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Music Lessons | Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute Lessons in Mountain View, Cupertino CA

Beginning to advanced private music lessons on Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute with Ken Moran.  Areas include Mountain View, Atherton, Palo Alto, San Jose, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, South Bay, and Silicon Valley. With an emphasis on fun, students will learn a solid basic foundation of warm-ups, scales, technical studies, and appropriate repertoire on their instrument.

Filtering by Category: Jazz Improvisation

The Best Pastimes for Enriching Your Life Without Breaking Your Budget

Ken Moran

Written by Contributing Author Julie Morris

Julie Morris.jpg

Are you feeling stuck in a rut but don’t want to spend a lot of money on entertainment? Learning a new skill or hobby is good for you at any age, and you don’t need to go broke doing it. Whether you chose to learn online or with a group of friends, you can engage in a new pastime easily and inexpensively. Below are some tips to get you going.

Fit for Fun

Participating in a sport is something many of us associate with school years, but you can pick up a new set of skills or brush up on your old ones, regardless of how long since the last time you played. While impact sports like football might be out of the question, golf, tennis, walking, and swimming are all great options for most adults. Everything Zoomer recommends tapping into internet resources to find sports experts at your fingertips. You can locate sports-oriented camps for learners of all ages; use pre-recorded, step-by-step videos; engage in live, online instruction; or take classes. If in-person instruction is more your style, look for a coach in your area to help you. Review rules and etiquette before jumping in, and find out what equipment you’ll need to get started. If you need to invest in new equipment or take lessons, keep your costs low by using online promo codes or cashback opportunities for stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods. Stretching your dollars means more for greens fees, sportswear, or other gear.

Contemplate Creativity

Do you see fun crafts on Pinterest you would love to try, or do you admire artwork in galleries but aren’t sure where to begin? If you aspire to leave behind stick figures for figure drawing, you can learn to express yourself more fully without overextending your budget. My Modern Met suggests delving into online art lessons, which are available for artists at any level or stage, and in virtually any media. From quilting and jewelry making to painting and everything in between, you can find it all on the web. Follow along with videos, take classroom-style instruction, and engage in one-on-one critiques — you can even pair up with local instructors or art clubs for ideas and feedback. While you make your inspirations come to life, don’t break your budget.  Gather a list of all the supplies you need and want, and then look through weekly ads for stores like Hobby Lobby to make everything fit into your budget. The money you save can be applied to future projects and creative explorations!

Budding Musician

Many people play instruments in their younger years but set them aside as adults — and still others miss the opportunity to learn while in school. Are you ready to pick up a clarinet again? Or, maybe you always dreamed of playing guitar, participating in classical quartet, or joining a jazz band. It’s never too late to learn, and you can find plenty of music resources on the web.  From YouTube tutorials to taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), opportunities abound. There are always in-person lessons as well, and learning from an instructor firsthand can be valuable to those new to music lessons. Another idea is to connect with other musicians at startups, whether for socializing, constructive criticism, or to form your tour group. To save a little money, join a website like Honey, which will search out and automatically apply the best coupon codes available online when you make your purchases.  

Participating in a hobby is a great way to enrich your life. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, consider taking on a new pastime. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn or refresh your skills!

Summer Saxophone Lessons, Saxophone Lessons, Clarinet Lessons, Flute Lessons, Saxophone Teacher, Flute Teacher, Clarinet Teacher, Mountain View CA, Palo Alto CA, Sunnyvale CA, Santa Clara CA, Cupertino CA, Silicon Valley CA, San Jose CA, Los Gatos CA, Los Altos CA, South Bay CA, Saratoga CA, Atherton CA, Beginning Saxophone

Summer Saxophone Lessons and Great Local Music Camps 2018

Ken Moran

Summer is fast approaching and now it's a good time to start thinking about continuing to study music over the summer.  Taking private music lessons is one of the most effective ways to progress on any instrument.  On-on-one instruction allows students the individualized teaching and feedback they need to improve the most quickly.  In addition to taking private music lessons over the summer, there are numerous music camps for all levels of students and all styles of music.  Participating in summer music camps is a fun way to improve musically over the summer, make new friends, and have fun in the process!  I attended a few of these camps when I was in middle school and high school and I have many great memories.  It is important to note that there are overnight camps and day camps.  Typically, overnight camps are geared toward kids and are around one week in duration.   This can be a great experience for the students to be immersed in the music in a wonderful and positive environment, make some new friends, and be on their own.  Day camps run throughout the day and can be a great option for those with a busy schedule or the happen to live close by.


Hayward La Honda Music Camp- July 21st-28th

I attended the La Honda Music camp for one year when I was in middle school and I had a whole lot of fun!  Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the week-long camp has campers stay in cabins on the premises.  In addition to concert and wind ensembles, jazz bands, and all sorts of clinics and classes, the camp has a variety of other non-musical activities like swimming, archery, and rock climbing if you need a break from the busy music schedule.  The La Honda Music Camp is a great option for those kids that want a a full spectrum music experience and a chance to camp out in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains.


San Jose Jazz Camp- June 18th-29th


The San Jose Jazz Camp is a jazz intensive day camp held in conjunction with the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival.  The camp is obviously geared towards intermediate to advanced students that are seriously interested in jazz.  This year features internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin.  Designed for middle and high school students with skill levels from intermediate and up, the SJZ Summer Jazz Camp offers immersion in every aspect of jazz—from theory to performance. Each student participates in both a small ensemble and big band, and one advanced ensemble will be chosen to play on the Main Stage of the 2018 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, August 10-12. Gain extraordinary experience in music theory, improvisation, composition, ear training, performance and more.   


Stanford Jazz Workshop- Various Dates from July 9th-August 3rd

I attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop for three years in middle school and high school.  This camp was one of the best musical experiences of my life.  What I remember the most is being totally immersed in music for the entire duration of my stay.  This is what you want when learning to play jazz.  The camp now features several different day and overnight week-long camps.  They bring in well-known jazz artists from all over the country to work with students and this adds so much to the musical experience!  The camps are packed with events and concerts featuring some of the best jazz musicians around.  In addition, depending on the camp, there are nightly jazz jam sessions held at the cafe.  Stanford is a beautiful campus and to have the opportunity to take part in this great musical experience is priceless.


The South bay Summer Jazz Intensive is a week-long jazz workshop located in Saratoga and focuses on building musicianship skills for success in jazz improvisation and performance.  This is a great option for those looking for a jazz focused summer camp local to the Los Gatos area.  Kristen Strom and Nils Johnson, two local jazz musicians and educators, are directing the camp.

If you are interested in taking private music lessons with me over the summer, I have studios located in Mountain View and Cupertino.   Studying throughout the summer is the most effective way to improve and prepare for auditions coming up the beginning of the school year.  CLICK HERE to contact me for more information and with any questions.

Summer Saxophone Lessons, Saxophone Lessons, Clarinet Lessons, Flute Lessons, Saxophone Teacher, Flute Teacher, Clarinet Teacher, Mountain View CA, Palo Alto CA, Sunnyvale CA, Santa Clara CA, Cupertino CA, Silicon Valley CA, San Jose CA, Los Gatos CA, Los Altos CA, South Bay CA, Saratoga CA, Atherton CA, Beginning Saxophone

2018 All-State Honor Bands and Stanford Jazz

Ken Moran


It's that time of year again. Not only is school beginning to get busy, but audition material is out for the Junior High and High School All-State honor bands.  This is a great opportunity for advancing students looking to participate in advanced level wind ensembles, vocal jazz, and concert and jazz bands. Through a recorded audition process, the most qualified students are chosen from all over California to participate in the four day long music conference. This is a great opportunity to participate in an extracurricular band and a chance for students to experience the audition process.  In addition to the ensembles being comprised of the best student musicians in the state, this is a social experience for kids to gain inspiration from and to make friends while doing so.  Inspirational events like this help kids push themselves to be greater!  Audition material for this year's All-State Honor Bands can be found HERE.  This year's deadline for audition submissions is December 1st and must be made through your school.  The 2018 CBDA Conference will be held from February 15th-18th in San Jose, CA.  There are MANY great players throughout the state so you better get to practicing!  

Below is a video from last year's All-State Junior High Jazz Ensemble.  The featured saxophone soloist is Daiki Nakajima, a former student of mine.


In addition to the All-State Honor Bands, there are other opportunities to play in advanced bands year-round (especially jazz) like the big bands at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.  I have several students participating in these bands and I always get excellent feedback.  Furthermore, great local music educators direct these programs!  Big bands for Middle School and High School are available for enrollment for each semester as well as other classes like jazz improvisation.  Bands include the Giant Steps North and Giant Steps South Big Band (North Peninsula and South Peninsula) and the Miles Ahead High School Big Band.  Not only is the music challenging and the solo opportunities excellent, but this year-round program is a great opportunity for students to make friends in the area that are also involved in the music community.  CLICK HERE for more information.

Giant Steps Big Band South 2016

Giant Steps Big Band South 2016

Giant Steps Big Band North 2016

Giant Steps Big Band North 2016

Miles Ahead HS Big Band 2016

Miles Ahead HS Big Band 2016

Saxophone Lessons, Clarinet Lessons, Flute Lessons, Saxophone Teacher, Flute Teacher, Clarinet Teacher, Mountain View CA, Palo Alto CA, Sunnyvale CA, Santa Clara CA, Cupertino CA, Silicon Valley CA, San Jose CA, Los Gatos CA, Los Altos CA, South Bay CA, Saratoga CA, Atherton CA, Beginning Saxophone

The 2nd Annual Young Lion Saxophone Challenge

Ken Moran


           Competitions can a healthy way to compete with other peers, collaborate, and learn from one another.  In music, this kind of collaboration is important for pushing each other to improve their skills and after all, music is MUCH more fun with other people!  The Young Lion Saxophone Challenge is a Northern California based competition for middle and high school jazz saxophone students.  The competition is directed by myself and sponsored by West Valley Music in Mountain View, CA.  Students can apply by submitting audition recordings by the deadline (April 29th) and wait to hear if they made it to the live audition.  Twenty finalists (ten middle school and ten high school) will be chosen to attend the live audition in front of a panel of judges.  Prizes for first, second, and third place include a Manning Custom saxophone case, a Jody Jazz Mouthpiece, a $200 D'Addario voucher, and much more!


           This year we will be featuring Los Angeles's own Bob Sheppard as the guest clinician and performer for the masterclass.  Bob is internationally acclaimed and is one of the top-call (if not THE top-call) saxophonists in Los Angeles.  All six winners will be invited to perform with Bob in the final masterclass.  It will be held at Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA on May 13th from 6-8pm.  This event is open to the public and is sure to be a great educational night of music.  To buy tickets, visit the West Valley Music website HERE.  Check out the video below of Bob Sheppard and we hope to see you there!


Saxophone Lessons, Clarinet Lessons, Flute Lessons, Saxophone Teacher, Flute Teacher, Clarinet Teacher, Mountain View CA, Palo Alto CA, Sunnyvale CA, Santa Clara CA, Cupertino CA, Silicon Valley CA, San Jose CA, Los Gatos CA, Los Altos CA, South Bay CA, Saratoga CA, Atherton CA, Beginning Saxophone

Popular Saxophone Mouthpieces for Beginning to Intermediate Students

Ken Moran

Ah of the most popular questions I get from students and parents is, "Do I need a better mouthpiece and does it make a difference?"  The short answer, yes.  Most of the sound being produced on saxophone is coming from the mouthpiece and neck area.  This means that the mouthpiece, ligature (the gadget that holds the reed to the mouthpiece), and reed are vital to the saxophone sounding good.  One of the best and most cost effective investments you can make in your or your child's saxophone playing experience is a quality mouthpiece and ligature.  Please CLICK HERE for the blog featuring saxophone ligatures.  

Prices range from around $100-200 for a solid intermediate alto saxophone mouthpiece and $100-250 for a tenor mouthpiece (although you can spend upwards of $500).  Mouthpieces are generally measured by the tip opening. The larger the tip opening (or higher the number), the harder it is to play but the bigger and more open sounding it is.  Let's start with alto saxophone mouthpieces.

Meyer MR-402-5MM Rubber Alto Sax Mouthpiece

Meyer mouthpieces have been around for a long time.  Many professional alto players still play vintage mouthpieces from the 1970s.  In my opinion, a Meyer is the best bang-for-the-buck alto saxophone mouthpiece.  If you are on a budget, go for this.  Although is is mainly a jazz mouthpiece, the sound is versatile enough that it can be used in classical situations as well.  Typical sizes for this mouthpiece are 5M and 6M.  If you are unsure about which size is more appropriate, order both and send back one!  6M is more open and harder to play, but like I mentioned earlier you will get a bigger sound.

Jody Jazz HR* Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Model #6M

Jody Jazz Mouthpieces are also a good bet and probably my favorite for advancing students.  Though slightly more expensive, many students really enjoy playing this mouthpiece.  The sound is slightly darker and warmer than Meyer MR-502, which may be better for the student that wishes to play Jazz and Classical music.  Once again, the typical sizes here are 5M and 6M.

Otto Link Vintage Series Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Like Meyer mouthpieces for alto, Ottolink mouthpieces have been around since "back in the day."  Old vintage Ottolinks are sought after and are worth quite a bit of money these days.  This is a great mouthpiece for an intermediate tenor saxophone student and can be used both for classical and jazz.  The most common size for tenor mouthpieces like this would be a 7 or 7*.  These sizes are generally comparable to sizes 5M and 6M for alto mouthpieces.  

Otto Link OLM-404-7S Super Tone Master Metal Tenor Saxophone MouthpiecE

For those seeking a brighter and more edgy sound, the Ottolink metal mouthpiece is a good option.  The same sizes of either 7 or 7* should be appropriate for most students.  Keep in mind, this mouthpiece is geared more towards Jazz and Contemporary music and would not be the best fit for classical music. 

My "go to" mouthpiece for advancing students is the same model as the alto mouthpiece, Jody Jazz HR for tenor.  I have found that the 7* (.105 tip) size works best for my students and should work well for you as well.  It's middle of the road as far as openness and many different sizes of reeds work well.  This mouthpiece has a well balanced and warm sound, perfect for all styles of music!  Below is a video about Jody Jazz Mouthpieces.

Be sure to check out my other blog posts on reeds and ligatures, as having the right reed and ligature combination is essential to getting the best sound possible.  Please message me with any questions for comments.  Until next time!

Saxophone Lessons, Clarinet Lessons, Flute Lessons, Saxophone Teacher, Flute Teacher, Clarinet Teacher, Mountain View CA, Palo Alto CA, Sunnyvale CA, Santa Clara CA, Cupertino CA, Silicon Valley CA, San Jose CA, Los Gatos CA, Los Altos CA, South Bay CA, Saratoga CA, Atherton CA, Beginning Saxophone

Saxophone Fingering Chart

Ken Moran

One thing you must have to begin playing saxophone or taking private lessons is a good fingering chart.  Many I have seen are difficult to read and outdated.  This was taken from an Yamaha band student book.  The keys are clearly labeled and the fingerings are fairly straightforward.  If you don't know already, the fingerings for Alto and Tenor saxophone are EXACTLY the same.  Stay tuned for another blog post about woodwind books, essentials of playing, and accessories.  Enjoy!

Basic Clarinet Fingering Chart

Ken Moran

Fingering charts can be hit or miss depending on the book you are using.  Here is a basic fingering chart for beginning students on clarinet that I use with my students.  This came from the Essential Elements Volume 1 for Clarinet book.  In the following weeks I will also post fingering charts for saxophone and flute.  Stay Tuned!

Best Traditional Metronome and Metronome App for iPhone and Android

Ken Moran

I have always been a firm believer in using a metronome at all times when you are practicing.  These days it's now easier than ever with good metronome apps available for your iPhone or Android phone so you can bring it wherever you go--so there's no excuse for bad time!  ProMetronome for iPhone recently updated their application and now it is better than ever.  

ProMetronome is currently my top choice for using a metronome both for my own practicing and lessons with students.  The colors are bright and it's easy to distinguish the different beats and follow along with the time.  In addition, the interface is very user friendly, making the app very easy to use for students of all ages.  I haven't upgraded to the "pro" version yet, so if you want to use the app is landscape mode you will need to do that.  Most importantly, there are a wide variety of metronome click sounds to choose from and they are very loud!  My biggest complaint with other metronomes is the sounds not being loud enough to hear over instruments.

For Android phones, I have only used one app consistently that I like--Mobile Metronome.  This app is free and has a nice user interface.  As with ProMetronome, the metronome clicks are also loud enough for a multitude of musical environments.  As with most apps, if you want to get rid of the advertisements at the bottom you must upgrade.  If using an application on your phone won't work for you there are other good options like traditional metronomes.

I grew up using metronomes, and often times having a separate metronome to keep in your instrument case or backpack (especially with children) is the best option.  In this case, I would recommend the Korg TM-40 Large Display Digital Tuner and Metronome.  This rugged metronome also features a tuner so not only can you keep time, but you can stay in tune!  The display is easy to read and the buttons are straight-forward and basic to understand.  There are many great metronomes out there, from more compact credit card sized ones to larger metronomes with more controls and sound options, but the Korg is great for students because it has everything you need and will withstand many drops to the ground.

Thanks for reading!  Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Premium Ligatures for Saxophone and Clarinet

Ken Moran

Standard metal ligature and mouthpiece cap.

Standard metal ligature and mouthpiece cap.

I have heard too many times, "it's not the equipment, it's the player and how much you practice!" While this is true to a certain extent, the equipment (and in this case the ligature) you use to play your instrument can make a substantial difference in your tone, articulation, and response.  All of the sound is produced from the reed, mouthpiece, and neck so this part of the instrument is extremely important.  Even as a beginner, using an upgraded ligature will allow you to have an easier time playing and learning the instrument.  Let's begin with clarinet.  The standard metal ligature that comes with most clarinets and saxophones works just fine, but there are better options. 

Rovner ligatures are a great option for both saxophones and clarinet.  They are inexpensive, effective, and easy to use with a one screw design.  The Rovner L6 ligature (pictured above) is for alto saxophone but the same design is available for clarinet.  The slotted design will feature a slightly brighter sound, more suitable for jazz, contemporary, and all styles of music.  The un-slotted version has a darker sound and will be the most appropriate for classical styles of music.  If you would like to get a but fancier, then you can go for the Rovner Versa ligature, which has a built in tone plate that will improve tone quality and open up the sound even more.

The Rico H Ligature for clarinet and saxophone.

The Rico H Ligature for clarinet and saxophone.

Currently, I am playing a Rico H Ligature on my clarinet.  I really like this ligature because it is inexpensive and produces a bright and open sound.  The "H" style shape is meant to provide even pressure across the reed.  In addition, the mouthpiece cap is excellent.  You wouldn't think the mouthpiece cap would matter, but in fact it is very important because the cap can make the difference in keeping your reed safe and in good condition.  The build quality is great and it fits securely over the mouthpiece.  For those seeking a darker sound,  Rovner makes several leather-like ligatures that work well and darken the sound just a bit.  One example is the Rovner 1R clarinet ligature.  BG also make some quality products and I do like the L4 R ligature.  This features a tone plate under the reed which can cause he reed to vibrate more and therefore produce more sound.  If you are looking for a good, inexpensive ligature for saxophone, I would recommend the Rico H ligature as well.  

The Ultimate Ligature for saxophone by Francios Louis.

The Ultimate Ligature for saxophone by Francios Louis.

Francios Louie Makes some truly amazing ligatures for woodwind instruments and I have tried several over the years.  I believe he was one of the first to have some serious success with innovate saxophone ligatures.  Currently, his ligatures are used all over the world by classical and jazz players.  For serious saxophone players, I would suggest checking out the Ultimate Ligature by Francios Louis.  The concept behind this interesting looking piece is minimal contact with the mouthpiece, thus allowing the reed to vibrate freely.  This ligature really does open up the sound and produce some amazing results, but it's not for every mouthpiece.  I found this ligature to be a little too bright and less focused with my metal mouthpiece.  The Pure Brass ligature is based on the same principles and is one of the more recent models.  I have found the Pure Brass to help produce a slightly darker tone but it also amazingly opens up the sound.   The Ultimate ligatures do come with an unusual mouthpiece cap that only covers the reed (which isn't my favorite), but because of it's awkward shape standard mouthpiece caps will not fit.  Personally, I have really enjoyed using the Olegature on my hard rubber mouthpiece.  This ligature is beautifully crafted and provides a very open and warm sound with an extremely even response.   Furthermore, the two screws can be tightened or loosened to create varying pressure on the reed and change the tone and response.  Not only does it look good, but it's functional as well!

The Olegature for saxophone and woodwind instruments.

The Olegature for saxophone and woodwind instruments.

There are so many options for instrument accessories these days and the only real way to find what works for you is to experiment.  I have a drawer of ligatures that I have used over the years but finally have a setup that works for me.  In my next post, I will post fingering charts for saxophone, clarinet, and flute.  Until next time!

Even More Essential Method Books

Ken Moran

As I discussed in the last blog post, there are many good method books that can serve as an introduction to the basics of saxophone, clarinet, and flute technique.  Many of these book are use in lessons with your private instructor.  Here, I will be talking about books geared more towards intermediate instrument study, furthering your jazz style, and improvisation skills.

An excellent book for intermediate to advanced flute study is Trevor Wye's Practice Books for Flute.  The book is a collection of smaller books that can be purchased individually, but why not have all of them!  Inside, you will find explanations accompanying the exercises and a well put together method of scales, tone exercises, and everything else that in needed for your flute technique.   This is a MUST HAVE!  Let's move on to clarinet.

Celebrated Method for Clarinet is a standard book for intensive intermediate to advanced study for clarinet performance.  This is a heavy book with pages upon pages of technical and articulation exercises as well as classic solo and duet repertoire.  The book does offer a few suggestions as well as a good fingering chart, but is best when used in conjunction with a private music teacher.

For saxophone, the go-to method book for technique is Universal Method for Saxophone.  The book, by Paul DeVille, is an essential piece to anyone's library that is seriously interested in learning saxophone.  When stepping up to more challenging material on saxophone, these exercises can seriously help you reach that next level of  playing ability.  Even after spending time on this book, you can always revisit the exercises and speed up the tempo if you need a challenge.  As with Celebrated Clarinet Method, you can use this book by yourself by would be advised to work though it with an instructor.  Continuing from technique book, we will now visit some great publications designed to forward your playing in the jazz style and in improvisation.

I am a huge fan of duet books, especially when playing them with students.  Duets allow for musical interaction and students can listen to me for stylistic nuances and rhythms if they are having difficulty.  The first duet book I recommend is at least for the intermediate player--Jazz Conception for Saxophone Duets.  This book comes from the Basic Jazz Conception series that I reviewed in my last post.  Included is a play-along CD to practice with at home or to use in lessons.  Duets are great for playing and also a lot of fun, but transcription books and essential for learning the jazz language.  In the last post, I mentioned the Charlie Parker Omnibook.  The next book that I would suggest for my students is John Coltrane Solos, published by Hal Leonard.  If you are studying jazz, it is of course imperative to listen to and learn John Coltrane solos.  This book offers easy to read notation along with chord changes so you can see exactly whats going on musically.  Another transcription book similar to this is Dexter Gordon | Jazz Saxophone Solos.  I was given this book in middle school and I spent countless hours learning Dexter's solos.  Again, these two books are a MUST HAVE!  Finally, patterns are an important way to learn jazz vocabulary, which is essential for jazz improvisation.  Oliver Nelson's, Patterns for Improvisation, is awesome.  Although it lacks any serious explanation, this book literally lists out pattern after pattern in twelve keys.  You can work on these pattern with a metronome, memorize them, and use them when you are practicing improvisation when at all possible.  

For my next post, I will focus more on equipment for woodwinds.  Thanks for reading!