The mechanism and the pads were in a poor state, and it would be expensive to get it repaired.”
Just as Roger was trying to decide what to do, he had an accident which injured his hand. “That was it then – I couldn’t use my fingers properly so I knew I couldn’t play the sax.”
Fast forward forty years, and Roger was still keen on the saxophone. “I was at a Snake Davis gig with my wife, and I mentioned how I’d always wanted to learn to play, but my injury had prevented it,” Roger remembers. Roger’s wife encouraged him to go to a local music shop to see if anything had improved.
“I was amazed – I could use all the keys without any problem! So I bought a sax straight away!” Roger says.
“I posted a video in the Facebook Community and got really encouraging comments. That gave me confidence.”
Discovering Sax School
Like many of our members, Roger discovered Sax School through Nigel’s YouTube channel. “I did a bit of research on Nigel’s career and I realised he was a great musician with loads of experience all over the world,” he says. “I knew straight away that this was the way forward.”
Roger was hooked. He practiced for five or six hours a day and quickly made progress. “I remember the first tune I learned; it was Grover Washington’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’,” Roger remembers. “I posted a video in the Facebook Community and got really encouraging comments. That gave me confidence.”
Roger is a full time carer for his wife, and also has some health issues himself, so it can be difficult to find time for his saxophone. However, he plays every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. “I feel guilty if I don’t practice,” he says. “I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made but I have to practice and work on my weaknesses.”
Effective practice is key to Roger’s progress. “I bought Nigel’s eBook ‘The Ultimate Guide to Practicing Saxophone‘ and that really helped me to structure my time,” Roger explains. “I keep a practice diary where I record what I’ve worked on, and anything I’ve struggled with. It’s great to look back and see how I’ve made progress.”
Roger has some great advice for other learners. “Don’t struggle on and get frustrated if you are finding something really difficult,” he says. “If you leave it and try something else for a couple of weeks, you will often find that when you go back to the thing you found difficult, you can now play it easily.”
“There’s so much great advice and constructive criticism in the Facebook group – it’s really important to listen to it if you want to make progress.”
Roger has found the Guest Sessions inside Sax School really inspiring. “Nelson Rangell said you should play a simple tune as well as you can, and that really made sense to me,” says Roger. “That way, you can find your own sound.”
The Monthly Challenge on Jazz Standards was the inspiration behind Roger’s winning video of “Misty”. “I have a lot of recordings of that song, and I love Ella Fitzgerald’s version,” he says. “ I listened to her voice, and tried to use that in my sound, which was something which Snake Davis suggested in his Guest Session.”
Sax School Friends
Like many of our members, Roger really values our Facebook Community. “I’ve made so many great friends from around the world, who I’ve never even met!’ he says. “There’s so much great advice and constructive criticism in the Facebook group – it’s really important to listen to it if you want to make progress.”
“I saw Snake Davis play with Jess Gillam – until then I didn’t really appreciate how versatile the sax can be!”
“I love listening to Stan Getz, Johnny Hodges, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday,” says Roger. “I love soul and R ‘n’ B as well, and jazz – it’s at the root of so many different styles of music.” He has also been inspired by seeing great players live. “I saw Snake Davis play with Jess Gillam – until then I didn’t really appreciate how versatile the sax can be!” says Roger.
Roger’s current goal is to improve his high notes. “Sometimes they can sound a bit thin, so I’m working on that,” he says. “There is just so much material in Sax School – if you hit a problem there is always a lesson that will help you. And it’s great that I can go back and watch a lesson again, whenever I like!”
It may have taken a few years for Roger to get going with his saxophone, but he’s not wasting any time now. “With resources like Sax School, everyone has a chance, there’s really no excuse!” he says.
Roger’s story is proof of what you can achieve with commitment. Congratulations to him on being our Student of the Week!
Want to learn to play like Roger?
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