Saxophone, how high is high?

P1000577 As I’ve mentioned in a lot of posts on different sax forums and in discussions with musicians, I’ve discovered the trick to playing the soprano sax well. Actually playing ‘well’ is a relative term as I am a hobbyist. I was reading Keri Degg’s “The ‘nino has landed” blog post and was moved to explain my theory on playing the higher saxes better. Oh, and I asked her to post pics of the ‘nino cuz, “Guys like to watch”.  :o)

When I finally ventured away from my beloved alto sax to try the tenor sax, it took me years to get the sound even close to what I wanted to hear. I still battle that even though Ray found me a Berg Larson 110/2 mouthpiece which seems to make the best of my talents.

sn8006 So with some dread I ordered my first soprano sax. When I got it, a nice Yani sc901 curvy, my sound was horrible. I discovered, thanks to SaxManGlen on SOTW, that I had to push the mouthpiece way in to even start to come in tune with the instrument. three years and six soprano saxes later (Suzy and Aaron each have ones I selected for them) I still wasn’t quite getting the sound I was looking for. And I’m not talking about the intonation with the altissimo range, that will always be a challenge for me. But I’m talking about looking for a sound that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a duck.

DSCF0850So on a lark, I purchased a Yani Elimona sopranino. After wrestling with that baby for a couple of months, I noticed how much better my soprano sax playing was coming. I had much less time with the clarion range (in the staff D to palm key D for the sake of argument) and the palm key notes spoke much easier. Suzy had no problem with soprano or sopranino, but then she is a clarinet play from way back and plays the Eb sopranino clarinet in the Wind Symphony.

I was so happy with the improvement in my soprano sax playing that I thought, what the heck and I purchased an Eppelsheim soprillo sax. This piccolo sax is so hard to play that Benedikt provides this warning on the site where you view them for purchase:

“Attention: Due to its extreme range and the required very firm embouchure only professional players can play the Soprillo.It may take several months of practice to reach the highest notes.”

After a couple of months of work, not dedicated to just the soprillo sax, was able to get to the B above the first staff. My goal is to play the range of the instrument. But that may be a long time coming. And I did a Bb blues riff on it at a gig the first year I owned the instrument. The soprillo does create quite the stir when I bring it to gigs and practices.

DSCF0105 So you have some options here. You can put in the 10,000 hours required to become a pro to get that sound you really want on these squeakers. Or, you can cheat a little and reduce the the time by:

1. Buying the next level higher sax

2. Taking lessons

3. Spending at least 10 hours a week on your craft.

Doing all three of those might reduce you time to becoming a pro by a couple of thousand of hours. But if you are play for the love of music, I mean if you really have the passion to play and play well, then it’s not about being the best player you can be is it? It’s probably more about the journey. Enjoy.


About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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