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So err. Soprano sax..

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Hi!

I've recently gotten together with some fellow sax players from the University concert band to perform some quartet stuff. We have an audition tomorrow so got together today, we're bashing out some lovely arrangements of Swinging Jingle Bells (with 'Rock' somewhere in that title, perhaps) and Bohemian Rhapsody.

I'm usually a tenor player, however due to various experience levels, we decided I'd play the alto part (which was brilliant fun, our altoist has a Ref '54 which was just beautiful) and the altoist would take on the sop part. Even though the top part can be played on either alto or sop, due to issues with instruments, who can be present for various dates and whatnot, it has transpired that I'm playing the soprano. I seem to find it naturally easier than most because my main experience is actually as an oboist for the last 12 years.

Even so. It's a Keilwerth SX90 I'm playing, with the Keilwerth stock mouthpiece and some.. strength 3 reeds. I normally play 2.5s on Tenor but these are fine. While I can easily enough hear and correct intonation in the two main octaves, I find it suddenly becomes impossibly flat up above top B. I struggle to get the palm key notes anyway, but what I am getting is then so flat I pretty much can't lip them up.

I understand sopranos have dodgy intonation but I'm wondering whether anyone has any tips for hitting the particularly high notes?

I've never really felt the pull of the sop before, though having one to muck about with has somewhat changed my mind. If I end up playing this thing regularly I might have to get myself a mouthpiece for it.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
Hi!
I understand sopranos have dodgy intonation but I'm wondering whether anyone has any tips for hitting the particularly high notes?
Sopranos don't have dodgy intonation - the players have.

The answer to your question is the usual one - practice.

Er, I suppose I ought to offer a little more advice. Try shoving the mouthpiece on a bit further and relaxing your embouchure for the rest of the range. You may find that you've been unintentially playing with too tight an embouchure.
 
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AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Ah yes, and all tempo markings mean 'watch the conductor'. Whichever way you look at it, whichever is the right way to think about it, I understand it is commonly accepted that no saxophone plays in tune, the player does - and with that it is common to read about sops and them requiring more effort than most to keep in tune.

Regardless, I'm not even sure this is intonation, as opposed to an actual issue with the instrument - my ear is fine for intonation. The instrument is fine all the way up, until top B, which is about half way to Bb, and C pitches at an almost perfect B. It is chronically flat above the break, does that sound like it could be more serious than just intonation and practise?

It's an instrument owned by the university, rented by students as and when. As such it has no cleaning kit and a bunch of ancient reeds on a mouthpiece I'm fairly sure had never been cleaned before. I just wonder whether the lack of care shown to it over the years is causing some more deep rooted issues I need to have checked out.

Thank you for your reply though, I will have a go.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
There are other threads suggesting this could be a mouthpiece problem. Try one with a smaller chamber. But - I know nothing, it's just what I've read.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,617
i personally find sops easier to control with very hard reeds.....
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,418
My own personal experience is the opposite to Jules - I can suffer the same phenomenom with my BW sop, i.e. flat from B up, but it is something that I can overcome with a combination of embouchure control, a softer reed and the right mouthpiece. I play 2.5's on tenor but for soprano I either play 2's that have been gently shaved, or a Hahn 2 which is certainly softer than a standard cane 2. This had the downside of having a bit of a squawky, reedy tone till I found a Jody Jazz 7 HR mouthpiece which now makes a pretty good and reliable set-up. And then you need to practice........
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
Regardless, I'm not even sure this is intonation, as opposed to an actual issue with the instrument - my ear is fine for intonation. The instrument is fine all the way up, until top B, which is about half way to Bb, and C pitches at an almost perfect B. It is chronically flat above the break, does that sound like it could be more serious than just intonation and practise?
If it's fine all the way up to top B, how is it chronically flat above the break. I don't understand.

What's top D like? If that's flat then it really sounds like an embouchure/practice issue.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
and therein lies the flaw in any sort of forum discussion... what works for one person doesn't for another!
True, but at least he gets some ideas to try/check out which maybe he wouldn't have thought of otherwise.
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Soprano is harder to play in tune than the larger saxes, especially at first. My first suspicion is that coming from tenor, you're voicing it too low when you get to the top. See how wide an interval you can play on the mouthpiece alone -- even on soprano you should be able to control just the mouthpiece over at least an octave. Without biting, mind you (try it with a double embouchure to make sure)-- if you're always biting the pitch up you may be pulled out too far for the horn to play in tune at the top -- you might need to push in a ton and loosen up the embouchure.

Make sure you're playing a hard enough reed, stock mouthpieces are often very close tip opening, you may need to step up to a 3 1/2 or more to be on an appropriate strength for that mouthpiece.

Pretty sure it's not an equipment issue, the Keilwerth sopranos are as good as anything and I doubt that the stock mouthpiece is a particularly bad match for the horn.
 

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Ah, no, experiences differ no doubt but this has still been helpful. I still think it's a bit of a bastard instrument (this one in particular, not the sop in general!) in serious need of a good service and some cleaning stuff (as with all the instruments I've had to borrow from the university), though I have been pulling the mouthpiece off the cork more than I originally did and relaxing lower down the range, which has made it much easier to get those top notes in tune, and of course, practise. I think I have a tendency to go a bit sharp lower down the range now though, as I don't relax enough once coming down register after a high bit, and I find it quite difficult to hear when I'm sharp as opposed to flat - especially with my head a few inches from three other saxophones blaring out Freddie Mercury's best.

Even so, getting there, many thanks!
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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Messages
3,409
Hi Adam

Am I right in thinking you live quite near to me? If so I've got a sop yam 4c mpc you can gladly have a try of let me know if you fancy giving it a go...john
 

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Ah, I'm in Bath and/or Surrey depending on university term times. Either way, thank you for your kind offer though there's no need, I'll be going home next week and know the owners of a local music shop so I'll have a go on some sop pieces there to see what kind of difference I get :)

Thank you anyway, though!
 
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