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Soprano - How not to get a nasal / oboe sound ?

rhysonsax

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I think soprano sax sounds best when it is sweet and full-bodied, like a high up alto.

I think it sounds worst when it is out of tune. But even when in tune, a "nasal" oboe-like tone really doesn't appeal to me (think John Coltrane's soprano sound and any of his imitators).

Some players who have soprano sounds that I like are: Zoot Sims, John Surman, Michael Hashim, Andy Sheppard, Dave O'Higgins. Interestingly there are lots of doublers and several Brits on that list.

Have you got any tips, either technique or gear, for getting a lovely sound on soprano ?

Rhys
 

kevgermany

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I'm with you part of the way, but my favourite soprano sounds came from Sydney Bechet. Maybe it's heresy, but I'd put Jan Garbarek at the top of my soprano dislike list - even higher than KennyG. >:)

Best I've been able to achieve is by concentrating on keeping my throat open and not closing up tight. Mouthpieces seem to be really important. I've tried a few, the Soloist is good, but the PPT suits me best and is very flexible, easy to push it nasal or mellow/warm, which is where I wan to be. Funny, my teacher, who doesn't like the sop, prefers clarinet at that pitch, complimented me on the way I was sounding on it. I'm still not sure if it was relief that I wasn't worse sounding.
 

Greg Strange

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I think out of all the saxes the soprano is the hardest to get a decent sound out of. I acquired a pre-loved Yamaha YSS-475 just before Christmas last year and it's just in the last couple of weeks I have been happy with my playing, and that is owning and playing a Walstein ss-p soprano for the last six or seven years. I found I had to play the Yamaha differently to the Walstein - whether it is to do with the Yamaha being a one piece horn and the Walstein has two interchangeable necks, straight and / or curved, or whether because the Yamaha is keyed to high F# and the Walstein to high G, who knows...but I agree with Kev mouthpiece selection is crucial and also matching the mouthpiece with the right reed and ligature combination.

The best tip I can give is practice alot...it is a different beasty than playing a high pitched alto or tenor...

Greg S.
 

jbtsax

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A mouthpiece with a large round chamber will help to cut some of the higher overtones. As Kev said opening the throat and oral cavity helps as does using a thick mouthpiece patch which helps to open the teeth. A reed with a bit more resistance may help as well. The most important thing is your concept. Keep working to match the sound in your mind. I used to have my students sing "OO" with the darkest roundest sound they could vocalize. Having them play the instrument using warm air and the "OO" vocalization helped them to create a rounder, warmer tone.

If you really want a warm beautiful sound, get a tarogato and try to sound like this player.
 

Nick Wyver

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Buy a Yamaha and stick an S80 C* with Vandoren 3 on it.

That should be dull enough for you.

I prefer sops to sound like sops and not altos.
 

rhysonsax

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Buy a Yamaha and stick an S80 C* with Vandoren 3 on it.

That should be dull enough for you.

I prefer sops to sound like sops and not altos.

Dull isn't what I want at all ! I wouldn't describe any of the players that I mentioned as having a "dull" sound - they are all sweet, rich, interesting ....

Avoiding a nasal / oboe / Coltrane type of sound leaves a whole spectrum of lovely tone qualities to aim for.

Just out of interest, whose soprano sound do you really admire ?

Rhys

PS And also, I don't really know in objective terms, what a "nasal" sound means - for instance in terms of the strong harmonics present or in terms of tuning or anything else.
 

Nick Wyver

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One man's "dull" is other man's "sweet". :)

I'm not sure about the "nasal" bit, but if you want oboeish then a greater proportion of harmonics relative to the fundamental should do it. I haven't a clue what "rich" might mean. Not sure about "sweet" either but I suspect it's a million miles away from what I might be aiming at.

I don't really go for admiring the sound of others. I'm really only concerned with what sound I make. Having said that, I took up soprano mainly as a result of listening to Elton Dean and John Surman (and a bit of Coltrane). I'm quite surprised you include Surman in your list - I don't think his tone is anything like a high alto.
 

rhysonsax

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One man's "dull" is other man's "sweet". :)

I'm not sure about the "nasal" bit, but if you want oboeish then a greater proportion of harmonics relative to the fundamental should do it. I haven't a clue what "rich" might mean. Not sure about "sweet" either but I suspect it's a million miles away from what I might be aiming at.

I don't really go for admiring the sound of others. I'm really only concerned with what sound I make. Having said that, I took up soprano mainly as a result of listening to Elton Dean and John Surman (and a bit of Coltrane). I'm quite surprised you include Surman in your list - I don't think his tone is anything like a high alto.

Maybe it depends on what period of John Surman. For instance, his tone on this:


By "rich" I mean not thin, pinched, weak or edgy. Some people seem to use "warm" with a similar meaning. Actually, there is a recent thread on SOTW about "warmer sounding pieces for soprano" that has some interesting information/opinion: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...sounding-pieces-for-Soprano&highlight=soprano

Maybe my "sweet" just means "in tune" !

Rhys
 

aldevis

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There are some clips of my soprano playing on my website and here http://www.youtube.com/user/AldevisT/playlists
I hope I am getting warmer, compared with my 199? recording (refuso).

I found the instrument having quite an influence, my preference going to my current Sequoia. Before that a Yanny curved came close.
Mouthpiece wise, larger chambers would help, as jbt said, but there are limits to the ability of controlling them. I can play my Pilinger NYS (very large chamber) reasonably in tune on my current horn. There is a larger model (NYH) that I could not control. I also have a large chamber Conn refaced by Sopranoplanet, that plays really in tune but is not my facing.

Ed's PJ model is my perfect balance of sound ad tuning. It seems I am not the only one to really likes it.

I also find big tip openings usually warmer and less oboe-like, but it could be just me.

Let me know when if you visit the capital: I might have few things to let you try.
 

Nick Wyver

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I was thinking more like this:
I can't find the Trio album on Youtube - but that's the one I've listened to most.
The one that really got me started was this (from about 13' to the end):

You'd probably call it thin, pinched, weak and edgy - I might call it rich, interesting, bucolic and emotional.
You gotta laugh.

Of course, with recordings, an awful lot depends on how you mic it up.
 

Grahame

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Maybe it depends on what period of John Surman. For instance, his tone on this:


By "rich" I mean not thin, pinched, weak or edgy. Some people seem to use "warm" with a similar meaning. Actually, there is a recent thread on SOTW about "warmer sounding pieces for soprano" that has some interesting information/opinion: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...sounding-pieces-for-Soprano&highlight=soprano

Maybe my "sweet" just means "in tune" !

Rhys

I love that tone John Surman get on his sop here..........
 

rhysonsax

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I was thinking more like this:
I can't find the Trio album on Youtube - but that's the one I've listened to most.
The one that really got me started was this (from about 13' to the end):

You'd probably call it thin, pinched, weak and edgy - I might call it rich, interesting, bucolic and emotional.
You gotta laugh.

Of course, with recordings, an awful lot depends on how you mic it up.

Surman is always interesting and emotional and I would never call his tone weak, thin or pinched. But it has certainly changed over the years - those older ones are much more edgy in tone. Some of it may be how it's recorded, but he has changed with age too.

I have seen JS live some five or six times over the last 15 years, from solo gigs to soloist with an orchestra. I love his playing, which covers a huge range from folky to free to straight ahead jazz and lots of points between. He can really blow the blues too, often on baritone. Last time I saw him he played his descant recorder which he had at school !

He presented a radio series on "the baritone sax" and came across as very warm (or do I mean "rich" ?) as he does when interacting with the audience at gigs. Great guy and great musician.

Rhys
 

altissimo

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Saxophone tone is such a personal thing, players like Coltrane, Garbarek or Shorter have the tone they have because they are who they are. Their soprano tone is an extension of their tone on tenor.
Much as I like Coltrane, I find the 'post Coltrane snake charmer' tone that's so prevalent among soprano players to be deeply irritating - a lot of players should have their Coltrane albums confiscated for the general good of humanity...
Most of the soprano players I like have tones that I wouldn't want myself, but it's part of their character to sound that way

If I was serious about being a soprano player, I'd get a vintage Martin or Buescher sop, then I'd email Joe at Sopranoplanet and get a decent mouthpiece. Then I'd practice for about 10 years
 

aldevis

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If I was serious about being a soprano player, I'd get a vintage Martin or Buescher sop, then I'd email Joe at Sopranoplanet and get a decent mouthpiece. Then I'd practice for about 10 years

Don't forget early Kings. someone even tried to explain me how to play a high F on them (usually they go up to E).

Rhys, if i remember properly you should have one of Joe's pieces. How is it?
 

Nick Wyver

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Much as I like Coltrane, I find the 'post Coltrane snake charmer' tone that's so prevalent among soprano players to be deeply irritating - a lot of players should have their Coltrane albums confiscated for the general good of humanity...

Funny you should blame Coltrane. I'd have thought Bechet was the culprit.

Not that I've got anything against it. I find the sop as a small alto, well, not so much irritating as dull and uninteresting. Give me a snake charmer any day.
 

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