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Dave Liebman on Doubling on Soprano Sax

Straight horn talk

Dave Liebman on soprano saxophone

The soprano is officially considered part of the saxophone family, but to be honest, though there are some obvious similarities with the other members of this esteemed club, playing the soprano is another matter entirely.

The first difference is apparent but shouldn’t be underestimated: We hold the soprano straight out, seemingly like a clarinet, but alas, it is not a clarinet. You must be careful not to use a clarinet embouchure, meaning the more or less 45-degree angle that the licorice stick is normally held at. Incorrect positioning inhibits the vibrational capacity of the reed. This also leads to the most common problem I observe in students, which is holding the horn pointing down toward the floor and lowering the neck to accommodate that position. This places unnecessary strain and tension on the all-important vocal cords in the laryngeal area; you must keep that area as free and loose as possible. It might look hip, but it can lead to a pinched tone.

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