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Hi, I've been an alto sax player my whole saxophone playing "career" (6 years hahah)
In Big Band, I've recently been given a soprano to play in one song/chart.
I've played it a few times and it just sounds HORRIBLE... It's a YSS-475 II, an intermediate model.
It sounds exactly like a oboe, and I don't know if it is because of my embouchure, or my mouthpiece (plastic Yamaha 4C) or just because it is a straight soprano model.

Storytime:
I've practiced a bit on it and I played at a recent workshop (Brisbane SHEP) because the conductor asked if any of the altos own a soprano and I was the only one... He asked "Are you any good (on the soprano)?" and I replied "Mmmm not really"
I played it and he didn't have any criticism, but rather complimented me...
Then after the holidays (vacation) I went to my Big Band rehearsal and when I played the soprano, the section leader, half-jokingly said it's painful to listen to.

Questions:
1. Are straight sopranos meant to sound "bad/very different"? (Like oboes)
2. What would be some good tips for the transition from alto to soprano?
3. Any $100-$150 soprano mouthpiece recommendation for both classical and Big Band works?

Thanks,
Jun
 

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Hi

This is not really a Alto to Soprano tip, as I am more of a soprano only player myself with short experience. I can however tell you what worked for me as a beginner, and that I have made HUGE progress in short time.

Sound consept is different for each individual. Soprano can be oboe-like, trumpet-like, flute-like and .. saxophone like :D
The conductor in Brisbane might enjoy a lot of oboe in the soprano sound. From what I can tell, you dont agree so you need to work on changing that sound. Your sound comes mostly from embouchure, mouthpiece and reed setup. sax model and straight/ curvey not so much.

In the big band music you play, would a oboe be able to fit in? If not, then you have one of your answers.

1. My opinion yes. They sound very different, and feel different from Alto/Tenor. That is aslo why I love it. The soprano does not need to sound like oboe. (Most opinions Ihave seen they dont want it) I like it to a smal degree in classical sound.

2. Someone else need to give advice here.

3. What worked for me was at first an Vandoren SL3. Since I found out it worked very good for me, I used it as a referance in contact with a refacer/ mp maker. Bought a balanced mp from remaker with the SL3 reference, and WoW. What a difference from what worked good in the first place. Really, it is that big improvement. Fuller sound comes out more easy, better control.
So my advice would be to visit a store to try some pieces. Find something that works for you (less oboe). Dont buy it, but use it as a reference to get a mp with balanced rails. If I would have tested a balanced mp in the first place, I would have saved the money on the Vandoren.

Best regards
Øyvind
 

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I would not worry about your gear, but just put more work time studying the soprano, playing long tones, scales, practicing intonation and listening to different soprano players.
I haven't played sop for months and it sounds horrible to me too but i know i can make it sound good if i put time in the shed. Maybe i could divide my practice time between alto and sop, which is something you can think of too.
 

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A YSS 475 with a 4c mouthpiece should be fine for the moment imo. What reeds are you useing? I had great success with playing clarinet reeds (for a 4c perhaps 2,5 blue box?), but that's just me.
Do the normal tonal studies (long tones, overtone studies ....), try not to bite and your sound should improve.
Another thought: Which song do you play in your Bigband with soprano? Do you think, the sound is fitting well in this context? Soprano is great for modal moods, not so much for blues or uptempo numbers imho (though a good player can do anything...)
And listen to some of the great soprano players (Branford Marsalis and Tim Garland are my favourites at the moment)
 

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Crank your tuner to high gear and play lots of long tones soft to loud to soft keeping pitch accurate. On Soprano I have more back pressure (feels like baseball in my throat) so I work on relaxing the embouchure and letting the air do the work. Air speed and lip pressure are much more critical for me on Soprano and like others have stated I'd have to be playing that at least 20 minute a day for a week or so to get my control back. Id sound like an oboe now if I tried to play it. A med facing link HR Might open up the sound and keep the intonation reasonable . you might try one from WW and BWs say a 6 or so? Good luck. K
 

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A YSS 475 with a 4c mouthpiece should be fine for the moment imo. What reeds are you useing? I had great success with playing clarinet reeds (for a 4c perhaps 2,5 blue box?), but that's just me.
Do the normal tonal studies (long tones, overtone studies ....), try not to bite and your sound should improve.
Another thought: Which song do you play in your Bigband with soprano? Do you think, the sound is fitting well in this context? Soprano is great for modal moods, not so much for blues or uptempo numbers imho (though a good player can do anything...)
And listen to some of the great soprano players (Branford Marsalis and Tim Garland are my favourites at the moment)
Listen to the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. A lot of lead soprano in those arrangements. They kind of created that sound.
 

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On Soprano I have more back pressure (feels like baseball in my throat) so I work on relaxing the embouchure and letting the air do the work.
great advice. moving from alto to soprano is like going from the easiest horn to the most difficult, all because of the heightened sensitivity of all things mouthpiece related. getting into soprano requires a lot of unexpected work and expertise. even after you get comfortable with the fundamentals, you will probably find that practicing it on a very regular basis, as opposed to occasional doubling, is key.

most of the tone you get depends on what you're putting into it, but there's no denying that some set-ups can gravitate more towards "oboe" (think Coltrane and his "metal classic" Selmer) and others may be more conducive to "flute", which i seem to have an easier time finding with a large chamber and wider tip. BUT, i think that "oboe" stands out more in ensemble, if that's to goal of adding it to an arrangement.
 

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Zoot Sims «Soprano Sax» album. A real delight, far from the sometimes double-reed influenced soprano sounds. How you get there ? Listen and emulate....
 

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Disregarding your inexperience on soprano, it has been MY experience that the actual reed you are using at the time (not generalizing brands, strengths, or cuts; the one actual reed of the moment) can have an effect on how you sound. Take 10 reeds of the same brand, cut, and strength and you are likely to find many that vary in tone, and have more effect than the horn itself or the mouthpiece you are using. But that's true of any reed instrument. Then, when the player changes, using the same reed, mouthpiece, and instrument, the sound will change from what you produced.

Experienced players tend to use reeds that give them the sound they are looking for. They do not just accept the next reed out of the box without first testing the reed before performing on it.

But contradictory, many sopranos played by many players all sound the same to me. I think the reason for that is because as players, we all hear and feel the subtle differences among equipment we use, but others who are merely listening, just hear the horn and if on pitch, the tonal differences aren't heard or the listener doesn't care.

I have a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, as well as an SL3 (and many others of various tip sizes). My result from my 4C is not oboeish. It is more saxophonish. Few players sound the same on similar equipment. It is the player, not the equipment that matters. DAVE
 

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But contradictory, many sopranos played by many players all sound the same to me. I think the reason for that is because as players, we all hear and feel the subtle differences among equipment we use, but others who are merely listening, just hear the horn and if on pitch, the tonal differences aren't heard or the listener doesn't care.
DAVE
When I hear a tenor played on radio or a misic channel I think "oh, that's Hawkins" or "sounds like Ben." If it's a soprano I think it's a soprano. Or maybe "sounds like Kenny; turn it off." Is it the range?

Studies have been done by radio and TV advertisers that indicate the way to get attention is to begin an ad with a female voice, then present the sales pitch with a male voice. Supposed to be that we're (men, that is) wired to pay attention to a scream or plea for help, but any lengthy serious business is guy talk. I wonder if part of all sopranos sounding near alike is a common guy thing.
 

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Conn: 6M, 26M, 28M, 30M. Barone Bb soprano. Conn C-melody, C soprano. Antigua bari.
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Practice with a tuner. At this stage, reeds probably make more difference than mouthpiece.

p.s. A professor I had in college (trumpet player, onetime sideman for Ornette Coleman) described the soprano sax as "A cross between a sax, a clarinet, an oboe, and a duck." I have a little rubber ducky in my sop sax case to remind me.
 

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I agree with the others here who recommended listening to lots of soprano. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

I must respectfully disagree with those who recommended practicing with a tuner. Music is heard, not seen. It is an aural art, not a visual one. Therefore you should focus on developing your ear rather than your eye. When you use a tuner, you are using your eye to find the note - and you are forcing your ears to become lazy.

A great way to develop your ear (and your tone) is to play with a drone track. Put the tuner away, close your eyes, listen to the note, then sing it, then play it.

Matt Otto has some helpful drone tracks here:

https://www.mattotto.org/drones-and-pedals/
 

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It's too bad his solos were so short; such wasted potential.
:faceinpalm::whistle::mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen:
.
.
.
.
Wayne does them .... shorter....:(:(
 

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Hi, I've been an alto sax player my whole saxophone playing "career" (6 years hahah)
In Big Band, I've recently been given a soprano to play in one song/chart.
I've played it a few times and it just sounds HORRIBLE... It's a YSS-475 II, an intermediate model.
It sounds exactly like a oboe, and I don't know if it is because of my embouchure, or my mouthpiece (plastic Yamaha 4C) or just because it is a straight soprano model.

Storytime:
I've practiced a bit on it and I played at a recent workshop (Brisbane SHEP) because the conductor asked if any of the altos own a soprano and I was the only one... He asked "Are you any good (on the soprano)?" and I replied "Mmmm not really"
I played it and he didn't have any criticism, but rather complimented me...
Then after the holidays (vacation) I went to my Big Band rehearsal and when I played the soprano, the section leader, half-jokingly said it's painful to listen to.

Questions:
1. Are straight sopranos meant to sound "bad/very different"? (Like oboes)
2. What would be some good tips for the transition from alto to soprano?
3. Any $100-$150 soprano mouthpiece recommendation for both classical and Big Band works?

Thanks,
Jun
Hi Jun,

I make a pretty good soprano mouthpiece called the Vintage model with doubling in mind, Boney James plays one. While your Yamaha is fine, it may not be a good mouthpiece for what you're doing especially if you're trying to use it in a big band. It's more for playing orchestral work or classical music and it's also too closed for jazz or to get any serious volume out of. I also imagine that your alto mouthpiece is much more open so the transition may be difficult. Check out my website, it may be just what you're looking for. Phil Barone
 

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One thing - even though the soprano requires a somewhat firmer embouchure, the key is relaxation. Push that mouthpiece on all the way, and play in tune! Your oral cavity will take a beating, keeping that tongue high in the back is key, especially above G2. But don't pinch and bite, that will just hurt you and not improve the sound.

I agree with Phil Barone about the mouthpiece - if you play lead alto, then get a soprano piece that allows you to match the feel of the alto. Having said that, a harder reed may do everything you need on the 4C. The idea is to match breath effort between the two instruments, which will make it easier to pick one up and play right away.
 

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One thing - even though the soprano requires a somewhat firmer embouchure, the key is relaxation. Push that mouthpiece on all the way, and play in tune! Your oral cavity will take a beating, keeping that tongue high in the back is key, especially above G2. But don't pinch and bite, that will just hurt you and not improve the sound.

I agree with Phil Barone about the mouthpiece - if you play lead alto, then get a soprano piece that allows you to match the feel of the alto. Having said that, a harder reed may do everything you need on the 4C. The idea is to match breath effort between the two instruments, which will make it easier to pick one up and play right away.
Don't think the closed mouthpiece is going to cut it, he needs something more open, like .068 or 70. That will do it. Phil Barone
 
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