Soprano saxophones are a strange and strangely popular instrument. Most people wouldn’t think of them as saxophones at first glance, but they’re still one of the most popular saxophones around. Most famous musicians own one and for a good reason – it’s an incredibly versatile instrument.
This article will serve as your guide through the world of soprano saxophones – what they are, how to find the right one for you and reviews of the best soprano saxophones on the market.
What is a Soprano Saxophone?
The soprano saxophone is one of the four most popular saxophone types – the others being the alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. They are pitched in Bb, higher than all of those saxes, usually at least one half of an octave above the alto. Soprano saxes pitched in C also exist, but they are extremely rare. Soprano saxes pitched in Eb are less rare but still uncommon.
They’re also visually distinct from all of those saxophone types. They are usually completely straight or only slightly curved at the end, more resembling a clarinet or an oboe than a saxophone.
But, that’s just the technical stuff! The soprano saxophone is more than that. It’s the vibrant and unique voice in a jazz ensemble or a defiant standout in a military band. It’s a unique instrument that doesn’t conform to all the usual ideas of what a saxophone should be. It is a great addition to jazz, R&B, pop, blues or even classical music due to its incredible versatility.
It’s quite a unique instrument and a joy to play.
Is a Soprano Saxophone Difficult to Play?
Most people will tell you that you need to be more skilled if you want to play the soprano sax – that it’s more difficult than playing other saxophones. This isn’t necessarily true, and it’s a common misconception.
The reason people will tell you that it’s more difficult to play is that most people try to approach playing the soprano sax like playing any other sax. That’s where the trouble begins, you see.
Most sax players also treat the soprano as their secondary instrument, so they put less effort into trying to play it. Because of this, they just try to APPLY their alto and tenor techniques to it and fail to play it well. With a proper approach, dedication and regular practice, the soprano sax should not be more difficult to play than most other saxophones.
If you do want to just use it as a secondary instrument, though, get a soprano similar to the bore you usually play.
How Experienced are You?
This is the FIRST question you need to ask yourself before even considering the purchase of a soprano sax.
Even though the soprano sax is not as hard to play as you might have heard, it’s still not the ideal choice for a beginner due to the amount of air pressure you need to exert. Luckily, there are some beginner-type soprano saxophones available.
On the other hand, if you’re experienced in playing only one type of saxophone, you might also have trouble playing the soprano sax. It requires a different approach, and if you’re too used to playing your alto or tenor, you will struggle. In this case, buying a soprano sax that is similar to the instrument you use most often will help you get over the hurdle.
However, if you have experience playing multiple instruments, especially other woodwinds, you will have a much better time with the soprano sax. In that case, you can probably get ANY type of soprano saxophone available, and you’ll find your way.
Which Brand Should You Get?
There are a ton of brands out there making soprano saxophones, and there are a lot of differences between them. Some are clearly better than others, but for the most part, the choice will come down to what you like the best and value the most.
Yamaha YSS-475II Intermediate Soprano Saxophone
Is a well-known brand in the music world, and that’s not undeserved – they make some great instruments at decent prices. Their soprano saxophones are good-looking and sound good, though you should steer clear of their “student” sopranos. Their professional offerings are top-notch though.
Selmer SS600 Soprano Saxophone
Is a respected and highly regarded saxophone manufacturer with a long history of making great horns. Recently they haven’t been as great as they used to be – they are quite inconsistent these days. Their sopranos are inconsistent as well, but their Mark VI line seems to be regarded for its dynamic range, big sound, and ease of play.
Merano GWD500GD B Flat Gold Soprano Saxophone
Is an Italian manufacturer that is gaining in popularity due to their high-quality hand-crafted products. Their sopranos have a slightly curved bell and a nickel silver finish, giving them a unique look. They play as well as the more famous saxes if not better, especially in the lower registers.
Antigua Winds X/P SS1202LQ Bb Soprano Saxophone
Saxophones are not exceptional, but they’re reliable. Well-constructed, affordable and easy to play is the name of the game with this manufacturer, and they deliver.
Nuvo N510JBBK jSax Black
Is a brand making some exceptional beginner soprano saxes with a curved bell, so if you like that sort of thing this is the brand to check out. They’re similar enough to altos to help you practice.
There’s more, but you get the gist of things by now. Do as much research as you can on the brand before choosing to buy one of their saxes.
Is it Well-Constructed?
Soprano saxophones are much more difficult to make than other types of saxophones. Making a small saxophone with good intonation is a difficult task. Building a soprano saxophone to be cheap is much harder than with alto or tenor, and it makes the saxophone much worse.
So, if you get a soprano sax that is not well-made and durable, you’ll be in for a hard time. It will play badly regardless of your skill, and it will quickly get even worse. This is another reason why the “soprano saxes are incredibly hard to play” myth exists.
Once you buy a soprano sax, make sure you take it to a local shop to get checked out and tweaked. If it’s simply too poorly constructed, they will tell you, and you can probably still return it.
How Much Money Can You Spend?
Finally, there’s the question of your budget. Everything else you consider will ultimately depend on how much money you can spare. However, even if you’re tight on money, you shouldn’t get a cheap plastic or tin instrument. While they may cost you less, they will be almost useless.
Check out as many opinions as you can and try to get something that’s affordable, yet well-made. You might have trouble finding such an instrument, but the extra effort will pay off in the end.
The 5 Best Soprano Saxophones Money can Buy
Yamaha YSS-475II – Professional Look and Sound for an Intermediate Price
If you’re an intermediate player looking to take the next step and go pro, this is a great instrument to get. It doesn’t cost as much as the higher-end instruments but it works great and it will fit your skill level.
Among its features is an adjustable thumb rest, a great boon for anyone with smaller and larger hands. The high F# key is a nice touch as is the custom Bb spatula.
It’s also light and comfortable to use with keys that are easy on both the eyes and the fingers. The sound is also exceptional, especially in the lower registers. It’s well-made and tuned almost to perfection.
The only downsides are in the price – it’s high, and the sax doesn’t come with any significant extras. Still, it’s worth the price since it’s such a high-quality product.
Selmer SS600 – Well-tuned and Made to Last
This is near-professional-level soprano sax with a nice look and a booming sound. It has a high F# key and is quite easy to play; the fingering is exceptionally smooth. The tuning is top-notch as well, something that’s difficult to find with a soprano sax.
The good tuning probably owes a lot to the superb construction of this instrument. It is made with care, and it will last for a long time.
While it does come with a mouthpiece, you will probably want to replace it and the ligature before you start playing. You will also need some new reeds since the ones you get are not great.
Overall, it’s a decent instrument, much better than most of the same price range and it will be a joy to play.
Merano GWD500GD – A Reliable Tool for Beginners
This is a B flat soprano with exceptional gold lacquer and superb construction. It is made to be as durable as possible, and it will last for years and years. It also comes with a great velvet case that can be used for other instruments as well. You also get a nipper, a pair of gloves, a screwdriver and cleaning cloth with it. Not a bad deal for the price.
The main issue with it is that it DOESN’T play as well as you’d expect. It’s a decent instrument, but the intonation on some notes is off. Bb and G# sound especially off and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s difficult to tune as well, and most shops won’t do it for you.
It’s a good learning soprano sax, but you will need something better if you’re a pro.
Antigua Winds X/P SS1202LQ – Exceptionally Adaptable Instrument
Here’s a soprano made for beginners that’s a bit more expensive than is usual. However, for that price, you get a good-looking instrument that’s exceptionally well-made. It’s quite a sturdy piece of equipment, and everything is in the right place.
You get a few good extras with it – a good, hard case to carry it in as well as two necks. The option between a bent and a straight neck is not something most soprano saxes offer, and it’s a nice touch.
The rest of the extras are not as great. The reeds, the mouthpiece, and the ligature, are out of wack, and they won’t fit well. You will need to replace them.
Besides that, this instrument also has a problem with the octave key not working right and some higher and lower notes being out of tune.
Nuvo N510JBBK – A Great Learning Tool that Costs Next to Nothing
If you’re looking for the best of the cheapest, this is the soprano sax you should be checking out. Its price is ridiculously low – less than 100 dollars to be exact. Still, it offers a good starting point for people looking to get into playing sopranos, especially if they’re used to playing altos or tenors.
It is not made out of the best materials – the body is mostly polymer, and the bell is made out of silicone. It is waterproof, but it probably won’t last for long regardless.
It’s also a bit different than regular soprano saxes, being pitched in C like all Nuvo instruments – so be prepared for that. The chromatic range goes all the way from C to G. The fingerings are also different than indicated – they’re not traditional fingering patterns.
Still, it’s a great beginner sax and comes with everything you need to start, including two synthetic reeds, a case, and a neck strap.
The Best Soprano Saxophone
All of these sopranos are in this article for a good reason – they’re all great in their own way and which one you pick will mostly come down to personal preference and skill level. However, if you need to have one highlighted as the best, it would be the Yamaha YSS-475II.
This soprano sax has practically everything you need if you’re an intermediate player or a new pro. It performs great, it’s consistent, there are no faults in the construction, and it has some great extra features. It doesn’t come with any extra equipment, but that’s okay, and it’s well worth the high price.
That’s everything for today – if you have questions, just sound off in the comments. Until next time, keep playing good music!
If you have any questions or would like to share your reviews on the best soprano saxophone, then comment down below. I would love to hear what you have to think.