Returning to Music in Adulthood

Adults make up about 25% of my students at any given time. For the most part, adult music students are in one of two situations. They played sax or clarinet in middle school and/or high school and are ready to play again. Or they are brand new to playing a musical instrument and now have the time to devote to practice.

Here’s a conversation I had with someone wanting to get back into playing.

A chiropractor in her 30s wrote to me:

“I just wanted to reach out to see what your thoughts are on how I might best get back into playing my saxophone. It’s been a number of years since I’ve played or read music, so I feel like maybe a refresher course might be good to get back to where I was & start progressing again.”

You, your horn, the music

I’m glad to hear from you about wanting to get back into playing your saxophone. 

My first suggestion would be make sure your horn is in good playing shape. If it hasn’t been played in a few years, it may need some attention from a good repair technician. I’ll copy my recommendations below. 

Assuming the horn is in good shape, then let’s get you in shape. Do you have any sheet music or collections of tunes lying around? Pick one that you know and dust it off. When you return to playing the sax (or any instrument) as an adult, I always say have FUN with it! 

That’s why I recommend playing something you know or are familiar with. If you don’t have any sheet music lying around, use dear ol’ Google to pull up sheet music. Not only are there lots of free tunes/sheet music online, but there are also tons of YouTube videos with people showing you how to play the solo from George Michael’s Careless Whisper or a Steely Dan tune or whatever. 

If you don’t have a tune in mind, just Google free sheet music and see what pops up. 

Have you got some good reeds? If not, pick up a couple of #3 strength reeds, Rico or Vandoren… I provide all my active students with two cane reeds per month of lessons. I get to expose them to new reeds that they might not otherwise have tried. 

At some point, your chops are going to be tired. So, long tones will help with that. The thing about long tones is they can be very relaxing, and all the while they are strengthening your chops (mouth muscles). Long tones also aren’t hard to play. Pick one note and sustain it as long as you can. Make it your goal to make the most beautiful sax sound you can. 

I’m attaching a PDF of some well-known easy-to-play tunes. Have fun with it. And in case you need a refresher of fingerings, I’m also attaching a fingering chart. 

Are you an adult who played the sax or clarinet in school but haven’t touched your horn in a few years? Please check out my offerings for clarinet lessons and saxophone lessons. If you want to have fun playing again, reach out to me about lessons and we’ll dust off your skills and bring them back strong. Review my local resources page for music stores and community music groups.

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