Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 65 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,779 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This post is a question, not a declaration. If you think it should be answered in the negative, feel free to cite your evidence.

Item 1. Yanagisawa, a major sopranino supporter in the past, seems to have largely abandoned the voice. The Yany sopranino is still listed as a current model on the company's official website, but good luck finding a new one on sale in the United States. I'm not sure that Europe is much better (e.g., the sax is "Out of Stock" at sax.co.uk, and can only be "pre-ordered.") The sax itself seems to have been mostly frozen in time since the late 1970s. Not only is there no WO sopranino, there really wasn't even a 9xx series sopranino. The model is called the SN981, but it retains the old-fashioned, Mark VI-style palm keys and LH table keys from many decades ago. The range tops out at high E -- another aspect of the Yany nino that has been awaiting an upgrade for more than 40 years.

Item 2. Selmer Paris is still chugging along with the old Series II sopranino, although I believe the model did receive the Jubilee enhancements a decade ago. There is no Series III nino, and never will be. There won't be a Supreme sopranino either, I'm confident. Good news from Selmer on this front would be simple decision to keep making the Series II sopranino even after all other Series II horns have been phased out.

Item 3. No Yamaha sopranino, as always. Not that anyone was expecting the introduction of such a horn, but not having Yamaha in your corner is always a drawback for any saxophone voice.

Item 4. Kessler Music, one of the more popular dealers for SOTW members, used to carry a small sopranino lineup that included the company's own highly affordable Kessler Custom nino. Today, the dedicated sopranino section is gone from the website, and the Kessler Custom sopranino model has been discontinued. If you do a search, you'll find that the Yany SN981 is "Not Currently Available"; there's not even a price listed. The Selmer Series II, which costs almost $12k with the discount (!), is "out of stock."

Item 5. The RS Berkeley sopranino, which was discussed frequently here some years ago as a reasonably priced, solid alternative to a Yany or Selmer, is "Currently unavailable" on Amazon, one of its primary sales channels. "We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock."

Item 6. My impression is that the SOTW sopranino subforum, never particularly busy, is slowing down even further. There seems to have been more discussion here a few years ago, when the nino horns themselves were more readily available. The partial drying up of the instrument supply seems to have tamped down the talk as well, which is not surprising for an equipment-oriented community.

Is there any good sopranino news? Well, P. Mauriat is still producing its nino, which you can actually buy at the Woodwind & Brasswind. Rampone & Cazzani continues to offer an interesting lineup of specialty sopraninos, although they are uniformly expensive and hard to find. And thanks in part to the efforts of SOTW's own Dr. Paul Cohen, Legere now produces a synthetic sopranino saxophone reed (although a synth reed alone, while great for existing sopranino players, won't bring in any new players by itself).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,815 Posts
As someone who recently bought a nino and loves to play it I would vote against your hypothesis - but that's only anectodical evidence, of course.
Speaking for europe - thomann as the biggest supplier has its own branded TSI 350 (which I bought) the Yanagisawa, and with a bit of waiting time the selmer S 80II and a curved R&C.
That's not too bad - but it's a pity that RS Berkeley as a pro but available instrument seems not to be produced anymore.
There's a huge price gap between instruments for amateurs like me and the pro instruments from selmer and R&C, and that's seems to be the problem.
I think there are quite a few guys who have 500 bucks to spend and like to try out something new (I'm waiting for my sax quintet to be able to rehearse again open air, because I arranged a number of pieces for nino).
But who is able to fork out 12 (RC) or more than 20 times (selmer) of this amount? And the mouthpieces are quite expensive, too. There seems to be no market for intermediate instruments.
That said - i really like my thomann sopranino (same as John Packer and others). It's not super solid made (but it's ok) and sounds nice and in tune. And I'm waiting for a new mouthpiece (had a really nice and helpful chat with Edward Pillinger).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,779 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There's a huge price gap between instruments for amateurs like me and the pro instruments from selmer and R&C, and that's seems to be the problem.
I think there are quite a few guys who have 500 bucks to spend and like to try out something new (I'm waiting for my sax quintet to be able to rehearse again open air, because I arranged a number of pieces for nino).
But who is able to fork out 12 (RC) or more than 20 times (selmer) of this amount? And the mouthpieces are quite expensive, too. There seems to be no market for intermediate instruments.
I think the sopranino is the victim of a Catch-22 that doesn't apply to the main saxophone voices. No one really needs a sopranino to play in a band or to focus on a specific type of music. For most pros and almost all amateurs, it's an "on the side" horn for experimenting or fooling around with, not a necessity to hold a chair, play the standard rep music in any genre, or earn a living. So people have to be tempted into trying it, which is much more likely to occur when there's a ready supply of reasonably priced, good-quality instruments. But manufacturers and dealers won't offer sopraninos like that without a sufficiently large market to support their effort. There'll be no supply of horns without players, but there'll be no players without the supply of horns.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,815 Posts
... and there are no role models." I like to play the nino because I heared...." does not work. I think it could have an established role in sax ensembles. When I arrange music for sax quintet, nino comes in very handy when it is a flute part I transcribe. But without ninos no arrangements with ninos ....
I did not know exactly what to expect when I ordered mine. But nino has such a special voice, quite different from soprano.
 
  • Like
Reactions: LostConn

·
Registered
Joined
·
711 Posts
As a regular nino player I enjoy the tone/timbre of the nino more than the soprano. It's however a niche market and Lost Con is right about manufacturers and small markets. It's also the most difficult to play in tune and sound good. The usual sneers about dog whistles doesn't help much. Many have complained about nothing being written for them...which is true, but doesn't bother an improvisor like me.

OK, some history...the soprano sax went way out of fashion from the late 1930s (you don't see them in big bands) and many manufacturers stopped making them. Fast forward to the late 1960s and suddenly they are back. It's fashion! For those of us who play a nino there's no issue as horns are definitely available. Some of the Chinese horns are not bad, and certainly good for the price!

My personal take on the Yanagisawa nino was that it desperately needed a redesign. The tone was very good, but the increased embouchure required for the top of the horn was a killer. The R&C and Selmer are much better in that regard. Even the Chinese horns were easier to play. So lack of demand killed off a redesign of the Yani nino. Not the end of the world...and certainly no determinant of how many nino players will continue.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,565 Posts
It's always been a fringe instrument and never a big seller. The proliferation of inexpensive Asian odd horns (sopranino, c melody, straight alto/tenor, etc.) is a representation of the desire to differentiate not satisfy a thriving market. I think to some degree this has been the case for other manufacturers throughout history as well. I love my Conn sopranino but it doesn't get a ton of play. It's the cool factor that wins out in the end and I think people will always seek that out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,779 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think it could have an established role in sax ensembles. When I arrange music for sax quintet, nino comes in very handy when it is a flute part I transcribe. But without ninos no arrangements with ninos ...
I've done a lot of playing in a sax quintet and sax sextet. We use both commercial sheet music and material arranged or composed by one of our members. But we've never played anything with a sopranino, in part because none of us owns a sopranino, and in part because you rarely find a nino included in music published for groups of this size.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,779 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So lack of demand killed off a redesign of the Yani nino. Not the end of the world...and certainly no determinant of how many nino players will continue.
It's not the determinant, but I think it's a determinant. It hurts any kind of sax when the support from the Big Three is either half-hearted and unaffordable (Selmer), fading away into obsolescence (Yany), or permanently nonexistent (Yamaha).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
711 Posts
It's not the determinant, but I think it's a determinant. It hurts any kind of sax when the support from the Big Three is either half-hearted and unaffordable (Selmer), fading away into obsolescence (Yany), or permanently nonexistent (Yamaha).
OK lets repeat the history lesson: There were very few makers of sopranos from the late 1930 until late 1960s. Did the soprano disappear permanently? Not hardly! The Nino has never been a super popular instrument. It's always been fringe. Those who play it and like it are likely to continue.

Saxes aren't exactly like cars that get junked after 15 years. Saxes well over 100 years old are still around, some treasured! The number of sopraninos continues to increase...with or without Yamaha or Yanagisawa. They are not decreasing. The price of quality sopraninos is not going down either...which would be an indication of less demand.

Methinks you're prematurely trying to bury the poor little chap when he's ambling along just fine. It's unlikely it will ever be a super popular instrument for the reasons already stated (best played by very experienced players and no sheet music). Your point is well made that manufacturers don't like lines that they sell few of, especially if they think they need to put out a new model. There are probably more sopraninos being made now than 30 years ago and as said those made previously are also still around.

Bring this up again when/if you see a major drop in sopranino prices because nobody wants them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,860 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,779 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK lets repeat the history lesson
No need. I was aware of all that before you mentioned it the first time. But I don't think the soprano and the sopranino are analogous. The current moment in saxophone history has little in common with the period 1930-1960. There's no reason to expect a sudden surge in the popularity of the nino. We're fortunate that the leading sax manufacturers in Europe and Asia are hanging on as it is, with their primary products.

The Nino has never been a super popular instrument. It's always been fringe. Those who play it and like it are likely to continue.
I agree with that, although my sense is that fringe may be shrinking. In the long term, it's not enough to hold existing players; new ones need to be added. It's not a healthy sign for any type of musical instrument when the top-tier makers and some popular distribution channels lose interest, even if they are replaced by low-cost Chinese manufacturers selling on eBay. (Think about this scenario in the context of altos or tenors!) And I view the sky-high prices charged for the remaining pro-quality horns as on balance a bad sign for ninos, not a good one. They indicate an attempt to compensate for ever-shrinking volume, meaning that the products might be discontinued at any time.

Anyway, I do appreciate a different perspective on this issue. We'll see how many posts this thread ends up with. If it were, "Jazz dying out?" we'd have 200 posts in just a couple of days. :(
 

·
Registered
A: king zephyr martin HC 1 T: 1970 Mark VI, 1985 Buffet S1, 1935 Martin HC 1 B: 1973 Buffet SDA lowA
Joined
·
490 Posts
This whole conversation about dying sopranino brings back a memory from long ago. My own close encounter with a Sopranino.

When I was 16 back in the mid 80s, i would go hunting for unique horns in and around Atlanta. I had a job and usually had a lots of cash and could find vintage saxes cheap.

One day, I walked into a pawn shop that I had not visited before. There I spied it up on a shelf. A Buescher case! But is was small! Immediately, I knew it had to be a sopranino

With great excitement, I asked the clerk if I could see it. He pulled it down. He opened it And indeed it was a Sopranino case.

but it was empty. :-(. I guess the sopranino had died.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,815 Posts
great find, Lambros (the Magenta nino)!
Did someone try out the cheap jinbao selmer copy?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
350 Posts
Well, I am still waiting to see a sopranino in F that Ravel wrote for in Bolero. Now that is a rare bird. Of course if there never was one in F, then zero throughout history is still zero. It gets confusing.
This might not be new to you, but I was curious and looked it up.

From what I can gather, Adolphe Sax originally intended for there to be two parallel families of sax, military band family in Bb/Eb and orchestral in C/F. Apparently he had the idea of 7 in each group, from sopranino to contra-bass. The stuff I find online suggests that Sax proposed the family but never made most of the orchestral verisons, so it's possible there is either no F sopranino or only prototype versions. Only the C-melody/tenor, F mezzo-soprano/orchestral alto, and C soprano saxes were produced in any numbers.

This article seems to go over it pretty well.

In any case, I don't know if the sopranino is dying out exactly but it's very niche. History may be kind or cruel to the saxophone itself, certainly the 200 years in western music has seen a shift from violins and pianos to saxes to electric guitars to DAWs as the dominant instrument of the age. The shift from electric guitars to DAWs literally happened in the last 40 years. The shift from saxes to guitars basically happened in the 40 years before that.
 
1 - 20 of 65 Posts
Top