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Soprano Sax Tuning

MandyH

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Is it any harder to tune a curved soprano than a straight soprano.

Someone made a comment at a rehearsal once suggesting it was, but I’m struggling to understand why!

Thoughts?
 

Colin the Bear

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I don't have any bother, lately, with my curved sop. It was a bit of a challenge at first, being my first sop. I think that's standard. I would inform the doubters that straight altos and straight tenors appear to play in tune ;)
 

rhysonsax

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Not in my experience.

It might be harder to design and build a good curved soprano than a good straight one.

I like playing my curvie Yanagisawa SC991 for its sweet tone and good ergonomics and also for the fact that the player can hear their own sound easily. Its tuning is fine, but I have taken to playing a Rampone & Cazzani saxello (semi-curved) which is also very good.

Rhys
 

David Roach

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Long-ish answer (apologies).

There is a justified debate about the effect of a curved neck on a soprano - and thus about the acoustic problems generated by all the curves in a curved soprano. Soprano necks are a very difficult thing to get right - I know a maker who has been struggling for with them for years.

If you look at the Selmer S3 soprano's curved neck you will see that it is not in fact curved, but that it is composed of two parts, both straight, which are joined together to create an angle. I think this is not the same as other sopranos with detachable necks i.e. Yanagisawas, which if my memory serves, have a truly curved neck.

My experience is that the straight neck on my Selmer gives not only a different response, but a slightly different tuning. It's not so huge that it stops me using the curved neck, but it is appreciable to me. But, the last time I played a Yanagisawa soprano (the solid silver one with two necks) I found a huge difference in the tuning between the straight and curved necks.

Now, I know the question concerns complete curved instruments which are something I have less experience with, but I have played the Yani curved sops and my thoughts are this:

1) Yanagisawa particularly have put a huge amount of effort into making their very fine curvy sop as good as possible. This is not necessarily so with other makes, but since the Asian manufacturers copy Yani instruments, it stands to reason that some will be OK. And some will not.

2) Its much more about the care with which the neck was made. I am willing to bet that if an instrument has tuning issues, that putting a Yani neck on it will make things a lot better (if it'll fit!).

3) A curvy sop is not a straight sop (obvs!) so the tone and handling may be substantially different between the two.

4) In the hands of almost any player, a good soprano has the potential to play as well in tune as any alto or tenor (promise!).
 
OP
MandyH

MandyH

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@David Roach thanks for your comprehensive response.

This was at a rehearsal for 2 highly competent amateur sax ensembles that were holding a joint concert, playing just one piece together.

I was shocked, and surprised to hear the comment from someone I see to be a very competent soprano player.

I can accept, as mentioned elsewhere, that the sound to the player may be different - the straight sop plays to the floor, while the curved sop plays back to the player, but I couldn’t believe that there would actually be a “problem with getting both types of saxes in tune with each other”
 

Alphorn

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Heard this prejudice several times from players, a respectable tech and just recently from a sales person in a dedicated woodwind department. As our son was with me in the shop and he found the curved soprano (Chinese make around 500 - 600 €) quite nice, he recommended to stay away from curved ones in that price range. Which indirectly indicates that more expensive curvies would be better all around. My personal experience with a curved Taiwanese soprano (brand: Schagerl) is, that the tuning was quite good and easily managable. More manageable than on some altos that crossed my way.

It is most likely dependent on the individual instrument. There seems also the conception that straight necks have better intonation. I just recently acquired straight necks for my YSS675 here on the cafe, having now 4 necks to my disposal. There is no significant difference in intonation between the straight vs. curved version of the M1-model or the F1-model. The seller pointed out a more stable intonation with the straight version as also David argues above. Not with my necks.

And by the way. I dream of a Yanagisawa curvy. Anyone out there considering to part with his SCW-010 or SCW-020? ;)

Alphorn
 

jazzdoh

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2,225
I've never had a problem with my Yani curved, its one of early ones with bell keys on the left, had a straight version before that and didn't notice a massive difference when I changed, which was for back problems, curved is much more easier to use for me, although I am only a doubler on sop, alto is my main horn.
I have had this curved for about 17 years and would never change it unless it got damaged.
 

Colin the Bear

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With my limited experience, I find intonation very flexible on sop. It's like playing a swanee whistle. It's up to the player to play in tune. Tone too, for me, is mostly player. The disrespect the curvy sop gets is mostly down to this guy.

clown sop.png
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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@David Roach thanks for your comprehensive response.

This was at a rehearsal for 2 highly competent amateur sax ensembles that were holding a joint concert, playing just one piece together.

I was shocked, and surprised to hear the comment from someone I see to be a very competent soprano player.

I can accept, as mentioned elsewhere, that the sound to the player may be different - the straight sop plays to the floor, while the curved sop plays back to the player, but I couldn’t believe that there would actually be a “problem with getting both types of saxes in tune with each other”
I'm wondering if this is a reference to 'blend' rather than tuning? I was always taught as a singer than you cannot blend two voices of the same type (e.g. tenors), you need a larger group to get a blend... as the timbres of the two will be different and that might be being misunderstood as 'tuning'
 
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Pete Effamy

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2,275
I'm wondering if this is a reference to 'blend' rather than tuning? I was always taught as a singer than you cannot blend two voices of the same type (e.g. tenors), you need a larger group to get a blend... as the timbers of the two will be different and that might be being misunderstood as 'tuning'
Surely the less different the less need to blend? It’s easier to play in groups as it’s less exposed. Each section of the orchestra is expected to blend and in standard form it’s two by two for the woodwind section.
 

Pete Effamy

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Might the example of two tenor voices having trouble with blending be more down to vibrato being incompatible?
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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I have a good-quality straight soprano and a super-cheap curved one.
The straight one has better intonation, but I am sure this is due to build quality, not shape.

However, the curved neck for my straight soprano has poor intonation compared with the straight neck.
 

Pete Effamy

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2,275
I have a good-quality straight soprano and a super-cheap curved one.
The straight one has better intonation, but I am sure this is due to build quality, not shape.

However, the curved neck for my straight soprano has poor intonation compared with the straight neck.
I’ve had a few sopranos - mainly 'expensive' ones that you'd expect not to be poor in intonation:

Yanagisawa 901 straight and 991 curved;
Selmer SA80 Series 2 (straight);
Academy (straight).

They all played well in tune - but to quantify that, I was a very experienced player before playing a soprano sax and naturally make any adjustments needed with tongue/throat. Ergo, nothing was bad enough for me to notice any changes feeling un-natural or especially big.

The curved 991 was years ago and I remember it being a nice horn but for me the whole curved thing just didn't feel right. I hated the way it sat/felt in front of the body and sort of swayed about.

The 901 I bought for a tour five years ago and it played well but I found it thin - (smaller bore?) - so I sold it and got the Selmer. The Selmer is.. well it's a Selmer, which is why I bought it. Got it 2nd hand, one black and gold to compare it to (hated that).

The Academy I got from Robbie maybe 15 years ago. He used to come to a jazz residency I had with a band near where he lived. He let me have it for the price it cost him to import it (£100) and was interested in what I thought of it. Being Chinese, they weren't consistent (gasp and shock horror!), but I couldn't believe this one. The mouthpiece in the box was nasty, or perhaps really nasty, so I bought a Meyer. This might have been ill-suited to the horn, but I'll come to that later.

The intonation was pretty much 'Bob-on', no complaints at all. The sound was really nice - not all bright and 'oboey' (sorry if you like that - matter of taste). It was very playable - apart from one thing: I used to get a headache from playing it! Maybe tension in the shoulders, or maybe the mouthpiece needed to be more open and it was all a bit 'closed' for me. Anyway - it was £100!

Later on Robbie asked me to help him develop the Jericho brand (purely from a players point of view, as Steve Howard had given advice from a build quality perspective) which was really exciting as I could suggest a tweak and it would appear on the next batch from China about six weeks later. I think that one such tweak was the thumb octave key - it was placed at a 12 o'clock position and I asked for it to be moved to the 1 o'clock position.

I was able to go and rummage through Robbie's stock and pick one of each horn. They did vary, but were getting better. I might have had a Jericho soprano but I can't remember now. The whole journey was cut short en route to its prime with Robbie's unfortunate death. Robbie was a really lovely guy, and a huge character. Great times...

I saw something written on here about them stopping selling the soprano being of quality control issues - there were bound to be some, but it wasn't as simple as that - because it was cheap and small, lots were being bought as a first instrument for very young kids. There are always exceptions to a rule, but most experienced teachers and players would not advocate the soprano as being the first instrument to learn on - it's too hard.. too definite in its demands and certainly not forgiving. This inexperience, and lack of progress often led to horns being returned as "defective", but were nothing of the sort.
 

Zugzwang

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I have heard the same said in the workshop I attend - 2 people playing straight sops, 1 curvy. I merely pass that on fwiw.
 

Colin the Bear

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Just a thought, The difference in intonation between a straight neck and a curved neck may well be due to the angle the mouthpiece goes into the mouth. It's not a clarinet.

The misconception that the sound comes out of the bell is held by many sound engineers. If only it were true. It's not a trumpet.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,275
Just a thought, The difference in intonation between a straight neck and a curved neck may well be due to the angle the mouthpiece goes into the mouth. It's not a clarinet.

The misconception that the sound comes out of the bell is held by many sound engineers. If only it were true. It's not a trumpet.
The real problem is when you try and play low Bb and the air still doesn’t come out of the bell.
 
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