The Saxophone Chose Me…Kind Of

How to play saxophone


If you have the desire to play the saxophone, you can do it! You can play your favorite songs on the radio and get that beautiful tone that attracts you to this instrument. Last week I shared the idea that this is possible because you’re human. The “greats” are human just like us, so if they can do it, you can too!

I’m a professional saxophone player, but this was not always the case. In this post I want to share my journey with you, so you can see how I went from a struggling piano player to someone who earned their Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance (by the way, the doctoral degree was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life!)

Let’s begin

I began playing music, the piano specifically, at 6 or 7 years old. I took lessons, but I had little interest in playing or practicing. As a beginning piano player I didn’t take the time to figure out how to read music, so I played all my exercises by reading the numbers above the notes. After some time my mother realized that this was not a good fit, so she let me take some time off before music started at my elementary school, in 5th grade.

Band or Choir?

In 5th grade they asked us, “Would you like to be in band or choir?” I chose band for a couple of reasons.

  1. In my young mind, singing was for girls and I would be made fun of if I joined the choir.
  2. Band sounded cool to me, especially the drums!

“Choosing” The Saxophone

“Not in my house,” my mother said referring to the drums. Then she suggested the saxophone. I was pretty easy going, and I agreed. Yes, that is the great story of how I first picked up the saxophone. I still tease my mother that I could be a billionaire rock star drummer right now, but she changed my destiny πŸ˜‰

My experience with the saxophone was completely different than it was with the piano. I practiced everyday (a huge key to my early success) and finished the method book they gave me within the first month. Then they took me out of the beginner (5th grade) band and placed me in the 6th grade band. Yes, the saxophone was a good fit and I took off at the beginning.

2 Regrets

If you could go back to your youth and fix a few things, what would you choose? I’ll share a few of my regrets with you.

  1. I would have practiced more often, and searched out a teacher who could help me improvise
  2. I would have joined the high school golf team. The first time I played golf I was 19 years old, and I loved it!

Because of my 1st regret, I slowly progressed through middle school and high school. Then, I decided to become a music major at Brigham Young University. To help you understand that I didn’t exactly start off on the right foot, I only need to share my audition experience with you. I stepped onto campus and…

Next Week

Next week I’ll share how I went from being one of the least skilled players at Brigham Young University, to earning a D.M.A. in saxophone performance. I’ll also share how my “low ranking” at the beginning of my higher education is a huge benefit and advantage to your playing!


What do you think? Do you like this type of post, or would you prefer “how to” posts every week? I love your feedback. This way, I can create content that you want. Feel free to use the comment section so we can all jump in on the conversation.

Have a great time playing!

Comments 8

  1. I enjoyed reading your brief story and look forward to the next installment . Myself at 13 yrs asked to learn the sax at school but wasn’t given the chance . It’s only now at 50 yrs at I’m finally learning , albeit slowly .

    1. Post
  2. I think sharing your stroy is quite encouraging. I don’t have the muscial “ear” but enjoy the music : classic, jazz, pop, oriental, …
    I always liked saxophone, drum and piano. mid last year, I decided to learn saxophone (am 52!) and I was lucky to join your website Jeff. In few months the progress was there. When I started, I gave myself 2 years before daring plying in public ! So listenning to your story is encouraging. I may not become as professional as you, but will definitely enjoy playing songs with an instrument that I love. Thanks again.

    1. Post

      Thanks for sharing Mehran! It’s great to have the goal of playing for enjoyment. Keep up the good work!

      Thanks for sending your recordings to me as well. You’re getting better!

  3. Good to read another fella hitting the half Century (Paul) and still with the ‘never too young/old attitude’ to trying something new! Yes Jeff, keep the posts going as it does help self doubters like myself when you hit those weeks of, “where’s this really going to…?”

    I’ve only taken up the Sax a year ago this month!! I’m just short of 50 (on the young sunny side of it! Hey, its only a shoe size!).

    I’ve never played an instrument (bar the standard recorder at Primary/elementary school! I left feeling I was not musical. Young kids are VERY impressionable, and it convinced me even then that I could never play music…). I couldn’t read sheet music either. I ‘was’ a clean sheet as far as music was concerned.

    But…I’ve always loved listening to music, watching those into their craft perform to an audience and I’ve envied those who could bring life into an inanimate object and make it sing to others!

    So a year ago I bit the bullet after seeing an advert in a music shop (in the UK) that they leased out instruments for so much a month and there was a trial minimum time of two months (you just handed the instrument back after that time if you didn’t like it).

    Always liking the sax I hired an alto. I felt if I didn’t like it after 2 months then at least I’d tried it..!!!! I found a teacher and had a lesson once/twice a week.
    Bought some books too on beginner’s sax…etc

    It was a brave new world for me right out of my usual comfort zone. And this was a positive thing as it was well removed from my professional and home life to be fun, challenging, relaxing and therapeutic!

    Just getting some sounds (_for a long time more like the Queen Mary sailing into port!!) and starting to learn the notes from reading the sheet to fingering the sax was a challenge…and it continues to be! There are still parts of the sax I haven’t touched yet (& more notes to learn…little by little!) A year on.

    But…I have noticed progress! And Jeff’s online program is working for me at this stage. Justva shame there wasn’t a two week stint at his Kansas studio included in the price πŸ™‚

    Maybe if I click my ruby red heels hard enough and hold tight to my sax, I’ll be back in Kansas!! πŸ™‚

    Good luck to all those students who have risen to the challenge and to those out there who have toyed with the idea/dream of learning to play the saxophone… Just follow the yellow brick road to Jeff and give it a try πŸ™‚

    1. Post

      Thanks for sharing your story and experiences Paddy. Good for you in hitting your year mark!

      By the way, I remember practicing in the practice rooms in college and looking into the mirror as I played, thinking, “what are you doing? You’ve got to be crazy to think that it’s possible to play the saxophone for a living!” Well, its worked out and it’s completely worth it. Thanks for the recommendation too! Keep up the good work and keep sending in your recordings! Your making great progress too!

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *