Curved vs. Straight
Soprano saxophones are now available in a variety of
configurations. They may be had straight, straight with removable
straight and curved necks, and fully curved (like tiny altos).
Adolf Sax's original sopranos were straight. Larger saxes
were curved and looped to enable the players to reach the keys and to
allow the instrument to be carried. Many fine soprano saxophones are now
available in this original shape.
A curved neck allows the soprano sax to be held closer to the
body, more at the angle the clarinet is held. This is more comfortable,
allows use of a neckstrap, and keeps the bell from hitting the music
stand. Most soprano saxes with removable necks are equipped with both
straight and curved necks. Some players prefer the straight neck for
playing jazz while standing. This allows the bell to be aimed at the
audience. The curved neck aims the sound down at the floor, and is
preferred by many players for saxophone quartet or classical playing. I
have noticed no difference in response between the two types of necks,
only a difference in tone quality due to the angle of projection.
The straight soprano sax, like the clarinet, is more difficult
to mic in a commercial setting, requiring two microphones. Micing is
accomplished by placing one mic near the bell facing up, and a second mic
over the left hand. This allows for very little movement by the player.
There are several "clip-on" double mic setups available to remedy this
Curved soprano saxes, popular in the 1920's and '30's, are
once again available. Contrary to popular belief, curved sopranos do not
have any different intonation tendencies than straight sopranos, nor are
they more stuffy in the low notes. The tone is different due to the more
forward projection from the bell.
The curved soprano saxophone is as easy to mic as the alto or
tenor. A single mic on a floor stand, or single "clip-on" may be utilized
in the same manner as for the larger saxes.
Another advantage of the curved soprano is the forward
projection of the tone, enabling the curved soprano to play in better
balance with a "big band" sax section. I like the use of soprano sax to
play clarinet lead parts.
The above is not meant to confine these saxes to any
particular role. Karina Rascher played a curved Buescher soprano sax with
her father, Siguard Rascher, in the famous Rascher Duo and Rascher
Quartet. Straight sopranos being played with big band sax sections may be
aimed straight out by tilting the head back slightly--like the old big
With today's selection of soprano saxophones a saxophonist may
chose the type best suited to his particular needs.