Curved Soprano Saxophone


What Is A Curved Soprano Saxophone?  Is It any better than a straight soprano saxophone?

Yanigisawa Curved soprano saxophone

The curved soprano saxophone is a member of the saxophone family of musical instruments. It is the third smallest among the different types of saxophones. Unlike tenor saxophones, it is pitched in one octave higher in the B-flat key. Renowned jazz artists favored soprano saxophones for their characteristic, high pitched sound, and mastering a soprano saxophone can be rather difficult for a beginner. Unlike typical straight soprano saxophones that have a conical shape and resemble a clarinet, these curved ones have curved necks. However, in comparison to a straight soprano saxophone, there are many benefits of using a curved one.

The History

The curved soprano saxophone gained popularity between the 20s and the 30s.  Today in contemporary music they are equally as popular. Many people believe that curved sopranos have the same intonation tendencies as straight ones but this is not true. Similarly, curved sopranos are not stuffy in lower notes unlike what most people believe. The bell of a curved soprano offers more forward projection so the tone is different than that of a straight one. It is possible to hold a curved soprano saxophone closer to the body, almost at the same angle that we a hold a clarinet, because of its curved neck. This makes it possible to use a neck strap. Many find this is a bit more  comfortable and easier to stand while playing the saxophone.

Curved Soprano Saxophone Play-ability

Many soprano saxophones have a removable neck, and they come with both curved and straight necks. When playing a curved soprano sax, the sound is aimed down at the floor by the curved neck. Many saxophone players prefer this for classical and quartet playing. As far as the response is concerned, the difference between a curved and straight neck is not really noticeable. Since the angle of projection of the necks varies, their tone qualities are different.

Miking Techniques

In a performance situation, a straight soprano saxophone can be difficult to mic. To get a full sound from the horn most professionals advise to mic from the bell and the center using two mics. Some will still use a small neck strap but I prefer free hand. It looks cooler! I’ve explored micing the center and the bell on my own recordings and have discovered it has a much warmer sound in my recordings. Performing live with two mics can restrict any movement unless you’re using a double clip on. Much like larger saxophones, A single mic can be placed on a floor stand, or a single clip-on’ can be used just as it is used for larger saxophones. The beta 98 clip-on is an excellent choice for live performances.

It’s used for close miking the horn which is always best for saxophones.

The forward projection tone is another benefit of using curved sopranos because when playing with a big band’ saxophone section, the balance is improved. Even clarinet lead parts can be played using a curved soprano. The above does not mean that a curved soprano should be confined to a specific role. Apart from the fact that learning to play a curves soprano can be quite difficult, the benefits of using it instead of curved one cannot be denied. A curved soprano saxophone truly has a unique sound.




Dr. Charles WONG, Hong Kong, CHINA
I enjoyed listening to your wonderful playing. Thank you.
Your commentary on the curved soprano saxophone is informative and balanced. I also find there is no discernible stuffiness due to the curvature of the instrument compared with its straight cousin.
My personal experience as an amateur may be worth sharing:

[1] My very first curved soprano sax was bought on line from China several year ago. It is now installed as a pretty lamp stand. After being examined by several techs, everyone came to the conclusion that its incredibly poor intonation was incurable.

[2] I bought two from different places in China. The second one was recently bought in Mainland China. This joint venture model (manufactured in China with foreign partnership) was personally tested by a friend before given to me.. This one is in tune, good action, quiet keys, and good tone – best with a Yamaha C5 mpc and Rico Royal French Cut 2.5 reeds. This is incredible advance over just 5 years. The cheap Yamaha 5C mpc is superior to all my other ones, including Yamaha 4CM 3C, 4C, 6C, 7C; Meyer Hard Rubber Toned Edge, Geo M Bundy Signature 3, Selmer etc.



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