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Taking up the soprano

SopJob

Member
Messages
78
Hi there, this is to encourage more players to take up the soprano. It's is a bit of a beast at first, but might appeal to those who like a challenge. I'd like to share my experiences here because they include a number of obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments, the majority of which I could overcome. I started playing the soprano in 2007, on a no-name silver-plated instrument that sold at 800 Euros. I took a Selmer C* mouthpiece to limit a beginner's likely variations in tuning. The whole thing sounded wonderfully, but unfortunately, the sax was not robust enough to endure an hour of practicing a day. The octave mechanism broke 4 times in the first year, and the pearl (or was it plastic?) inlays came off a bit too often. Repairs were always covered by the warranty, but when the octave mechanism broke for the 4th time, I had enough. I exchanged it for a Yana S-981 at the same dealer who was willing to take back the other instrument at a reasonable price. Mind that I did not like the sound at first. I found it rather sharp and metallic, almost like a trumpet, but the sax played very well in tune and was very ergonomically built. The bronze and silver Yanas were way beyond my budget, and, in my opinion, only the silver one made a real difference. I also had an eye on a solid-silver Rampone & Cazzani, which had a wonderful sound, and also played well in tune (which is rare, someone told me), but I could not work the lower Eb and C keys properly. Moreover, I did not like the built quality at such a high price. So how to get a better sound on the Yana? After a while, I replaced the C* mouthpiece with one that had a slightly bigger chamber (the one that came with the instrument). The sound was immediately much better, and much more the way I wanted it. Problem: I was often out of tune, or to be more precise: too low in the middle and upper octave. Coming from the tenor, I had to force myself to tighten the embouchure in these registers (by lifting the corners of my mouth a bit further), and, what was even harder to do, to keep it that way rather than slacken after having played a few notes. I also found that using the straight neck only and varying the angle with which to hold the instrument helped a great deal to arrive at the right pitch. After a couple of weeks, I had my first encounter with the high notes that you play by using the palm keys. I got as far as high E (D), but when I tried to get any further (to F and F#), I produced only awful squeaks. What finally did the trick was to take more of the mouthpiece into the mouth and tighten the embouchure even further. Back then, I did not have the strength to do this for a longer period of time. My teacher advised me to strengthen the embouchure by playing the very low notes and, and while holding down the low-note keys, first doubling the pitch, then adding a fifth without using the octave key. That was a very good preparation job. I was happy that I could produce the high notes after a while, but then found that I still had problems when trying to play them as part of a pattern or arpeggio. This still keeps me busy these days, but is gradually getting better. In the meantime, my sound on the soprano has much improved. It got richer, mellower, and has this slight vibrato at the lower end that makes the instrument so distinctive. The best of the whole story is that I mainly got there by practicing. I also have a better sound now when I play the tenor. I hope you find this story encouraging enough to give the soprano a try, provided that you like the sound. Regards, SopJob
 

Ville K.

Member
Messages
58
Hi there, this is to encourage more players to take up the soprano. It's is a bit of a beast at first, but might appeal to those who like a challenge.
Taking up the soprano sometime in the future is a challenge I'm looking forward to (while I'm still saving up the pennies)! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the subject, SopJob, as I think that it is always good if you get to hear more about these things from those who have more experience and are willing to contribute through discussion.

This still keeps me busy these days, but is gradually getting better. In the meantime, my sound on the soprano has much improved. It got richer, mellower, and has this slight vibrato at the lower end that makes the instrument so distinctive. The best of the whole story is that I mainly got there by practicing. I also have a better sound now when I play the tenor. I hope you find this story encouraging enough to give the soprano a try, provided that you like the sound. Regards, SopJob
Sometimes the discussions on the web may lead you thinking that you can look for "chops in the box" solution when facing trouble with playing when it actually boils down to the question about determined and well-thought way of practicing. Thanks for your post as I did find it to be positive and encouraging :)

Kind regards,

Ville
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
I am in the process of mastering the Soprano (roughly 6 weeks). Unlike most I love the sound of the Soprano when played well. I'll be trying some of your suggestions to see if I can improve my intonation top to bottom!
 

SopJob

Member
Messages
78
I'd like to add that knowing the tone I wanted to play actually helped me producing it (this also goes for the closed-tube-exercises). I therefore recommend listening to the tones before. You can't yet play them on the instrument, but maybe your teacher or someone else can. Some tuners and metronomes can play reference tones (some of them the whole range). You might want to use this feature as an aid.

Regards,

Frank.
 
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