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Thread: soprano or alto ?

  1. #1

    Question soprano or alto ?

    hey, i play the alto sax..... but i am thinking of buying a soprano sax.. im not even 16 yet and have to pay for it myself and im wondering if i should upgrade my alot or buy a soprano... is there alot of differences between the two ? and which is better?

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    Saxamatic: Neither is better than the other. They are pitched differently and usually serve different roles in an ensemble. For a student playing in a school band, I'd guess the alto is the better choice merely because more parts are written for it and many band directors prefer the larger saxophones for simplicity's sake.

    You did not tell us what you are now playing. There is nothing wrong with upgrading your alto OR buying a soprano and having two different instruments. But maybe an alto upgrade is unecessary at this time in your life.

    I started on soprano when I was 16 and never regretted it. Soprano is still my first-call and most comfortable saxophone after all these years. I tried to play in the school band but had to play trumpet parts on soprano because of a total lack of written music in that ear (mid '50's). I tired quickly of the organized band and quit, preferring to improvise in small combos of the day. I still do that.

    As far as how to buy one and where to buy one - my Mom (bless her heart) helped me buy my first soprano - they were rarely seen and the only thing available were what we now call vintage saxophones. Only Selmer and Buffet were making new ones then. Today, there are huge numbers of manufacturers and sopranos are readily available in many music stores. Do yourself a favor and buy a good one if you choose that route, Cheap sopranos are a waste of money. DAVE
    Dave

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    Default Dont buy a cheap soprano

    My only advice to anyone buying a soprano sax, is do not buy a cheap one. The intonation is relatively unstable even on a decent soprano. If you buy a poorly made alto, or tenor, you can still get reasonable sound and pitch. I recently played one of those woodwind sopranos and it felt (response) and sounded like plastic, even with a good mouthpiece. If you must buy a soprano for under $2000, aim at a used sax by yamaha.

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    dpwadw's Avatar
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    I concur regarding 'cheap' sopranos. There are some great deals out there, but go with a big name, or at least a reputable Taiwanese stencil. There a many posts on SOTW about good stencils like Antigua.

    As stated above, sops are tempermental beasts anyway. I wrestle with my Yanagisawa occasionally even. A poor sop can be virtually unplayable (or worse, un-tunable).
    Dan W.
    Yanagisawa S902 Sop, Runyon Custom 8
    Yanagisawa A991 Alto, Mojo Beechler DI (.087"), Mojo Yanagisawa HR (.077")
    Yanagisawa T901 Tenor, Mojo Beechler DI (.103")

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    Mathieu: Just what kind of saxOphone ISN'T made for jazz? Or, what kind IS made for jazz? Inquiring minds want to know!!! DAVE
    Dave

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    Saxamatic,

    You don't specify exactly what your holdup is but it sounds like money is an issue.

    I fully agree with all postings up to this point (except maybe for the one about jazz vs. non-jazz saxophones - I would like to hear a follow-up on that one).

    No one yet has mentioned vintage saxophones. As you'll read elsewhere, they can be tricky purchases. Stick with big names and test-play the saxophone (with a tuner) prior to purchase. There used to be an excellent article on purchasing vintage saxophones somewhere on the "Sax on the Web" site and I'm sure you'll find even more information elsewhere in this forum. The right vintage sax can save you some money while the purchase of a tired vintage sax can cost you more in repairs than a new one.

    Personally, I have been fortunate to make some great vintage sax finds and purchases but there was risk involved.

    Echoing prior posts, sopranos are fussy. Purchasing a good soprano will help to minimize intonation problems but you will very likely need to work harder than you do on your alto to play it in tune.

    The key-change is another thing that hasn't been mentioned (Altos are in Eb and Sopranos are usually in Bb). Expect that fingering one note and having a different tone come out of the horn might throw you off a little. Keep working at it. It should pass. I play Tenor (Bb), Alto (Eb), and C-Soprano (C) and can flip from one to another easily at this point.

    That said, sopranos ARE a lot of fun to play - I thoroughly enjoy mine.

    Best of luck with your decision.

    - Mike
    Just play what the voices in your head tell you to ...

    Tenor: King Super 20
    Alto: Buescher True Tone
    Soprano: King C-Soprano

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Dolson
    Mathieu: Just what kind of saxOphone ISN'T made for jazz? Or, what kind IS made for jazz? Inquiring minds want to know!!! DAVE
    Dave,

    Some will argue that some Selmers like the II and a few of the III's are better suited for classical (stuffy, dark tone, etc that is more prefered in classical saxophone).
    JP
    Alumni Mansfield University 2012 - Bachelor of Arts in Music
    Acts 16:31

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    I TOTALLY disagree with any concept that one saxophone is more suited for a certain type of music than is another. One player may want to use a certain saxophone over another, but that is a personal choice and not common across the population of saxophone players. To claim all Serie II and some III's are only suitable for classical playing is subjective to the extreme.

    And, the Serie III altos I've played were all very bright to the point of being brash, not dark or stuffy as was characterized above. The few Serie II altos I've heard sounded nice with a tone that would be equally at home in a classical setting or a swing-band section (etc.).

    Yes, there is a difference among various brands and models, but there are also differences among horns of the same make and model. It is grossly inaccurate to say that a certain model will have playing and tonal characteristics common to all examples. The only saxophone I've tried that had similar tone among the five or six I played has been the Ref 54 alto. That sure doesn't mean that all Ref 54's sound alike.

    Those of you who may live close enough to me to try my saxophones are welcome to do so. I'll wager a bunch that any one of my altos or sopranos are perfectly suitable for any type of music you want to push through them. Some SOTW posters have already done this with my horns.

    And, Vermontsax, my first response to the original question mentioned that altos and sopranos are pitched differently. DAVE
    Dave

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    Future Music Educator JPSaxMan's Avatar
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    Dave, that's also the way many of the Selmer officials classify the horns as well. If you go on to the Selmer sax board and talk to the moderator (who is a Selmer clinician) will probably agree with you but has said to me that the II and the III are more of the classical focused horns and the Reference horns are being more focused as jazz horns.

    I don't really know either way, not having play tested any Selmer's, but I'm just spreading the word of where some of these thoughts come from
    JP
    Alumni Mansfield University 2012 - Bachelor of Arts in Music
    Acts 16:31

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    JP: I don't trust ANY hype from manufacturers, even if it IS the vaunted Selmer claiming this or that. A company spokesperson or relative/owner is the last person I'd believe for the truth of their business decisions.

    I seriously doubt if Selmer had a particular type of music in mind when they issued the Serie II or the III's. They were so-called improvements over the original Super Action 80, which was a so-called improvement over the MKVII, etc., etc.

    They certainly weren't thinking that they'd limit their new saxophone's appeal to such a restricted market as classical players, especially when the name Selmer was so much associated with jazz. Why, they'd be cutting their own distribution throat if they really did that.

    I just don't get the jazz vs. classical thing. Let's review . . . all saxophones have basically the same key work, all saxophones are greatly influenced by the player, the mouthpiece, and the reed. Why must we want different saxophones for different music? I've come to accept the different mouthpiece configurations for certian types of music, but the horn itself? The horn is a mere tool to amplify the sound.

    I've listened to some marvelous classical players - and marvelous jazzers in my time. I still claim that the tone all good players achieve can cross the boundaries and sound wonderful in whatever venue is chosen. It is a myth that certain horns are better in one venue than another. DAVE
    Dave

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    I think darker saxers are more suited for classical and brighter saxes better for jazz. But,overall I prefer a darker sounding sax.I would tend to think a bright sax would have trouble blending w/ a orchestra(on the few pieces wrote for sax and orchestra).Darker saxes are preferable as I think it is easier to make a darker sounding sax bright than vice versa a bright horn dark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Dolson
    I seriously doubt if Selmer had a particular type of music in mind when they issued the Serie II or the III's. They were so-called improvements over the original Super Action 80, which was a so-called improvement over the MKVII, etc., etc.

    I just don't get the jazz vs. classical thing. Let's review . . . all saxophones have basically the same key work, all saxophones are greatly influenced by the player, the mouthpiece, and the reed. Why must we want different saxophones for different music? I've come to accept the different mouthpiece configurations for certian types of music, but the horn itself? The horn is a mere tool to amplify the sound.
    Yeah, Dave is pretty much right on. My series III can be dark with a classical mouthpiece, but is also one of the brightest saxes I've ever played with a jazz mouthpiece. In my opinion, embouchure, mouthpiece, style, and reed type are all the biggest factors in how a sax will play, not the actual sax itself.

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