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I have a TaiShan soprano and love it. I'm a big fan. From comments I read they are typically very good. That doesn't mean they all are. You can read about Selmers that aren't right and they cost many times more. I would suggest every manufacturer makes some that aren't up to their standard. If you've exhausted all of the suggestions so far and still haven't figured it out, perhaps this is one of those lemons.
 

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Rule #1, never buy a musical instrument without trying it first! It becomes a crap shoot at best. And yes, I learned this the hard way as well. But after a couple of failures I vowed never ever to buy a cat in a sack again. Now, I know that perhaps you don't have a large stock of instruments in your location to choose from so you may be limited to online purchasing and such, but there are dealers that offer return policies. It's imperative to inspect and play a horn before you pony up your hard earned cash. The same goes for mouthpieces as well. Online retailers will take them back with usually a small restocking fee.

There is plenty of great saxophone advice here on SOTW but the only way to guarantee satisfaction is to play test everything. I play a Morgan 7-J on soprano with a #2.5 anything reed. It might be the worst set up for anyone but me, but it's one I tried before I purchased it.

Lastly, I don't understand all this lipping up and down business. I was always instructed to open and close my throat to navigate through the horn, that the embouchure and lip pressure should stay the same. But what do I know, I've been playing 50 years and I'm still an amateur.
No, no its not imperative to play test before purchasing. It appears the OP has all of $15 of risk to return it. This same fear gets constantly stated in regards to buying on Ebay on this forum. The most a person has at risk is return shipping.
 

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There is indeed little risk involved if you buy from a reputable dealer.
I went for a Chinese made sop from a well-known German dealer with a 30 day money-back guarantee (without questions asked) and a 3 year warranty.
The only cost I would have to pay if it turned out ugly would be the return shipping cost.
But it turned out so well! It is at least as good as my last soprano I sold 10 years ago. And that costed 3 times more.
Intonation is very good, at least as far as I can play a sop in tune.
 

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Just thought I'd throw this out there in case it's helpful. RE: shipping costs, PayPal has a program where you can get reimbursed for shipping costs (up to 12 times per calendar year and up to $30 each time) in case return shipping isn't free. That's why I always pay with PayPal when that is an available option. I think you have to sign up for the program, but it's free and the sign-up process (as well as the reimbursement process) is pretty painless.

That way, you won't even be out shipping costs (or at least be able to defray part of it).
 

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I've played around 10 different makes of Soprano, and can tell you intonation is never spot on (Well, MAYBE on a $6000 Yanagasawa). The Mark VI is tricky, too.
I have found you need a good ear to play soprano in tune. You have to tune each note with your embouchure on all the horns I've played.
I play a lot of Chinese stuff and vintage horns. An old Conn or King can be pretty true in tune, but all Sopranos can be tricky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
I've played around 10 different makes of Soprano, and can tell you intonation is never spot on (Well, MAYBE on a $6000 Yanagasawa). The Mark VI is tricky, too.
I have found you need a good ear to play soprano in tune. You have to tune each note with your embouchure on all the horns I've played.
I play a lot of Chinese stuff and vintage horns. An old Conn or King can be pretty true in tune, but all Sopranos can be tricky.
Yes, I have definitely found this. I have a really good ear (my hearing is not so good so I can't hear well in the band situation, but if the room isn't too loud, my intonation is normally good.) I can lip up or down a bit, but not 30cents!

As it is, I am in process of returning it. I knew I was risking a small shipping cost, but since I had been looking for something local within my budget for months, I figured it was worth a shot when nothing came up.

Having said all that... tada! I got lucky (I'll say it was divine providence actually) and I just bought a vintage selmer for around half what I paid for the Chinese thing, and it was only half an hour's drive away! It needs a repad (which I can do myself) but despite that, it already plays in tune - 6 cents different across the octave. Where it's a bit out, it's flat up high which as a clarinet player suits me down to the ground, because I naturally want to tighten as I go higher and it'll be perfect when I do.

I am rather relieved that now I have played 2 sops and had them both in tune. This issue with the TaiShan was never my fault and honestly I felt rather a bit beaten up on by everyone who said it's all about me and my clarinet embouchure. 30c different isn't an embouchure problem unless we're talking a brand newbie. Feeling vindicated - I've worked blinkin hard on the sax this year and I'm doing just fine!
 

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This issue with the TaiShan was never my fault and honestly I felt rather a bit beaten up on by everyone who said it's all about me and my clarinet embouchure. 30c different isn't an embouchure problem unless we're talking a brand newbie. Feeling vindicated - I've worked blinkin hard on the sax this year and I'm doing just fine!
I'm sure some of it was well meaning, not knowing all the particulars of your given situation. Then again, whenever you bring up a concern with a product people push here, you're likely to become their target. The good here far outweighs the bad however, and there's a wealth of information from the membership here eager to share. You'll figure out in time who best to pay attention to; and those not so helpful.

Now you've got a decent horn and you're on your way. Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
Yes thanks - I know it was mostly well meaning. Just a bit hard not to take it too much to heart when I was already feeling rather demoralised about the horn itself.

I've had a bit more of a play on this new thing now - desperately in need of new pads, but despite that, gees it's nice.
 

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I recently picked up another vintage soprano as well, that needed some attention. That you can do your own work in this regard can be rewarding. Tedious and hyper-technical... but rewarding nonetheless as you iron out those quirks.

Now be prepared for another two or three pages of folks who won't bother to read what's going on, telling you to keep the horn...
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Thanks! The Chinese one was a birthday present so this is technically a present too since it's a replacement. Hubby offered to pay for repairs and I'm like "what? no way!" Definitely want to do it myself because it is much more rewarding. About to post another thread on choices though... would definitely appreciate your input.
 

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I don't know if you'll read this, Nicole, but IMHO you were entirely correct to return the horn. There were some good points made about sax emboucher versus clarinet, but bottom line is that if you can play your current soprano pretty close to pitch and you're having a lot of issues with another horn, it's the horn. I did a lot of session work in the 80's and 90's-I agonized over intonation. Because synthesizers are slightly out of tune with themselves to make a thicker sound. Usually not enough to make a "beat", but kinda spread, you know? I finally realized that I had to play to the center of the pitch, though sometimes it felt wrong. However, the playback would reveal all, and if I were true to where the bass and guitar were tuned (A=440, 440.6, whatever) that I would sound in tune. It taught me a lot. My teacher always stressed to not manipulate-don't tighten-as one goes up, keep the chops the same over the entire range. Not always possible, but a good rule. Another teacher, a clarinet teacher, said I was tightening up in the upper register-I denied it. (I was 22 and full of myself). He had me play a written middle C, reached behind me, and hit the register key when I wasn't expecting it-the G, a 12th higher, popped out effortlessly dead square in tune. I stood chastened, but I have never forgotten it. Don't manipulate. You've probably already seen this, but in Sigurd Rascher's book, "Top Tones for the Saxophone", he has a paragraph on what he calls "Tone Imagination" at the beginning of the book that is amazing. Says it all in a pretty brief paragraph.

A note about Chinese instruments: they usually aren't as consistent as the premium Japanese horns. I play an SBA tenor, but pretty recently I bought a Chinese tenor (early VI copy) that had been set up by a fellow in Japan-it is insanely good. Good enough that when pressed for dough I sold my 65k VI. Mind you, it isn't better than the VI-but it has 99+% of what the VI had and might actually be a bit easier to play in tune. I needed the money-I would've preferred to keep the VI, but since the Asian tenor (an "Elkheart", by the way-was $999US at the time on eBay) copped what I felt I needed a VI for, I wasn't devastated by the sale.

I have three sops-a 4-digit Yamaha 62, a Yani curved (last era before the bell keys moved over) and a curved Buescher. They're all really good. No issues, really. The very best sopranos I've played have been a really early (~78k) silver plated VI, and a pink gold plated (very gaudy), solid silver Yanagisawa 9030 (one piece). And inteestingly, my curved Buescher. This next thing is obvious, but is there any chance you could get your existing soprano rebuilt, and save until you can buy what you really want? I say this tongue in cheek-Winard Harper's sax player sat in with me playing soprano and was crushing good-when I asked him what his setup was he said a Lebayle mouthpiece and a "$300 Chinese soprano". You did the right thing sending the horn back. I'm sure there are great TaiShan sopranos out there-it sounds to me like you didn't get one of those! Good fortune to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Thanks Gofy, I agree, it had to be the horn. The very brief play I made of this new Selmer/Orsi soprano I picked up on the weekend had me within 6 cents on most notes - and that's with her in desperate need of a repad, so it wasn't me.

I do tend to tighten as I go up a little bit I think, on clarinet that is, but I have been playing up to a B 2 octaves above the stave, which really requires it. Possibly a bad habit, but I'm working on it. My happy find though is that the new Orsi sop tends, if anything, to be a bit flat on top so it may just be a perfect match for my clarinet mouth. Who knows - needs a repad to be really sure.

As for rebuilding the artemis… I wouldn't mind it, but I haven't been able to find a technie who is willing to do it. They all declare it's a cheap Taiwanese horn that's not worth it. Put off by the fact she's padded with contact cement rather than a heat-softening glue I'm sure. And the intonation isn't great. 12c difference is what I am able to hit, but it's hard work, and after hitting a few key notes rather off when at a gig, I'm a bit nervous of playing her now. My nerves then mean I don't play as well... so I don't find it relaxing. My 10 yo daughter loves this sax though and is using her for the moment. The key wear will catch us out one day, but it's fine for a child.

I really wanted a straight sop and I'm really happy with what I picked up on the weekend, so far at least. A repad will confirm. She's small, light, pretty, in tune, and made for small hands like mine, so it seems. So hopefully a perfect match.
Thanks for your thoughts!
 
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