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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I've been playing sax for sometime, and I just can't get the (LH) palm E and F to speak for me on soprano. I've tried 4 different sopranos (all different models) and it seems as though I can't get them to speak cleanly. It's just hit or miss.

I can slur into them--but I can't tongue them repeatedly--say staccato or quickly on the dime. It's quite frustrating. I'm quite fluent on my alto and can produce these notes fine; but on the soprano, anything from E-flat on up is just troublesome.

Could it be a reed/mouthpiece setup? I'm on a traditionally, classical setup, a Selmer C*, Vandoren Classique size 4, and between a metal ligature and a Rovner Dark. The thing is though--I've tried my buddy's C*--while he can get his palm keys to speak, I STILL can't. I'm starting to think it's a ME problem, and my voicing is just off--which is another can of worms.

I've tried backing off the reed from the tip, taking in less mouthpiece, and closing off the throat, to still uncomfortable results. Any other thoughts?

Thanks in advance!
 

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Try a more open mouthpiece. Try a piece with a smaller chamber. Use a stiffer reed.

Get the horn checked for leaks, especially the little pads up above the B key.

Smaller facing mouthpieces have a problem with choking off on the high end. A Selmer C* isn't going to cut for altissimo. Niether is a Vandoren 4.

Certian sopranos are much tougher to achieve solid tones above D3. Which sopranos were you using.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Which classical mouthpieces did you have in mind? Pedagogically speaking--what's the theory behind this? Why could my set-up be holding me back?

I tried a Yamaha 875 (not the new EX), a Yamaha 675, a Yanagisawa SC-991, and a Yanagisawa SC-992. It would be hard to believe that all 4 sopranos had leaks--but then again, anything's possible. I'd LIKE to think it was the horn, not me. But again, my buddy has been able to make it work on the same setup and those saxophones--which is kind of discouraging for me.
 

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144breaker - I know the Yamaha 875 (and the maybe the Yani's ?) has a front-f key - have you ever tried playing from E upwards using that key, with the alternate/harmonic fingerings ?

You may not want to use those fingerings normally - but it'd be interesting to find out if it works better. I know it sounds wierd, but I like to mentally 'hear' high notes first, to be able to hit them cleanly - it'd be eerie if you then went back to the palm keys and the notes were solidly there... I actually prefer playing from E upwards as 'low altissimo' notes with the front F, I can get a more 'ringing' tone that way.

I can't envisage that four soprano's could have the same problem, that defies logic....... It could well be worth going to a shop where they have a selection of soprano mouthpieces (even trying slightly more open ones, which could well help) without just thinking inside the 'classical mouthpiece box'.

Once you get the notes speaking solidly, which I'm sure you will, then you can work on whether any mpcs that worked can give you the sound you need. Again, forgive me for saying that I can't help thinking that maybe you're at the stage where you now need self-confidence with those notes.

Whatever, good luck, I know how frustrating it can be.
 

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I'm wondering if your reed is too stiff? Have you tried to back off that #4 plank to something softer? Or, have you tried something synthetic like a Fibracell (say at "Medium Soft", or in their new numbering system like #2 1/2)?

I also think maybe a more open mouthpiece will help you, but I know players with C*'s who play the full range - but I don't think they play that hard of a reed. DAVE
 

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I can agree with that as well, I've never gone much above 2 (at most 2.5) on soprano mpcs regardless of lay, even tho' I use a much harder reed (3+) on open (8*) tenor mouthpieces. The embouchure takes care of the high notes, not reed stiffness.
 

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Try holding the horn up so that the mouthpiece is entering your mouth as it would on alto or tenor. Too often it gets tilted down like a clarinet. I agree that the reed may be a bit too soft. You may want to try taking less or more mouthpiece.
 

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I had trouble the first year or so I played soprano with the palm keys, the same range of them you mentioned. I switched pieces to a Yanagisawa metal 7 with a softer reed(was using a Selmer C* and Fibracell 5.5) and that did the trick. I can easily play the palm keys on the classical Selmer piece now as well. Try arching your tongue more, palm keys on soprano are pretty much like altissimo on other horns until you get the hang of it. Hang in there, it'll come. Soprano is a tough beast to tame for many of us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you for the kind words and replies.

I'll will indeed try softening up the reed strength. As I was testing out the horns, and I was having a hard time with producing sound from the palm keys--everytime the note was NOT produced, I usually felt the heart of the reed vibrate against my lower lip; almost a "jutting" or "buzzing" sensation. Perhaps because of its thickness it is not as free to vibrate? Perhaps its thickness on a smaller lay prevent it from responding as well?

My buddy does claim that he tries to back off his reeds further down (and away) from the tip (he uses Vandoren Classique 4s as well) and this works for him. I'll try it out and report back. I do like the tone I get on the C* however.

Thanks again...other suggestions and replies are still welcome.
 

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j44breaker said:
Thank you for the kind words and replies.

I'll will indeed try softening up the reed strength. As I was testing out the horns, and I was having a hard time with producing sound from the palm keys--everytime the note was NOT produced, I usually felt the heart of the reed vibrate against my lower lip; almost a "jutting" or "buzzing" sensation. Perhaps because of its thickness it is not as free to vibrate? Perhaps its thickness on a smaller lay prevent it from responding as well?

My buddy does claim that he tries to back off his reeds further down (and away) from the tip (he uses Vandoren Classique 4s as well) and this works for him. I'll try it out and report back. I do like the tone I get on the C* however.

Thanks again...other suggestions and replies are still welcome.

Time on sax dosen't really count. Its time on SOPRANO sax! Using all the same great suggestions as mentioned above it took me about 6 months to get those upper notes
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi all,

Quick update--I've tried softer reeds (3.5, Vandoren Classique) and I can already feel a difference. Notes come out more consistently. I can get the front F and front E fingerings to work for me quite well--75% of the time. However, palm E, F, and F#are around 20 cents flat. The front fingerings are slightly better in tune.

I try firming up--but it's just killer on my chops. I try adjusting the angle of the mouthpiece into my mouth, and that works to an extent--but the quality of sound suffers. Five minutes into playing I start thinking to myself: Can I even play these notes at pp? Long tones are becoming physical exercises rather than a ear-and-stomach awareness exercise. :cry:

Anyway, according to the prior replies, is this a commonality? I know I must obviously work things out on my own, but is having the E, F, and F# usually 20 cents flat for (serious) beginners on the soprano?

FWIW, this is my teacher's soprano, and he meticulously chose this horn and swears by it's great intonation.

Thanks again for the replies.
 

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Yes, but you are honest, I've known a lot of players who just 'live with' a little flatness on high notes. More practise and embouchure development will help, but don't strain or tire yourself out. It'll come, in time, and with gentle perseverance - you won't be able to force it.

Just look at the soprano, and see how little actual tube length is involved with the palm keys open. It's like sticking a very short metal tube on the end of the mouthpiece - hard for the embouchure to control. Good luck.
 

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By backing off the #4 reed, I meant reducing the reed's strength, not changing its position on the mouthpiece (just to ensure we are all reading the same sheet of music here). I 've experimented with reed positioning and I get the best results by ensuring the reed is square on the table with the reed's tip in line with the top of the tip. Others may align a BIT differently, but essentially, the reed has to be even with the tip.

You can adjust your reeds by using a sharp knife to scrape a bit of bark of the reed's vamp. Scrape a little, rinse it, try it, and scrap-rinse more if the reed needs it. I keep the reed affixed on the mouthpiece while scraping it - makes for better grip; but be careful not to knick the reed's edge or tip and ESPECIALLY the underlying mouthpiece's rails.

I'm guessing that the 3 1/2 reed STILL may be too stiff for you, especially if you are a beginner on soprano. Going too soft on such a closed mouthpiece is not good, either. But it appears that you have yet to hit the sweet-spot in reed-strength, mouthpiece design, and your own embouchure. You will know it when you get there - no more embouchure weariness and and easy sound. DAVE
 

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j44breaker said:
Hi all,

Quick update--I've tried softer reeds (3.5, Vandoren Classique) and I can already feel a difference. Notes come out more consistently. I can get the front F and front E fingerings to work for me quite well--75% of the time. However, palm E, F, and F#are around 20 cents flat. The front fingerings are slightly better in tune.

I try firming up--but it's just killer on my chops. I try adjusting the angle of the mouthpiece into my mouth, and that works to an extent--but the quality of sound suffers. Five minutes into playing I start thinking to myself: Can I even play these notes at pp? Long tones are becoming physical exercises rather than a ear-and-stomach awareness exercise. :cry:
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The top notes on sop are like the lower altissimo on the other horns. To get the pitch up, try a faster airstream with more diaphraghm support--don't tighten your embourchure. Your tongue needs to be more in the eeee position, also.

You'll get it!
 

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David Liebman's instructional material can be very helpful: overtones, use of the larynx, things like that. See if you can get a hold of one of his books or DVD's.
 

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j44breaker said:
I try firming up--but it's just killer on my chops. I try adjusting the angle of the mouthpiece into my mouth, and that works to an extent--but the quality of sound suffers. Five minutes into playing I start thinking to myself: Can I even play these notes at pp? Long tones are becoming physical exercises rather than a ear-and-stomach awareness exercise. :cry:
I think you just hit the nail on the head.

When I don't play my soprano regularly it whole face hurts after working on the high notes.
And as you said, the top notes are tough to get consistently.

I have recently been putting in a lot more practice on soprano and clarinet and the high notes on soprano are comming out with ease.

I've even been working on altissimo with some success.

IMHO, you need to spend more time on soprano working on those high notes to strengthen your embourchure.
 

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Running scales up and down the horn will allow you to smoothly slide into the high notes. Interval jumps can be tried once that's mastered and you have the sound of those higher notes firmly planted in your head.

The ultimate test is blowing those high notes cold without sliding up into them.
 
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