Saxophones How difficult is it to go from ALTO to SOPRANO ?

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120
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Canada
#1
I’m getting my 1953 alto saxophone refurbished so it’s in good playable condition. Some of you have mentioned getting a tenor saxophone and while I truly enjoy the sound of it, size wise, I find it too big.

I’ve always really liked the sound of the soprano saxophone but have been a bit intimidated due to the fact that people say they are difficult to play in tune.

Just how different is a soprano compared to an alto? I’ve got a very good ear for playing in key.

Thank you! Maybe this weekend I could try one when I take my alto in to get fixed.

Note: for those who play multiple instruments. What made you decide to play more than one type of saxophone?
 

MandyH

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#2
It isn’t!
Don’t listen to those nay-sayers!

I went Alto - Bari - Tenor - soprano ( I am a Bari player)

The notable difference in my experience is pitch (and this was my biggest issue when I took up Tenor) - going from an Eb pitched instrument to a Bb pitched instrument. I found my ears/ brain could not rationalise that what I fingered did not sound as I expected it would - my brain was expecting a different note because it was used to Eb pitched instruments.
Once I overcame that, I had no problem then adding in the soprano.

Obviously the mouthpiece is smaller, therefore you need a more precise embouchure, so you may find your face muscles start to ache sooner than with Alto, so you may need to build up to get a decent playing time.

If you have a good ear, you shouldn’t have a problem with pitch.
 

nigeld

I think I need a different ligature
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#3
I agree with @MandyH. If it takes your fancy, then go for it!

I don't find it harder to play my soprano sax in tune than my tenor. However, some cheap, and some not so cheap, soprano saxophones are themselves not very well in tune, particularly at the high end. So it is worth checking with a tuner.
 
Messages
120
Location
Canada
#5
It isn’t!
Don’t listen to those nay-sayers!

I went Alto - Bari - Tenor - soprano ( I am a Bari player)

The notable difference in my experience is pitch (and this was my biggest issue when I took up Tenor) - going from an Eb pitched instrument to a Bb pitched instrument. I found my ears/ brain could not rationalise that what I fingered did not sound as I expected it would - my brain was expecting a different note because it was used to Eb pitched instruments.
Once I overcame that, I had no problem then adding in the soprano.

Obviously the mouthpiece is smaller, therefore you need a more precise embouchure, so you may find your face muscles start to ache sooner than with Alto, so you may need to build up to get a decent playing time.

If you have a good ear, you shouldn’t have a problem with pitch.
I have a very good ear for pitch accuracy and your embouchure comment makes a lot of sense. I would image the mouth muscles would get a good workout. Going from Eb to Bb I would assume would take some getting used to but worth the effort.

Thank you Mandy
 
Messages
120
Location
Canada
#6
I play tenor, alto, sop, flute and blues harp. I also used to play keys a lot.
You'll probably find you'll get more work if you double.
What do you mean by your last sentence please?
Do you mean I will have double the work since now I have two instruments to learn and care for?
 

MandyH

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#7
What do you mean by your last sentence please?
Do you mean I will have double the work since now I have two instruments to learn and care for?
I suspect he means that if you were looking for groups to join, you will get more phone-calls to join in.

If you can play more than one instrument well, you will be near the top of the list of other bands / groups to come along and join in with them (sometimes just as a sub/dep or maybe when they have a permanent vacancy, you'll get the phonecall first)
 
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120
Location
Canada
#8
I suspect he means that if you were looking for groups to join, you will get more phone-calls to join in.

If you can play more than one instrument well, you will be near the top of the list of other bands / groups to come along and join in with them (sometimes just as a sub/dep or maybe when they have a permanent vacancy, you'll get the phonecall first)
Awww yes. I hadn’t thought of that. This is true. My professional days are probably over though but you never know.
Thanks again Mandy.
 

saxyjt

Well-Known Member
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France
#9
Note: for those who play multiple instruments. What made you decide to play more than one type of saxophone?
Greed! Appetite! Voracity!

It took me almost 40 years to make that decisive step forward and get started. But I didn't really know what I was getting into but I guess I had to catch up all the lost time I'm not there yet, but... I added tenor after a little more than a year, but not very seriously until I had a proper tenor, then I added soprano another year or so later and finally baritone a couple of years later.

I had less trouble with soprano than with tenor or baritone. It's different and takes some work obviously to accommodate but it's fun.

If it tickles you, just go for it!
 

GCinCT

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Oneonta, NY
#10
With your musical background, I don't think it will be a difficult adjustment. The soprano has a reputation for being difficult to play in tune, but if you get a quality horn, you'll pick it up with practice. I'm alto player. I added soprano then tenor. At first I did have trouble with intonation and even getting a nice sound, but I got there. You will too. It's fun little horn to play.
 

Halfers

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#11
This is all a bit of a roller coaster ride! Do I do up my old horn? Do I buy a new horn? Do I do up my old horn and buy a new horn? Do I really want to play? Shall I get a Soprano? All in a matter of days :D Have you had time to sit down and play? ;) :sax:
 

GCinCT

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#12
This is all a bit of a roller coaster ride! Do I do up my old horn? Do I buy a new horn? Do I do up my old horn and buy a new horn? Do I really want to play? Shall I get a Soprano? All in a matter of days :D Have you had time to sit down and play? ;):sax:
GAS strikes quickly and without warning.
 

Targa

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#13
This is all a bit of a roller coaster ride! Do I do up my old horn? Do I buy a new horn? Do I do up my old horn and buy a new horn? Do I really want to play? Shall I get a Soprano? All in a matter of days :D Have you had time to sit down and play? ;):sax:
Winter in Canada - cabin fever.
 

Wade Cornell

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#14
The sax is an imperfect instrument. The higher the pitch of the instrument the more this becomes apparent. Most of the (good quality) lower pitched instruments can be played simply by pressing the right key without much embouchure adjustment. Specific sopranos require embouchure adjustments, and believe me, they are not the same. The Yanagisawa sopranos require considerable tightening of the embouchure to play from high A up. The R&C horns require you to NOT tighten up or you'll play sharp. So there is a dynamic of adjustment to being able to play in tune.

If you are strictly reading music when you play, the time required to adjust to an instrument can be quite long if the intonation is a bit "quirky". The inherent problem is that you don't have your "feedback loop" working if NOT knowing the sound of the note you are about to play. When you know the sound your body/embouchure adjusts in order to produce the sound accurately.

Now this is going to seem weird to some of you: when you've got yourself completely adjusted to your instrument and you've played/fingered a note incorrectly and are expecting a different note, often nothing comes out, or it's totally out of tune. This only happens with the higher pitch instruments. Ironically it's an excellent indicator of being well adjusted to your instrument. The essence of playing high pitched instruments is being able to HEAR the note you are about to play so that your body adjusts and it's in tune.
 
Messages
120
Location
Canada
#15
This is all a bit of a roller coaster ride! Do I do up my old horn? Do I buy a new horn? Do I do up my old horn and buy a new horn? Do I really want to play? Shall I get a Soprano? All in a matter of days :D Have you had time to sit down and play? ;):sax:
I am a roller coaster and yes I have thank you.
 
Messages
120
Location
Canada
#16
This is all a bit of a roller coaster ride! Do I do up my old horn? Do I buy a new horn? Do I do up my old horn and buy a new horn? Do I really want to play? Shall I get a Soprano? All in a matter of days :D Have you had time to sit down and play? ;):sax:
And if you really care, yes I’m fixing up my old saxophone. It’s got a new case, is getting cleaned up and is going in to get refurbished this weekend.

I’ve always been interested in the soprano and since this IS a ‘SAXOPHONE ‘ forum, I considered it an appropriate question to ask. :confused2:
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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810
Location
Hampshire
#17
And if you really care, yes I’m fixing up my old saxophone. It’s got a new case, is getting cleaned up and is going in to get refurbished this weekend.

I’ve always been interested in the soprano and since this IS a ‘SAXOPHONE ‘ forum, I considered it an appropriate question to ask. :confused2:
Yes, I appreciate that. I was pulling your leg. Forgive me
 

spike

Old Indian
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#18
I am a roller coaster and yes I have thank you.
Chill out Nikki, the roller coaster ride is instant adrenalin.
The slow ride on the hobby horse carousel will get you to where you to go much more quickly.
Set yourself goals and tick 'em off one at a time however long it takes.
So many people have nervous breakdowns because they just want to do too many things at once.
We're all here to help you as best we can.
Opinions are like (edit) everyone has one.
Ommmmmnn ;)
 
Messages
120
Location
Canada
#20
The sax is an imperfect instrument. The higher the pitch of the instrument the more this becomes apparent. Most of the (good quality) lower pitched instruments can be played simply by pressing the right key without much embouchure adjustment. Specific sopranos require embouchure adjustments, and believe me, they are not the same. The Yanagisawa sopranos require considerable tightening of the embouchure to play from high A up. The R&C horns require you to NOT tighten up or you'll play sharp. So there is a dynamic of adjustment to being able to play in tune.

If you are strictly reading music when you play, the time required to adjust to an instrument can be quite long if the intonation is a bit "quirky". The inherent problem is that you don't have your "feedback loop" working if NOT knowing the sound of the note you are about to play. When you know the sound your body/embouchure adjusts in order to produce the sound accurately.

Now this is going to seem weird to some of you: when you've got yourself completely adjusted to your instrument and you've played/fingered a note incorrectly and are expecting a different note, often nothing comes out, or it's totally out of tune. This only happens with the higher pitch instruments. Ironically it's an excellent indicator of being well adjusted to your instrument. The essence of playing high pitched instruments is being able to HEAR the note you are about to play so that your body adjusts and it's in tune.
Thank you very much for your answer.
It’s very appreciated. I think I’ll read only from here on.
 
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