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

Private Music Lessons on Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute with Ken Moran.  Areas include Mountain View, Atherton, Palo Alto, San Jose, Milpitas, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, South Bay, Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, and Silicon Valley.

2017 Summer Music Camps

Ken Moran

Summer is fast approaching and I though it would be a good idea to mention a few of the many local summer music camps.  There are music camps for all levels of students and all styles of music.  Participating in summer music camps is a fun way to keep up music skills 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 22nd-29th

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 19th-30th

The San Jose Jazz Camp is a jazz intensive day camp held in conjunction with the San Jose Summer Jazz Fest.  The camp is obviously geared towards beginning to advanced students that are seriously interested in jazz.  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 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, August 11-13.  Classes are held Monday-Friday during the day for two weeks with a performance at the end. 

 

Stanford Jazz Workshop- Various Dates from June 20th-August 4th

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.

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 yes...one 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

2017 CBDA Honor Bands--Only one month left before deadline!

Ken Moran

The California Band Directors Association (CBDA) has been hosting All-State honor bands comprised of the states most talented student musicians for many years.  This is an excellent opportunity for middle school and high school students to participate in some healthy competition!  Participating in music competitions, honor bands, and conferences is not only an overall wonderful experience, but it looks extremely good on college applications as additional awards and merits.

The All-State band conference is hosted at a different location every year and includes Junior High and High School Concert and Jazz Bands.  Students prepare selected audition pieces and submit recorded audio tracks to be reviewed by a panel of judges.  It is smart to begin practicing and preparing the audition pieces now for the upcoming honor band season, as some of the pieces are fairly challenging.  Please also note that in order for students to participate in the honor bands their school must be a member of CBDA and California Alliance for Jazz (CAJ).  Please verify this with the band director if you are unsure! 

Here are the important dates:

CBDA CONFERENCE DATES:

FEBRUARY 16-19th, 2017

LOCATION:

SAN JOSE, CA

AUDITION DEADLINE:

DECEMBER 1ST, 2015-- ALL FORMS AND AUDITION MATERIAL MUST BE SUBMITTED AND/OR POSTMARKED BY THIS DATE.

AUDITION MATERIAL:

CLICK HERE FOR AUDITION REQUIREMENTS, PIECES, AND OTHER INFORMATION.

 

In addition to the CBDA honor bands, theNorthern California Band Association (NCBA) hosts several All-Northern honor bands.  This is a great opportunity as well and only open to students currently living in Northern California.  Auditions work in conjunction with CBDA and the audition material is exactly the same, so why not participate! 

 

NCBA AUDITION INFORMATION:

CLICK HERE FOR AUDITION INFORMATION. 

 

We are lucky to live in an area that seriously supports the arts and music.  Taking advantage of these opportunities is essential to growing and improving as a student musician.  Not only are these great musical opportunities, but it is always a fun experience meeting other great musicians and making new friends.  Until next time!

Saxophone and Clarinet Maintenance Tips

Ken Moran

Do I need to clean my saxophone or clarinet everyday?  Does it need to be tuned up? 

These are common saxophone maintenance questions I get asked all the time!  Let's start off with daily and weekly saxophone and clarinet maintenance.  Moisture build up in the instrument can cause the pads to go bad as well as promote the buildup of bacteria and mold.  The primary goal when cleaning your saxophone or clarinet is to eliminate moisture inside of the instrument.  I recommend using a swab like the Hodge Silk Swab to clean your instrument after every use before you put it away in the case.  The swab is designed to be pulled through the fully assembled instrument.  They are quick and easy to use and are an effective way to rid your instrument of the harmful moisture! 

Another essential part of instrument maintenance is cleaning your mouthpiece.  Bacteria and other things (ewwwwww) can build up over time in the mouthpiece and this can lead to a very unpleasant odor.  Using dish soap, warm water (NOT hot), and an old toothbrush, you can gently scrub out your mouthpiece.  This should be done AT LEAST once a week.  Check out this recent article on BBC News about lung infections caused by mold and bacteria build up in bagpipes.  Keep those instruments clean people!

In addition to regular cleaning of your mouthpiece and instrument, it is important to have your instrument "tuned up" at least once a year.  If you have trouble playing lower notes or it is difficult to play generally then your may need some repair work.  Keys and other parts of your clarinet and saxophone naturally go out of adjustment and need to be regulated for optimal playing condition. A professional instrument technician can take care of this for you.  Here are my recommended places to go for the best instrument repair in the Bay Area:

#1 repair shop in the south bay area:  

west valley music in Mountain view

In addition to being an amazing music store for EVERYTHING (instrument rental and purchase, music, accessories, lessons) West Valley Music has a great repair shop with experienced technicians.  Here are some additional repair shops throughout the Bay Area:

Menlo Park: Bridgepont music

Cupertino: Crossroads Music

San Jose/Santa Clara: The Starving Musician

Fremont: Allegro Music

Tri-Valley Area:

Ingram and Brauns Musik Shoppe

House of Woodwinds

Berkeley: Saxology

Oakland: Jon's Music and Repair

San Francisco: Manning Custom Woodwinds

 

Interested in auditioning for California All-State Bands this year? Now is the time to prepare!

Ken Moran

The California Band Directors Association (CBDA) has been hosting All-State honor bands comprised of the states most talented student musicians for many years.  This is an excellent opportunity for middle school and high school students to participate in some healthy competition!  Participating in music competitions, honor bands, and conferences is not only an overall wonderful experience, but it looks extremely good on college applications as additional awards and merits.

The All-State band conference is hosted at a different location every year and includes Junior High and High School Concert and Jazz Bands.  Students prepare selected audition pieces and submit recorded audio tracks to be reviewed by a panel of judges.  It is smart to begin practicing and preparing the audition pieces now for the upcoming honor band season, as some of the pieces are fairly challenging.  Please also note that in order for students to participate in the honor bands their school must be a member of CBDA and California Alliance for Jazz (CAJ).  Please verify this with the band director if you are unsure! 

Here are the important dates:

cbda Conference Dates:

February 11th-14, 2015

Location:

San Jose, CA

Audition Deadline:

December 1st, 2015-- All forms and audition material must be submitted and/or postmarked by this date.

Audition Material:

CLICK HERE for audition requirements, pieces, and other information.

 

In addition to the CBDA honor bands, the Northern California Band Association (NCBA) hosts several All-Northern honor bands.  This is a great opportunity as well and only open to students currently living in Northern California.  Auditions work in conjunction with CBDA and the audition material is exactly the same, so why not participate! 

 

NCBA Audition Information:

CLICK HERE for audition information. 

 

We are lucky to live in an area that seriously supports the arts and music.  Taking advantage of these opportunities is essential to growing and improving as a student musician.  Not only are these great musical opportunities, but it is always a fun experience meeting other great musicians and making new friends.  Until next time!

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!

My Favorite Saxophone Neck Straps

Ken Moran

There are many neck strap options for saxophone beginners and advanced players alike.  Different varieties include traditional fabric or leather, stretchable padded neoprene, and ergonomic.  Which is the right one for you?  Here are a few recommended neck straps that my students use as well as my favorite for personal use.

Rico Padded Saxophone Strap- Snap Hook

The Rico Padded Saxophone Strap is widely available in music stores and online and is a very good option for beginning saxophone students.  The padded memory foam provides extra comfort for your neck while breathable athletic material stays comfortable and dry.  Make sure to get the snap hook.  It is especially important for kids to use a neck strap with a snap hook, otherwise the saxophone can detach from the neck strap rather easily and end up on the ground!

Neotech Soft Sax Strap

The Neotech soft sax strap actually helps reduce uncomfortable neck and shoulder pressure, fatigue, and bounce. The innovative design incorporates neoprene with a comfort-stretch backing. This combination allows the weight of your instrument to be evenly distributed over a larger area on your neck and shoulders while absorbing the shock of your movements.  The end result is your instrument feeling lighter and you will be less prone to neck problems if it's a concern.  This neck strap is very good for the larger and heavier saxophones like tenor and baritone, especially if younger students have an issue with the weight on their neck.  The one downfall to this strap caused by the elasticity is the fact that at times it can feel like the saxophone isn't locked in place with your embouchure and can move around a bit.  

Oleg Ergonomic sax strap

Oleg has many great products out on the market, and one of them is the Oleg Ergonomic Sax Strap.  I used this for many years as my main neck strap and went through a couple different ones.  Ergonomic straps are shaped to conform more closely to your necks curve, in turn making them very comfortable for long periods of time.  Unfortunately, because the strap neck strap piece is slightly larger it doesn't fit so well with collared shirts (for those live performances!).  In addition, this one is made from a soft, padded leather which is always a nice option.  

Brancher straps

When I attended the 2013 NAMM convention in Southern California I stopped by the Brancher booth and, to my surprise, found some quality saxophone products.  Brancher is based in France and all of their products (to my knowledge) are made in France.  Although they make many different varieties of neck straps that you might want to check out (available from saxforte.com), I am a fan of the Sunset Strap.  The neck portion of the strap is made from 100% cotton and leather, and the hook and metal parts are coated with a nice rubberized plastic.  Everything feels very sturdy and like it will last for many years.  Although it does take a couple weeks to break in the cotton and leather, it quickly becomes supremely comfortable for hours on end.  In addition, the minimalistic design allows you to wear it easily with collared shirts without getting in the way.  Another advantage to this neck strap is that every moving piece rotates, which effectively eliminates the problem of the cord or strap getting twisted and tangled.  Lastly, the hook is not a closed design but because of the clever weight placement and long throw, it easily stays secured to the saxophone. 

These are all great neck straps and you need to decide what is right for you.  When in doubt, try them at your local store (like West Valley Music in Mountain View) before buying or order from an online retailer that has a good return policy.  Feel free to email me with any questions.  Until next time!

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!

Warming up--Daily Longtones for Flute, Clarinet, and Saxophone

Ken Moran

I recently prepared this handout for a clinic at the Blach Middle School in Los Altos and figured I might as well post this on my blog in case anyone else in interested.   Included here are longtone exercises for flute, clarinet, and saxophone.  Warming up is essential to having a productive practice session, and one of the best warm-ups is longtone exercises.  I have notated one longtone exercise for each instrument.  I either practice these myself or think they are beneficial for beginning/intermediate students.  

Click on the image for a printable version.

Click on the image for a printable version.

The first exercise is for flute.  When playing this exercise, focus on producing a full and round sound with good intonation.  You can start on "B" if you have a B foot on your flute and ascend past "G" if you want a challenge! When jumping octaves, keep the lower fingering for the higher octave--this gives you the overtone and is great for your sound.  FOR ALL INSTRUMENTS: ascend chromatically in half steps.  Practicing exercises chromatically is a quick, easy, and systematic approach to go through many of your exercises.  

Moving on, the saxophone longtone starts on low "D", but if you can play down to low Bb I would recommend starting there.  Additionally, you can ascend all the way to high "F" and beyond for more difficulty--I practice up to altissimo "D".  Start from nothing (if you can) and crescendo to maximum volume, then decrescendo back to nothing.  

For clarinet, start from nothing on a low "E", then crescendo to maximum volume, pop the register key and decrescendo back to nothing.  Unfortunately, for this exercise we can only ascend to middle "F".  Great for the tone and embouchure!

Because I play a substantial amount of jazz, I practice all my scales with jazz articulation.  Start slow and work up to a faster tempo, eventually with the metronome beat on 2 and 4.  I tend to pick one out of the essential scales (Major, Dorian Minor, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Dominant) to practice everyday.  You CAN practice all 60 scales if you have the time.

Finally, I have included the full range chromatic scale for all three instruments at the bottom of the page.  You will see brackets indicating where to start and end longtones for each instrument.  I hope this helps you on your quest to be a great player!  See you soon.