Why Private Lessons Are Really Important

In this day and age of Internet accessibility to almost everything, some people mistakenly believe that they can learn all that they need to on a specific matter, if they research it online. This is simply not the case.

Would you want your surgeon to have learned their surgical techniques by only watching videos in med school? I didn’t think so.

Although we’re not involved in life and death situations, musicians go through the same psychomotor learning process when they learn their instruments. This learning process is of course optimized when students not only are shown how to do something correctly, but also get feedback from instructors on what they are doing wrong, and how to correct their errors.

Case in point, I found a series of 16 videos on YouTube titled, How to Play the Sax. These videos were done by expert village, and hosted by Mitch Kaplan.

Now good ole Mitch has made a number of pretty serious errors in his videos. For example, when he lists the different types of saxophones, he skips the bass but mentions the Bb contra Huh? Last time I checked, the contra was in Eb.

I hadn’t heard of Mitch Kaplan before, and I don’t know what kind of expert he really is. It is just unfortunate that expert village was not able to edit their videos better—at all—and left poor Mitch looking rather inarticulate and clumsy.

While trying to find out more about Mitch Kaplan, I happened to come across the website You Can Play Sax. It appears to be nothing more than a collection of instructional videos by different sources, all previously posted on YouTube.

This is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Instructional videos without instructor feedback are not, IMO, all that useful.

While they may help you in the short-term, in the long run, videos alone will not help you correct all the errors that will inevitably creep into your playing. Things like incorrect: tonguing technique, amount of mouthpiece that you have in your mouth, pressure that you apply to the mouthpiece, breathing technique, finger position on the keys, which alternate fingerings to use when, overtone techniques, etc. etc. You get the idea. The list goes on and on.

No one ever outgrows the need for lessons. Many of the top players that you can think of are still taking lessons, because regardless of how good you are, there is always someone out there who you can learn from.

That someone may have a different approach to tonguing, phrasing, improvising, or thinking about chords. The list of possibilities is almost endless.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2012, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

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