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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After much SOTW trawling and research I just bought my first sop after 16yrs on alto (sop is used Yani, no mpc came with it). I thought I'd ascertained from numerous SOTW thread searches that

smaller tip opening = easier to play

so for the soprano I've just purchased a (used) Selmer S80 C* and FL ultimate lig in the hope of having a the ultimate easy to play combo (by this reasoning I assumed that one day buying a new Selmer C or B* or Yamaha 3CM will lead to easy-playing nirvana when finances so permit.) I also assume that buying extremely soft reeds (1, 1.5) will contribute to the ease of playing of the setup.

By ease I think I mean amount of effort to produce a sound, regarding both airflow and embouchure strength.

However I just came across an oboe thread which stated along the lines of 'the narrow opening of the double reed results in a build up of compressed air which makes it a harder-to-play instrument' (than alto sax).

I think therefore I may have misinterpreted my first findings - they are probably more relevant to alto? On soprano is it a balance of finding an opening big enough to get nice airflow and avoid the oboe-esque compression and small enough to not require too much diaphragmatic effort? (Or is the latter never an issue on sop?)

FWIW on alto I now play a Selmer S80 C* on an SA 80 Series II, size 1 reed (see below) and get along just fine with it.

As C* is on its way anyway and has many excellent reviews I will certainly use that for a while, but I just want to clear this up in my head.

(This is a major issue for me as in high school I was made to use progressively harder reeds resulting in minced lower lip, moving (!) upper teeth and finally a many-yeared hiatus before I returned with no teacher and much softer reeds - 'easy to play' comes before everything for me.)

If a thread dealing with this specific question is posted elsewhere I am more than happy to be directed to it.

Thanks guys.
 

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Being a north London chap, you will no doubt be aquainted with Howarth's in Chiltern Street. I was there a few weeks back, trying a number of soprano mouthpieces. The most free blowing was the SR Technologies HR Legend. At £180 its not cheap, but it is very well engineered, is dark and warm sounding and is the most controllable soprano mouthpiece I've played (not that I've played that many). The tip opening is fixed at .57 which I feared would be too small, but it works. I bought it but they had one left, pop down and give it a go.
 

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Hello Soogle. I've used a C* successfully for years on my sopranos and I think it's excellent. You need to use a harder reed though . I use Superial 3's and I find them a great match. A C* will give you excellent control and it is the choice of many classical soprano players usually with a Vandoren Traditional reed 3 or 31/2.
I don't personally like FL ligs on soprano and would recommend a Selmer 2 screw basic lig or a BG tradition. Both of these work very well.
 

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Some sax players are more comfortable in general with larger tip openings, and others more comfortable with smaller tip openings. You mentioned you have played the alto for 16 years - what type of mouthpiece, what size tip opening, and what hardness reed do you play on the alto?
 

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After much SOTW trawling and research I just bought my first sop after 16yrs on alto (sop is used Yani, no mpc came with it). I thought I'd ascertained from numerous SOTW thread searches that

smaller tip opening = easier to play

so for the soprano I've just purchased a (used) Selmer S80 C* and FL ultimate lig in the hope of having a the ultimate easy to play combo (by this reasoning I assumed that one day buying a new Selmer C or B* or Yamaha 3CM will lead to easy-playing nirvana when finances so permit.) I also assume that buying extremely soft reeds (1, 1.5) will contribute to the ease of playing of the setup.

By ease I think I mean amount of effort to produce a sound, regarding both airflow and embouchure strength.

However I just came across an oboe thread which stated along the lines of 'the narrow opening of the double reed results in a build up of compressed air which makes it a harder-to-play instrument' (than alto sax).

I think therefore I may have misinterpreted my first findings - they are probably more relevant to alto? On soprano is it a balance of finding an opening big enough to get nice airflow and avoid the oboe-esque compression and small enough to not require too much diaphragmatic effort? (Or is the latter never an issue on sop?)

FWIW on alto I now play a Selmer S80 C* on an SA 80 Series II, size 1 reed (see below) and get along just fine with it.

As C* is on its way anyway and has many excellent reviews I will certainly use that for a while, but I just want to clear this up in my head.

(This is a major issue for me as in high school I was made to use progressively harder reeds resulting in minced lower lip, moving (!) upper teeth and finally a many-yeared hiatus before I returned with no teacher and much softer reeds - 'easy to play' comes before everything for me.)

If a thread dealing with this specific question is posted elsewhere I am more than happy to be directed to it.

Thanks guys.
I've been using a C* with Vandoren Blue Box 2-1/2 or 3 reeds on soprano. Today I tried
a Selmer S90 and it sounds just a little darker than the S80. I use an not very open alto mouthpiece also. I can play more in tune with more control
on soprano with a C* but most players prefer a more open setup.
 

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All I ever play on Alto is C*.

But for soprano after some experimentation, I liked the Meyer 6M best for an all-rounder piece. Free-blowing enough, but not too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks guys for all your input so far.

Some sax players are more comfortable in general with larger tip openings, and others more comfortable with smaller tip openings...what type of mouthpiece, what size tip opening, and what hardness reed do you play on the alto?
My alto setup is S80 C* with a size 1/1.5 reed - for reasons mentioned in my first post the 'easy' setup is really my priority. I find it hard to articulate it but I guess what I'm curious about is the 'some sax players are more comfortable with' element -

I find the C* too restricted on soprano. I use a Super Session E or a Yamaha.
Does 'restricted' mean 'more difficult to blow' because of its narrower aperture? And at the other end of the spectrum would a very open sop mpc for a small-lunged individual require 'too much' air and therefore be also 'too difficult to blow'? Sort of leading to the conclusion that a medium-tipped mpc might be the 'easy blow' for a soprano? - or is it indeed that

small tip = easy to blow?

I guess I'm wondering if there's an overall relationship between tip opening and the optimum compromise between too much constriction of airflow and too much air required to make a sound, per instrument (sop, alto, tenor etc), i.e. there is an 'easiest' or 'ideal' opening per instrument [and from then players choose whether they prefer more resistance from the mpc (closed setup) or from the airflow (open setup)]. From the below it seems that might be the case:

But for soprano after some experimentation, I liked the Meyer 6M best for an all-rounder piece. Free-blowing enough, but not too much.
Or have I got this all completely wrong :shock:

Am well aware I may be seriously overcomplicating this issue, and also that there may be no answer to this question and it is truly up to the individual. Also that it is naive not to take into consideration the chamber, baffle, reed, physiology of the player and the many other variables... but is there some sort of 'basic rule' when it comes to tips?

(Thank you for your mpc & lig suggestions btw - much appreciated. Michael - thanks for that, will def experiment with reed strengths. Nick - so tempted to go to Howarth's but because budget only allows for second hand mpcs at the moment I feel bad going to a shop and trying them knowing I can't buy. Will def keep that one in mind for the future. Looks like it will be a slightly slow process of discovery :) )
 

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Hello again You must have your reason but your alto set up C* with 1 1/2 reed would close up for most players. You need to balance the easy blowing aspect with a certain amount of healthy resistance in order to control the pitch which is even more pronounced on soprano. A 21/2 reed on a C* should be free blowing . The C* on soprano with a 21/2 to 31/2 reed is one of the easiest set ups out there and proven to work although some players like a more open tip it's a standard set up.
 

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A good HR Link play very nicely on soprano. maybe not to open, 6 to 7.
Also Selmer S90-170/190 are very nice
 

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Vandoren S25 is perfect for me. It's almost like I don't even need to think about the mechanics of blowing, embouchure adjustment, articulation...it just happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
wow

Well Selmer C* and FL ultimate lig finally arrived to go with patiently waiting mouthpiece-less Yani (dual-neck) sop and

:D It's amazing!!:D

Now I just have to fix the leaky G :)

I was thoroughly prepared for a few weeks of not being able to get a note out but really it's been as easy to play as alto and has that upper register sound I've been craving for a decade or more!

I'd like to give thanks to everyone who posted on this thread - when I have more finances I will definitely be experimenting with all the setups posted on it.

And cornily I would also like to offer up sincere thanks to the generous knowledgeable posts on this forum dating back as far as the search engine allowed me to go, as from here I deduced that the sop didn't have to remain a dream, which lemons to avoid, and which setup to make an investment in on limited resources.

Seriously guys,

Thank you.:)
 

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I find Yanagisawa pieces for soprano are very freeblowing, more so that Rousseau or Selmer pieces. I've had Yani 4, 7, and 9 tip openings and all were very free in the response.
I liked the Yanagisawa 7 that I had until I played it on a soft gig and it was a little hard for me to control.
I wish they made a 6, but maybe I'll try a 5. They are good sounding mouthpieces, not too bright, but a good edge.
I never liked a soprano mouthpiece that is too free blowing. I think you need some resistance to get a good, dark soprano sound. I can never seem to get away from my metal Selmer F.
 

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Yani does make a 6 mpc but they are not FS in the USA. You may be able to special order, but it won't be cheap!

I even know some classical guys who say a C* is too close for soprano, and suggest a C** or D.

I would say a 2.5 reed will be too soft for a C* and suggest 3-4, depending on the type of reed. I used to play a mpc in the D-E range but now prefer a G-H.
 

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I am not a huge Selmer fan, but do prefer the D over the C*. For modern, I like the Vandoren SL3/4 and S27 and Yani 5. The Meyer 5 is also pretty free blowing.

I have pretty much put away the modern mouthpieces and now play mostly a Woodwind Co. B4 (very close tip gap but actually easy to play) or Buescher Bb from the late 20s or early 30s (also very narrow gap). I don't find it difficult to use Vandoren Blue Box 2.5 reeds with a narrow gap. I also use 3.0 and 3.5 depending on what I am trying to sound like and the intonation of the horn I am using.
 

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The term "Easy Blowing" is terribly over used on this Forum and is nearly devoid of meaning. Having played many wind instruments, I have figured out that whether a horn is easy or hard to blow is very relative and subjective - not something you can measure or quantify with numbers for tip opening and reed strength. I am tempted to ridicule the concept and say "If you don't want to work hard at blowing a horn, quit and do something more passive in life."

That said, the ease of play really depends on the balance between all parts of the body in the effort - and it will always be an effort - to maintain a good tone. Your diaphram must maintain enough pressure to compensate for the losses through the mouthpiece and the wave resistance within the horn. We are all different so it will take you a while to find the setup you like to play. Then you'll find that setup "easy blowing." people say you must use a hard reed with a small tip opening. That is true only if you like to chomp on reeds so much the softer ones close up. I like a 2.0 reed on .055 to .057 tips.

Because the soprano is a high-pitched horn, the critical dimensions within the horn and within the body are very small. Slight changes make a big difference in pitch and tone and attack. Time is required to work this out. The sop is not very comparable to other saxes although, once you learn both the soprano and another sax, they become fairly compatible. For example, in the past three years while learning the soprano, I have put in only 1/4 of my practice time playing my other horns, all of which I may have to use on the job. (I've played the tenor for 30 years, trumpet for 45 years and trombone for 55 years.)

Fortunately, many things transfer to the tenor sax. I now have more ideas when I play the tenor on a jazz solo. Even my fingering has improved on tenor. The emboucher muscles are close enough to those used with the trombone and trumpet so I can pick them up and sound decent for several minutes. But if I were to do a job where top-quality and endurance would be demanded on one of the other horns, I would have to work exclusively on that horn for at least two weeks. But my basic intention at this point is to be very good on soprano and play the other instruments a little better than the mediocre level to give the audience variety as the primary soloist.

The bottom line is that playing sop will interfere with your other horns by taking away practice time. It will demand concentration and effort at first. Whether that is worthwhile is what we all must address. For me the answer is "Yes!"
 

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Thanks for another excellent post, Tom.

"If you don't want to work hard at blowing a horn, quit and do something more passive in life."

I would just like to reiterate the importance of this quote.

"Easy blowing" is, at best, a relative concept and certainly far from a useful criterion for choosing a mouthpiece.

It's all about physical and mental equilibrium.
Equalibrium doesn't come cheaply; you have to work at it.
It is attained through the stuggle between you, the living being and the inanimate machinery you hold in your hands and in your mouth.


Nothing about playing is ever easy, nor should it be.
The saxophone resists your attempts to master it, by its metallic nature. Muscles have to be used, melodies remembered and enlivened. And all, without a serious gaff.

When equilibrium is reached, it can be found where animate vies with inanimate in the effort known as the making of music.

Every time I pick up the sax, I know I'm in for it. Sleeping on a hammock is easy; the saxophone is work. And it's through the work entailed in taming your horn that you get to know and exploit the possibilities of your instrument and your music.

Your mouthpiece and reed combination (another point of equilibrium of opposing forces) should be chosen, first, for how well it speaks for you, which will, down the line, give you a different perspective on "easy blowing."



"The sonatas of Mozart are unique; they are too easy for children, and too difficult for adults."
-- Arthur Schnabel
 
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