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Soprano Tuning and tone practice

eliotttanner

Member
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45
Locality
london
Hi,

Just got my soprano today. I'm playing an Antigua 590 with yamaha 5c MPC and 2H Jazz select reeds.
I know that soprano has a whole new approach but upon playing my first notes, lets just say I wasn't prepared
to hear such an awful sound. At first I felt I was overblowing slightly and couldn't really get any of the low notes
out with ease as every-time I go to play it jus plays the octave above.

I don't want to change my setup at all as I am a beginner on soprano so it's almost definitely to do with inexperience. I have played tenor for 2 years
and it feels like I am back to being a complete beginner again, or actually when I began on alto I could at least
get a fairly decent sound. Also my setup is pretty resistant on the tenor so the transition to something this small may have made it harder.
I'm sure it's a matter of getting use to it.

Anyway I just wanted to ask how I should approach my first weeks of practicing. Obviously this is less of the technical side as it's fairly similar to tenor,
but more just working on the correct embouchure to begin with and then I'm assuming it's the same business with long tones, overtones etc.

I think I wasn't prepared for how out of tune I was actually going to be. Sometimes off by a whole semitone. I'm pretty sure the horn plays in tune when an experienced player is behind it.

Any advice or any links to soprano specific advice would be hugely appreciated.

Thank you!
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
15,991
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
We all assume the sop is going to be a little tenor. Nope. It's a whole new instrument.

I wouldn't stick with a set up that you can't play. There's lots of starter mouthpieces out there. Having said that it will be quite a while before you're comfortable on sop and probably you'll never be completely happy. ;)
 

Wade Cornell

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2,569
Locality
New Zealand and Australia
Not being able to hit low notes can be a number of things. Are you sure the instrument is in playable condition? Has anyone else played it? If mechanically OK, then I'd be looking to drop down to a very soft reed and relaxing your embouchure a bit and see if you can then get those low notes.

I'm not familiar with your make of sax so can't comment, however many sops require the mouthpiece to be pushed on nearly to the hilt. A simple trick to test if you're in tune (for the instrument) is to play low B harmonic (so that it's B2 without using the octave key), then play the natural B2 and see if they match. If not adjust the mouthpiece position until they do match.
 

eliotttanner

Member
Messages
45
Locality
london
Not being able to hit low notes can be a number of things. Are you sure the instrument is in playable condition? Has anyone else played it? If mechanically OK, then I'd be looking to drop down to a very soft reed and relaxing your embouchure a bit and see if you can then get those low notes.

I'm not familiar with your make of sax so can't comment, however many sops require the mouthpiece to be pushed on nearly to the hilt. A simple trick to test if you're in tune (for the instrument) is to play low B harmonic (so that it's B2 without using the octave key), then play the natural B2 and see if they match. If not adjust the mouthpiece position until they do match.

No one has played it other than me (while it's been in my hands) but the person I bought it off was a good player and spoke highly of it.

I have already done the B harmonic along with Bb as well and they matched up well.
I have only had it out the case for one day so I'm sure it's just a matter of getting used to the size of the instrument. Personally I feel this is a whole new instrument to learn and requires a completely different approach. But I could be wrong.

Also it's not that I cant hit the low notes at all it's just taken a second to get used to not overblowing those low notes. I have spent the last 3 days getting the horn into good shape so if there was a problem I would have spotted it.
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,569
Locality
New Zealand and Australia
As you say then, if there is nothing mechanical, then it comes back to three factors (in the order of importance): you, the reed or the mouthpiece. You already recognize that it's going to take some work/time, but make it easy on yourself by starting with a soft reed, which will allow it all to come together faster. With your experience you may already realize that the sax is an "imperfect instrument". You can bend the tone quite easily. Well, the soprano is is much more extreme in that regard. In order to play the sop or nino in tune you must be able to hear the pitch you are attempting to play. After a while (months to years) it becomes automatic with your embouchure making those adjustments. That might sound esoteric, but I assure you it's true. To be more specific when you practice it's NOT a good idea to be playing sheet music where you are just fingering the note without hearing the note. Playing octaves scales and other patterns where you hear/anticipate the note will get you there faster. This isn't saying it's a bad practice to read music, but in order to "dial in" your embouchure you've got to be able to make those adjustments, without knowing the sound you are aiming for you're going to be missing the target.
 

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
If there are technical foibles that can be “gotten away with” it’s easier on the bigger saxes. The soprano is more likely to question you.@, especially only having two years under your belt.
Having said that, try dropping to a soft reed and see if that makes a difference for you.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
15,991
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
Just for reference, my set up is different for sop, alto, tenor, baritone and clarinet. What works on one may not work on another.
 

eliotttanner

Member
Messages
45
Locality
london
As you say then, if there is nothing mechanical, then it comes back to three factors (in the order of importance): you, the reed or the mouthpiece. You already recognize that it's going to take some work/time, but make it easy on yourself by starting with a soft reed, which will allow it all to come together faster. With your experience you may already realize that the sax is an "imperfect instrument". You can bend the tone quite easily. Well, the soprano is is much more extreme in that regard. In order to play the sop or nino in tune you must be able to hear the pitch you are attempting to play. After a while (months to years) it becomes automatic with your embouchure making those adjustments. That might sound esoteric, but I assure you it's true. To be more specific when you practice it's NOT a good idea to be playing sheet music where you are just fingering the note without hearing the note. Playing octaves scales and other patterns where you hear/anticipate the note will get you there faster. This isn't saying it's a bad practice to read music, but in order to "dial in" your embouchure you've got to be able to make those adjustments, without knowing the sound you are aiming for you're going to be missing the target.

just dropped down to aselect jazz 2 medium and already feels better.also I like the idea of jus keeping to scales and technical stuff as patterns mate it easier to predict. Thanks for helping
 

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
As you say then, if there is nothing mechanical, then it comes back to three factors (in the order of importance): you, the reed or the mouthpiece. You already recognize that it's going to take some work/time, but make it easy on yourself by starting with a soft reed, which will allow it all to come together faster. With your experience you may already realize that the sax is an "imperfect instrument". You can bend the tone quite easily. Well, the soprano is is much more extreme in that regard. In order to play the sop or nino in tune you must be able to hear the pitch you are attempting to play. After a while (months to years) it becomes automatic with your embouchure making those adjustments. That might sound esoteric, but I assure you it's true. To be more specific when you practice it's NOT a good idea to be playing sheet music where you are just fingering the note without hearing the note. Playing octaves scales and other patterns where you hear/anticipate the note will get you there faster. This isn't saying it's a bad practice to read music, but in order to "dial in" your embouchure you've got to be able to make those adjustments, without knowing the sound you are aiming for you're going to be missing the target.
Sorry Wade, I stole your thunder about soft reed - I speed read your post but obviously have more speed than accuracy!
 

s.mundi

Member
Messages
580
Locality
Texas Gulf Coast
When my children were teenagers, it was similar to learning to play the soprano. It seemed everything that I did was wrong. With determination and utilizing different approaches, I made the connection.
I hated the soprano and spoke negatively about it. Wade and Pete have given good advice. After hard work and finding the correct mouthpiece/reed combination, it is a divine feeling to play the soprano.
When you pick up the soprano, your ONLY objective should be producing a tone. Start mid instrument and work up/down.
Use the tenor for everything else.
I recently purchased a new Antigua. It's nice-sounding horn and tuning is similar to my Yanagisawa, but the Antigua always requires some type of adjustment/repair.
Good luck and get funky!
 

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
When my children were teenagers, it was similar to learning to play the soprano. It seemed everything that I did was wrong. With determination and utilizing different approaches, I made the connection.
I hated the soprano and spoke negatively about it. Wade and Pete have given good advice. After hard work and finding the correct mouthpiece/reed combination, it is a divine feeling to play the soprano.
When you pick up the soprano, your ONLY objective should be producing a tone. Start mid instrument and work up/down.
Use the tenor for everything else.
I recently purchased a new Antigua. It's nice-sounding horn and tuning is similar to my Yanagisawa, but the Antigua always requires some type of adjustment/repair.
Good luck and get funky!
I agree about the necessity to produce a good tone on the soprano, it can be offensive in a way the bigger horns can't.
 

6441

 
Messages
6,309
I ended up going to a 1 1/2 to get any decent continuous notes on my soprano. I don't play it enough, though. Must get back into it.
 

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