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I went through a phase in 2015 and '16 when I thought that the soprano might be the sax that becomes my primary voice or the one that I identify with the most. I was interested in playing in a traditional SATB quartet. I had never been interested in playing classical music on alto, but becoming decent on the soprano seemed to open up that possibility. I bought a fancy mouthpiece and started devoting most of my practice time to soprano.

And then something funny happened. I bought a sopranino and liked it MUCH better. I won't mention the brand by name because that's not the point of my post. It's one of those that gets lumped in with the "made in Taiwan" cheap ones that all look alike.

I developed my technique and my own style, but I wasn't sure if I could ever take it out of the house and play it anywhere. As many of you have experienced, it was difficult to play anything in tune. I figured that the nino might just be a fun toy to have at home.

But I decided to work on tuning and see what I could accomplish. As many of you have pointed out, the tuning problems tend to begin with the A above the staff. I've developed the habit of adding the middle finger on the right hand to flatten it if I hold it for more than a split second. Playing the Bb with the middle finger also makes that note playable. So then I started thinking of my nino as a two-octave instrument that I could potentially play with other musicians. One thing that I like about
it more than other saxes is that the low C, B, and Bb sound great. I tend to truncate my range by choice on the low end on the alto, but those are some of my favorite notes on the nino. So viewing it as a two-octave instrument didn't seem like as big of a compromise when I considered that I don't take full advantage of the complete range of the alto. This change in mentality gave me the confidence to pursue the instrument in a broader context.

If I play a high C, C#, or D with the traditional fingerings, I do it as fast as possible. I have developed the habits needed to get my A and Bb in tune. I also have a problem with the Ab and have to lip it down. For higher notes, which I rarely play, I've developed the following alternate fingerings that have not become habit because I stopped playing above a Bb regularly. I've seen a lot of posts about tuning problems but haven't seen any proposed solutions, so I thought I'd share these. My setup is with my Selmer C* mouthpiece and #3 Vandorens. I've never tried anything else.


Ab lip it down to flatten
A add middle finger on right hand to flatten
Bb play with middle finger on right hand AND lip it down
B finger Bb bis and add bottom side key to sharpen
C finger B and add bottom side key to sharpen
C# finger B and add both bottom and middle side keys
D finger C# and add middle side key to sharpen
Eb finger D and add middle side key to sharpen


Has anyone else decided to treat the nino as a two-octave instrument? Are there more expensive brands that can be played in tune with traditional fingerings? Have others developed alternative fingerings for high notes?

I suppose a common reaction to what I've written might be, "If you can play the soprano over the full range and play it as high or higher than where you stop on the sopranino, why not just play the soprano?" For me it's about the sound of the instrument. It's not about trying to play higher notes on a sax. I hear recordings of some people on sopranino and think that it sounds pretty much like a soprano. I hear something entirely different when I play. I prefer the tone quality that I get on the sopranino.
 

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Hello. Even though I do not play sopranino I very much like it as an instrument and have listened to a broad spectrum of recordings (from Farrell Vernon to David Sanborn). I think your ideas on range are good - up to Bb sets the parameter which the is ideal for your ears. In my opinion the end that's the best way to structure a musical style. I personally learned on a soprano and played professionally until an accident forced me to change instruments (to flute). I can play the flute in the accepted full range now but really enjoy the lower notes - particular the bottom end. Enjoy the journey.
 

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Really nice to hear from a sopraninist who has some hours of "flying time." Those fingerings are pretty startling, but it's good to hear that someone has worked those out and tested them. I've been playing around with my nino for several years, but haven't ever played it out yet.

And as a footnote to your fingerings, it would be nice to hear what horn you're playing.

Thanks!
 

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Your description of what attracts you to the sopranino rings true to my ears. I've owned many different ones (but not as many as Paul Cohen!). Some definitely have intonation problems, but as with all saxes they are imperfect instruments and require "adjustments". It's interesting that you can obviously hear what's in and out of tune, but are using fingerings instead of your embouchure to correct. I would find this intolerable.

A question may be if you can hear a note before you are playing that note? This can make the difference between playing in tune...or not. It's pretty easy to play a scale on the sopranino a tone lower just by adjusting your embouchure, but you need to be able to hear those notes and adjust to make it all in tune. You can also "squeeze" up tones, but to a lesser extent. Ear + embouchure = playing in tune. Once used to an instrument if you can hear the note you're trying to play the adjustment should become automatic. If I couldn't make a supposedly "OK" horn play in tune, then it would be time to look for a different instrument. Alt fingerings are generally awkward and will hamper fluidity in playing and clean articulation...two things pretty vital to playing a nino.
 

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I went through a phase in 2015 and '16 when I thought that the soprano might be the sax that becomes my primary voice or the one that I identify with the most. I was interested in playing in a traditional SATB quartet. I had never been interested in playing classical music on alto, but becoming decent on the soprano seemed to open up that possibility. I bought a fancy mouthpiece and started devoting most of my practice time to soprano.

And then something funny happened. I bought a sopranino and liked it MUCH better. I won't mention the brand by name because that's not the point of my post. It's one of those that gets lumped in with the "made in Taiwan" cheap ones that all look alike.

I developed my technique and my own style, but I wasn't sure if I could ever take it out of the house and play it anywhere. As many of you have experienced, it was difficult to play anything in tune. I figured that the nino might just be a fun toy to have at home.

But I decided to work on tuning and see what I could accomplish. As many of you have pointed out, the tuning problems tend to begin with the A above the staff. I've developed the habit of adding the middle finger on the right hand to flatten it if I hold it for more than a split second. Playing the Bb with the middle finger also makes that note playable. So then I started thinking of my nino as a two-octave instrument that I could potentially play with other musicians. One thing that I like about
it more than other saxes is that the low C, B, and Bb sound great. I tend to truncate my range by choice on the low end on the alto, but those are some of my favorite notes on the nino. So viewing it as a two-octave instrument didn't seem like as big of a compromise when I considered that I don't take full advantage of the complete range of the alto. This change in mentality gave me the confidence to pursue the instrument in a broader context.

If I play a high C, C#, or D with the traditional fingerings, I do it as fast as possible. I have developed the habits needed to get my A and Bb in tune. I also have a problem with the Ab and have to lip it down. For higher notes, which I rarely play, I've developed the following alternate fingerings that have not become habit because I stopped playing above a Bb regularly. I've seen a lot of posts about tuning problems but haven't seen any proposed solutions, so I thought I'd share these. My setup is with my Selmer C* mouthpiece and #3 Vandorens. I've never tried anything else.


Ab lip it down to flatten
A add middle finger on right hand to flatten
Bb play with middle finger on right hand AND lip it down
B finger Bb bis and add bottom side key to sharpen
C finger B and add bottom side key to sharpen
C# finger B and add both bottom and middle side keys
D finger C# and add middle side key to sharpen
Eb finger D and add middle side key to sharpen


Has anyone else decided to treat the nino as a two-octave instrument? Are there more expensive brands that can be played in tune with traditional fingerings? Have others developed alternative fingerings for high notes?

I suppose a common reaction to what I've written might be, "If you can play the soprano over the full range and play it as high or higher than where you stop on the sopranino, why not just play the soprano?" For me it's about the sound of the instrument. It's not about trying to play higher notes on a sax. I hear recordings of some people on sopranino and think that it sounds pretty much like a soprano. I hear something entirely different when I play. I prefer the tone quality that I get on the sopranino.
Soprano isn’t bad enough, you had to get a sopranino? You must me a masochist. Phil Barone
 
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