Can YOU Learn With Online Lessons

I wish I had $100 dollars for every time I've had the conversation: I'm playing out somewhere - at a gig at a jazz club, or playing in some Christmas production or a cantata at a church somewhere, where someone will come up to me after the event and reminisce about how they wished they learned to play an instrument when they were a kid; or that they used to play saxophone in high school, but that was so many years ago, and they feel that now they are too old to learn to play.

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You're never too old to learn.

I've covered this in another post - this idea that you can only learn well when you're young. Pretty much for anyone, this is not the case. It's never too late. If you read my other post you'll understand why you might actually be BETTER able to learn now that you're older.

But that's not the only issue that is of concern to people who contemplate the idea of trying to learn to play an instrument like saxophone with online lessons. So let's take a look at some of these concerns to see if something like this website is a good idea for you.

A lot depends on the teacher.

I have taught a number of students over the years; some in regular scheduled, private lessons, sometimes less formally as in passing along general tips in group settings and the like.

And having done so, I've come to understand a little bit about how to communicate what I know and how people learn.

And so the short answer to the first question above, in my estimation, would be "probably."

The first thing to know is that there are people who learn by listening and then doing, and there are people who learn by doing and being instructed as they go.

My experience has been that if a teacher explains things well, most people can benefit from online learning.

A lot depends on the strength of your desire to learn.

There are some sound bites that stick with you all your life. For instance, I will never forget when my father used to say, "you can lead a horse to water, but remember what a wet horse smells like." Those pithy sentences stick with you because they are succinct but effective at making a point that sticks with you.

Many, many years ago, I remember watching Robert Schuller one Sunday morning when he was preaching. And in his sermon, he spoke about a conversation that someone had with Frank Sinatra about talent. The person interviewing Mr. Sinatra asked him what he thought was the mark of true talent. And Frank's response was, "talent? The drive is the talent."

And it's true. If you read my story on the "about" page, you'll see where I discuss this reality in my life and in the lives of those around me. I saw people who perhaps didn't have the most innate talent become the best players because of their drive.

So, if you want to learn, that goes a long way.

Are there advantages to learning online?

I believe there are disadvantages to learning online. I think it would be silly not to recognize the benefits to live, one-on-one instruction. There is the advantage that a good one-on-one teacher can impart.

But as with all things, it comes at a price: face-to-face lessons with a good saxophone teacher would probably run a good $40 per hour to start; and then, there is always the question of how to know if the instructor is good.

But... perhaps looking at online instruction as something different than what you would expect in face-to-face, one-on-one lessons might help you to put things in perspective.

With online instruction, you practice when YOU want to practice. You take the lessons when your schedule permits. And you can take the lessons more than once.

I have been developing some online modules for teaching both the basics of saxophone performance - like I am dealing with someone who has never even held one in their hands - to more challenging tasks (such as lessons on the pentatonic scales) that allow you to progress through the materials at your own pace.

And I try to minimize the loss that would come from not being there in person. I believe that good teaching in video lessons can be better than a lot of one-to-one instruction you might get from someone who is not intimately familiar with the instrument. I do this be trying to address questions that come up in the course of going through feedback that I get from within the online environment.

For what it is worth, I am told with a fair bit of frequency that I am a good teacher. And I will say (as I've said elsewhere before) that I don't consider myself to be the best player in the world; but I do consider myself to be an excellent teacher).

To put that in perspective, consider that NCAA swimming Tharon Drake is considered to be one of the very best swimming coaches there is, even though he is blind. Even though he has no sight, he has not only overcome the odds against him with no sight, he has developed a reputation as a coach to rival others who have sight. Take a look at part of the transcript from this story about him from NPR: 

REPORTER: Swim practice at Catawba College is noisy, nonstop and muggy. Assistant coach Tharon Drake walks the edge of the pool barking instructions. He doesn't need to see his swimmers to know when they're doing something wrong. He can hear it.

THARON DRAKE: I'm going to show Joao in a second. I'm going to put my left hand in the position I want him. And we've talked about this so he'll know it. Left hand. Watch his hand. Yup. There he goes.

REPORTER: Drake's been hounding freshman Joao Miranda all season about the way his hand hits the water.

DRAKE: What finger goes first?

JOAO MIRANDA: The middle finger.

DRAKE: Middle finger entry. Middle finger entry.

MIRANDA: Yeah. And sometimes I use my thumb first and I splash a lot of water.

REPORTER: For Drake, it's not hard at all to figure out when a swimmer uses bad form.

DRAKE: Everything has a different pitch, just like it would on a piano. Don't ask me what pitch it makes. It just makes a different noise.

REPORTER: His swimmers at Catawba College didn't know what to think of having a blind coach at first. But not any longer. Drake has hand motions, yells and paces the pool deck, all without a white cane.

DRAKE: Pick it up. Pick it up.

REPORTER: And when swimmers like junior Federico Borrego are swimming...

FEDERICO BORREGO: What you see outside the pool is going to be the same when you're racing and you come out and see - you actually see him doing, like, the hand signs, or to tell you to go faster or screaming at you. That is really, really neat 'cause any coach does that.

REPORTER: Drake says his perspective gives him an edge over other coaches. They can only see problems.

DRAKE: Being able to tell the water different, being able to hear the breathing gives me so much more feedback than your typical coach is going to get. So I have more - I have more details. And if this was a math problem, I know more variables.

Why I believe you can benefit from online saxophone instruction

Personally, I believe you can benefit from online saxophone instruction because there are many people out there who are already doing it.

I'm not the first one to do this. There are many others out there already offering saxophone instruction online, and some of them are quite good.

More to the point, I believe you can benefit from my online saxophone instruction

As I've said, I'm willing to admit I'm not the best sax player in the world. My responsibilities in life and limitations on my time prevent me from practicing as much as I'd like, for one thing. And that's a big thing.

But the people who hear me do tell me I'm good. In fact, I've been told more than once by people who have heard me play with others I consider better than me tell me they think I underestimate myself. 

But the fact is that I have been told many times I have a particular gift for teaching. And it's more than that, as far as the materials I'm putting together are concerned. You see, in the preparation for putting my materials together, I've bought a lot of the other courses out there. I thought it made sense that if I'm going to try to promote a way of teaching others, I had to do that. I've laid out a lot of money purchasing online training courses from other online sax teachers.

It just made sense to me that it was something I had to do. It seemed the only sure way to determine:

  • what ways of teaching online work for people
  • how much value people perceive they are getting value for the cost
  • what people find helpful and what they don't

And perhaps, most important,

  • how to see what might have been missed by others, so that gets covered, too.


Summary

  • you're never "too old" and never "not musical enough" to learn to play
  • if you really want to learn to play, that drive is enough to take you a long way
  • online instruction can be helpful for value for the buck
  • I believe I've got material that is good value for your hard-earned dollars

Would you be interested in finding out more?

If you've considered learning (or re-learning) to play the saxophone, maybe all that is holding you back is a chance to see if you might actually enjoy the journey. If you're curious as to whether online learning is for you, and more significantly, if you're curious to see if the way I teach might be helpful to you in that quest, feel free to reach out to learn more about online lessons with "TameTheSax."

Check out our online courses here!

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