I only use a few books as a measuring stick before I let my classical saxophone students go on to serious repertoire. Once a middle schooler or high schooler gets through the list I have below, then it is on to Glazunov, Creston, and Ibert. Until a saxophone student reaches that point, I focus on technique and expression through these books. Have a look and let me know what you think in the comments!
I feel completely unoriginal recommending this book, but Daily Studies for All Saxophones by Trent Kynaston is a great way to have my saxophone students get their fingers around the horn. I used to recommend Larry Teal’s The Saxophonist’s Manual: A Handbook of Basic Concepts, but I found it too cumbersome to write in high F-sharps in the full-range scales. Teal’s book is invaluable, but someone should consider reissuing the book with high F-sharp notated on all the scales and drills. Kynaston’s book is also a bit cheaper and more concise. In one lesson I can usually get through scales, tonguing, intonation, and, if I’m lucky, even a bit of altissimo.
Most of my students struggle with rhythm, so I use Robert Starer’s book Rhythmic Training to help. The first few pages are pretty simple, but increase in difficulty as you delve deeper. At a certain point it’s okay to assign students only one line a week.
These rhythmic drills combine conducting, clapping, tapping your feet, and singing (saying) the counts. Eventually students conduct in compound and odd meters while executing difficult rhythms.
Completely focusing on rhythm away from music gets students away from the insidious habit of learning rhythms by rote. Instilled with rhythmic confidence, students are able to lead their sections at school and sight read new music more reliably.
First Repertoire Book
Immediately after a student finishes their remedial books from band (I still really like (Essential Elements 2000: Eb Alto Saxophone for the backing tracks in Smartmusic, especially) we move on to Repertoire Classics for Alto Saxophone. I like this book for a few reasons: 1) it comes with downloadable MP3s for the accompaniment, 2) it has downloadable piano accompaniment, and 3) the tunes are very recognizable (think top 20 in classical music).
The music in this book serves as a wonderful opportunity to introduce concepts like vibrato, expression, and phrasing. The piano accompaniment serves as a constant reminder to the student and teacher to work on intonation. Lastly, once a student really gets going on these, it’s easy to knock out one per week and move on to my next recommendation.
Second Repertoire Book
Larry Teal’s Solos for the Alto Saxophone Player is a perennial favorite among saxophone teachers. This book builds on Repertoire Classics for Alto Saxophone by presenting more technical and stylistically diverse music. Additionally, through Smartmusic you can play these solos with piano accompaniment.
I typically avoid etude books like Ferling and Berbiguier because they require lots of preparation on the student’s part, and provide little use for recitals or solo and ensemble festivals. Because the student’s time is already stretched so thin with extracurriculars it’s important that whatever you assign them has immediate utility. A lot of students need an extrinsic motivator in order practice, so often saying, “practice your recital/solo and ensemble piece” works better than, “practice this hard piece.”
What books do you use with high school and middle school students? I would love to hear because I’m always trying to improve my teaching! Leave a comment below so we can discuss!
And be sure to Like Saxophone Performance on Facebook!