Saxophone Lessons: Playing For Grades Versus Playing For Pleasure

When you decide that you’d like to start playing the saxophone, it’s a good idea to consider whether or not you’d like to try and pass grade examinations or whether you’d rather just play for pleasure. This will probably be one of the first things your teacher will ask when you start your saxophone lessons so it’s smart to have an idea in your head about the direction you’d like your learning to take. You may be a little concerned at making such a big decision so let’s have a look at how playing for grades versus playing for pleasure will shape your lessons.


Playing for grades

If you decide that you want to achieve grades with your saxophone playing, then your lessons will need to be more organized and structured in order to ensure that you acquire the requisite skills and confidence that are needed to pass the exam. Aside from learning to play a few pieces well, you will also need to sight-read and sing for parts of the exam so your teacher will have to make sure that you spend a just amount of time practicing these skills. Organization and committed practice are key to passing grade exams.


The benefits of grade exams

Although some students do feel the pressure when they take their grade exams, there are certainly benefits to be reaped if you put the work in. It’s a great thing to be able to put what grade you have attained in your saxophone playing onto resumes or college applications and if you wish to go to Music College then you will certainly need to have attained a certain grade standard in your instrument. Additionally, you will undoubtedly feel a great sense of purpose when you realise that all your practise and saxophone lessons have paid off now that you are a certain grade.


Playing for pleasure

Many people, particularly adults, decide that they would much rather play for pleasure rather than bother with grade examinations. This is definitely the path to go down if you don’t cope well with exam pressure or would rather focus on developing your saxophone skills organically as opposed to following a syllabus. Playing for pleasure gives you the freedom to play exactly the type of music you would like to play so you’re not hemmed in into the usual classical fare that you need to master in order to pass exams.


A happy medium

There is, of course, a happy medium – unless you want to pass as many grades as you can as quickly as possible it is a good idea to spend perhaps half of your lessons focusing on skills necessary for passing grades and then spending the other half of your lessons playing for pleasure. Although it will take you slightly longer to achieve the grades you want, you will have a much more balanced approach to playing the saxophone and will probably be a better player for it.

So there you go – there are certainly benefits of playing for pleasure and playing for grades (and both at the same time!). It is important to figure out exactly what you want to achieve from your saxophone lessons before you make any final decisions about the direction you’d like your playing to head in – make sure to have a thorough discussion with your teacher about it too.

Just remember whichever way you choose to direct your saxophone lessons to enjoy yourself and this wonderful instrument that has given so much pleasure to so many people over the years. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn the saxophone now and find yourself the perfect saxophone teacher.