At the first glance, the soprano saxophone and clarinet look alike but these are two completely different instruments. Depending on the musical set they’re used in, both of them produce good and articulate sounds. Keeping reading to see how they compare.
Although the soprano saxophone and clarinet have a very close appearance, they are wildly different as the clarinet is cylindrical and the soprano saxophone is a progressively widening cone. A soprano saxophone is a single-reed instrument in the woodwind family, with a conical-tube shape with a 3-degree taper, meaning that it gradually narrows towards one end. This feature enables the instrument to produce a sound very similar to the human voice and a wider emotional expression range, making it a perfect solo instrument. The soprano clarinet or the clarinet in Bb is also a single-reed instrument with a strikingly wide range in the woodwind family. In terms of sound, both instruments produce amazing, light and articulate sounds. The major difference between these two instruments is where and how they’re used. This article expounds further on the two instruments so read on to learn more.
What are the differences between the soprano saxophone and clarinet?
|Instrument features.||Soprano saxophone.||Soprano clarinet.|
|Uses.||Mainly used in classical music, popular music and jazz.||Used in all musical settings but majorly in concerts, jazz, orchestras and bands.|
|Range.||Concert Ab3 – E6||D3 – Bb6|
|Material.||Made with brass and a golden lacquer.||High-end clarinets are made with granadilla wood and the cheaper options are typically made of plastic.|
|Size.||27 inches long and roughly 2kg.||26 inches long and roughly 1kg.|
|Appearance.||Conical shaped and tapered.||Cylindrical shaped.|
|Major parts.||Has 3 main parts; the neck (detachable), body and mouthpiece.||Has 5 main parts; The upper and lower joints, mouthpiece, barrel and bell.|
|Invention year.||In the 1840s.||Around the year 1700.|
|Sound description.||Produces emotional, mellow, versatile and well-rounded sounds.||Produces rich, soothing, intimate and direct sounds.|
|The number of keys.||Has 21 keys.||Has 17 keys. (Some models may have more keys)|
|Estimated price.||Beginner saxophone; $80 – $2700.
Intermediate saxophone; $2000 – $3000.
Pre-pro and pros; $3000 and above.
|Beginner clarinet; $500 – $1100.
Intermediate clarinet; $1300 – $2800.
Pre-pro and pros; $2000 and above.
|Major use in ensembles.||They are typically used as solo instruments.||Commonly used for ornamentation and melody.|
|Other types of instruments.||Tenor, Alto and Baritone saxophones.||Clarinet in A, bass and Eb clarinets.|
Soprano saxophones and clarinets – How do they compare?
Soprano saxophones come in two designs; some with a curved bell and others with straight bells. Soprano saxophones are typically made of brass and covered with yellow or golden lacquer. The majority of them are straight with no curvatures across the body and the body of the instrument is usually covered in keys (21 of them). Both the straight and curved soprano saxophones have straight necks. These instruments weigh about 1kg and are 27 inches long and a neck strap won’t be necessary to hold the instrument as you play compared to other saxophones. The neck of this saxophone is a conical metal tube and its main purpose is to bridge the mouthpiece and saxophone’s body. A cork is present between the neck and the neck and mouthpiece to provide a tighter seal between the two parts. Soprano saxophones use mouthpieces made out of hard rubber glass or plastic.
The clarinet has 5 main sections; the mouthpiece, upper and lower joints, the barrel and the bell. These sections are typically assembled by a twisting motion with the corks being used to smoothen this process. Just like the soprano saxophone’s mouthpiece, the clarinet’s mouthpiece is made out of glass, plastic or hard rubber. The barrel of the clarinet has the same function as the neck of the saxophone, to connect the mouthpiece and the rest of the instrument. The 17 keys are located on the upper and lower joints. High-end clarinets are typically made of granadilla wood and the cheaper ones are made with plastic. They are 26 inches long and roughly 2kg heavy. Bells in both the clarinet and soprano saxophone are used to project the sound of the instrument.
In regards to design, both instruments are equally good as they have more similarities in their features than differences.
Both instruments can be seen in band and jazz ensembles and in classical music, the soprano saxophone is majorly used as a solo and chamber instrument. Occasionally, the soprano saxophone is used in orchestras and concert bands but it is culturally associated with easy listening and smooth jazz.
Clarinets can be used in any musical setting for their accented melody and ornamentation. Commonly, they are used in concerts, orchestras, bands and jazz.
In this category, clarinets are better than soprano saxophones as they are more versatile.
Range and sound
The soprano saxophone is a Bb instrument and its range is from Ab3 to F5. The soprano clarinet is also a Bb instrument and its range is from E3 to G6. The soprano saxophone produces well-rounded, emotional and light sounds while the clarinet produces intimate, smooth, direct and rich sounds.
In regards to range and sound, both instruments are equally good as they both produce rich, articulate and beautiful sounds if played correctly.
The saxophone was invented in the 1840s by an instrument maker from Belgium called Adolphe Sax. Over the years improvements were made to Adolphe’s saxophone to give rise to the modern-day soprano saxophone. Famous players like Kenny G are known for playing the soprano saxophones with curved bells although these are rare.
The clarinet was invented around the year 1700 by an instrument maker from Nuremberg called Johann Christian Denner and over the years, improvements were made to Denner’s version to produce the modern-day clarinet. Today, the soprano clarinet or the clarinet in Bb is the most commonly used clarinet.
Regarding history, both instruments are good as they both have interesting histories of how they were invented and evolved over the years.
The maintenance and care of soprano saxophones and clarinets are very similar as both instruments need to be swabbed out after each performance. When cleaning both instruments, swabs with hard bristles shouldn’t be used as they could scratch the interiors. The mouthpieces and sticky pads of both instruments should be cleaned at least monthly. After a long period of usage, the instruments’ pads should be replaced by a music technician. Lastly, both saxophonists and clarinettists should always purchase good quality reeds and ensure they store them in high-quality reed cases.
In terms of maintenance, both soprano saxophones and clarinets need to be properly cared for and cleaned regularly, therefore, they’re equally good.
A comparison overview
Soprano saxophone’s overview
A soprano saxophone is a single-reed Bb transposing woodwind instrument with 3 main parts and is mainly used as a solo instrument. It is typically made of brass and a golden lacquer, has 21 keys, is 27” long and is about 1kg heavy. The price in the market ranges from $800 to $3000 and above depending on the level of the player.
- Produces a beautiful, emotional and well-rounded sound.
- It is small in comparison to other saxophones thus easy to store and transport.
- Needs a reed to play thus will have a recurrent cost.
- Quite expensive when acquiring a new one.
- Rarely used in most musical settings, thus doesn’t have many pieces written for it.
Soprano clarinet’s overview
A soprano clarinet is a single-reed Bb transposing woodwind instrument with a range between D3 and Bb6. It is 26” long and about 2kg heavy, has 17 keys and is used in all musical settings but mainly in concerts, bands and orchestras. The more expensive ones are made out of granadilla wood while the cheaper ones are made out of plastic. The price in the market ranges from $500 to $2000 and above depending on the expertise level of a player.
- Produces intimate, light, direct and beautiful sounds.
- Is easy to store and transport due to its small size.
- Can be used in any musical setting.
- Expensive when purchasing a new one.
- Require reeds to play, thus the instrument will have a recurring cost.
Verdict: So, which one is better? Soprano saxophones or clarinets?
Both instruments are equally good as they produce rich and articulate sounds, cost around the same prices, they’re both Bb transposing instruments and have almost the same size and weight. Soprano saxophones and clarinets have more similarities than differences no wonder they are always being compared.
How is the soprano saxophone different from the other saxophones?
The soprano saxophone is smaller and lighter, higher-pitched and sometimes straight compared to the other curved saxophones. It is also harder to learn and play.
Which one is easier to play between the soprano saxophone and the soprano clarinet?
The soprano clarinet is easier to learn and play compared to the soprano saxophone. However, this is subjective as some may find the soprano saxophone easier to play. It is wise, therefore, to try both instruments and decide for yourself.