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Invented in 1846, the soprano sax is the third smallest member of the saxophone family. This unique member of the saxophone family is clearly distinguished from other saxophones by its size and straight shape resembling more of a brass clarinet than a saxophone. This Sax is often compared to the clarinet for that reason, but as you can see it is quite different. It is however sometimes utilized as a replacement for the oboe, because of its similarity in tones. Though best known for their straight shape, 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. 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 neck-strap, 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.
Used primarily as a solo instrument in classical music such as in the works of Richard Strauss and Maurice Ravel, the soprano saxophone is known for its many solo pieces due to its unique sound. Though not as popular on the jazz scene as the alto and tenor saxophone, the soprano sax has nevertheless played an important role in the evolution of that genre of music and has been made famous by the likes of Sidney Bechet, Steve Lacy, legendary sax man John Coltrane and smooth jazz musician Kenny G.