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Problem with Selmer Series III Soprano

18095 Views 40 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  BeyondSax
I would think this is a problem that could occur with any saxophone, but I'll go ahead and give my specific circumstances.

I have a Selmer Series III soprano. Around low F# and F, it will have problems at low dynamics. I recently realized I can reproduce the problem on alto if I pull the mouthpiece way out on low B natural. So, I shoved my Selmer C* all the way on the cork. This fixed the problem! Only problem is, I'm now playing ridiculously sharp. I should mention the same problem and solution occurs with my Bari hard rubber mouthpiece on the straight neck (I use the curved with the Selmer mouthpiece). So, I need to be able to push the mouthpiece farther on the cork, but stay in A440.

What are proposed solutions and has anyone else had similar issues? As I can't afford to get a new horn, I consider my options: 1) Get a larger chamber mouthpiece, that consequently plays flatter (the Selmer chamber is remarkably close in size to the Bari, I would think Selmers would have larger chambers; both seem pretty small). 2) Order new necks to see if I can find one that fixes the problem.

Thanks for your input!
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Try pulling the neck out a bit to flatten. This way your mouthpiece will be in on the neck. I had a problem with an old Conn and swithced to a Link HR and the problem was gone. Right now I have a King soprano that gurggles down low with a Selmer (and other modern) mouthpiece so I ordered a Morgan and Rousseau to try the larger chamber.
I would think that horn would play without problems like you described. Do you have a reliable source for A-440 tuning (like a tuned piano, an electronic tuner, etc.)? If so, tune the saxophone to the known source (for various notes up and down the horn).

I say this because I have no knowledge of your skill level - many new posters come on SOTW and describe problems but it turns out they don't much about anything saxophone.

I agree with Bruce that a mouthpiece change may be in order. Also, can you arrange for an experienced player other than yourself to try the horn? DAVE
I got rid of my Series III soprano because of just this problem. I got tired of not being able to depend on those notes, and then it bit me badly on a recital. It's an acoustical issue with their design. I have another friend who is a college sax prof who experienced problems with these notes as well.

A different sort of mouthpiece might help, but other than that, you pretty much just have to learn to "baby" those notes (low E to F#)at low volumes.

Thanks for all your replies...very helpful.

Bruce: I hadn't thought of trying to pull the neck out some. That sounds like it would help, but I wouldn't want to endanger the neck-body seal. I'll give it a try, anyway, when I get a chance.

Dave: I appreciate your concerns, but I assure you I am experienced enough to know what I'm talking about. I have checked using an electronic tuner. When I push the mouthpiece all the way on to fix the problem, it gets in tune at about 449 (which is as high as my tuner will calibrate to). I hadn't thought of checking intonation, though, so when I push the mouthpiece in, it may be throwing the whole horn out of whack (God I hope not). Also, it played fine for my teacher, but she was using her own mouthpiece (an older Selmer) that may have had a larger chamber.

Alan: It bit me badly, too. Combined with reed problems, this issue caused me the worst performance of my life with a saxophone quartet in a recent competition. However, I love everything about it except for this issue. So I will not be getting rid of it. I was hoping someone would mention similar problems, as I have a theory. In France, standard tuning is more like A442, sharper than American. So they probably designed the instrument to be played at that level. However, as I mentioned, the problem is only fixed when I am considerably sharper than that. I do know that many players prefer the Selmer S90 mouthpieces on this horn, which have a slightly larger chamber. It just irritates me that Selmer includes a mouthpiece for a horn that doesn't work with it.

In conclusion :), I think I'm going to try a Morgan classical model. I really love the RM28 I just got, so I'll probably call Ralph tomorrow and see if he thinks one of his large chamber pieces will solve my problem. Thanks again for your suggestions.

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My sax prof friend did indeed switch to an S90, which he says helped.

A Morgan 1C (old design -not the one based off the Vintage blank) seemed to help me, as well.

I can't speak either way about the Vintage-blank Morgan soprano pieces relative to this problem, though I can tell you that they are not the same. The Vintage-blank Morgan soprano pieces have less curved (maybe flat) sidewalls, and the one I tried was much brighter, which you might like if you are using a C* now.

You could also try a Caravan or Rascher.

Let us know what works!

I too sold off a new Serie III soprano, but NOT for the above reasons. My Serie III played from top to bottom very easily. I used Selmer Super Session and S-80 pieces on it - at A-440 (or whatever the tuning environment may have been where ever I played - that could vary because we tuned against the piano on scene). DAVE
Yeah, I would have sold mine anyway. I just don't like straight sopranos. I'm very content with my Yanagisawa SC-991.
Alright guys, here's what's happened since my last post:

I called Ralph Morgan and explained my problem. He told me that if I play middle C and then play the first overtone of low C, I should push in the mouthpiece until both those pitches are in tune together. This means the instrument is in tune with itself and ideally will be in tune, as in A440/442, whatever. I tried this and even with the mouthpiece pushed all the way in, they would not match. Tried it on my alto and tenor, and it worked on both. This tells me that the instrument is a dud. So I call Selmer to see what my options are warranty-wise. Long story short, Selmer barely understands their own warranty process and wwbw's customer service for the most part has no clue about anything.:evil: After endless, irritating conservations with both over the past 3 days, we have come to the solution of sending the saxophone to wwbw, who--if they find it irrepairable, which I believe they will--will send it to Selmer for replacement. So, it's in the mail and I'll let you guys know the outcome. Thanks for listening!:D

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P.S.: My feelings toward Selmer hinge on this issue's resolution. If they replace it, I'll consider myself a Selmer performing artist. If they fix it, I'll continue to tolerate them. If they send it back and say it's my problem, I'm never going to buy or recommend anything Selmer again. WWBW is in a similar predicament.
Have you checked your mouthpiece pitch? You may be playing with a too-tight embouchure - not uncommon among doublers.

Regarding Morgan's experiment - this is where I always start with an instrument and new setup. You say that the pitches will not match with the mouthpiece shoved in all the way. Let's ignore the tuner for a moment. Move the mouthpiece around the length of the cork. Is there anywhere where the pitches will match? If so, that is where that particular mouthpiece needs to sit. Can your embouchure accommodate it? If "yes", you're done. If "no", you may need to change mouthpieces.

My III played well with either a Barone "Vintage" HR or the old-style Bari (without the metal band).

G'luck! I thought that my III was a great sop (I've had a couple dozen sops over the years). It's response was certainly the equal of my current horn - maybe even better - but my SC-992 wins out for ergos and simplicity of maintenance.
I have the same horn. Using an S-80 C* or a Super Sessions E, in neither case does the problem exist. Therefore, the problem is clearly not inherent in the design. Selmer is known for quality control problems (at least compared with Yamaha and Yani's) so if other players can confirm the same problems when playing your horn, an adjustment (or something else?) needs to be made. Serie III sops are normally fine in the range you describe.
Dr. G: Yes, I have tested mouthpiece pitch, and my C was good, but I also tried playing with different pitches, to no avail. I had never heard of Morgan's trick before, but yes, I did this exercise without a tuner first, per his instructions. I started with the mouthpiece pulled way out, and went in little by little, ending up with the middle C still flatter. I also checked with a tuner just to be sure (all this with both my mouthpieces, on both necks). I agree that the III is a great soprano, so I'm hoping Selmer will replace it with one without this problem. I also agree that Yani ergonomics shame all others.:D

Jive: Yes, I should have been more clear. I don't believe this problem is inherent in the design of the III, I believe this was just a quality control problem, as all factories have from time to time (some more than others:D ). When I mentioned that III's are meant to be played slightly sharper, I didn't mean that as a problem, just fact.

Thanks again for all of your input.

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gearaholic said:
I was hoping someone would mention similar problems, as I have a theory. In France, standard tuning is more like A442, sharper than American. So they probably designed the instrument to be played at that level.

Nope, Selmer saxes are designed/pitched for A=440.

Most likely, either your horn has leaks/adjustment problems, or your mouthpiece is not suited for a Series III. Too many variables listed to say for sure. If WWBW sends the horn back to you, you might want to have someone else try your horn, with & without your moutpiece/reed and see if they have the same problem.

Contrary to what many people think, leaks can often show up as most difficult around low E & F areas, and not worst at the lowest notes around low C, etc.
Look man, soprano is HARD. Its the most difficult of saxophones.
In interviews, Steve Lacy made this point, many times. He wasn't B.S.-ing.

Straight soprano is a whole different beast than tenor or alto, you have alot of over-tones packed in to a short tube--its not the most perfectly designed instrument, but the modern ones have come along way "fixing" intonation problems.

My Serie III is one of the most "in-tune" horns Ive ever played, but I still have to put some work in. (and Im an advanced player, with 20 yrs pro experience & masters degree)

Sorry to be the one to bring this up, might be you, not Selmer.

gearaholic said:
I assure you I am experienced enough to know what I'm talking about.
I hadn't thought of checking intonation, though, so when I push the mouthpiece in, it may be throwing the whole horn out of whack (God I hope not). Also, it played fine for my teacher, but she was using her own mouthpiece (an older Selmer) that may have had a larger chamber.
gearaholic said:
Tried it <Ralph Morgan's mouthpiece check> on my alto and tenor, and it worked on both. This tells me that the instrument is a dud.
Hmmm, I'm more inclined to go with Glu's assessment on this one. It is not your horn. You said so yourself. Sorry if that's not the answer you are looking for.
Virtually all of my soprano intonation, response etc. problems disappeared when I started using mouthpiece in the order of ~.070" tip openings (talk to Dave Dolson he is the expert in larger openings of sop mouthpieces and is a soprano player of the highest order). Of course it takes a lot of work to grow into a setup like this and to play it sensitively, and seeing your mouthpiece preferences, it would seem that you are more a classical player and would probably not favor larger tip openings. However it's worth a shot. FWIW, I was able to play my teacher's Series III for a week or so, with both my Barone Vintage 8 and his Selmer Soloist F worked on by Theo Wanne, and did not have any problems playing in this register at pianissimo with a very delicate approach. This is a tricky part of the range on all sopranos and for me the Series III was one of few horns that made this register very even with the rest of the horn.

Of course the obvious idea is to just try some other Series III's. I think they are the best soprano on the market in terms of response and it's interesting that your only issue with the horn is one of response. They are, unfortunately, the worst soprano in terms of weight on the thumb. Jheesh. I'll keep playing my Mark VI stencil, thanks.

If I hinged my brand preference upon the quality control and customer service branches of any current interations of a company or its associated retailers, I'd probably be making my own saxophones, mouthpieces, and reeds, no matter how crappy they might all turn out. :shock:
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I just found out WWBW sent the sax to Selmer yesterday (Wednesday). Haven't really heard anything otherwise, as I can't talk directly to the WWBW warranty people. Now, about these last few posts...

AMASAX: I was told by a Selmer representative that the Paris models are intended for A442, but as I have found, employees don't always know what they're talking about.:? I'm pretty sure it's not a leak/adjustment problem, as I have had two different techs look at it. Also, I had my teacher check it again, and she said that while she could keep it from happening, she had to work very hard with her embouchure, voicing, etc., much more than she thought was reasonable. But, yes, if they send it back, I'll probably just try different mouthpieces. Maybe one will fix it.

As to the idea that it might not be the saxophone, it's very possible. But I think it is the saxophone. I've played on another III without this problem and others have played mine and had the problem, so...

Also, I realize that soprano is difficult. I'm no expert, and I've only been playing soprano regularly for about 2.5 years now. Also, I never said the instrument didn't play in tune. The intonation is at least as good as other sopranos I've played and/or heard. Just this problem.

Razzy: Good point about the brand preference.:D

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Definitely try other mpcs. For legit playing try the various Selmer models. I would suggest a Super Session E, the closest one you can buy. On my soprano the SS tunes very well. The Vandoren pieces are also worth trying.

It's not just the chamber size that is important but the diameter of the "sqeeze throat" opening too...I have no idea why.

Also experiment with reed strengths too. I have found harder reeds help with low note warble on soprano, which is backwards from what I expected.
I would start off with any of the Selmer mpcs---S80 or SS or Metal. These are made to work with their horns.

Ive found that the Serie III get more difficult to play when using a LARGE chamber piece, like a RIA or old Buescher or anything like that.

I can't speak for Selmer but I think that the Serie III was designed to work with a small, round chamber, squeeze-throat mpc.--at least it seems like that to me.
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