The talk about the soprano saxophone being so difficult to play is, well, just plain wrong. It’s a myth and although some people believe it, it is pure nonsense.
WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE THAT CLAIM?
The reason is simple: they are playing on bad equipment and 98.99% of the time, it’s the mouthpiece that is causing all the trouble. The fact is that virtually all commercially made soprano mouthpiece are put in a box and sold with no play-testing and almost non-existent quality control. Do they look pretty? Sure. Do they play well? Almost never. And that, in short, is the source of the myth about playing soprano saxophone. But, try playing on a well-made, well-balanced soprano mouthpiece and everything changes- EVERYTHING! If every soprano player played on a good mouthpiece, the myth would just fade into history.
WHY ARE SOPRANO MOUTHPIECES SO BAD?
This is simple to understand but perhaps hard to believe. The precision required in making a soprano mouthpiece is so much greater than the precision required in an alto or tenor mouthpiece. It’s not that alto and tenor mouthpieces are made so much better. It’s that the margin for error, the manufacturing tolerances, are far greater so it’s harder to “miss” on those pieces. Of course, makers still do miss a lot on alto and tenor pieces but players are able to ‘work around” the issues. On soprano, that is not so easy. The problems caused by a poor soprano mouthpiece can be many and they can each be maddening for the player. All together, they are pure evil.
A WELL BALANCED SOPRANO MOUTHPIECE
Read WHAT PLAYERS ARE SAYING on this site. The comments are not only about pieces I make but about pieces that they already owned, then sent to me for rebalancing. That includes a former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and current Director of Woodwinds at Berklee. Bill Pierce sent his Bari hard rubber mouthpiece to me for rebalancing and his response was immediate and clear. It changed the way he thought about soprano mouthpieces. The same is true for hundreds of players, beginners, amateurs, and professionals, who experienced the same thing.
And the biggest impact for players on a well-balanced piece is the incredible improvement in intonation, the thing that is mostly responsible for the myth that the soprano sax is a beast.
Not a single one of my clients has ever referred to playing soprano as being difficult once they’ve played on a well-balanced and correct mouthpiece. Not a single one.
So, let’s bury the myth right here. Now, the next question: what actually constitutes a ‘well-balanced” soprano mouthpiece?
I’m glad you asked. Read A WELL BALANCED SOPRANO MOUTHPIECE: What does that mean?