Sam Newsome

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ask the Straighthornist: What Kind of Soprano Should I Buy?

Occasionally, I get asked questions about what type of soprano to get if you're just starting out. Here's one I recently received from pianist D C DowDell.

Pianist D C DowDell
"I'm thinking of buying a soprano sax. I'm a pianist and I play C flute. And although I taught myself the clarinet a few years back (then abandoned it) I have never played sax. I'm very interested in soprano sax and will teach myself, asking technique questions from those willing to share.

I thought you'd be a good person to ask - In your opinion, what is a good, pro model (not student model) to buy and where is a good place to buy it either new or used. I'm thinking I want a straight body and a bent neck."

- D C DowDell

          Hi D C, 
One of the reasons the soprano is so difficult to play is that most of them are so horribly made. The most consistent model is the Yamaha YSS-62 Soprano, which can be found online or at any high end music store that sells band instruments. But I recommend getting a saxophone player friend to try it out for you. You need someone who understands the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. And its really important to have a skilled saxophone technician give it a good look over. It could save you hours of unnecessary frustration.

As far as mouthpieces, I would start with either a Selmer, Vandoren, or Bari--they, too, are the most consistent. Just make sure the tip opening is not too wide. Reeds could be anything, as long as they are of moderate strength. Ones that are too soft and too hard makes the pitch go sharp.  I play RW reeds, which might be good for beginners, since they come in micro-sizes, which enables you to find something to tailor fit your needs. But reeds can be non-entity in the beginning stages. Find something that will vibrate and get it on with it,  I always say. Right now, the focus should be getting a sound that can be controlled.

Good luck and keep me posted!

If you have any soprano-related questions that I could possibly feature on my blog, please send them to

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