I just received a very interesting reed instrument in the mail, the Yamaha Alto Venova. It’s described as a “casual wind instrument”, but it definitely has a saxophone sound. There are two models; the Soprano YVS-100, and the Alto YVS-120. I received the Alto Venova. The attraction for me is portability. My husband and I love the outdoors, so we hike, have picnics in the park, on the beach, and go camping a LOT. So, if you can take the Venova to places like that, it would, indeed, be a casual instrument. Hey, I’m totally into casual.
I was excited and curious to unbox it and check it out. The outer box is large, approximately 28″ X 16″ X 12″. The actual box that held the Venova is smaller, at about 24″X 6.5″X 4.5″. Ample amounts of linked poly air pillows surrounded the smaller box inside so there wasn’t a lot of movement during shipment. It arrived quickly.
Upon opening the box, the first thing I saw were booklets on an upper lid. To the left was an orange booklet with the title, “Let’s Play Venova”. It was in several languages. The pages are black-tabbed on the edge so you can find your language quickly. The English version starts on page 12 and instructs you on the basics of how to get started. Songs and fingering charts are on pages 95-103. On the left, a gray booklet, is the owner’s manual. A diagram shows the accessories, the various parts of the instrument, and how to clean and care for it. The Venova is completely washable with water, an obvious advantage over a brass saxophone.
I lifted the upper lid of the box and found a sturdy, almost indestructible, black plastic case. It had a place on each end to secure the included shoulder strap. I was impressed with how really hard and strong the case is. With the shoulder strap attached, it’s definitely an instrument you can take anywhere. You slide the two fasteners over to open it.
I opened the case and the Venova, itself, was wrapped in cellophane with a cleaning swab next to it. It’s about 23″ long. My first impression was how the Venova felt. There is actually a quality thickness and durability to the ABS resin and I really like the glossy white finish. Tactilely, it had a smooth, high quality feel–light–but still substantial. The “meandering”, sort of intestinal pipe structure looks a little strange but it shortens the distance between holes so one can play all of the notes with fewer keys, like a recorder. There is an upper branched pipe and that’s what gives it the saxophone sound. Instead of multiple pads, this instrument is simplified, with fewer of them, and all washable. I could really see this instrument in schools, especially when I think of the expense of renting an instrument. This one they can keep, at a lower year-long cost. For me, having only a half-year of clarinet in grade school band, it’s not at all intimidating, but looks fun. With the thumb-hold in the back, it feels natural in my hands. I’m interested in having my 11 year old granddaughter try it too…
You can separate the body. The upper and lower halves can be pulled apart for cleaning. You can remove the mouthpiece, which comes with a protective cover that can also be removed. EVERYTHING is waterproof, (I know I keep mentioning that, but when you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do…well…Washington is green for a reason).
About the reed. The synthetic reed is supposed to be suited for beginners, but they recommend a natural cane reed as one gets accustomed to playing. It might be best to switch it out sooner than later, as customers discovered that a natural reed improved the sound quite a bit. The mouthpiece is an equivalent to the Yamaha 4C mouthpiece for alto saxophones.
The Venova is in the key of F, and has a 2 octave range.
I will embark on the venture of learning how to play. I’ll learn a little bit before I go out into nature ( …so as not to scare the animals).