My friend Rusty Crutcher (see my previous post) kindly leant me his Mark VI soprano and an old Selmer Soloist mouthpiece for a few weeks. It was just a temporary loan to see if I would take to the instrument in earnest. And for good measure, Rusty gave me some starter lessons. That was all it took for me! Beginning soprano saxophone might be daunting for some people, but in my case there was no doubt. I fell hopelessly in love with everything about the soprano sax.
I started out with the usual Rico orange box 2.5 reeds. And like every beginner, could only play for about 20 minutes before my lip gave out. But I was dogged about it, and came back for more punishment three or four times a day. I also had the beginner’s problem of too much saliva. I think my mouth was trying to digest this strange piece of wood it thought I was chewing on. All in all, it probably sounded like a horrible mess. But to me it was the sweetest thing ever, and I was certain John Coltrane was looking over my shoulder smiling.
Having already learned a fair amount of jazz piano, I had a good idea of how I wanted to spend my time learning the sax. I began with scales, arpeggios, and a few simple tunes. Rusty had already given me instructions on breathing and embouchure. Youtube videos were helpful when it came to working out fingerings. Beginning soprano saxophone was well underway.
My First Soprano Saxophone
After a few weeks it became clear that I was going all in, and needed to think about getting my own horn. Since I love equipment of all kinds, especially music gear, I began obsessively researching and shopping. As per usual my usual MO, I immediately began focusing on saxes that were beyond my budget, and far beyond my skill level. I was especially fascinated by the Jim Cheek Sax.co youtube videos of the Yaganisawa W0 series saxes. I thought, “Well, that would be a good sound for me have,” as if all I needed to do was have that sax and I’d be there.
But those were out of my price range anyway. I tried out a new $850 horn who’s maker shall remain nameless, and was amazed at how different it felt from the MK VI. It seemed so much bulkier and heavier in comparison. And in general, I wasn’t knocked out by the sound. Having little else to go on, I didn’t think I was paying enough money for it to be good. Whether or not my thinking was accurate about that, I sent that one back.
I spoke to some shops, and asked if there wasn’t something less expensive than the Japanese and French horns. I thought perhaps I could find a horn that was well regarded, without it being so pricey. They pointed me to the latest series of P. Mauriat saxes. And right about that time someone was selling a lightly used one on Ebay. That’s the horn I’ve been playing since, as of this writing anyway. [I’ve since moved on.] More about that sax in the next post.