10 Feb 2018
Schreef het volgende over Yamaha Venova YVS-100
Having played both saxophone and recorder for several decades, the idea of a lightweight, easily portable instrument combining a sax mouthpiece with recorder fingering was naturally appealing to me. Now that I've bought one via Bax Music and tried it out for a couple of weeks, I find that while I'm enjoying playing it I'm quite unsure where it could really fit into the woodwind instrument market.
Yamaha are marketing the Venova as a casual instrument and as something which might help a child who plays recorder to bridge the learning gap between that and saxophone. The casual marketing tends, I suppose to stress that this is more of a fun instrument than a serious one. The idea of it as a learning tool for a child sounds fair enough but, having played a Venova and encountered certain problems (which Yamaha aren't hiding but aren't publicising either) I'm inclined to think that a child wanting to move from recorder to sax would be better off making the transition directly, even if a sax is heavier and costlier than a Venova.
The big problem is that the accidentals are very weak indeed. The Venova has a two octave range from middle C upwards the same as a tenor recorder minus a top note or two so its home key is C. Check the Yamaha promotional videos on YouTube and you'll find that almost all of the nicely played tunes being featured are played in the key of C. Moreover, their Learn To Play Venova series of nine brief YouTube tutorials doesn't take you outside the key of C at all. This doesn't surprise me, because as soon as you try to move away from the two keys without accidentals, C Major and A Minor, you'll run into pitching difficulties.
I've found that F# is virtually non-existent in the lower octave, a little better in the upper one. Conversely G# is barely there in the upper octave but hardly present in the lower one. A reasonable B Flat can be achieved in the lower octave, but is much trickier in the higher one. Yamaha do explain, in the fingering chart provided with the Venova, that these notes tend to easily play sharp and are hard to resonate and suggest that the player should use airflow and embouchure control to adjust intonation, which is all true enough but the problem is I, think more fundamental than the use of the phrase tend to suggests. Moreover, the mouthpiece and blowing skills required to make the adjustments indicated are outdo those employed by most professional wind players on traditional instruments, which cancels out the idea that this is an easy instrument for beginners... except when playing in C Major or A Minor...
I was really surprised by this, not least because recorder makers solved these pitching problems hundreds of years ago, and Yamaha themselves make perfectly satisfactory resin recorders! I'm guessing, but I wonder whether the problem might not be that they've attempted to apply recorder fingering (or, as their publicity carefully states, recorder-like fingering) to an instrument with a cylindrical bore: that is, the space inside the instrument is cylindrical, being equal in diameter at both ends, as with a flute. Most woodwind (and all brass) instruments, including sax, have a conical bore, being narrower at the mouthpiece end than at the other. The recorder, however, is not cylindrical it has a reversed conical bore, being woidr at the mouthpiece end than at the base, so I wonder whether swapping that characteristic has led to the problems described above.
In short, it's not the easy instrument to play that it appears to be. To be able to play it seriously in most of the popular jazz, rock or pop keys will take quite a lot of work and practice, perhaps even more than is required when learning to play either saxophone or recorder. If you just want a casual instrument to tootle on, it might be the one for you. Otherwise, both sax and recorder are more finished, flexible instruments.
Finally, I agree with something mentioned in most of the online reviews of the Vnova that I've seen: the synthetic reed supplied with the instrument is pretty terrible and won't make life easier for most players, so when purchasing you might want to pick up some traditional cane soprano sax reeds as well. I'm getting decent results from D'Addario Rico Royal strength 3, but reed choice is very much a matter of personal taste!