Private Saxophone Lesson Teacher Survival Kit

If you are part of the .1% of professional saxophonists who don’t teach private lessons, then congratulations! You, sir or ma’am, are living the dream! Let’s be honest though. Even saxophone dieties like Chris Potter and Mark Turner teach lessons, and most of you reading this will or already have a private teaching studio. Teaching can either be a truly fulfilling and gratifying experience, or it can be a soul-sucking nightmare. Avoiding the latter comes through building your reputation, lots of preparation, and years of experience.

When you’re just starting out you will probably have to do house calls or in-home lessons. I currently teach the majority of my students out of my home, and group all of my house calls into one evening a week. When traveling house to house it’s important to stay compact and mobile. You want to be able to unpack and pack up quickly with no hassle. Here’s a list of the portable equipment I bring to lessons in order of importance.


I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful technology available to teachers. I bring my smartphone and laptop with me everywhere I go, so it’s only natural that I use them during lessons. Right now I run SmartMusic Classic from my laptop. SmartMusic provides me with backing tracks to Essential Elements 2000: Book 1 and Book 2 as well as the piano accompaniment to pieces like Glazunov’s Concerto or the Creston sonata. I’ll always supplement a book like this with my beginner’s scales Major Scales and Arpeggios Worksheet (click for free download).

For my advanced students I use Tonal Energy for tuning, vibrato, and sound. Lastly, for my budding improvisers I use iReal Pro.


I use the G-BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with students when working with SmartMusic, iReal Pro, or a drone from Tonal Energy. This speaker is plenty loud and hooks up either through Bluetooth or manually with a male/male audio cable. The only issue is that it’s rather large, so you must bring a big backpack or bag with you. It’s reasonably priced when compared to other like speakers, and is very durable.


Students forget their neckstraps all the time. In twenty years of playing I’ve never forgetten mine, but I guess it’s just a sign of the times. When a student shows up neckstrapless I force them to use my classic Selmer Ray Hyman Neckstrap. It’s bare-bones design tears through the student’s neck skin and leaves a permanent scar as a reminder to always pack a neckstrap. I’m kidding, but only a little. This neckstrap is compact to store and takes up barely less room than cork grease.


If I had a nickel for every manicure I ruined screwing in a rod on a student’s saxophone, I’d have at least enough to get another mani/pedi. Save your fingernails and your time by bringing a Jewelers Screwdriver Set.


Resting your top teeth on the mouthpiece is one of my core tenets for embouchure formation. A student without a mouthpiece patch is unable to apply the right amount of top pressure. Save yourself the hassle and just give a student one the great mouthpiece patches made by D’Addario. I like to stack the Clear Patches on top of the Black Patches because then they last forever. Furthermore, the stack of patches adds verticality to my embouchure.


Saxophone Performance endorses the Reed Geek (I don’t think the Reed Geek people are looking for my endorsement, but I love this product!)! The Reed Geek is so good because it is compact and works like a charm. It’s useful because students inevitably bring their cruddy, ancient reeds to lessons, and with a couple of swipes of the Reed Geek you can bring them back to life. I don’t take the time during lessons to use the other fine scraping tools with students’ reeds, but I use them extensively in my own practice sessions. Also, I should mention that TSA won’t stop you at the airport for a Reed Geek, so put away your bulky reed knife and check out the Black Diamond or Classic Reed Geeks!

Do you use equipment that wasn’t listed above? What do you think of my list? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!

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