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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My sweet little daughter, who just turned 6 years, wants dad to get her a sax! "A real instrument!"

She has just started in school and since big brother on 8 and dad on 40 plays, she is getting more and more insistant... I have let her handle a curved soprano in the store. She has a good tone! But she has no experience playing any instrument. Her big brother can play a little on my alto, if I hold it for him. He also wants dad to get a smaller sax. He usually plays brass (baritone and cornet) she has little interest in the cornet, even if she can handle it.

And dad hesitates to invest in another horn just now. The wife acceptance factor is not yet high enough, and a decent soprano does cost money. I have an alto that I'd rather not sell. But it's hard to say no aswell. Am I letting go of a great opertunity?

What do I do?

Does anyone have experience with young players on a (curved) soprano? If so, please share your views on starting a relatively young child on sax.

(Please, I have allready asked for a reply in the end of this tread, but I have not yet heard from anyone:
http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=57146)

Dad,
Oslosax
 

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My daughter started piano at 5 and clarinet at 7. A sax (alto) was way too heavy for her. If your daughter has the aptitude, then piano and clarinet would be good starting points ... or a flute ... or even a recorder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hello Pinnman,
Thanks for your reply. My son and I play a little recorder, that's how we got started. But she has not been interested in trying the recorder more than just briefly. I have also tried to get her going on a keyboard without success. I think she is drawn to the sax because it is a more interesting/exciting instrument from her point of view.

I know that there are some who have tried a small sax at a young age. So I'm hoping that they see this post and reply.

I will stil try to get her interested in the recorder and cornet, though.
 

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Hello Oslo,

As a pedagogical experiment, I have been teaching 3 young beginning students on curved soprano for the last couple of years- they all began lessons at different stages- but all began around age 7. I informed the parents beforehand that this was basically an experiment- and that I would proceed with the idea only if they were going to be very supportive. Otherwise my usual advice would be for the kids to play recorder, flute, clarinet (Eb, C, or Bb- depending on the size of their hands) or piano for a couple of years and then switch to alto sax at around age 9-10... depending on their physical stature.

Soprano can be pretty unnerving as a beginning instrument. There is hardly any literature or method books that cater to this particular scenario... so it means a lot of searching for pieces, re-writing, etc. for the teacher.
Soprano is difficult to play in-tune - and the range for playing well in-tune as a beginner is much smaller on the soprano than on alto. One has to really walk a tight-rope between the kids becoming impatient and bored on the one hand... or becoming disheartened and stressed by the difficulties of playing this instrument well. It is one thing to get a decent sound out of the instrument- but it is another thing to constantly produce the level of embouchure control that is needed to create a consistently good tone -while making the necessary embouchure adjustments needed to play the instrument well in-tune. Not to mention the level of exactitude in hearing intonation that is necessary to make those kinds of adjustments.
It is pretty strenuous to play the soprano- and much more so for a 6 year old child!

Add into the equation the fact that inexpensive instruments all have inadequacies (esp. intonation-wise, but also mechanical) that begin to become rather obvious after the first year or so... all in all, I´m rather torn on this issue.

I do believe that many students would be better served (esp. at age 6) to begin on an instrument that is less physically taxing to play- while developing the finer motor skills, breath-support, ear, while gaining valuable experience and, summa summarum, a greater knowledge of music...
and then move on to the alto sax as soon as that is possible.

On the other hand, it´s not going to hurt them to have an early start on soprano- but I sometimes do find myself longing for the day when those kids will finally be able to move on to alto. It´s strenuous, man!
Another important thing is also that the parents really need to be very supportive- even helping with practicing, motivation, etc.
I´d say buy the best instrument that you can. The cheaper sopranos depreciate quickly- not only in value... but in actual playability.

My equation for kids playing alto is usually this (based on physical stature):
almost all can begin at age 11
most can begin at 10
some can begin at 9

I have heard of people who remove the high d, e and f keys and tape the tone-holes shut... so that kids who otherwise would not be able to play the alto sax- can begin at an earlier age and not have those keys in the way.
For your daughter, you might want to consider either the Eb or C-clarinet.
Most important, though, would be to find a teacher who can deal with this kind of thing- better, yet, one who has experience with such young students.
That is another aspect of the question- you are more likely to find teachers with that kind of experience on instruments such as recorder, flute, etc.

Hope this has helped a little...
keep me posted on what you decide. I´d be glad to answer if you have more questions.

cheers,
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, rim shot! I certainly got an answer, thanks!

rim shot said:
Hello Oslo,

As a pedagogical experiment, I have been teaching 3 young beginning students on curved soprano for the last couple of years- they all began lessons at different stages- but all began around age 7. I informed the parents beforehand that this was basically an experiment- and that I would proceed with the idea only if they were going to be very supportive. Otherwise my usual advice would be for the kids to play recorder, flute, clarinet (Eb, C, or Bb- depending on the size of their hands) or piano for a couple of years and then switch to alto sax at around age 9-10... depending on their physical stature.
I have read about a lady in Norway, who teaches young kids how to play the soprano saxophone. She has been doing this for 7-8 years, and her first students now do very well as classical musicians. She does as you recommends:

- Good instruments
- Wide range of activities
- Heavy involvement of the parents (homework and in class)

rim shot said:
Soprano can be pretty unnerving as a beginning instrument. There are hardly any literature or method books that cater to this particular scenario... so it means a lot of searching for pieces, re-writing, etc. for the teacher.
Our son plays two Bb instruments, the baritone and just started on the cornet. He uses the same book-series as I do. Only for Bb instead of Eb. We sing a lot, and she is familiar with quite a few of the songs (I’m a late bloomer, who has been playing for 6-7 months) I imagined that she could use his books, and that we could play together?

rim shot said:
Soprano is difficult to play in-tune - and the range for playing well in-tune as a beginner is much smaller on the soprano than on alto. One has to really walk a tight-rope between the kids becoming impatient and bored on the one hand... or becoming disheartened and stressed by the difficulties of playing this instrument well. It is one thing to get a decent sound out of the instrument- but it is another thing to constantly produce the level of embouchure control that is needed to create a consistently good tone -while making the necessary embouchure adjustments needed to play the instrument well in-tune. Not to mention the level of exactitude in hearing intonation that is necessary to make those kinds of adjustments.
It is pretty strenuous to play the soprano- and much more so for a 6-year-old child!
I got the impression that the soprano was so very difficult. When I went to play one a couple of weeks back I felt it was easier than I would have thought. But I can see that the alto is easier then the soprano of course. You present maybe the biggest obstacle here.

rim shot said:
Add into the equation the fact that inexpensive instruments all have inadequacies (esp. intonation-wise, but also mechanical) that begin to become rather obvious after the first year or so... all in all, I’m rather torn on this issue.
Yes, I have played two and the tone was noticeably better on the more expensive one. Also the selection here in Norway is quite limited.

rim shot said:
I do believe that many students would be better served (esp. at age 6) to begin on an instrument that is less physically taxing to play- while developing the finer motor skills, breath-support, ear, while gaining valuable experience and, summa summarum, a greater knowledge of music...
And then move on to the alto sax as soon as that is possible.
I got the impression that the clarinet, especially the Eb-clarinet was even more difficult than the saxophone? But may be not as difficult at the soprano-sax, al least not intonation wise?

rim shot said:
On the other hand, it’s not going to hurt them to have an early start on soprano- but I sometimes do find myself longing for the day when those kids will finally be able to move on to alto. It’s strenuous, man!
The thing I worry about is the danger of her losing the considerable interest she has and burning out because it is too difficult. Against the chance that she will loose interest because she has to wait for too long (whatever that is) She is very much spurred by the activity of her brother and me and that we share this great thing together and she is sort of left out.

rim shot said:
Another important thing is also that the parents really need to be very supportive- even helping with practicing, motivation, etc.
I’d say buy the best instrument that you can. The cheaper sopranos depreciate quickly- not only in value... but also in actual playability.
Yes, I can see the issue of support. My son hardly plays if I am not involved. Today he also revealed why: It is no fun playing for only 15-20 minutes. But it is very good fun when we go on for an hour or more, because then I feel that I can master the playing. 15- minutes of practice is only considered warm-up to him. We have great fun though, when we do a real session during weekends.

rim shot said:
My equation for kids playing alto is usually this (based on physical stature):
Almost all can begin at age 11
Most can begin at 10
Some can begin at 9
This list was good and to the point! I feel the same; my son can only just reach the right-hand keys now that he turned 8.

rim shot said:
I have heard of people who remove the high d, e and f keys and tape the tone-holes shut... so that kids who otherwise would not be able to play the alto sax- can begin at an earlier age and not have those keys in the way.
For your daughter, you might want to consider either the Eb or C-clarinet. ,
This is clearly one of the problematic points, even on a soprano, these keys open and leak just a little (enough). I’ll look into the clarinet-option.

rim shot said:
Most important, though, would be to find a teacher who can deal with this kind of thing- better, yet, one who has experience with such young students.
That is another aspect of the question- you are more likely to find teachers with that kind of experience on instruments such as recorder, flute, etc.
I have a teacher on the sax, he is quite accomplished, and he plays the flute, sax and guitar. He builds flutes and repairs saxes. AND he is very friendly, he has teaching experience but not on the combination of sax and small kids. They have met and get along well.

rim shot said:
Hope this has helped a little...
Keep me posted on what you decide. I’d be glad to answer if you have more questions.

Cheers,
You have helped a lot! It is still a hard decision, but now at least we have one more option, the clarinet. I know that she can make the jump later if she plays the clarinet and wants to switch. I also think that she will have more chances to get to play if her instrument is clarinet and not soprano sax. Infortunately our schoolband is only a brassband with no woodwinds but they are willing to give her lessons on a cornet. They are very few now.

The whole thing really boils down to an economic question, if I could afford to get a good soprano sax right now I would do that. Since its a strech, I hesitate, but I am considering different options to finance it. I know that both my son and I also would love to play a soprano sax:D

Thanks,
Oslosax
 

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If you buy me a plane ticket to Norway, I'll teach your daughter.
 

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I got the impression that the clarinet, especially the Eb-clarinet was even more difficult than the saxophone? But may be not as difficult at the soprano-sax, al least not intonation wise?
Intonation is sketchy in the higher range on the Eb- but it´s not all that difficult to blow- as it doesn´t have as much resistance as the soprano sax. Beginners usually play for a year or so in the low range (chalumeau) of the clarinet- so that´s not really a problem.
C-clarinet might be an option, there. It sounds and feels more like a Bb clarinet- just smaller. Then again, what do you do with these instruments when she moves on?

I imagined that she could use his [....cornet and baritone] books, and that we could play together?
Cornet, Baritone and Trumpet all play lower than the sax- not sure what his method books are like... but I wouldn´t count on using the same books simply because they are in Bb- since the sax parts would still have to be written in the proper octave. Even books written for tenor sax can be unfitting, at times, because it is much more strenuous to play in the high range on soprano- than it is on tenor. Often, there are no really specific books for soprano... they are for Tenor/ or Soprano. That can be a bit of a problem.

As far as instrument selection goes... I have not found a curved soprano, yet, that can compare with the Yani. Every cheaper curved soprano that I have played- has atrocious intonation in the low-range... esp. low C.
The high range is often ridiculously sharp... and, no... it´s not me. :D

Cornet won´t destroy her embouchure for saxophone- it´s a worthy instrument for the interim until she can handle the sax, physically. So, what the heck... why not?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
rim shot said:
Intonation is sketchy in the higher range on the Eb- but it’s not all that difficult to blow- as it doesn’t have as much resistance as the soprano sax. Beginners usually play for a year or so in the low range (chalumeau) of the clarinet- so that’s not really a problem.
Yes, I have actually found a couple of these here. A secondhand one and a new one that I think was a ”Buffet”. I have yet to actually play one.

rim shot said:
C-clarinet might be an option, there. It sounds and feels more like a Bb clarinet- just smaller. Then again, what do you do with these instruments when she moves on?
I read about ”Buffet’s C-clarinet” it was supposedly built for smaller hands and conveniently had a standard Bb mouthpiece. Is this common? And could you say anything about a C-clarinet? You could play piano notes straight from the sheets, am I right? How small is it compared to a Eb- or Bb-clarinet? Keywork for smaller hands?

To acquire a lot of instruments is unlikely, I think. But to buy her an instrument that is not too expensive is ok I think, even if we had to buy a new one. Lessons are also costs money, so an instrument is a part of a bigger investment in something our daughter could enjoy. I might even get to play her instruments:D

There is a market presumably for Eb-clarinets but I do not think there is one for C-clarinets. I might only be able to get one on special order. Bb- and A-clarinets are common here. Then we could trade it in or sell it. A sax would be two, three or even four times as expensive as a clarinet. A clarinet priced at $1k+, that is.

rim shot said:
Cornet, Baritone and Trumpet all play lower than the sax- not sure what his method books are like... but I wouldn’t count on using the same books simply because they are in Bb- since the sax parts would still have to be written in the proper octave. Even books written for tenor sax can be unfitting, at times, because it is much more strenuous to play in the high range on soprano- than it is on tenor. Often, there are no really specific books for soprano... they are for Tenor/ or Soprano. That can be a bit of a problem.
Agree, or with a little work it might be rewritten in the right octave without transposing sharps and flats?

rim shot said:
As far as instrument selection goes... I have not found a curved soprano, yet, that can compare with the Yani. Every cheaper curved soprano that I have played- has atrocious intonation in the low-range... esp. low C.
The high range is often ridiculously sharp... and, no... it’s not me. :D
I played a curved B&S (Neukirchen) against a straight Yani S901, the Yani was 50% more expensive and so was the sound. But I was not comfortable with the straight neck and I was looking for a curved one… R&C is also available as is the Yani SC9xx, at least on special order. Borgani also but, $$$.

rim shot said:
Cornet won’t destroy her embouchure for saxophone- it’s a worthy instrument for the interim until she can handle the sax, physically. So, what the heck... why not?
Good to know, but the “resistance” is quite large or it’s strenuous to blow… But it’s free and available to us now today.

Today the kids received uniforms for the national-day coming up on the 17. of May. Our girl got a sweater with the bands insignia on the arm and front, a small cap and a request for her to lead the parade from the school to church. She was delighted:D

I will do some more thinking; thanks for your advice so far, rim shot.

littlemanbighorn said:
If you buy me a plane ticket to Norway, I'll teach your daughter.
I’d rather go to see you, if I had to pay the ticket anyway;)
Still, thank you for the offer.
-
OsloSax
 
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