Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 51 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
256 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I keep hearing this theory about changing your sound on sax is to change your concept of sound. I am trying to figure out what is exactly meant by that, and how to go about doing that?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,743 Posts
I have the same questions. I change the shape of my throat and the location of my tongue in my throat and I don’t hear much difference. It goes higher or lower depending on lip pressure on the reed but I don’t hear much change by tightening or loosening my throat. I’ve been doing Keith Ridenhour’s five minute continuous long tones and can feel a difference in my embouchure but I don’t hear much change in tone or timbre.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,612 Posts
The muscles that you utilize in your embouchure will have more effect on tone than anything else other than your reed/mouthpiece choice. Also, the amount of mouthpiece that you take in will have some effect. There are a few different ways to use the musculature around your mouth, depending on the sound that you want.
Edited to add: bottom lip position will effect your sound, too. Playing along with players who have a sound that you want will help, as well.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
610 Posts
Your sound starts in your head, or in your minds ear. Or to put it another way, you start with with a very clear idea in your mind of what you want to sound like, then you select the horn, mouthpiece, reed, lig that gets you closest to that sound with the minimum of effort.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
I keep hearing this theory about changing your sound on sax is to change your concept of sound. I am trying to figure out what is exactly meant by that, and how to go about doing that?
I do not know what others might think about this, but it is a constant consideration for me.

If I am playing behind the low woodwinds in concert band in the xmas program, I think about woody cello sounds and voice a big OH.

I am playing in front of an electric instrument I imagine the sound more forward and voice an EE.

During a jazz solo I try to incorporate a dramatic effect with silences and surprisingly appropriate changes in sound concept during that performance when I can.

The saxophone is a remarkably flexible instrument capable of both warm round fat open friendly tones and shrill frightening screams of pain, with all of the textures between.

My notion of a sound concept is to expand my reach into every aspect of the instrument so I can make it sound the way I want. It is a work in progress.

I cheat a lot and change mpcs and reeds as a crutch to get there in different bands. The last sax performance major I sat with used an AL3 and 3.5 (Hemke?) and could get EVERYWHERE with it. I can only image the hours it takes to carry all those sound concepts around to pull them out of your bag of tricks instantaneously at will from a single setup.

Strangely, perhaps, my biggest single boost was when I was forced to stop playing. I listened a lot to compensate for that, and it seemed to me that I leaped ahead once I could get playing a sax again.
 

·
Moderator
Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
Joined
·
28,882 Posts
I keep hearing this theory about changing your sound on sax is to change your concept of sound. I am trying to figure out what is exactly meant by that, and how to go about doing that?
OK, first thing might be to quote your sources where you have heard that. It makes little sense to me on a practical level, in fact it almost sounds like voodoo but maybe it is something we all know but phrased in a peculiar ("over-academic") way.

I have the same questions. I change the shape of my throat and the location of my tongue in my throat and I don’t hear much difference.
This makes sense, throat and tongue position (and/or oral cavity) have very little to do with controlling sound. In fact your tongue should not be in your throat, I would have thought that would choke you. GHawk is correct IMO , it's all down to embouchure along with airstream.

Practising sound control exercises is best. (And that doesn't just mean long notes)

However something just occurred to me. I think of sound as something different and extra to tone or timbre.

Tone is the raw sound made when you just blow. It can be measured in frequencies.

Sound however includes all the expression, phrasing, vibrato, dynamics, pitch differences and articulation you put into turning a tone into a sound. (Maybe that's a sound concept! :) )
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
5,378 Posts
My teacher says the same thing.He says rather than buying so and so's mouthpiece go grab his/her inflections, dynamic control, vibrato, attack, release. Unlike others here I leave my embouchure alone and do focus on my thoat. I have demands from quiet trio work in a convalescent hospital all the way to imitating a texas tenor but on alto, fat and in your face. Alot of that is air pressure and what I'd call voicing but alot is also attacks, vibrato, inflections etc. My embouchure is set and forget . Its the same hitting a hard low C# to ending on an alt C# But the diff in those three octaves is my throat . K. (Maybe a little bite)
OK, first thing might be to quote your sources where you have heard that. It makes little sense to me on a practical level, in fact it almost sounds like voodoo but maybe it is something we all know but phrased in a peculiar ("over-academic") way.



This makes sense, throat and tongue position (and/or oral cavity) have very little to do with controlling sound. In fact your tongue should not be in your throat, I would have thought that would choke you. GHawk is correct IMO , it's all down to embouchure along with airstream.

Practising sound control exercises is best. (And that doesn't just mean long notes)

However something just occurred to me. I think of sound as something different and extra to tone or timbre.

Tone is the raw sound made when you just blow. It can be measured in frequencies.

Sound however includes all the expression, phrasing, vibrato, dynamics, pitch differences and articulation you put into turning a tone into a sound. (Maybe that's a sound concept! :) )
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
5,378 Posts
To better answer your initial post I'd say to listen every practice session for a couple of minutes to whomever sound that you really like. I have done that for years with Sanborn, Kenny Garrett, Everete Harp. In college I listened to Charlie parker,
Charles Mcpherson, Lou Donaldson, for tone color and what I wanted. In college I was going for a lead alto tone. later it was for solo work and pop so I changed how I played and my concept K
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
Joined
·
7,404 Posts
OK, first thing might be to quote your sources where you have heard that. It makes little sense to me on a practical level, in fact it almost sounds like voodoo but maybe it is something we all know but phrased in a peculiar ("over-academic") way.



This makes sense, throat and tongue position (and/or oral cavity) have very little to do with controlling sound. In fact your tongue should not be in your throat, I would have thought that would choke you. GHawk is correct IMO , it's all down to embouchure along with airstream.

Practising sound control exercises is best. (And that doesn't just mean long notes)

However something just occurred to me. I think of sound as something different and extra to tone or timbre.

Tone is the raw sound made when you just blow. It can be measured in frequencies.

Sound however includes all the expression, phrasing, vibrato, dynamics, pitch differences and articulation you put into turning a tone into a sound. (Maybe that's a sound concept! :) )
Right. Typically you will listen to recordings of great players and come to a conclusion about how you want to sound/play - this is your 'concept'. If you keep this concept a long time, you will naturally begin to play that way over time. Changing your concept is a natural development as we all do this as we mature, and your 'sound' begins to change to reflect 'that sound in your head'.
In my experience this is a natural development without detailed instructions like 'hold your tongue this way and think the vowel 'O', for example. You want to sound a certain way and you find a way, but I don't think it can be taught.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
...


Sound however includes all the expression, phrasing, vibrato, dynamics, pitch differences and articulation you put into turning a tone into a sound. (Maybe that's a sound concept! :) )
This is very good! A lot of the swing players, for example, blended together by having the same basic group of frequencies (I bet), but the attack, bends, vibrato, and so on make them sound different. A sound concept could have a lot to do with that.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2016, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
12,787 Posts
I keep hearing this theory about changing your sound on sax is to change your concept of sound. I am trying to figure out what is exactly meant by that, and how to go about doing that?
I don't think changing your sound on sax will change your concept. If your concept is different than any change you make you will not like. What has to happen is you get the concept in your head and mind and then you work hard to get to that sound. In the early 90's I wanted to sound like Brecker. I listened to him all the time. I was in love with his sound, phrasing and lines. When I practiced, there was a lot of frustration when I didn't sound close to him at all but over time I made conscious changes that got me closer to his sound. I think your body and mind also make unconscious changes to get the sound if the concept is strong enough in your mind. The concept guides the direction of the changes that are made. They are either closer to the concept or further away from it. The concept of the sound is the goal and measuring stick. I have so many students that say they want to change their sound on the first lesson and 9 times out of 10 when I ask what kind of sound they want, they either don't know or they tell me some nebulous answer like "I want to be able to sound like Brecker, Stan Getz and John Coltrane......Oh yeah and Hank Mobley." That is not a concept in my mind. You have to start with one sound in your mind and that has to be your obsessive goal. You listen to it all the time, you think about it all the time, you imagine it all the time, you work towards it all the time. You change and work with whatever gets you closer to your sound.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,743 Posts
OK, first thing might be to quote your sources where you have heard that. It makes little sense to me on a practical level, in fact it almost sounds like voodoo but maybe it is something we all know but phrased in a peculiar ("over-academic") way.



This makes sense, throat and tongue position (and/or oral cavity) have very little to do with controlling sound. In fact your tongue should not be in your throat, I would have thought that would choke you. GHawk is correct IMO , it's all down to embouchure along with airstream.

Practising sound control exercises is best. (And that doesn't just mean long notes)

However something just occurred to me. I think of sound as something different and extra to tone or timbre.

Tone is the raw sound made when you just blow. It can be measured in frequencies.

Sound however includes all the expression, phrasing, vibrato, dynamics, pitch differences and articulation you put into turning a tone into a sound. (Maybe that's a sound concept! :) )
Okay, Pete, that makes sense. I think the biggest difference between my amateurish honking and a professional's playing is in the articulation, vibrato, different tonguing techniques, bending notes, slurring/staccato etc. I can vary the timbre somewhat just by tightening up my belly muscles and blowing a little harder. The sound gets what I'd call brighter or maybe more focused. I'm struggling to define those terms in my mind after much discussion here on another thread. Thanks for clarifying things bit for me.
 

·
Moderator
Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
Joined
·
28,882 Posts
You have to start with one sound in your mind and that has to be your obsessive goal. You listen to it all the time, you think about it all the time, you imagine it all the time, you work towards it all the time. You change and work with whatever gets you closer to your sound.
OK, but what if your "concept" is to be very versatile (which is what I have been striving for all my career). So one day you may be doing something that needs to sound classical, another day early jazz, then modern(wish) pop or rock, and another day do something personal or unique sounding. That has been my experience so that has , I suppose, been my concept. But is it actually a concept?

Right. Typically you will listen to recordings of great players and come to a conclusion about how you want to sound/play - this is your 'concept'. If you keep this concept a long time, you will naturally begin to play that way over time. Changing your concept is a natural development as we all do this as we mature, and your 'sound' begins to change to reflect 'that sound in your head'.
In my experience this is a natural development without detailed instructions like 'hold your tongue this way and think the vowel 'O', for example. You want to sound a certain way and you find a way, but I don't think it can be taught.

Being able to control and change your sound is certainly something that can be taught. Well, I think it is anyway. I do agree that statements like "hold your tongue this way and think the vowel 'O" is not a lot of use. My saxophone never played any vowels and my tongue just stays out of the way until it's needed for articulation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
256 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the advice everybody!
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,003 Posts
Being able to control and change your sound is certainly something that can be taught. Well, I think it is anyway. I do agree that statements like "hold your tongue this way and think the vowel 'O" is not a lot of use. My saxophone never played any vowels and my tongue just stays out of the way until it's needed for articulation.
+1. For me, anyway, what the tongue, throat, even my air stream to an extent, is doing is mostly subconscious. I think the ear/mind comes first and by having a clear image (concept?) of the sound you want in your mind, then working on getting it which takes time and practice, the physical stuff happens 'below the surface' so to speak. Kind of like muscle memory. And I don't think you have to be locked into a single sound quality; versatility is a good thing. Even if you're sticking to one genre, there is a lot of variation you can use in your sound. Just like using dynamics.

If you want to play in several different genres, like Pete, then it becomes more of a challenge. Obviously you have to get familiar with a given style/sound and get it in your head. Then I think using your ear to guide you is the way to go.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2016, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
12,787 Posts
OK, but what if your "concept" is to be very versatile (which is what I have been striving for all my career). So one day you may be doing something that needs to sound classical, another day early jazz, then modern(wish) pop or rock, and another day do something personal or unique sounding. That has been my experience so that has , I suppose, been my concept. But is it actually a concept?
I think what I said still applies because you have to spend time on each of those sounds and styles trying to be authentic to that style. I consider myself to be pretty versatile also as are most of the working musicians I know.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
32,931 Posts
I liken much of tone shaping to biofeedback. You cannot control it directly, but you learn to influence it quite well through accumulated experience. The vowel shapes, etc., help to target the desired result, then you learn to refine it. If you are unaware of the changes because you fail to listen with mindfulness and attention, you will likely never gain true control of your sound.
 

·
Moderator
Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
Joined
·
28,882 Posts
I liken much of tone shaping to biofeedback. You cannot control it directly, but you learn to influence it quite well through accumulated experience. The vowel shapes, etc., help to target the desired result, then you learn to refine it. If you are unaware of the changes because you fail to listen with mindfulness and attention, you will likely never gain true control of your sound.
I'm not disputing this but I do find it fascinating we can all have different approaches. Vowel shapes while playing the saxophone mean nothing to me, and I agree much of the time what allows me to change tone is not something very easy to pinpoint, but on another level I can certainly ascribe it to what I do with my airstream and lips.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
32,931 Posts
I'm not disputing this but I do find it fascinating we can all have different approaches. Vowel shapes while playing the saxophone mean nothing to me, and I agree much of the time what allows me to change tone is not something very easy to pinpoint, but on another level I can certainly ascribe it to what I do with my airstream and lips.
OK. How do you describe to someone new to the task of shaping tone how to change their air stream? You have to start somewhere.

A vowel shape is only one way, yet one that is easily done for many. As soon as the student hears a change that they can associate with something they have done, they can move to the next level.

It is not unlike training a dog to perform a new behavior on command - there, the key is to catch them doing something that is desired, then reinforcing that behavior. But if they never perform the desired behavior, it is difficult to "teach".
 
1 - 20 of 51 Posts
Top