Distinguished SOTW Member
Hey,I started on the metallite because I had graduated from a yamaha 4c on the tenor to the metallite. I am certainly having no trouble getting a big sound out with the current mouthpiece, except as noted, I lost everything above high C after going from a 2 1/2 to a 3. I found that when I went from a 5 (.060) to a 7 (.065) I was better able to lip up the high notes. So I wonder if going down to something much smaller would improve the situation or make it worse? Any other specific mouthpiece recommendations? Obviously, as long as I'm not sure, I would be buying inexpensive mouthpieces. If I knew exactly what I needed, I wouldn't mind spending some more serious money. Makes sense to experiment with the cheap ones first, though.
To mmichel: the link to the posted mouthpieces gives me a "forbidden" message for some reason. You can let me know what you've got directly: [email protected].
Soprano is definitely a little different when it comes to intonation. I know that it pretty much goes without saying, but it is useful to remember (again and again) just how fine the tolerances have to be when we're talking about such a small instrument.
First step I like to take is to get the equipment out of the way; this way you can for sure know that it's you who's causing the problems and not the horn. Make sure the horn is in perfect working order (especially any split pad or coupled pad mechanisms it might have for aiding intonation in the palm keys). I agree with the others that your choice of mouthpiece is maybe a little adventurous. A yamaha 4C is a good choice, but if you want something with a round chamber (as I would!), maybe have a go on a Yanagisawa HR piece in a 5 or 6. I play a 7 myself and I find it helps me lock in intonation and I still get plenty of power and brightness if I feel like it. They're consistent and not horribly expensive.
Regarding your original post...
Flat palm keys: check that the keys open enough and that you are providing enough support with your embouchure to bring them up to pitch. You shouldn't be squeezing either, but lots of older horns often require a bit of extra help with the palm keys.
Sharp low notes: lots of horns (my S-880 included) have this. Unless it's a really bad case, I think you might just have to compensate. Luckily, it's easier in the lower register.
Some exercises/tips that might help you:
Entry air stream. I don't play soprano every time I play the sax, but when it's been a while, I usually like to start off by checking my entry air stream. By this, I mean making sure that my embouchure tightness isn't too high or too low, and that I'm not putting a tenor-sized amount of air through the instrument. If your instrument is well designed (which I'd expect an S6 to be!), then the whole range should respond pretty close to in tune provided that you are supplying the right kind of air. First, get the horn nice and warm and get your tuning note close enough and then start playing medium-long notes at a medium dynamic on middle C or B or somewhere around there. Experiment with starting it slightly sharper or flatter until you find the right pitch that seems to work for you and helps you play across the registers in a relaxed way. Be patient and really spend time on this - it's worth it.
Intonation. You need to get to know your horn very well. I remember talking to a friend of mine who actually made a chart of how flat/sharp various notes on his horn were when he tuned to concert Bb. There's probably no need to go this far, but it's worth it getting to know the tendencies of various notes.
For general intonation and getting to know the horn:
I find arpeggio and triad-based exercises to be very helpful. Most of us are really familiar with these sounds, so it's easy to know if you're way off without needing a tuner. I usually play very legato descending or ascending major or minor triads, sitting on each note for around 2 seconds. So, for example, C - A - F - C until I am satisfied with the intonation on each note and that notes aren't breaking up when I move between them. After this, I'll move down/up chromatically or in steps or in whatever pattern I feel like going. Some guidelines: (1) make sure you play with a neutral embouchure and don't fool around too much with tension or tongue position. If your horn is well designed, you should let it do its job. Also, you need to know what the horn will do naturally before you start telling it you want something else. (2) Do this across all registers. If you practice registers in isolation, you will quickly begin to develop isolated ways of playing each register (i.e. a different embouchure position and tightness). This will result in a wildly varied and inconsistent approach (not the best!).
Staying relaxed in the palm keys:
This one is harder, but it is helpful if you're finding it hard to stay relaxed. Start on high D and then press down your high Eb, but use your lips and throat to keep the pitch the same. Next, add high E and eventually high F, all while keeping the pitch at D and not letting the note break up. Once you can do this easily, move down to high C# and add D, Eb, E, F while keeping the pitch at C#. And then try C! This will greatly improve your flexibility, which in combination with active ears, will give you the tools you need to correct intonation.
Soprano is fun. Good luck!