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Discussion Starter #1
I have just taken delivery of a TaiShan sop 2 weeks ago, based on advice here that they were a good horn (though of course I knew that meant 'good for the money' rather than good like a yani.) I'm really sad to say that the intonation isn't happening for me at all - certainly not what I expected based on reviews.

There is about a 20c difference between bottom and top registers - top being sharp as usual. Palm keys were terrible but I got them under control by putting thicker cork on the feet so they don't open very far. They are now spot on, but from D through high C# it's all over the place.

I have played it on the supplied Chinese mouthpiece (useless, has visible dents in tip on arrival) as well as on a Yamaha 4c, which is all I have. Intonation is worse than on the 1990 Taiwanese curved Artemis sop that I was advised to replace due to it's 10c intonation issues!

I can get it in tune in the bottom register, but if I do that, the amount of lipping down required in the top register is impossible.

Questions:
Is there any chance that a change in mouthpiece could suddenly bring bottom and top registers very significantly closer to each other? If so, what would you try? (bearing in mind that the reason I got a taishan was because I didn't have much money to spend. I wouldn't add more than $100 for a mouthpiece unless it made the thing play practically perfectly.)

Am I being too fussy with intonation? Is this just what you get if you buy anything cheaper than a Yani? Is it even possible to get a straight sop for less than $1000AUD (think around $650 USD) where the intonation isn't a nightmare?
I don't mind having to lip something up or down 5c here and there, but this horn couldn't be played in any kind of ensemble.

Did I just get a bad one? I'm really disappointed that it hasn't lived up to reviews. I'd consider returning it and trying for a mercury/eastern music one - is it going to be any better though?

Thanks all.
 

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Maybe, maybe not - if the OP states that on her Artemis brand soprano, she was only getting a 10 cent deviation up and down the horn...which is, honestly, audibly imperceptible to 90% of humans.

Nicole, if you only had a 10c variance on the Artemis, then whoever gave you that advice that the horn wasn't cutting it - gave you bad advice. 10c is straight up in-the-pocket on soprano.

What is the variance you are getting on the Taishan ? if it is 15 cents or more than I agree there's an issue there. If it is like 12 cents or less, well...

If you, or others, feel that in order for a sop to be playable in an ensemble it cannot have a variance of more that 5ish cents....then some revision of expectations may be required; because that is a LOT to ask of ANY soprano sax.

Yes a change in mouthpiece could help some. You could try experimenting with that. Maybe pick up a few relatively inexpensive ones. Bari Esprit is a good cheap one, with a chamber quite different from a Yama...as one example.
 

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My experience with 3 sopranos shows (among others Bauhaus-Walstein curved - English brand but Chinese production) that the key moment for proper soprano intonation for me were always:
- very precise positioning mouthpiece on the cork (sometimes requiring micro adjustments after a while of playing, heating up or cooling down
- precise selection of (good) mouthpiece and reed combo (matching my blowing machine - embouchure)
- more detail and precise playing and listening while playing.
So, I can recommend what @saxcop above linked for ("Mouthpieces and Intonation" article on Sopranoplanet), what was written there is probably a collection of best tips on soprano intonation.
@nicolelh: Assuming that this is not your bad job while playing, and that the instrument is fine enough (some people here on SOTW and in internet rated your instrument fairly well in the field of intonation), try applying all the tips from the sopranoplanet page. Possibly more experienced owners of ThaiShan will say more precisely on the intonation subject of that brand exactly. Try everything before you give up the saxophone to be sure where the reason for the imperfect intonation is.
@nicolelh, I wish you perseverance and good luck.
 

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Typically, Chinese saxes play flat. I think they designed them this way so manufacturing variances could not possibly result in a sharp horn. With a flat horn, you need to find the mouthpiece that plays well plus can get on the cork far enough. On soprano, you need to develop your embouchure so you can eventually handle a harder reed and also learn not to bite to get the high notes. This takes practice. There are also some mechanical adjustments in the stack keys similar to what you've already done on the palms.
On my latest Chinese soprano, low Bb was sharper than expected. I found a maladjustment in the table keys that allowed the B to crack open very slightly when fingering Bb but to close normally when fingering B. Fixing that definitely brought it within range, which on soprano is pretty good, as stated above. Then there's the process of getting used to the horn. You accomplish this at the same time as you are practicing every day and doing long tones with a tuner.
The mouthpiece: I'm not saying 'Do this' because I can tell you are not a metal mouthpiece player, but after laying off soprano for two years, I found I could no longer get the same mouthpiece on the neck far enough to get in tune. This is what happens to your 'soprano embouchure' when you lay off, even if you continue to play your other saxes. So one day a member posted a thread about this strange soprano piece that had been with a sax he bought. Turned out it was a $30 Chinese mouthpiece. Something about it interested me so I ordered one on ebay, a #8. Notice that the manufacturer told me the Chinese mouthpiece numbering system runs lower than the traditional, so a #8 is not really big. I do not have a chart for this, but anyway, the mouthpiece came and had a slightly larger shank bore, plus nothing in the throat to interfere with getting on the neck. I liked it right away but kept wishing I had gotten a bigger one, so considering the price, I just ordered a #10. The manufacturer notified me that they didn't have a 10, and would I consider a 12, so I said yes. In the meanwhile I found that the #8 mouthpiece does not have an abrasive or harsh tone and seems to play more in tune, which I hope also relates to the #12 which I should have next week.
So my point is the mouthpiece/reed set-up can make a huge difference but you sort of have to get there by yourself, because nobody else's experience will be the same as yours. And, could there possibly be a correlation between a Chinese sax and a Chinese mouthpiece? Seems like there is as far as I'm concerned.
 

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I have just taken delivery of a TaiShan sop 2 weeks ago, based on advice here that they were a good horn (though of course I knew that meant 'good for the money' rather than good like a yani.)
I would always advise against buying a horn based on forum reviews.

However it could well be a decent horn, since the last couple of years there have been some very high quality instruments coming from China - things are changing very quickly and so I wish people would now stop generalising about them all being rubbish.

However I do know the good ones are very much in the minority and currently the companies that are branding/selling them are still wary of letting on they are Chinese made.

My gut feeling is to give this more of a chance getting used to it and trying different mouthpieces.
 

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China - things are changing very quickly and so I wish people would now stop generalising about them all being rubbish.
And I'd prefer that folks would quit generalizing that they're getting better. This alone probably induces more folks here to waste their money than any other boondoggle du jour pushed to the membership.

If you don't have soprano chops, playing any soprano in tune is going to be challenging. However, if you sit there glued to a digital tuner for each and every note, you're not helping yourself either. Sure a digital tuner is fine for a quick check on a horn. But to rely upon the visual green light, you're ignoring your own ears. So go to a shop nearby if you can. Try a soprano from a tried and true brand and give it a go. If it plays in tune, then quickly return what you've got now while you still can. Then save your money.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all your input!

I don't think it's "just me" as I am getting much better results on the artemis. I am an experienced clarinet player and have been playing a LOT of sop since I bought the curvy in November.
I was advised to ditch the curvy due to intonation issues plus the fact that it's starting to get too much wear to be reliable.

This definitely isn't playing flat. The lower register is in tune with at least 1/2cm of cork left that I could push it on further if I needed to. The variation between c on the stave and c above the stave is 20c - it's terribly sharp up there. When playing it by itself I can't hear anything much wrong with it, but playing against a piano or a trombone as I was the other night, and it's pretty awful.

I am used to lipping things around on the artemis. When I try to blow long notes with a tuner on this TaiShan, I literally CANNOT get the upper register to come down to even vaguely close. With a LOT of effort (the kind one can't really do while actually playing a song) I can get it to within maybe 10c - but at a point where it sounds strange because I'm barely touching teh reed.

I'm playing a mix of reeds - I have tried Rico size 2, D'addario size 2 and a very hard specimen of a vandoren classic 2. I have a 3 I can try as well but I'm finding that it's actually better with a softer reed. I play vandoren 3 on clarinet so my mouth is tough when it needs to be.

Incidentally it was the technie- an experienced sax player, who said the intonation was so bad I should return it, after he played it himself. So there's 2 people who can't get it in reasonable tune. (Not to mention my 10yo daughter, whose contribution isn't to be sniffed at. That kid has one solid embouchure and is tough as nails.)

I will go try the yamaha at the local store and see what I come up with - see if I have that in tune. While I'm at it, I'll try out a few mouthpieces too and see if anything helps before making the final decision.

Thanks,
Nicole
 

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Mouthpieces are not going to help, or not enough to make up for the problems in your horn. I’ve never owned a Taishan but I have owned three Chinese made sopranos and they all had exactly what you described: low notes were very flat compared to the rest of the horn. You are going to have to get a Yanigisawa or a Yamaha for the best intonation. You might get lucky with a Taiwanese soprano sax such as an Antigua or Kessler but I wouldn’t bet money on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Oh dear. I just tested it with a tuner again and my friend was watching it. She pointed out that I had misread the dial (it's ridiculously small) and it's actually a 30c difference to the octave.
Lesson number one: I need my eyes tested
And I think she goes back. No way a mouthpiece can make 30c difference.
I retested the Artemis and at worst it's 12c.
Now just the difficulty of deciding what to replace her with.
 

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Lesson number two: Use your ears
Lesson number three: Practice

Soprano takes a lot of practice. I have friends who are excellent players on Alto/Tenor/Bari who can't play the second octave on my Yamaha soprano in tune to save their lives. There is nothing wrong with my horn.

Just putting different mouthpieces on a soprano and blowing doesn't prove anything. The laws of physics say if the horn is in tune with itself in the lower octave and you interrupt the column with the octave vent, it will be in tune in the upper octave if played correctly.
 

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Oh dear. I just tested it with a tuner again and my friend was watching it. She pointed out that I had misread the dial (it's ridiculously small) and it's actually a 30c difference to the octave.
Lesson number one: I need my eyes tested
And I think she goes back.
Good that they take returns, but wouldn't the return shipping costs be close to the value of the instrument itself?

Granted this is always a risk when buying cheap Chinese saxophones.
 

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And I'd prefer that folks would quit generalizing that they're getting better. This alone probably induces more folks here to waste their money than any other boondoggle du jour pushed to the membership.
Kinda have to agree with this. Yes, there are a FEW brands that appear to care about upping their game, but for every one of those there appear to be two new 'brands' which basically are just churning out the same ol', same 'ol.
Fact is, you want a GOOD sax, you gonna pay for what a good sax costs, basically.
Try a soprano from a tried and true brand and give it a go. If it plays in tune, then quickly return what you've got now while you still can. Then save your money.
Buy a used Jupiter (Taiwan) and dump the Chinese junk.
Yup, I would have suggested a used Jupe. They are quite cheap on secondhand market, built reliably (the ones after around '99), and they intone well....

But NOT to make this an "I told you so" thread....work with the Taishan a bit longer, based on some suggestions here, before giving up on it. May work out...may not.
 

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Oh dear. I just tested it with a tuner again and my friend was watching it. She pointed out that I had misread the dial (it's ridiculously small) and it's actually a 30c difference to the octave.
Lesson number one: I need my eyes tested
And I think she goes back. No way a mouthpiece can make 30c difference.
I retested the Artemis and at worst it's 12c.
Now just the difficulty of deciding what to replace her with.
ONE thing, just to cover the bases: check if perhaps BOTH octave key cups are inadvertently opening simultaneously; it could be that a mechanical issue is making the octave notes go whackj..

if not....12 cents is nothing. I mean quite honestly - if I were a sop player and my horn was 12c variable up and down....I would be pretty darn satisfied.

20 cents could possibly be made better by mouthpiece, embouchure, maybe some tech adjusting. (Made better = brought into 10c variable range).

30 cents off ? ....either the player has fairly significant embouchure issues (which you say you doubt), or the horn is a dog.

I actually wonder if you experimented with mouthpieces on the Artemis whether you could bring its variance into single-digits (?) If I were a bettin' man, I'd say yes.
 

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Thanks for all your input! I don't think it's "just me" as I am getting much better results on the artemis. I am an experienced clarinet player and have been playing a LOT of sop since I bought the curvy in November.
I was advised to ditch the curvy due to intonation issues plus the fact that it's starting to get too much wear to be reliable.
It is not uncommon for "experienced" clarinet players to play too high on the mouthpiece pitch when they go to saxophone. This can be especially true when playing a straight soprano which has the same size mouthpiece and feel of a clarinet. The clarinet plays near the top of its mouthpiece pitch, the saxophone does not---meaning that tightening the embouchure raises the pitch before the reed closes off. This problem is exacerbated when the mouthpiece is tilted down at a 45° angle like on clarinet rather than entering straight into the mouth or at a slightly downward angle.

On soprano saxophone the mouthpiece pitch commonly given is C concert. The pitch can be lower to get more of a jazz sound, but it should not be higher. Playing too high on the mouthpiece pitch on any saxophone can contribute to the upper register playing sharp. Something else that can cause sharpness in the upper register is playing on a stiffer reed. These are some of the other variables that can affect the intonation besides the brand of saxophone and type of mouthpiece.
 

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The fact that you're a clarinet player and using extremely soft reeds on the soprano tells me you're probably using the wrong embouchure (biting too hard) and not providing enough air support (pressure). Very soft reeds make this impossible. Also, a sax embouchure is very different than a clarinet embouchure.

A friend of mine has 3 curvy Taishans, and I've played all of them. No intonation issues whatsoever. This is in line with many reviews on this site that also claim these horns don't have intonation issues. So given my personal experience and the experiences of many others that I've read, I maintain that there is nothing wrong with the horn.
 

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A friend of mine has 3 curvy Taishans, and I've played all of them. No intonation issues whatsoever. This is in line with many reviews on this site that also claim these horns don't have intonation issues. So given my personal experience and the experiences of many others that I've read, I maintain that there is nothing wrong with the horn.
Her tech is an experienced saxophonist, actually played the horn in question and found the intonation problematic. I'm going with the tech on this one.
 

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Her tech is an experienced saxophonist, actually played the horn in question and found the intonation problematic. I'm going with the tech on this one.
That's certainly a pretty good test. Now go find a 3rd player (who plays some soprano), have them test it as well. If they feel the horn is wonky intonationally, then indeed it's the horn, not the player.
 
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