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Discussion Starter #1
After pouring over this site for weeks now I have come to the conclusion that I will likely be happiest buying a Yani soprano. I did actually play a new Yamaha straight and new Yani curvy, and they both sounded really good, although I actually liked the sound of the 20's Conn they had at the shop a bit better. However, I had a very bad experience with an old horn and I just don't want to go there again.
Since you guys are experts I am hoping to get some insight, and sorry if these questions have been answered in other threads. Note I can spend up to $2500 so I know that might limit me a bit, but there it is.
I am assuming that any Yani sax would be extremely well made, unless its a fake of course. I am also assuming that this build quality would go right back to the S6 right?
Are there any of the older models I should avoid for any reason? Note that its been years since I owned a soprano, so I don't have a lot of experience that would make me balk about how the keys are set up, but any info would be helpful.
I wonder about horns with detachable necks. I mean, it sounds nice but most feedback I get, even from my local tech, is that the necks can be problematic if they are in perfect shape. When I had my other soprano, it was a straight horn and that was fine, its just that some of the Yani's only seem to come with dual necks.
I can see on Reverb that there is a rebuilt 880 for $2000: https://reverb.com/item/13197162-used-yanagisawa-880-soprano-saxophone. That somehow seems low to me, and it has been on the site for a year now, so I am wondering if this model is a dog, or maybe there is something hinky with this particular horn. It does say that it does not have a front mounted F key. Is that an issue?
Some of these horns go up to F# and I seem to recall reading that having the F# available makes the whole upper playing range easier, but I don't recall why.
I will of course not count on having a good mouthpiece included with whatever horn I buy. Should I think of getting a Yamaha 4C? On my alto I play a Meyer 5 with 2 1/2 reeds. Would I assume that a similar setup for the soprano might be a good space to start?
I am likely going to go for a horn from a dealer that I can get to online, since there are very few places to buy sopranos here, and they have little supply. Any dealers I should run away from?
I do of course check the for sale on the forum here, and if I could get a horn here so much the better. I am assuming folks here are honest types.
Thanks for reading and thanks so much for being a great supportive community.
 

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For modern sopranos, the Yanagisawas are hard to beat. I recognize the issues involved with fixed necks versus removable necks . . . I've owned them both ways and didn't dislike either design. Others do. Currently, all of my sops are straight fixed neck horns except my curved Yanagisawa.

Yanagisawa has always made both designs (their S901 was fixed, as were other models like the S6). Their S991 or 992's had dual necks. All were excellent. I've owned several and still have the Yanagisawa curvy (SC902).

Some like the Yamaha 4C (I have one) but I like my new Selmer Concept - true, a narrow tip-opening but it sure plays strong for me.

There is much to consider but it looks like you are considering buying a used one, so you'll most likely need to either take it or leave it if you find one. If the horn plays and you like it, I wouldn't concern myself with the small stuff - you'll probably make a good choice regardless. DAVE
 

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There is only one reason to buy a sop with two necks - to use the curved neck.
There are two reasons to use the curved neck - it has a mellower sound and allows the use of a neck strap.
 

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On a straight soprano if I ended up with a detachable neck one, I'd think about just greasing the holy hell out of the neck joint and leaving it always installed. I watch soprano players try to wrestle with that little teeny neck and its little octave key and it looks like a recipe for getting something out of whack.

That said, if you want to hold the horn in a more downward position but have a standard saxophone (not clarinet) embouchure, the semi-curved neck on the straight soprano may be the way to go. The only one piece soprano I've seen with semi-curved "neck" is the old Yamaha 62R (I think that's the model number) whereas lots and lots of separate neck sopranos have a curved neck.

You know, the older straight Yanas are purported to be a pretty good Mark 6 copy, with all the M6 characteristic keywork. If you want the tilting and disappearing low Bb key and front high F key and alto-shaped palm keys, you'll have to go with the newer Yanas.

I played an older Yana curvy a while back and it seemed real cramped to me, my right hand fingers kept whacking the bell. The new ones, where they've rejiggered the bell keys and mechanism, may be all different now.
 

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You seem pretty well informed. $2000 seems a bit steep for an 800 series.

The main things to be concerned with are the one piece vs. two neck option, and the upper palm key layout. As Saxman1 said, the only reason to get a two neck sax is to get the curved neck, which does make the horn a bit less bright and accommodates a strap easier. It's incorrect to say a strap won't work with a straight neck or one piece horn; it absolutely will; it's just a bit awkward as the strap may rub against your hand a bit -or not- depending on how your stance is and how you hold your head. Personally I have a straight soprano and have always used a strap with it since the 70's and it works just fine for me. The Yamaha 62R is one piece with a curved neck, but they are 'collectable' horns and so fetch a large premium over the regular 62 even though they are otherwise identical.

The other thing is the palm key layout. It will either be in-line a la MkVI, or individual separate keys. I much prefer the latter and find the in line keys awkward and unpleasant to use. The older Yani's will have the inline layout.

Happy Hunting!
 

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OP, are you going straight or curved? You said you tested a curved Yany, but then you started discussing the straight options.

Regardless, there will be some differences in tone and intonation over the years, but you'll have to experience those directly to determine what you find most satisfactory. The biggest, most obvious differences among the various models involve keywork. The palm keys change from Mark VI-style to modern. The left-hand table keys also change from Mark VI-style to modern. The front F key changes shape. Other keys change size or shape modestly. These changes do not all occur at the same time, and they don't occur at the same time on the straight and curved models. Check out any potential purchase carefully to determine if it's exactly what you want. There are enough used Yanys out there that if you're patient, you shouldn't need to compromise on your preferences regarding these features. There should be no need to buy the first horn in your price range that comes down the pike.

Just about all these horns, except perhaps some very old ones, should have the high F# key. Where they differ is the high G key -- only the top-tier, two-neck straight models have this.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So much good info, especially the keywork, please keep it coming! I should have mentioned, that while I liked the sound of the curved horn, it was totally uncomfortable to play, so I am looking for a straight horn. My old horn was straight and I used a strap and didn't seem to be a problem.
And I will try and be patient! Hard for me to do but there it is.
 

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Much has been made over the years about the MKVI-style palm keys. That design is on the S6 and I have a KUSTOM straight soprano (probably made by Antigua) that has it.

I admit to being among those who wrote negative things about that design based on MY own experience with one. But my tune changed when I came across two MKVI sopranos (both mine now) that actually played well up in that range. What a difference in MY attitude when I finally played VI's that could speak those notes. All of the sudden, that design wasn't so difficult (maybe weird is a better word).

As far as neck straps go, that is a personal choice. I don't use a strap - the constant touching (interference) with my left thumb is really distracting. But some swear by them - another personal choice (and possibly dictated by a player's physical condition).

I've played those fixed curved-neck sopranos by Yamaha (62R and the 82zR). Not for me, they showed me no advantage but at the same time, they reminded me of my removable-neck sopranos with the curved neck installed - a softer, darker tone when I played them. But again, a personal choice.

Since I don't play the top tones, I'm not concerned with the presence or absence of a front F, or F#3 and G3 keying. If you intend to play written music, then maybe G3 keying is a plus for you. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I don't play classical stuff at all, it was more a question of why it might be a problem without the F key on top. Again, not familiar enough with the ergonomics to know the implications of the F key placement. Note I have to use a strap even with clarinet, which is my main thing.
 

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Well, there's another factor, though I don't play a huge amount of soprano, so don't take my statements as anything other than my impressions.

Personally I believe the soprano mouthpiece should enter the mouth at about the same angle as all the other saxophone mouthpieces. If you hold the soprano down, you either have to kink your neck, or adopt an embouchure more like a clarinet embouchure.

If you hold the soprano down, its weight bears sideways on your thumb, which is not a direction of strength for the thumb. This means you either have to have a really strong thumb, or resort to a neck strap. If you semi-curve the neck, that helps some with the entry angle, but it seems to me that doing so is intended to compensate for a holding position that's down like a clarinet.

If you hold the soprano up, horizontally, like a trumpet, two things happen:

1) The mouthpiece interacts with your embouchure like any other saxophone.
2) The weight of the horn is now being taken by your right thumb in a different direction - your thumb is lifting it, like you were clamping something between the ball of your thumb and the side of the index finger. Well, your thumb is enormously strong in that direction.

I find that lifting the soprano up helps with tone production AND with thumb fatigue. And of course if you hold it like that, the neck strap becomes completely irrelevant. Trumpet players don't use neck straps, after all. Your right arm gets tired, sure, but now you're talking about the great big muscles of the upper arm, shoulder, and upper back - those big muscles can adapt to holding a soprano sax real quickly, unlike that little muscle in the right thumb that's strained when you hold the soprano down.

And finally a theory about the "in-line" palm keys. I haven't tried it as I've never (or not in decades) played a soprano with that layout, but MAYBE when you hold the thing up near horizontal, it may be that the "in-line" keys work a lot better.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it was originally intended for the soprano to be held horizontally, and the more common near-vertical position has come about as crossover from clarinet practice.
 

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After pouring over this site for weeks now I have come to the conclusion that I will likely be happiest buying a Yani soprano. I did actually play a new Yamaha straight and new Yani curvy, and they both sounded really good, although I actually liked the sound of the 20's Conn they had at the shop a bit better. However, I had a very bad experience with an old horn and I just don't want to go there again.
Since you guys are experts I am hoping to get some insight, and sorry if these questions have been answered in other threads. Note I can spend up to $2500 so I know that might limit me a bit, but there it is.
I am assuming that any Yani sax would be extremely well made, unless its a fake of course. I am also assuming that this build quality would go right back to the S6 right?
Are there any of the older models I should avoid for any reason? Note that its been years since I owned a soprano, so I don't have a lot of experience that would make me balk about how the keys are set up, but any info would be helpful.
I wonder about horns with detachable necks. I mean, it sounds nice but most feedback I get, even from my local tech, is that the necks can be problematic if they are in perfect shape. When I had my other soprano, it was a straight horn and that was fine, its just that some of the Yani's only seem to come with dual necks.
I can see on Reverb that there is a rebuilt 880 for $2000: https://reverb.com/item/13197162-used-yanagisawa-880-soprano-saxophone. That somehow seems low to me, and it has been on the site for a year now, so I am wondering if this model is a dog, or maybe there is something hinky with this particular horn. It does say that it does not have a front mounted F key. Is that an issue?
Some of these horns go up to F# and I seem to recall reading that having the F# available makes the whole upper playing range easier, but I don't recall why.
I will of course not count on having a good mouthpiece included with whatever horn I buy. Should I think of getting a Yamaha 4C? On my alto I play a Meyer 5 with 2 1/2 reeds. Would I assume that a similar setup for the soprano might be a good space to start?
I am likely going to go for a horn from a dealer that I can get to online, since there are very few places to buy sopranos here, and they have little supply. Any dealers I should run away from?
I do of course check the for sale on the forum here, and if I could get a horn here so much the better. I am assuming folks here are honest types.
Thanks for reading and thanks so much for being a great supportive community.
The horn in the link is a S800 model and way over-priced at $2,000. A possible reason why it has not yet sold. However they are decent enough instruments - I have a S6 which is very similar. I also have a S880 which is what I mostly play. This has detachable dual necks. I never found this to be a problem. In fact it makes cleaning easier. Plus you have the option of the curved neck which personally I find a lot more comfortable ergonomically. Intonation and keywork is better on the later instruments.

If you want a straight one piece then I would suggest looking for a 2nd hand S901. Should be some good deals around since it is now a superseded model.
 

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If you hold the soprano up, horizontally, like a trumpet, two things happen:

1) The mouthpiece interacts with your embouchure like any other saxophone.
2) The weight of the horn is now being taken by your right thumb in a different direction - your thumb is lifting it, like you were clamping something between the ball of your thumb and the side of the index finger. Well, your thumb is enormously strong in that direction.

I find that lifting the soprano up helps with tone production AND with thumb fatigue. And of course if you hold it like that, the neck strap becomes completely irrelevant. Trumpet players don't use neck straps, after all. Your right arm gets tired, sure, but now you're talking about the great big muscles of the upper arm, shoulder, and upper back - those big muscles can adapt to holding a soprano sax real quickly, unlike that little muscle in the right thumb that's strained when you hold the soprano down.
IMO, any position that requires a substantial weight to be supported AWAY FROM THE BODY with an extended or semi-extended arm is ergonomically unsound. You shouldn't have to train like a weightlifter to play any musical instrument. That's what straps are for. And for many players (easy to read about here or anywhere), what happens is not the muscles "adapting," but rather strain occurring and pain resulting.
 

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IMO, any position that requires a substantial weight to be supported AWAY FROM THE BODY with an extended or semi-extended arm is ergonomically unsound. You shouldn't have to train like a weightlifter to play any musical instrument. That's what straps are for. And for many players (easy to read about here or anywhere), what happens is not the muscles "adapting," but rather strain occurring and pain resulting.
Well, I've got two bum shoulders so I can relate.

My point was that (I believe) the soprano sax was made to be held straight out, not down like a clarinet. I would suggest that if one's body can't handle holding the straight soprano horizontally, the solution is not to hold it down like a clarinet and try to support it with a strap, and then use a semi-curved neck to reduce the strap interfering, but rather to play a curved soprano which like the alto tenor and baritone is nearly perfect ergonomically. And the weight is all taken by a neck strap.

Frankly if I had to play lots of hours on soprano, I would probably go to a curved model.
 

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The only one piece soprano I've seen with semi-curved "neck" is the old Yamaha 62R (I think that's the model number) whereas lots and lots of separate neck sopranos have a curved neck.
Here's a pic of my Borgani Jubilee bent neck/semi-curved sop.

 

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Discussion Starter #15
Even though I am a clarinet player, and have to use a strap because of my crappy body, when I had a soprano and played some the other day, using the strap and my thumb seemed to work fine. I did not play it down like I do with my clarinet. I played for about 45 minutes and it wasn't horrible. I will rethink the two necks though could be good. My tech is a bit of a purist and that is where I am coming from. The bent neck is a beaut, but that would bend my wallet too much, even if I could find one!
 

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The price you are looking at for the 800 series Yanagisawa seems about $500.00 too high. PM Woodwinds in Evanston has a couple for less. They are both Vito stencils. They both look to be either S6 or 800 series horns. There is very little to distinguish between the two. they are all keyed to high F# and lack a front F key. Once you get used to the left hand palm keys, they are fine. I have had an S6 since 2014 or so. Mine was a local sale for about $500 but it needed a $600 overhaul. It replaced a woodwind/brass wind soprano that I had used for about 12 years or so that had two necks. I liked the curved neck but really do not miss it, because the Yanagisawa plays so much better in every way. I do use a neck strap if I am playing for a long period of time. Mine does not have a neck strap hook, so I use a trumpet third valve slide loop (seriously, it works great!) in the lyre holder! Also, if the horn comes with the standard Yanagisawa 5 mouthpiece, it is a great place to start.
View attachment 238264
 

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The price you are looking at for the 800 series Yanagisawa seems about $500.00 too high. PM Woodwinds in Evanston has a couple for less. They are both Vito stencils. They both look to be either S6 or 800 series horns. There is very little to distinguish between the two. they are all keyed to high F# and lack a front F key. Once you get used to the left hand palm keys, they are fine. I have had an S6 since 2014 or so. Mine was a local sale for about $500 but it needed a $600 overhaul. It replaced a woodwind/brass wind soprano that I had used for about 12 years or so that had two necks. I liked the curved neck but really do not miss it, because the Yanagisawa plays so much better in every way. I do use a neck strap if I am playing for a long period of time. Mine does not have a neck strap hook, so I use a trumpet third valve slide loop (seriously, it works great!) in the lyre holder! Also, if the horn comes with the standard Yanagisawa 5 mouthpiece, it is a great place to start.
View attachment 238264
I agree, the price on the Yani on Reverb seems high. For that price you could get a Yani S901
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for the tip on the 800, I just won't go there. I am trying to get myself more familiar with the models so I am not going blind into this. Does the modern key work start with the 880?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
So I have as chance to buy what looks to be an S901 in good condition for $2100 on Reverb. Is this a good price? I am a bit hesitant since this is from a company in Japan, looks to be a music store chain. Thing is, they don’t accept returns, makes me a bit nerveous, Thoughts?
 
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