Which to choose– soprano or alto?

Home Forum Teaching and Learning Which to choose– soprano or alto?

This topic contains 9 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Katia J January 15, 2021 at 2:08 pm.

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  • #1326

    Katia J
    Participant

    This summer when I mentioned to my aunt that I was playing recorder again, she told me she had a little soprano she’d picked up secondhand. I sent her an instruction book, which she didn’t have time to look at then. The other day she asked me about it, because I’d mentioned to her that many adults prefer alto, so she wondered which I thought she should learn (she doesn’t want to learn both and keep track of different fingerings). She agreed that she would prefer a lower sound, not sure she cared much about the difference in size (her hands are medium-sized, so neither should be uncomfortable for her).

    Her goal is just to play by herself for fun; I don’t think she cares that much about having a lot of “classical music” repertoire, so for that it doesn’t matter which she chooses. She also would like to be able to play informal jam sessions with some friends who play guitar and such. For that reason alone, I told her that she might prefer soprano, as I feel any tunes/songs she wants to play along with may fit better on an instrument with a bottom note of C?

    Do you all think I advised her correctly? I don’t think she’d be that comfortable playing tenor as a beginner, so I didn’t advise her to start out that way.

    #1331

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    I think you were correct to suggest an alto.

    “She also would like to be able to play informal jam sessions with some friends who play guitar and such. For that reason alone, I told her that she might prefer soprano, as I feel any tunes/songs she wants to play along with may fit better on an instrument with a bottom note of C?”

    I don’t agree with you here. I mean, it’s not hard to play in the key of C on an alto – in fact it’s almost as easy as F. And other easy and common keys on guitar like G are very easy on the alto too. If she wanted to jam with me, I’d run screaming from the room if she showed up with a soprano! 😉 So if her hands can handle it, for sure go with the alto, IMHO.

    #1332

    Dick Mattson
    Participant

    I don’t think that it would make much difference whether she plays soprano or alto since, for one thing, it’s highly unlikely that a person who would run screaming from the room would be in the room in the first place. What’s more to the point for me however is for you to determine whether the soprano that she picked up secondhand has German or Baroque fingering. If German, I would strongly suggest that she get a recorder with Baroque fingering which will prove more adaptable to her needs in the future as she progresses.

    #1333

    Dick Mattson
    Participant

    I don’t think that it would make much difference whether she plays soprano or alto since, for one thing, it’s highly unlikely that a person who would run screaming from the room would be in the room in the first place. What’s more to the point for me however is for you to determine whether the soprano that she picked up secondhand has German or Baroque fingering. If German, I would strongly suggest that she get a recorder with Baroque fingering which will prove more adaptable to her needs in the future as she progresses.

    #1334

    Katia J
    Participant

    My thinking for the soprano wasn’t that it would hard for her to play in C, but that a lot of the songs/tunes might go down to D or C, which would be awkward if the instrument’s lowest note is F.

    And yes, I think she did tell me her recorder says “baroque”– at least, I seem to remember her mentioning that and me saying “Oh, good, that’s what you want.” (That conversation happened months ago, though, so I wouldn’t swear to it in court…)

    #1339

    Michael Pendred
    Participant

    I think that the only really important consideration comes if she decides to start doing exams.

    If you take exams with ABRSM, they stop at Grade 5 for Soprano – if you want to advance further, you have to take alto exams.

    If you go with Trinity, then after grade 5, you have to be able to play both soprano AND alto.

    #1345

    Christopher
    Participant

    I think that the only really important consideration comes if she decides to start doing exams.

    Her goal is just to play by herself for fun and maybe just noodle around with some amateur musical friends. I doubt exams would factor into this. Even just doing a few private lessons all can be accommodated.

    Mainly French & English baroque repertoire on an A403 Bressan, and an A415 DeBey. Active enthusiast since 1971. Early Music program at York University, French baroque instruction at Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

    #1346

    Michael Pendred
    Participant

    I did read that, but you just never know.
    I started off just wanting to play a few Christmas Carols and not much else.
    A year later I found a teacher and started doing exams!

    I do support David Mattsons comment though – definitely check that it is not German fingering.

    #1352

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    I guess my little attempt at humor was not acceptable, so I’ll just say what I mean – I find soprano recorders to be very shrill and think that most adults with adult-sized hands would find the sound of an alto much more pleasant and fun to play. So, I would recommend an alto.

    #1354

    Katia J
    Participant

    Mostly I would agree with that, and would have hoped to steer her to alto for that reason, but as I said, if she is going to get discouraged because what she wants to play appears to go below the range of the instrument– I doubt she’s going to want to have to get creative in jumping octaves or figuring out alternate notes that will fit into a tune– then that’s also not ideal.

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