Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Four (4) No Nos of Buying a Soprano Mouthpiece

Finding the right mouthpiece and reed combination for the soprano can be extremely challenging--especially if you're accustomed to playing a big mouthpiece on an alto, tenor, or baritone saxophone. Here are some helpful hints that I used to follow when I first started to play the instrument.

No No 1. Never choose quantity of sound over quality of sound. When you slap on a mouthpiece and reed combination for your soprano that's comparable to what you play on one of your other horns, you're pretty amazed at how loud you can play. Unfortunately, when this happens, players often get away from the true soprano sound, and venture into the area of LOUD HORN! Just remember that a car horn during rush hour is loud, too!

No No 2. Never be afraid of using a set-up that requires you to play with a microphone. As a general rule, softer set-ups record and amplify more agreeably that loud, projecting set-ups. From a sound perspective, I often thought of the soprano as being closer to the flute than a straight, smaller version of the alto and tenor. Don't worry. Just because your set-up is soft, people won't think that you're soft, too. Unless, of course...

No No 3. Never buy something that's too big or too hard to control. Stay within your comfort zone. Your main focus when choosing a mouthpiece should be the core of the sound--the SOUND of the soprano, actually, and not the alto or tenor. Think of the soprano sound as a small seed that should be nurtured. Nurture that seed for a few years and it will blossom into something fruitful and abundant.

No No 4. Never by a mouthpiece without first using a chromatic tuner to test the pitch in the instrument's low, middle, and high registers. As I've said in earlier blogs, it can be difficult to differentiate between bright and sharp, and dark and flat, without having first developed an ear for the soprano's delicate nature. Take the subjectivity out of it and know for sure.

If you want to project over a loud rhythm section for three sets, in tune, and without a microphone, the way you're able to with the other saxophones, it takes time. It was a good four to five years of playing it exclusively before I was able to to that. Even then, I still preferred a mic. The range of dynamics I was able to work with was much more rewarding than proving my Sonic Manhood!

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