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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.
I have read that before, about the military intsruments, and the orchestral. The military at that time for Mr. Sax would have been the bigger market. I guess we will never know about the elusive sopranino in F, but a little mystery is a good thing I think. At least some composers like Ravel wrote for it, and that is a good thing.
 

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Ooh, beautiful horns, Lambros!
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I guess we will never know about the elusive sopranino in F, but a little mystery is a good thing I think. At least some composers like Ravel wrote for it, and that is a good thing.
I'm pretty sure it is "composer," singular. Ravel just mistakenly believed a particular type of sax existed even though it did not. But the compromise that saxophonists themselves have worked out for performing Bolero -- two saxes, one tenor and one soprano -- has been extremely successful.
 

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First off, I had a sopranino saxophone for decades. Could count the gigs I played it on with one hand. Thing is, one of the main practical applications it had was to cover upper octave hyper-technical trumpet parts in Bach music. And how often do you hear that these days? Sure, folks may love them, but they have very little purpose and there's no real commercial demand for them and appeal mainly for those with an odd curiosity or a collector who can afford them.
 

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I'm pretty sure it is "composer," singular. Ravel just mistakenly believed a particular type of sax existed even though it did not. But the compromise that saxophonists themselves have worked out for performing Bolero -- two saxes, one tenor and one soprano -- has been extremely successful.
There is no F sopranino. Except for the theoretical postulation by Sax in the 1840s, there is no evidence, either anecdotal or iconic (music, catalogues, print announcements, etc) of its existence. But plenty of Eb sopraninos at the time Ravel wrote Bolero, so the instrument itself was not unknown. These days when I perform Bolero, I play the tenor solo (on tenor) then the following F sopranino solo on Bb soprano (as most of us do) then the remaining part on Eb sopranino, playing the written sopranino part transposed. The sopranino color is very effective with the wind section.

Berkeley saxes told me that they still carry the sopranino, for abut $3100.
Paul Cohen
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
These days when I perform Bolero, I play the tenor solo (on tenor) then the following F sopranino solo on Bb soprano (as most of us do) then the remaining part on Eb sopranino, playing the written sopranino part transposed. The sopranino color is very effective with the wind section.
So you play both saxophone parts that are used in the current arrangement of the score? That's interesting. Whenever I see Bolero performed, there always seem to be two saxophonists. The only music I have is The Orchestral Saxophonist Vol. 1, which reproduces the Bolero saxophone solo part, but not anything from the tutti sections. Is there a tenor part in the rest of the piece, aside from the solo part?
 

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great find, Lambros (the Magenta nino)!
Did someone try out the cheap jinbao selmer copy?
I got a Jinbao at the same time as i had a my Yani. It was easier to play and darn good for the $$. It didn't have the tone of the Yani, but intonation was better. I've recommended them in this forum probably five or more years ago.
 

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So you play both saxophone parts that are used in the current arrangement of the score? That's interesting. Whenever I see Bolero performed, there always seem to be two saxophonists. The only music I have is The Orchestral Saxophonist Vol. 1, which reproduces the Bolero saxophone solo part, but not anything from the tutti sections. Is there a tenor part in the rest of the piece, aside from the solo part?
Yes, there is a tenor and sopranino part in the rest of the piece. I have often played all three parts, with 5 beats of rest between the tenor and soprano solo. A nerve-wracking but so far successful, highly choreographed instrument switch with no safety net. And with the number of sopraninos that I own, most of them professionally playable, I look for any opportunity to use them.
Paul Cohen
 

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Yes, there is a tenor and sopranino part in the rest of the piece. I have often played all three parts, with 5 beats of rest between the tenor and soprano solo. A nerve-wracking but so far successful, highly choreographed instrument switch with no safety net. And with the number of sopraninos that I own, most of them professionally playable, I look for any opportunity to use them.
Paul Cohen
Hi Paul, Was wondering when you'd jump in. Hopefully you'd join me in thinking that sopraninos aren't likely to die out just because Yanigasawa and Yamaha aren't currently making them. Well one thing I'm sure of is that neither of us will stop playing them for that reason!

I recently sold my Buescher nino to Roger Manins who is probably the best sax player from this end of the world. We share the opinion that the nino is a better sounding instrument than the soprano. He's in the process of becoming a specialist on it to go along with his amazing tenor playing. Look out for recordings coming from him using the sopranino.
 

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Hi Paul, Was wondering when you'd jump in. Hopefully you'd join me in thinking that sopraninos aren't likely to die out just because Yanigasawa and Yamaha aren't currently making them. Well one thing I'm sure of is that neither of us will stop playing them for that reason!

I recently sold my Buescher nino to Roger Manins who is probably the best sax player from this end of the world. We share the opinion that the nino is a better sounding instrument than the soprano. He's in the process of becoming a specialist on it to go along with his amazing tenor playing. Look out for recordings coming from him using the sopranino.
What era Buescher did you sell him? What mouthpiece do you /he use? I love the sound of the sopranino, but not yet ready to concede superiority. It is played often in my studio, by myself and my students. I only see evidence of the interest in sopranino expanding, even with the uneven availability. There are quite enough to go around, and still being made.
Paul Cohen
 

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The thought comes to mind that many can only think of the sax (including sopraninos) in the limited context of Classical or jazz. Hey folks there's a whole world of music out there for which the sopranino is more than suited. Below are some examples of improvised tracks using the sopranino. I have around 200 recordings using the sopranino.

Apogee Celestial Tango
Faces In The Cave
Atonal Bubbles
Funky and Foxy
Little Beastie in a Hot Pan
Endless Horizon
Smell the funk in that jam!
https://www.wikiloops.com/backingtrack-jam-195203.php

I play most all of the sax voices. The above tracks to my ears sounded right for the sopranino instead of some of the other voices. Some could have certainly been played on the soprano (range wise), but it's timbre is (to my ears) is significantly different and less desirable than that of the sopranino. Other pro players like Roger Manins are of the same opinion. The door could be just opening for this unique instrument. Sopranos were totally out of fashion until Coltrane started recording with it. That started up lots of companies making them as there was more demand. There are currently thousands of sopraninos out there with few dedicated players...still considered a novelty, but lots of instruments regardless and more being made all the time.
 

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What era Buescher did you sell him? What mouthpiece do you /he use? I love the sound of the sopranino, but not yet ready to concede superiority. It is played often in my studio, by myself and my students. I only see evidence of the interest in sopranino expanding, even with the uneven availability. There are quite enough to go around, and still being made.
Paul Cohen
Hi Paul. I sold him one that had an added high E key (or was it F?). I'd sent you pictures of it a few years ago. I think it's from the early 1930s with silver plate. I gave him a Vandoren mouthpiece Ihad and didn't like playing to go with it as he's a "bright" player. He gave me in exchange a Selmer that has the most wonderful mellow tone. I have another two Selmers, but nothing like the one he had...just one of those magic players. Roger is a good friend and I'm very happy to see him getting heavily into the nino. As a major instructor at Auckland University's school of music that could also have an impact/influence towards students picking it up. I doubt that there are many other Universities where sopraninos are heard or featured. Watch this space/place...
 

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Hi Paul. I sold him one that had an added high E key (or was it F?). I'd sent you pictures of it a few years ago. I think it's from the early 1930s with silver plate. I gave him a Vandoren mouthpiece Ihad and didn't like playing to go with it as he's a "bright" player. He gave me in exchange a Selmer that has the most wonderful mellow tone. I have another two Selmers, but nothing like the one he had...just one of those magic players. Roger is a good friend and I'm very happy to see him getting heavily into the nino. As a major instructor at Auckland University's school of music that could also have an impact/influence towards students picking it up. I doubt that there are many other Universities where sopraninos are heard or featured. Watch this space/place...
Good to know about the sopranino interest. In my colleges, the sopranino is used all the time. It is a staple of my sax orchestras, and it is used in chamber music, from sax quintets to diverse pieces, and we include recital works as well. And I've enjoyed performing a double concerto for bass sax and sopranino sax (two players) and winds over the years, as well as sopranino in a lyrical contemporary ballet score from the 1990s. I loan my students sopraninos from my collection, including Berkeleys, Yanig, Rampones, Evette Schaeffer, Buescher, Conn and others. I don't lend out my Selmers.
Paul Cohen
 

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The thought comes to mind that many can only think of the sax (including sopraninos) in the limited context of Classical or jazz. Hey folks there's a whole world of music out there for which the sopranino is more than suited. Below are some examples of improvised tracks using the sopranino.
Yes, you're right, the unique voice of the Nino is really interresting in other styles.
Here is a nice playing from Matthieu Metzger in a folk dance music context (at 3:17):
You make me want to buy a cheap one!
 

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...
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.
...
Thank you - that is a very interesting article for those of us who love saxophone history. There are even links to sound samples. (Unfortunately, the link they give to Robert Howe's work is broken).
 

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Thank you - that is a very interesting article for those of us who love saxophone history. There are even links to sound samples. (Unfortunately, the link they give to Robert Howe's work is broken).
The F mezzo is a specialized F alto made by Conn. It is unrelated in bore and sound to the actual f alto, a few of which were made in the 19th century.
Paul Cohen
 

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I would suggest one of the issues for the scarcity of 'ninos among the major manufacturers is pricing. They sell them for thousands of dollars. Some of the Chinese horns are surprisingly serviceable and sell for roughly US$500. For most of us these less expensive horns fill this niche need in an affordable way which would just be totally outside of practical economy for the majors. IMO we will soon see this phenomenon with other saxes as well.
 

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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 is deeply puzzling. Ravel was in Paris, where Adolphe Sax fils was active, where there was a conservatory and where Couesnon was making sopranino saxophones in Eb. I have one dated 1927. Bolero was written in 1928. So Ravel should have known. Indeed, no F sopranino has ever been documented.
I have played Bolero on the sopranino in concert. It's a hoot, much easier than on soprano. The solo has only one note below the 'nino's range, the very last note; my tenor player filled that in for me (his fourth line D).
I have 5 'ninos. Three of them play (Selmer, Couesnon and Buescher), a Triebert which is a Couesnon stencil and a Paul Buescher (French not Elkhart) which is curved!
I'm the author of the 2004 study of Adolphe Sax saxes which is quoted in another post in this thread, this is for sale on EBay if you want it, it's listed with saxophones, not books.Saxophones in F and C
Vehicle Gas Engineering Rectangle Machine
Cylinder Gas Engineering Rectangle Machine

Selmer Sopranino, keyed to F#. Couesnon sopranino, keyed to D#
Note that the Couesnon, like the Buescher and almost every 'nino I have ever seen, is keyed only to Eb.
Another cool 'nino solo is in the jazz-band version of Rhapsody in Blue.
Cheers
Robert Howe
 

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These days when I perform Bolero, I play the tenor solo (on tenor) then the following F sopranino solo on Bb soprano (as most of us do) then the remaining part on Eb sopranino, playing the written sopranino part transposed. The sopranino color is very effective with the wind section.

Berkeley saxes told me that they still carry the sopranino, for abut $3100.
Paul Cohen
Paul, that's good of you to save your symphony orchestras from having to hire another player, but Bolero really ought to be done with two saxophonists. As you note, the sopranino color is very effective in the wind section; so is the tenor, soaring along in the upper register on the minor-key melody at #11 and the major-key melody at #13. Between rehearsal 12 and 13 the only change Ravel makes to the orchestration is adding the tenor (he also adds parallel thirds and fifths). It's like turning on the lights, the tenor is very evident.

I too have had to play both parts alone and just did it all on tenor and soprano, but I went back onto the tenor at 13 to provide this color to the melody (rather than playing doot-doot on the soprano). Although Paul has probably played Bolero 100 times as opposed to my 5 or 6, I urge other saxophonists who are in the unenviable position of having to cover both parts to do the same. Tenor at 6, soprano at 7, tenor at 11, soprano at 14 and out.

Not that there ever will be any more live music anyway.

Cheers
Robert Howe
 
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