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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I started playing sax (tenor) just over two years ago. I got on quite well but decided, about a year ago, that although I wanted to carry on and develop my tenor playing, I really loved the sound of the soprano, as played in laid-back style by players such as Jan Garbarek and John Surman.

I bought an Earlham soprano and upgraded the mouthpiece to an Otto Link 6* with a Rovner Dark ligature. Since then I've tried lots of different reeds but have never found either (a) a sound I really like, or (b) a reed which will let me play the lowest and highest notes. The mid-range notes are usually OK, whatever reed I use, but some reeds make the high notes impossible to play and others make the lower notes growl with varying degrees of hideousness!

I'm planning to try some different mouthpieces but I sometimes wonder if the instrument is ever going to sound 'right'. I never expected to sound like Garbarek overnight (or ever!), especially on a 'student' sax, but compared with my progress on tenor, my experience with the soprano is seriously disappointing....

Any advice please?!
 

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First I should check your soprano is in good adjustment . If you've already done this it might be worth checking out another set up. Try a Selmer S80, C** D or E something that is pretty standard . I like Alexander reeds DC or Superial..they are very responsive..try a 21/2 or 3. IMO a 6* Link is a pretty open piece on sop if you aren't an experienced player and even then.
John Surman who I like very much too only uses a Selmer E Soloist with a 4 Rico royal. I'm not saying go out and emulate this only that a reasonable lay with a medium reed can work very well.
You don't say what you're using on tenor which would be useful.
 

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Based on my experiance, I would say to go back to a basic mouthpiece.

I had played tenor for over twenty years when I first pick up the soprano. I bought a metal mpc with a roll-over baffle and thought I would be good to go. Wrong...

I couldn't get my poor snake charmer to settle down and play with good tone. I finally bought a Rice Royal Graphite mpc and some Rico Royal reeds. It took a while but I finally got hold of my soprano playing. Afterwards, I was able to go back to the metal piece and eventually worked out a pretty good tone.

The problem is that now I've upgraded to an Antigua 590 soprano and my metal piece just isn't the answer for this fuller toned horn. But, the Rico Royal still does a pretty good job. It's like have a "base line" mpc. So I can continue to try more radical pieces until I find the one that sounds best. Hopefully, the Selmer SS that's on the way will be "the one". But if not, the trusty old Rico is still there.
 

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I concur with Enviroguy on the basic mouthpiece. I still am using an S80 C*on sop. On alto I play a 7M barone, and on tenor, I'm playing an RPC .125. So as you can see, for me the larger the horn, the bigger the tip.

I tried a high baffle piece on sop that I borrowed from a friend a couple of weeks ago. All I can say is <yeeech>. Hard to blow, and a nasty sound to boot.

As always, YMMV.
 

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Yep C* is the way to go, might be the only piece you ever need. I played with Chris Vadala a couple summers ago and he blew the roof off the joint, unmic'd & outside, with a C*. I use a fibracell and a BG super revelation on an S-80 C*.
 

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I agree on the Selmer mouthpieces. Anything from C*-E should be fine. If you are using the mouthpiece that came with the horn, chances are that it is junk. Some of the Asian horns come with one that is molded and still has the plastic hanging from casting.
 

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Shure it's a good idea to start playing soprano with a mouthpiece which has a smaller facing, especially to get a good intonation.
But playing the soprano's whole range easily, is not only a matter of using the right mpc/reed-combination.
It's a matter of training embouchure and support.
I've been in the same situation like Aardvark and experimented a lot with different mpc's/reeds.
In the end the solution was, that I've developed embouche and support, which are heavily different between soprano and tenor.


Good luck Aardvark,

TeeJot
 

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Basic Mouthpiece?

Aardvark said:
Hi, I started playing sax (tenor) just over two years ago. I got on quite well but decided, about a year ago, that although I wanted to carry on and develop my tenor playing, I really loved the sound of the soprano, as played in laid-back style by players such as Jan Garbarek and John Surman.

I bought an Earlham soprano and upgraded the mouthpiece to an Otto Link 6* with a Rovner Dark ligature. Since then I've tried lots of different reeds but have never found either (a) a sound I really like, or (b) a reed which will let me play the lowest and highest notes. The mid-range notes are usually OK, whatever reed I use, but some reeds make the high notes impossible to play and others make the lower notes growl with varying degrees of hideousness!

I'm planning to try some different mouthpieces but I sometimes wonder if the instrument is ever going to sound 'right'. I never expected to sound like Garbarek overnight (or ever!), especially on a 'student' sax, but compared with my progress on tenor, my experience with the soprano is seriously disappointing....

Any advice please?!
No Soprano ever sounded good to me until I picked up one with a curved neck. I expected the stock piece to be junk (it was) so I started on the Link 6*. My solution to the high note problem was going to an 8* ( suggested by Dave D), holding the horn up more horizontal not down like a clarinet, taking more mouthpiece, and practicing every day. Bingo!! I still have to concentrate. If I don't take enough mouthpiece I will miss a jump to high F.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Very many thanks to everyone for their really helpful advice, all of which I am now digesting and shall attempt to follow! :)

My current set-up:
Tenor: Trevor James Artemis (black nickel-plated), Otto Link 6*, Link ligature
Soprano: Earlham (ESS370), Otto Link 6*, Rovner dark ligature
 

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Discussion Starter #11
UPDATE: thanks to everyone's advice, I've already seen some improvement in my soprano playing - and that's before buying a Selmer m'piece! I've put the Link 6* away for now and am using the mouthpiece that came with the soprano - an Esprit, which works much better than the Link. I'm also using softer reeds (2 to 2.5). I was surprised to find that the Esprit worked so well; I just assumed that the m'piece supplied would be rubbish.
One more question: my soprano has two necks: one straight and one slightly curved. I can't hear or feel much difference between them (but then I'm still fairly new to soprano). Any thoughts on straight vs. curved necks?
Thanks again for everyone's help; much appreciated.
 

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Aardvark,

In my opinion, the Bari Esprit is a great and forgiving mouthpiece; I prefer it over Selmer Super Session H and Vandoren S25.

Straight vs curved neck? I find the curved one more confortable. Again, its my taste.

Try it with Hemke reeds; its a nice couple!

Greetings
 

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I am a tenor and bari player with the alto and sop just for fun. I wonder, from my limited experience (which may be more helpful in some ways than the experience of far superior players) whether the key to this could lie in the way in which the sop is being held. ATB all operate at an angle to the mouth within a limited arc. The sop has a wider arc but is less forgiving to an inappropriate angle. So, Aardvark, have you tried just playing long notes as tjonthe road suggests and testing out the sounds resulting from different angles. For me it was (and is) a salutory exercise.

I a not suggesting that this is the only solution, but it may be a step on the road.
 

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Yes, the soprano needs to be played with the mouthpiece at an angle similar to an alto or tenor and not held down like a clarinet.
 

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Just for the heck of it, switch ligs. Try a selmer-type metal or a Rovner light. You might be surprised by the difference.
 

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I was going the route normally advised for beginners - a stiff reed and closed mouthpiece. I opened the mouthpiece to an E S-80 and finally to an F Supersession. I changed from a 3 to a 2.5 and finally to a 2.0 reed (Vandoren ZZ) and found the sound and feel I really like with great high notes and very good low notes. But time has a lot to do with it. After 100 hours your outlook on horns, reeds mouthpieces and ligs may change. Meanwhile, check the horn and try different setups but go slowly.
 

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I agree with Tom. Funny, when I started on sop, using a sufficiently hard reed helped on both high and low notes.
 

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I just started with a Barone 6. I feel it has better projection than my C*. Also the low notes seem to have a rich timbre. We'll see...
 

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Learning to play the soprano decently was one of the hardest transition I had to make. And I'm not totally there. But with lots of long tones, time on the horn, and interval training, I don't doubt it will become one of my favorite saxes.
 

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It's still easier than oboe...;)
 
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