We interviewed saxophonist and educator Phil Sobel a few years ago in partnership with Rheuben Allen Saxophones. Phil Sobel is a world-renowned saxophonist and educator and he has made a huge impact on a number of saxophonists all over the world. He kindly did an interview with us, answering several of our questions and as part of the interview he offered up and coming saxophonists the following advice:

“Sax players don’t have same respect for their instrument as for example, oboe players, which is why a lot of saxophonists have such a bad reputation.”

“Alto sax has the most complex sound of any instrument, which makes it one of the hardest instruments to sound good on.”

“Violinists don’t think, ‘If you play my horn you’ll be a better player’ like sax players do with mouthpieces and setups. So don’t make a big issue out of stuff like that. It just doesn’t mean anything to anyone else but you. Everyone is unique in what will work for them.”

“Professor is not a fathering (or mothering) relationship, so do not form this relationship with your students.”

“Confident does not mean egotistical.”

“Talent doesn’t mean you will reach your full potential, you have to work hard to get there. Skill really has nothing to do about talent, people really only use 6 to 8% of their potential if they just go off talent.”

“Praise – every student is different – just be honest and don’t teach negatively. In other words, ‘Doing it better but not quite right.'”

“You can be an accomplished musician, but not a good one. You have to be vulnerable to the audience to really get to that place.”

“Work hard and be a scientist. Observe –the key to all knowledge is to be curious.”

“Music is not made up of lines – it is made up of ovals and circles. Time is a continuum, circular.”

“No one learns from imitating – you learn from listening and adding what you learn to your own vocabulary. Learn music in the same way you learn to speak. At first you copy the words your parents (other musicians) say, and over time, you eventually develop enough vocabulary to form your own thoughts into sentences.”

“School education now is terrible – you have to reeducate kids when you get them as students. Take everything with a grain of salt and get a good private teacher who knows what they are talking about. In music education, Sax not really appreciated – with university students 75% have not had lessons.”

as dictated by Phil Sobel March 07, 2007

Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

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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.

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