I am one of a generation that arguably should be ecstatic about or even quick in the adoption of ebooks and other electronic material, but for nostalgic reasons I’ve often fought it tooth and nail (despite the fact that they still need to go through the same processes as a physical book, including things like working with Freelance Book Editors to ensure it’s fit for publication). It was only during this past year and my first full move that I began to realize the convenience and value of ebooks (they don’t take up space and you don’t have to carry them country to country or apartment to apartment).

Because I only just recently admitted to the practicality of reading an eBook, taking on music ebooks still seemed like a stretch to me. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to my music library including hand-me-downs and repertoire I’ve purchased, and making the transition wasn’t at the top of my list. That was, of course, before I checked out Randy Hunter’s eBook.

A few weeks back Randy Hunter announced his new eBook series on Saxontheweb (a great forum by the way if you aren’t already a member) and I knew I had to get a copy. I wrote a review of one of Mr. Hunter’s books a few years back, and I’m a fan. But even so, I was still a bit skeptical about the concept of eBook lessons.

The eBook was “Relating the Pentatonics, Part 2” from his Jazz Saxophone Lessons series, which uses a variety of multimedia to create virtual lessons for beginning saxophonists. According to Hunter, “Through a combination of media including text, graphics, video, and audio, you have a virtual private jazz saxophone lesson at your fingertips. Even better, you can revisit the material as many times as necessary before shedding the practice routine outlined in the lesson.”

The interactive version of the lessons mentioned above are available for iBooks, but the video and PDF versions for those who do not have an iPad, iPod, or Mac (iBooks will soon be available on Mac Computers) are also available.

In “Relating the Pentatonics, Part 2,” Randy Hunter teaches students pentatonic patterns and gives them a few ways to use them for improvisation using a nice mix of media to help the student understand the material. In addition to videos with Hunter explaining the different sections of the lesson, there are sound clips of him playing the exercises, text guides, written versions of the patterns, play-alongs and even a “I play-you play” section of the lesson so that the student can emulate the ways Hunter uses the pentatonic scale over the changes.

The exercises are available in C, Bb, and Eb so that tenor and alto saxophone players do not need to transpose (although they should try before checking out the transpositions). Working through the lesson can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how much time you spend on each section, but because the material is an eBook, it’s available for reference even after you’ve “completed” the lesson.

In summary, I love the idea of having lessons available in an interactive eBook form. With the videos, graphics and audio, it’s a great way to find practice inspiration and get expert advice without the high cost of a private tutor.* I think these eLessons are a fun and interesting way to tackle new material, and they’re also an affordable way to get informative lessons for the times a private teacher may be out of reach.

I should also mention that it’s not only the idea of eLessons that I love, but Randy Hunter’s in particular are put together really well. The instructions are easy to follow and he includes the perfect amount of material for a lesson – not too little and not too much. The lessons also have the added benefit of being portable. With the lesson available on your laptop or iPad, you can access the lesson anywhere and at anytime.

I definitely hope that Mr. Hunter continues his series, adds new material and even versions of his lessons for new instruments. They’re definitely a great resource for the up and coming saxophonist.

* As a side note, I should mention that I do not feel eBook lessons should replace private teachers, but can instead supplement music lessons. The feedback you receive from a private teacher is highly valuable.

If you’re interesting in learning more information about Randy Hunter, or you would like to check out his eBook series and other books, the material is available on his website. Visit Randy Hunter Jazz.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.