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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I have been reading the forums for a couple of months now and thought I would post a question I have.

I am trying to attain a contemporary smooth jazz sound on my tenor, specifically, something like Boney James. Rich & Deep in the lower register with an edgy (easy to growl) and full sounding upper register. The best youtube example I could find of what I'm after is:


My question is, how much does the type of horn influence the ability to produce this sound? How much is dependent on the mouthpiece and reed selection? And how much is a result of embouchure and tone production technique.

If I had the same setup as the guy in the video (ref 54, otto link mpc, ZZ reed) would I get the same sound?

Any advice and suggestions would be greatly appriciated.

Thanks.
 

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My question is, how much does the type of horn influence the ability to produce this sound?
2%

How much is dependent on the mouthpiece and reed selection?
49%

And how much is a result of embouchure and tone production technique.
49% or maybe 83%

These are very variable. It depends on how experienced the player is at taking control of the sound.

It depends if you include all mouthpieces, or just mouthpieces produced after 1950.

Also much of the sound is not so much tone of the instrument/reed/mouthpiece/player, but other aspects such as inflection, dynamics, vibrato, ornamentation, intensity. All of those come from the player of course and never from the equipment.

In other wortdss:

Equipment can only supply tone (bright, dark, warm, trebly etc.)

Play supplies tone as well as all the other attributes of expression that go into making this style.

On top of that is the recording sound and effects, mostly: EQ, compression, reverb, delay, etc.
 

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+1 to what Pete said. Regarding recorded and live sound ( and this has probably been discussed to death on this forum),from my own experiences , a bad sound man and/or studio where the engineer doesn't have a clue as to how to eq a horn can totally destroy even a good players sound and tone.
 

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I offer the quintessential instruction video in playing smooth jazz saxophone.

Roger rox... and we have similar hairdos.. not to mention taste is shirts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Haha indeed I am familiar with Roger's smooth jazz video series. Has me on the floor in tears everytime I watch them. :razz:

Pete Thomas, your response agrees with what I have read elsewhere - the mouthpiece setup far outweighs the horn, and a better player can achieve a better sound regardless of setup.

What confuses me most is why are there thousands of threads comparing Saxophone A vs B, Keilwerth vs Yamaha, French vs Taiwanese ect.. when the horn only contributes minimally to the sound tone. Why doesnt everyone just buy the cheapest & shiniest horn (with good intonation and ergonomics) then spend hours at the mouthpiece store (and practice room) to find the type of sound they are after?
 

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Haha indeed I am familiar with Roger's smooth jazz video series. Has me on the floor in tears everytime I watch them. :razz:

Pete Thomas, your response agrees with what I have read elsewhere - the mouthpiece setup far outweighs the horn, and a better player can achieve a better sound regardless of setup.

What confuses me most is why are there thousands of threads comparing Saxophone A vs B, Keilwerth vs Yamaha, French vs Taiwanese ect.. when the horn only contributes minimally to the sound tone. Why doesnt everyone just buy the cheapest & shiniest horn (with good intonation and ergonomics) then spend hours at the mouthpiece store (and practice room) to find the type of sound they are after?
Now, what would be the fun in that? First buy to get the most bang for the buck, next add more bucks to increase the bang, and continue for the next thirty or forty years until your wife goes into full meltdown.
 

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Haha indeed I am familiar with Roger's smooth jazz video series. Has me on the floor in tears everytime I watch them. :razz:

Pete Thomas, your response agrees with what I have read elsewhere - the mouthpiece setup far outweighs the horn, and a better player can achieve a better sound regardless of setup.

What confuses me most is why are there thousands of threads comparing Saxophone A vs B, Keilwerth vs Yamaha, French vs Taiwanese ect.. when the horn only contributes minimally to the sound tone. Why doesnt everyone just buy the cheapest & shiniest horn (with good intonation and ergonomics) then spend hours at the mouthpiece store (and practice room) to find the type of sound they are after?
First of all,welcome to SOTW. I am a believer that the horn makes a difference. I see that you have a Selmer Ref. I think if you compared that to some cheap horns (and I did say some) you would hear a big difference. Again just my opinion.
 

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Pete Thomas, your response agrees with what I have read elsewhere - the mouthpiece setup far outweighs the horn, and a better player can achieve a better sound regardless of setup.

What confuses me most is why are there thousands of threads comparing Saxophone A vs B, Keilwerth vs Yamaha, French vs Taiwanese ect.. when the horn only contributes minimally to the sound tone. Why doesnt everyone just buy the cheapest & shiniest horn (with good intonation and ergonomics) then spend hours at the mouthpiece store (and practice room) to find the type of sound they are after?
I believe the more experienced a player you are the less difference the equipment makes, ie the more you are able to shape your own sound on whatever. "Experienced player" is not top be confused with "good player", it can be (but not always) purely to do with time spent practising/playing, not necessarily talent.

If I can use myself as an example, there are many very young players who have more talent and I consider way better players than me. But they are not as experienced and so the equipment (be it horn, mouthpiece, ligature or hat) may have more impact on their sound.

Another thing is that some players are more anal about nuances than others. Very often I don't really care if one mouthpiece is brighter than another, or one horn is darker than another. I sometimes switch horns during an actual session or even in the same song, and although there may be differences, I don't make judgment calls on what is the "best" tone, only on whether the more important aspects (expression) are coming across. That's not to say it's bad to be anal about the actual tone, it's a question of degree and whether or not the anality (?) is an obstruction to expression. ie, sometimes worrying about the physics of the tone gets in the way of the feel. The end listener won't bother about a very slightly mellower or brighter sound (that possibly only the player hears), they only care about the feel they get from the performance.

Having said all that, you may wonder why I bought a very expensive solid silver bell bronze bodied tenor.

Well, this horn did seem to be more versatile, it let me get a wider range of sound than I could with my Conn or other horns I was playtesting it against (Selmer, Antigua, Yanagisawa and Bauhaus mainly). Not that I could necessarily get a "better" sound from it.

I also don't mind admitting there is a psychological factor (which is why I try to do blind tests when possible), however it just feels good and inspiring to have anew horn in your hands, especially a beautiful one with lovely engraving. In the end, this type of feelgood factor becomes minimal, but it does exist for me and I suspect most people.

The other side of the coin is yes, I do play a cheap Chinese baritone (bauhaus) and it's not just a "backup", it's what I use for important sessions because I've somehow managed to get beyond the psychological (and/or my previous prejudice against cheap Chinese horns) and just evaluate it for the sound and response. Having said that, if I got my hands on a gold plated RTH 12M I might prefer to play that. Or I may find a baritone I prefer to play when I'm at the Musikmesse this year, I'll be trying baritones, e.g. Cannonball, R & C, Yanagisawa.
 

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+1 Pete. You expressed this a lot better than I could. Yes , the less experienced you are, the equipment makes less of a difference. As I posted in another thread, when I was just starting and playing a Bundy at the time , I had no clue yet as to how to shape my sound. This came after years of listening to other pros (recordings etc.) , getting feedback from other players and many other sources. Having said that, now after many years of playing, the equipment helps you to better get your sound across. FWIW, I play a 82z tenor and a Barone vintage, they work for me for what I play. Like many other sax players, I still have the desire to own a really great MarkVI or King silversonic or whatever but it is not economically feasible right now for me. Besides, why worry about it, you play what works for you and enables you to express yourself. There is definitely a psychological factor involved. Sometimes when I am out playing and all the other players have their great Selmers etc., you feel like they will be checking out your cheap Taiwan horn. But if you play it well and convincingly , and people come up and say "nice playing and sound", in the end it really doesn't matter what gear you are playing.
 

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tone is produced with a variety of combinations of embouchure, equipment, accessories as per mentioned by our fellow forum family.

on another thought, consider that your current tone may be what some other smooth jazz listeners are after.

having a direction in sound concept is important but you being happy with your sound is also worth some considerations :)
 

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You want the smooth jazz sound then focus on time and feel. Forget the stuff on the the radio also. Go hear someone like Tom Braxton live and you will see what I mean. He has a middle of the road sound but it is all about time and feel with simple melodic lines.
 

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I want to sound like Richard Elliot, and play like Brecker. Neither seems to be forthcoming. Yet.
 
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