Sax on the Web Forum banner
21 - 40 of 53 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
109 Posts
I've had some years ago a Yanagisawa S980 that was really sweet sounding, but I didn't had the time to dedicate myself to Soprano and my student life was too expensive so I had to sell it. Now I possess a Selmer Serie III soprano, one of the early version, and I will not change that one: the sound is sweet, full and with perfect intonation. Only issue is that it's quite heavy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Another consideration is whether or not you want a removable neck for your soprano. Not me; so another plus for vintage horns in my view.
I have a non removable neck now, and have played had one with removable or bent necks, so don't know if I care or not.
Is it simply positioning pros/cons for the curved Vs straight?
Are there pros/cons to removable/non removable?
As of now I don't really care, but I don't know better.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2015-17
Joined
·
2,091 Posts
Yamaha YSS 61 or 62. 62 has better ergos. Intonation is spot on.

Others say yamahas have no 'soul'. However, I've always been of the opinion that soul was something the player provides.
My True Tone definitely has a soul. It has been reincarnated many times; most recently it was a cat. Every time I play it, it speaks to me but I try not to listen too closely. Some things are better left unknown.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
27,242 Posts
Are there pros/cons to removable/non removable?
Certainly. Any neck connection isn't exactly ideal, as it's an area of the horn prone to leaks. But necks are made removable/adjustable for not only player comfort, but for a horn fitting in a case. I mean... look at the old King baritone saxes that had fixed necks. But on a soprano, fitting in a case wasn't as big of an issue in regards to a removable neck. So their optimal, and leak avoiding design included fixed necks.

But now you have a neck craze going on with marketers pushing whatever they can on willing consumers. Tipped necks. Copper necks. Silver necks. You name it. So sopranos have morphed back into the two piece design accordingly. When I test play sopranos with removable necks, I always feel like they're going to bend in my hands getting them on and off. They're just too small for my big mitts to handle, and I could see dropping one easily when trying to get it off. So I hate them even if they weren't such an added risk point for leaks. Others don't see the risk as greater than with any horn, and like the convenience of adjustable neck positions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I don’t see the value in a detachable neck quite frankly for sops. Adds more issues than needed.
I’ve never said “gee, I wish my sop was at a 20 degree angle from here”.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,736 Posts
Supplying it with two necks, one curved and one straight, makes sense (subject to the issues I'm going to discuss below). Even if you don't supply it with two necks, if the neck is detachable then it's easier for the manufacturer to offer a "curved at the top" and "straight clear through" model. I don't think having a straight, detachable neck on a straight soprano offers any advantage to the player. I also suspect it offers no DIS advantage either, based on the many fine players I've heard doing a great job on that configuration.

For me there are two issues with the straight soprano (as opposed to the fully curved alto-like format); 1) Right thumb pain; 2) If held down more or less like a clarinet, the mouthpiece enters the embouchure at a clarinet-like angle, not the more or less perpendicular angle of all other saxophones. This affects tone quality and responsiveness.

For me (I say that up front in hopes of heading off the barrage of examples of fine players who do it differently than I do), the solution to both of the big issues is the same - hold the thing out front like a trumpet. Now your thumb, holding it up, is not having to lift the weight of the horn by pushing sideways on the thumb joint (using fairly weak muscles), rather you're holding the weight by the "clamping" muscles of the thumb, which are tremendously strong. And now the mouthpiece addresses the embouchure at approximately a right angle, like the other saxophones. When I keep my attention on this posture, my playing improves, and my thumb doesn't hurt.

Now the semi-curved neck on the straight body seems to me to be a kind of half-hearted attempt at addressing the embouchure angle. But in the end, a lot of players still end up having to use a neck strap on the thing, and the problem with that is because the neck strap runs basically parallel to the body of the horn (when you're holding it down) it ends up interfering with the left hand.

If someone without soprano experience came to me I would suggest either gettting a straight or semi-curved model, and holding it out front like a trumpet, not letting it sag; or getting a fully curved model and playing it like an alto with a neck strap.

Just my $0.019.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
34,684 Posts
Supplying it with two necks, one curved and one straight, makes sense (subject to the issues I'm going to discuss below). Even if you don't supply it with two necks, if the neck is detachable then it's easier for the manufacturer to offer a "curved at the top" and "straight clear through" model. I don't think having a straight, detachable neck on a straight soprano offers any advantage to the player. I also suspect it offers no DIS advantage either, based on the many fine players I've heard doing a great job on that configuration.

For me there are two issues with the straight soprano (as opposed to the fully curved alto-like format); 1) Right thumb pain; 2) If held down more or less like a clarinet, the mouthpiece enters the embouchure at a clarinet-like angle, not the more or less perpendicular angle of all other saxophones. This affects tone quality and responsiveness.

For me (I say that up front in hopes of heading off the barrage of examples of fine players who do it differently than I do), the solution to both of the big issues is the same - hold the thing out front like a trumpet. Now your thumb, holding it up, is not having to lift the weight of the horn by pushing sideways on the thumb joint (using fairly weak muscles), rather you're holding the weight by the "clamping" muscles of the thumb, which are tremendously strong. And now the mouthpiece addresses the embouchure at approximately a right angle, like the other saxophones. When I keep my attention on this posture, my playing improves, and my thumb doesn't hurt.

Now the semi-curved neck on the straight body seems to me to be a kind of half-hearted attempt at addressing the embouchure angle. But in the end, a lot of players still end up having to use a neck strap on the thing, and the problem with that is because the neck strap runs basically parallel to the body of the horn (when you're holding it down) it ends up interfering with the left hand.
I play a curved-neck straight (aka "bent neck", aka "half-curved") Borgani Jubilee sop, and have never noticed interference issues with a neck strap.

I previously owned several different detachable-neck sops (Selmer Serie III, Yanagisawa SC-992), and did not like dealing with the necks. The tenon is small, and close tolerances are critical to getting a good seal. Adding the cylindrical section to a small horn seems a great compromise. I prefer the simple solution - no fiddly bits, no compromise.

If you prefer a nasal, whiny sounding sop, avoid the Borgani.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,736 Posts
I play a curved-neck straight (aka "bent neck", aka "half-curved") Borgani Jubilee sop, and have never noticed interference issues with a neck strap.

I previously owned several different detachable-neck sops (Selmer Serie III, Yanagisawa SC-992), and did not like dealing with the necks. The tenon is small, and close tolerances are critical to getting a good seal. Adding the cylindrical section to a small horn seems a great compromise. I prefer the simple solution - no fiddly bits, no compromise.

If you prefer a nasal, whiny sounding sop, avoid the Borgani.
Well, I"m playing a Holton C, Buescher True Tone Bb, and Holton Bb, so I've pretty well dodged the "nasal, whiny" sound.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,736 Posts
If I did own a detachable neck soprano I'd probably just slather the joint real well with anti-seize and leave it always installed.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
34,684 Posts
Well, I"m playing a Holton C, Buescher True Tone Bb, and Holton Bb, so I've pretty well dodged the "nasal, whiny" sound.
Amen - especially that lil' Buescher TT. Tone to the bone! I had a gold plated one that ended up in Gayle Fredenburgh's (VintageSax.com) collection.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2015-17
Joined
·
2,091 Posts
My True Tone came from Gayle’s shop. I played a few other soprano’s in her shop and a friend’s yanigasawa and that is it for me on sopranos. So I don’t have a lot of experience on those but it seems there is quite a bit of difference in tone horn to horn, enough that I think it’s probably hard to generalize about a specific make. Two Bueschers of approximately the same vintage were night and day. The Yanagisawa I tried sounded closer to the True Tone I ended up with than some of the other True Tones. The Conns probably had more of a signature sound, based on my limited experience.

For me, key layout and intonation are just things you get used to on any horn, as long as they are reasonable.

If I ever bought another it would be a curvy or at least a bent neck so as to get some benefit from a neck strap.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
27,242 Posts
For me there are two issues with the straight soprano (as opposed to the fully curved alto-like format); 1) Right thumb pain...
Yes, that's a great point re: straight v. curved soprano. I never used a neck strap with my curved Buescher (which I've had since I was a kid), and the straight VI I had didn't have a strap ring. But over time, playing the straight soprano made my right thumb ache to the point where I had to sell it. I now use neck straps with my curved sopranos.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
34,684 Posts
I like a removeable neck on a curved soprano because they're easier to swab.
The pinch point in a sop is the body octave pip - after that, it is a smooth shot out the neck. If you use a Shove-It, there is no difference.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
106 Posts
Don't forget to consider the Theo Wanne Mantra straight soprano. Three places to hook a strap so that there is never interference with left hand thumb. I have a Yanagisawa 991, a curved Martin (Yanagisawa) stencil that I play with bent pipe from the 991 and the Theo Wanne one piece. No matter how much I say I like the other horns, I always drift back to playing the Mantra more than the others. I very full bodied sound. Excellent mechanics. Worth trying if you can find one. I bought mine used for a very good price.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
Discussion Starter · #37 ·
I have a reasonably inexpensive strait one piece saxophone.com sop that is ok. It’s close to what I’m looking for tone wise but not there. I bought it to get used to SIPA sns see if I wanted to invest big.
I also have a chinese curvy that is fun to play, a bit brighter but I know it’s not going to last a long time, it was an experiment for $399 (included 4 day shipping and full customization to my liking) and I’m happy with it as a fun thing for that price.

Other than ergos, are there other generalizations from straight to curvy (not bent necks) or is it model by model. Can I find a curvy with that vintage nasal sound as well? Maybe if so I just doubled my odds of finding (and doubled my test plans, not a bad thing!).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9 Posts
Let's face it, you'll just have to try a bunch to see what works. I play on a Mark VI I bought new around 1976. I have yet to find anything that matches the sound of it, but I sure wish it had modern keywork. A student of mine has a Yanagisawa curved. I like it but the sound is completely different, more like a vintage soprano. Heck of a lot easier on my thumb, too.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
27,242 Posts
Other than ergos, are there other generalizations from straight to curvy (not bent necks) or is it model by model. Can I find a curvy with that vintage nasal sound as well?
Some years ago a friend brought over a vintage straight Buescher soprano to compare with my curved one. The straight one seemed to have more of that "vintage nasal sound" you describe... well, at least at first. Then I played it pointing straight at the wall from about a foot away, and it sounded just like my curved model.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
290 Posts
Having sorted new to me tenor and alto, I now turn my attention to upgrading my straight soprano.

Let's get a few things out of the way...
1. I know my ear and my ergos in my hands will ultimately make the call.
2. I have not played a single sop other than the saxophone.com one i have (which is actually an ok horn, but time to go big here).
3. Open to new or vintage.
4. I have a Selmer Super Session J mpc that I LOVE on both my cheap sops.
5. My sound concept for sop is that i like the honky, oboe-ish, non-smooth sounds of Coltrane on My Favorite Things, Blues for Bechet and others, and despise the smooth jazz sounds of Mr. G.

I very much do value others opinions and experiences on horns, for me, it helps as I search.
I do not, however, take it for what is written here as what will be right for me.
For tenor, I took a huge left turn and ended up with a MK VII that I LOVE, but I very much enjoyed all the thoughts along the way.

Knowing even less about higher end straight sops, would be nice to have folks comment in one place about any/all the higher end brands.
Most interested in intonation issues, best intonation horns / ergo differences / tonal color.
Conn / Selmer MK VIs / Yanis / Yammys / others please....
Also in these, what to look for in a good horn, if that is a thing (different models or years of mfg, features that make a difference, etc.

Thanks in advance to the collective...
I bought my first soprano because of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" in 1998. Tried as I might, I never became the next Coltrane, but over the ensuing 20 years, I became myself with the help of Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Dave Liebman, John Butcher, and the influence of other great saxophonists (not just soprano players) and other instrumentalists.

My first saxophone was a Keilwerth SX90 Black Gold model with the straight neck. I bought it because Dave Liebman used one and he was greatly influenced by Coltrane. However, as I listened further, I discovered that Dave had developed his own superb style that was unique to him.

Much of Coltrane's sound, and I can only judge from his recordings, was due to microphone placement. If you place a microphone at the bell of an alto, tenor, or bari sax, the sound is good. However, with the soprano, much of the sound comes from the body of the saxophone. I don't like Coltrane's tone very much, because it is too buzzy. Kenny G also records with the microphone at his soprano's bell and his sound is buzzy too, but in a different way than Coltrane's due to differences in their anatomy. If you seek the buzzy sound, you will have a unique one too, but you likely won't sound like Coltrane, unless your anantomy (embouchure, etc.) are very similar to his. Coltrane does have a couple of recordings where his soprano is not oboe-like (the recently released 3 CD set "'63" has some examples of his tone without the oboe sound. I don't know whether he preferred the bell microphone placement, or if he deferred to the judgement of recording engineers, who likely has little if any experience recording a soprano saxophone. Some of Steve Lacy's recordings also exhibit the buzzy sound of the soprano bell.

All sopranos are uncomfortable--thumb wise. I have a Borgani Jubilee (my primary sax), a Keilwerth SX 90, and a Rampone and Cazanni (R&C) half curved model. They all sound different when I am playing them, but they all sound like me when I hear a recordings. (This is the same for mouthpieces. Some mouthpieces allow me to reach higher, play louder/softer, etc., but the recorded sound is always mine, if the engineer knows how to record a soprano sax.) The response that you hear and feel is important, but once you've developed your voice, you will have that voice, regardless of the instrument you play. Again, you probably won't sound like Coltrane. I can use a neck strap with my R&C sax, but not the others. I replaced the thumb rests on my Keilwerth an Borgani with Ton Kooman Forza Sax rests. They help with the thumb discomfort, but not greatly. Always remember to take a break when practicing your soprano. They are very light compared to the other saxes, but if your thumb becomes numb or tingles, you've played too long. Ergonomically, I find that my Borgani suits me slightly better than my Keiwerth, and I don't like to play my R&C than much, although it has the best intonation throughout its range.

Consistent intonation is a very important feature to seek when buying a soprano; some vintage saxophones might look beautiful, but are not in tune throughout their range. Close your eyes and buy that sax that plays well rather than looks nice. No one in the audience will care if you have an expensive vintage saxophone, if you have trouble playing in tune above high C.

Sorry that I droned on about three sax brands that you're not considering, but I don't believe that a saxophone brand will affect your sound. For example, listen to Charlie Parker playing a plastic alto live in Toronto in 1953. I hear no difference among the many saxophones that Bird played, and he played many different saxophones and brands. He always sounded like himself.

Find a saxophone that inspires you to play, that is, you like the sound, the feel and vibration of the sax in your hands, and the ease of playing throughout the fingerboard. Really focus on the low end when playing and make sure the overtones are in tune. Is it in tune throughout its range without having to changer your embouchure. (Your mouthpiece could be a problem too, if you're having intonation problems. Most off the shelf mouthpieces have warped tables and other problems. See Joe Giardullo's site sopranoplanet.com for comprehensive information about mouthpieces and his excellent handmade mouthpieces. ) Most of the saxophones that you try will be similar, but find one that speaks to you and that you enjoy playing. They will all sound the same to your audience, unless your recording engineer is bad, so find one that sounds good to you.

Vintage horns look cool, but modern keywork will generally allow you to play both the top end and altissimo range more easily than vintage keywork will.

I hope that some of this is useful for you. I'd be happy to help further, if you would like additional advice.
 
21 - 40 of 53 Posts
Top