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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am placing this story in case anyone else is considering a similar action.

I have two locations. In Buenos Aires the walls are thick and the downtown noise drowns out my practicing, so I can do my thing until about 11:00 at night.

But in Orange County California, the walls are thin and the neighbors can hear everything. After about 2:00 in the afternoon I am not comfortable with the neighbors hearing my scales and modes.

I took a look at various mutes. The ones that work like a trumpet mute do not really work, because a sax emits sound all around. The mute made out of open foam placed inside the neck did not really reduce the volume much, and seemed to make the instrument out of tune.

The large egg shaped fiberglass shells were intriguing, but I just did not feel like paying a bunch of money and having this large egg as the centerpiece of my room.

So I decided to find a cheap soprano and try to practice it in my car. After all its in the same key as a tenor, and fits inside of a car when being played.

The first problem you notice with this plan is that Yamaha does not seem to make a student soprano, and the models that they do make are thousands of dollars.

You can find lots of very cheap sopranos on the web for sale, like for $220 including case, mouthpiece, reeds, neck strap, gloves(?), and other accessories. These looked too good to be true, so I held off from buying one.

Eventually I found a used J Erick for sale on Ebay for about $200, from a vendor that includes a setup. So I bought it. I also went on the web and picked up a Vandoren V16 and the Optimus ligature. So the mouthpiece and ligature cost about the same as the instrument.

The instrument arrived and it appeared to be respectable quality, and the prior owner did not play it very much so the pads looked good. It had a bent key from the transit but I bent it back, and from what I can tell it is in playable shape.

One of the first things I noticed is that the mouthpiece must slide up the cork so that only about 1/4" of cork is showing. Otherwise it is way out of tune with itself. On the straight neck, the prior owner had compressed the cork or sanded off the cork, so pushing the mouthpiece deep enough was possible. On the curved neck, the cork was new, and way too thick. I ended up using some 220 grit sandpaper to remove some of the cork, and then using the grease to push on the mouthpiece.

Once the mouthpiece is deep enough, the horn plays in tune.

On the subject of mouthpiece, I am glad I got the Vandoren V16 and Optimus ligature, I don't think it is wise to scrimp on mouthpiece. Also, I use a Vandoren V16 (metal) on my tenors. BTW, the soprano mouthpiece seems tiny.

As far as using a soprano for a a surrogate for practicing tenor, I can say that it works.

First, it is less loud and boomy than the tenor, so I am comfortable playing it in my apartment into the late afternoon. If I want to play later than that I need to go out to my car.

Second, the fingering and the notes are more or less the same as on the tenor, so it is a valid substitute. And with the similar mouthpiece, the feel of the instrument is similar.

The main problem is that it is just no fun. I love the sexy tone of a tenor sax, and for me the soprano is a high pitched gnat sounding thing (sorry, its just my taste in saxophone tones).

So here we go:

Pros:

Seems to be a valid substitute for practicing tenor.

Soprano is small and stores easily.

I found one for reasonable price.

Cons:

You need to spend many hours shopping the net to find a cheap but playable instrument

You still need to buy a good mouthpiece. And very possibly pay for a setup.

The biggest "con" is that after everything is said and done, you might not feel like playing because it is too high in pitch and too nasal. But that is a personal taste and might not be a drawback for a different set of ears.
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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It will be fine for practising your fingering technique and helping to grasp some oeverall basic concepts of saxophone sound technique, but is never going to get you into the more nuanced or specialised tenor techniques of sound production, whether it's screaming and honking or breathy fat subtone.

But otherwise yes.

NB: among your "cons" You need to spend many hours shopping the net to find a cheap but playable instrument applies to anything, not just soprano.

I'ds also suspect that soprano doesn't go very far to alleviating neighbours' annoyance. Yes it may slightly fewer decibels than tenor, but OTOH, it is a soprano!
 

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Oh dear. I bet if your neighbours got to choose, they'd pick a bad sounding tenor over a bad sounding soprano any day. I know I would. Not that I know how well you play, but anyway: Soprano can have less desibels on paper, but the sound can surely be soul crunching if it's not spot on (and effective practice often isn't). Tenor... even if it's bad, it can still be kinda nice.

That being said.. I have seen varying opinions here on the effectiveness of practicing with instruments other than your main. Personally I have found getting sidetracked instrument-wise brings all kinds of new perspectives to one's daily playing.

Nowadays I play mainly tenor, a little soprano. But the occasional tuba, trumpet, even conch shell sessions have always been eye opening experiences. Throat opening, even. Playing something different for a while helps me to re-evaluate my tone, embouchure etc. The effect is a bit similar as hearing other, more skilled sax players play - helps to loosen up the mannerisms and such.
 

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I believe the OP's reasoning was that soprano could be easily practiced away from the house in his car, and get away from the neighbors altogether.
 

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I have practiced in the car many times with an alto sax. The alto actually fits the car better than a straight soprano. Of course, you could get a curved soprano but I like the sound of an alto better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Lots of good comments!

I think I didn't make it clear that I use the soprano as a secondary instrument for when I am away from my main home. I would not recommend trying to learn tenor by using a soprano. I just use it to try and maintain skill and a practice regimen. I think by the tone of the story you can tell I have reservations about the whole process, but I also think it is better than nothing.

I will try to keep in mind my obnoxious warbling on the soprano the next time I am pushing my practice into hours when the locals are home from work! Looks like I need to go out to the car more often.
 

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When I practice soprano and my wife is napping, she complains - vociferously. If I practice tenor and she is napping, no complaints at all. Just sayin...
 

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Hello. I remember reading that when John Coltrane was living in an apartment in New York, with his wife and child, he would practice by barely blowing into the tenor, just enough to be able to discern the scale and patterns he was playing. I have done the same thing over the years and it is good way of developing speed and muscle memory. The obvious draw back is that there is limited development of breathing etc. Good luck with your endeavors.
 

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When I practice soprano and my wife is napping, she complains - vociferously. If I practice tenor and she is napping, no complaints at all. Just sayin...
+1 :lol: Totally true.
 

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Dunno about anybody else, but I can play at least as quiet on the tenor as on the alto or soprano.

Plus the lower register is not going to carry as well. And it sounds better. Just sayin.
Fitting it into the car may be a different story. I have a Sprinter van. Over six feet tall inside.


dsm
 

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The soprano is a beautiful beautiful instrument, when played well. You're probably just making a joke, but complaining about how bad the soprano sounds can't be helpful -- to make good music, you need to be completely in love with the instrument you play. Otherwise, why waste your time?
 

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the high-pitched notes of the soprano are more irritating to the ears that the tenor notes, no matter how well played they are...
Last week, first time in my life ( I used to live, before, in a big house, and my playing was not heard by my neighbors ) I was playing in my apartment, and received a phone call to ask me to stop playing , because a sick person was trying to get asleep and my sounds bothered him...!!!
Now... I found a place in the outside of the building , used to make "pilates" exercises, far away from the apartments , where i go with my sax, my iPad ( with Playalongs and notation sheets ) and a portable speaker , to practice there...
I will be playing during the day, only on weekends, as I like to record myself to hear my tone and to evaluate if I am progressing...I expect that the neighbors does not complain on those days too....!!
 

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I used to try to split my time between tenor and soprano but found that neither contributed much to developing my skills on the other. I now focus on tenor, and neither of my sopranos has seen the light of day in a couple of years. I suspect at least one of them is going on the market soon.

I used to take a soprano along for convenience when I traveled rather than hauling a tenor, but for the last few years I just take a tenor with me.
 

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I used to try to split my time between tenor and soprano but found that neither contributed much to developing my skills on the other. I now focus on tenor, and neither of my sopranos has seen the light of day in a couple of years. I suspect at least one of them is going on the market soon.

I used to take a soprano along for convenience when I traveled rather than hauling a tenor, but for the last few years I just take a tenor with me.
+1

I invested in a contour travel case for my tenor, and stopped traveling with my sop. If space is really tight, I take a flute.
 

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When my kids were babies, I used to take our minivan and drive to a industrial parking lot at night where there were no houses and practice in it. I found it fun. I would crank different play alongs and just jam to them for hours learning tunes and improvising. I think it is a great option. I like it because it' s the same key as tenor so everything you learn and memorize is the same key as tenor.
 

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soprano is such a different beast than tenor. i won't deny that all the extra variables you have to be mindful of to play the sop enjoyably can possibly add some control when you return to the much more user friendly tenor. (then again my wife is enamored with neither and prefers i play alto in the house.) lacking the control of a first class player, i use different horns for different modes. but i prefer soprano, which i made peace with after i stopped treating it like a higher pitched alto-tenor.
 

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I must ask why "After about 2:00 in the afternoon [you are] not comfortable with the neighbors hearing [your] scales and modes?"

If it is due to concern about bothering the neighbors, 2pm is a pretty early time of the day. You should be able to play at a reasonable volume level at least until 8pm, though many feel it is 9 or 10 even.

If you just prefer, for whatever reason, not to be heard by others (this applies to me usually, due to my poor playing), then that is different.

There used to be a TV commercial (I think it was for WNEW 102.7 radio in NYC, but not 100% sure) where the cops show up, knock on the door and ask the people in the house to have their kids turn down the loud music.

They respond "Kids? We don't have any kids."

Play on!
 
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