Playing Soprano Saxophone – Getting Started

21st August 2023

In this blog, with accompanying videos, we discuss various options for getting started on the Soprano Saxophone. Whether you’re a beginner wanting to play Soprano Sax, or perhaps an Alto/Tenor playing wanting to add Soprano, this guide will help you. We discuss buying vs renting, curved vs straight and the best choice of mouthpieces.

Soprano Saxophone

Why Play Soprano Saxophone?

The Soprano is a very versatile instrument and adds a particular character to any ensemble or composition. It can be used as a leading solo instrument to carry the melody. Or, as an integral part of a Saxophone Quartet by providing the higher voice. To get some Soprano Sax playing inspiration check out players such as; Branford Marsalis, Dave Liebman, Grover Washington Jr or Sidney Bechet.

Buying vs Renting?

If you’ve never played an instrument before we’d say there are two main ways to get started. The most low cost starting point is a monthly hire scheme. We offer curved or straight Soprano Saxophones (more on that later!) for a low monthly cost. With a minimum commitment of just x3 months, this is an ideal way to dip your toe in the Soprano water!

Buying a Soprano Sax is a serious investment and here at Dawkes we can help! We stock a range of Soprano’s from student to pro level starting at around £1,000. The Soprano Saxophone is a very easy instrument to build badly, as such we choose the brands we sell very carefully. Although there are some cheaper models out on the market we don’t feel they are of a suitable quality for us to sell. The last thing we want is people getting frustrated with poor intonation, soft keywork and hard to play instruments.

It’s possible to find good quality pre-owned models, but make sure the instrument is fully checked and set-up with a warranty. Here at Dawkes Music all our pre-owned Saxophones come with a 6 month warranty, pre-sale workshop service and a 14 day no-quibble return policy. If in doubt, get in touch with us for some advice on safe brands to buy.

Curved or Straight Soprano Saxophone?

Check out our video comparing the two options below. It would be easy to assume the curved are only for smaller hands/younger players BUT many professionals prefer the sound and feel of a curved Soprano. That said, we do sell far more straight models overall – but this may be to do with more choice!

Best Budget Options:

If you’re on a tight budget we’d suggest starting by hiring an instrument or looking at the Windcraft range of Soprano’s. We sell a straight model Windcraft WSS-200 at just over £1,000 and this is an ideal starting point. The Windcraft has solid tuning, reliable keywork and we’ll even promise to buy it back off you if you want to upgrade or try another Sax.

First Upgrade Options:

Already play Alto/Tenor? You might want to spend a little more at the outset so you don’t have to upgrade. We’d suggest the following models: The Yamaha YSS-475II Soprano Sax (just over £2,000) has been a very popular model for years. Excellent build, great intonation and a very sweet sounding instrument. Alternatively, the Yanagisawa SWO1 (just over £3,000) is an entry level professional instrument from this famous Japanese pro Sax brand.

Professional Options:

There are a huge swathe of models to choose from leading brands. These include Yamaha, Selmer, Keilwerth, Yanagisawa, Cannonball and WoodStone. At this stage we’d advise you come to the store (if possible) and book a testing room to try some out. Favourite customer choices include the following models; Yamaha YSS-875EX, Yanagisawa SWO20 and the Wood Stone Ishimori Pro Soprano.

Choosing a Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece:

Having a high-quality Soprano Sax mouthpiece is very important to your progress. When you’re just starting out we advise the Yamaha 4C Soprano Model, this is inexpensive but very well made and easy to play. Check out the video below discussing and demonstrating this model.

Already an established Alto/Tenor Sax player? We’d suggest going up the range to something like a Selmer, Vandoren or Aizen. It depends if you’re playing more classical or jazz. Check out our full range of Soprano Sax mouthpieces, all available on 14 day approval.

Need Some Help?

Our team of award-winning Woodwind experts are on hand to assist you! We can help advise according to your goals and budget. Just contact us to ask any questions and one of our team will get right back to you.