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Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to understand about what it is that affects the darkness/brightness/warmth from one saxophone to another. Type of metal, bore, new/vintage etc?

I have limited experience of different models of saxophone. The only pro tenor I've ever owned is the Selmer Series II which I've had for fifteen years. I've only occasionally tried out other modern horns in shops, or vintage horns owned by friends.

The other day I tried my mouthpiece on a friends Conn 10M, and was struck by the sound I got from it - for me it was much darker and warmer than my Selmer, and I really liked it. So I'm now thinking I should get around to exploring more fully what other horns have to offer. And then maybe buy one!

So I'd be interested to know what the factors are that affect sound in saxophone. And beyond that, also any specific suggestions for horns to try which might be good for the full, open, dark and warm sound that I'm trying to get.

(I realise that all those terms are subjective... If it helps, my main reference for the kind of sound I strive for is Chris Cheek. Amazingly warm and open sound... Check him out if you don't know him!)

(Also, I realise too that the mouthpiece is a huge factor for sound. But I know a reasonable amount about how baffles, chambers, etc. affect the sound, and I'm reasonably happy with the mouthpiece I have. So for this thread I'm interested in the saxophone itself.)
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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(Also, I realise too that the mouthpiece is a huge factor for sound. But I know a reasonable amount about how baffles, chambers, etc. affect the sound, and I'm reasonably happy with the mouthpiece I have. So for this thread I'm interested in the saxophone itself.)
In my experience the saxophone makes very very little difference. You are right, the player makes a lot of difference and the mouthpiece can very much affect warmth, brightness and edge though I'm not so sure about darkness which I think of as something that comes very much from the player.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Fair enough.... But I'm still curious, because of trying this Conn the other day. I played it and my own Selmer side by side, same mouthpiece that I always play on, same player (me!), and the sound was noticeably different, both to my ears and to my friend who owns the Conn and heard me play them. We both agreed that I sounded brighter on the Selmer (meaning I sounded darker therefore on the Conn?). The subjective nature of the terminology makes it tricky to describe accurately (for me, at least), but nonetheless there was a significant difference and the only variable was the instrument!
 

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I suspect certain hardware, plus training, can help coach a player to be brighter/darker. It certainly seems to work with the Rascher setup, which maximizes resistance and encourages you to voice with an open throat.
 

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great example of horns making hardly any difference in sound is when Dexter Gordon's Conn ladyface (he sounded great on that ) got stolen and he replaced it wit a Selmer ( sounded equally great on that ). It's different for every player and a horn might FEEL different but in sound...you're gonna sound like you on every good horn.
Mouthpieces and your own development WILL make you sound different, Rollins sounds very different now then on his early recordings.
 

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Not sure I agree Pete. The Tenor I play is one of the darkest sounding horns I have ever played including recently an early 10M, JK that I owned and P. Mauriats. I can put a Guardala or Jumbo Java and make it play slightly less dark but I would never call it bright and most certainly not in the way a Selmer SA80 or Yami or Yani are.

B
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Not sure I agree Pete. The Tenor I play is one of the darkest sounding horns I have ever played ....
I agree there is some difference, it's just minimal in my experience compared with layer reed or mouthpiece. I'm wary of the word "dark" anyway, some people use it to mean a tone with few(er) overtones or in the way I would use the word "warm".
 

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I agree there is some difference, it's just minimal in my experience compared with layer reed or mouthpiece. I'm wary of the word "dark" anyway, some people use it to mean a tone with few(er) overtones or in the way I would use the word "warm".
Warm vs. Bright ?
 

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...also any specific suggestions for horns to try which might be good for the full, open, dark and warm sound that I'm trying to get.
Well, for a start, how about a Conn 10M? While I agree with the fact that the reed and mpc are more of a factor in terms of 'dark/warm vs bright or edgy' (or whatever terms you use), I do think the 10M has a tendency toward a dark or warm and full sound. And you had a first-hand postive experience trying out a 10M. You might also try some Buescher Aristocrats, especially the 'series one' and earlier Big B models.

And just for the sake of argument, I think it's possible to play with a warm but bright sound, or an edgy but dark sound, and a lot in between. What I try to avoid is bright and thin. A bright sound that is full sounds fine to me. And that's mostly down to the player (full vs thin sound).
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Warm vs. Bright ?
I think it's possible to play with a warm but bright sound, or an edgy but dark sound,
That's what I strive to do. Which is part of the reason I developed the PPT mouthpieces, as I had this sound concept in my head which most other mouthpieces weren't getting. The RPC came closest.

Ironically my new tenor, the "Two Voices" helps a lot as it really does have two voices. It's kind of taken me by surprise a bit, I mean getting more than one tone at the same time. I'm sure some people might say that is just unfocussed, bit it seems to be two very focussed sounds at once. Spooky eh?
 

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I'm just about getting to the bottom of this (the horn not making such a big difference): I started recording myself systematically on as many different saxophones as I could get hold of. I first used my own saxes (starting with baris, then sopranos - had GAS attacks about both - continuing with altos and tenors), then added others I was lucky enough to be allowed to borrow.

I used the same mouthpiece and did direct comparison of two or sometimes three saxophones, playing the same piece of music repeatedly during the same take. I'm still in the process of working through all the findings, but it appears that at least *some* horns have a distinct core tone to them - my two Yamahas are both noticeably brighter than my other altos or tenors, respectively, though this tendency is a lot more noticeable in the YAS-25 than in the YTS-23 - the latter is extremely mouthpiece-friendly. That said, changing the mouthpieces is infinitely more effective (but I think that's a given).

Anyway, the most interesting things happened when I started recording myself on bari - and it shows how unreliable our own perception of our tone can be: I really love to play my B-6 and equally don't care for the SA80 I have to use for concert band. My rock-hard conviction was that the SA80 was stuffy and thin at the same time, offering neither the personality nor the power of the B-6. Blowing both saxes sure *feels* different, the SA80 being considerably less responsive and harder to control, but it turns out that my perception of the sound wasn't entirely correct - recorded in the same room, with the same mouthpiece and reed, by the same player (me) within four minutes the SA80 was in fact a tad louder and - brighter than the B-6. While the B-6 is remains a much more charming blow and has a roundness to its sound that the SA80 lacks, the latter offers more volume and power. From what I *felt*, I'd never have guessed that.

Bottomline: I think it's really important to listen to recordings of oneself in order to decide a) on tone in general, including importance of variables, b) on one's own sound concept and realisation. Even if it sometimes means to stand corrected...

M.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I agree there is some difference, it's just minimal in my experience compared with layer reed or mouthpiece. I'm wary of the word "dark" anyway, some people use it to mean a tone with few(er) overtones or in the way I would use the word "warm".
I'm not disputing that mouthpiece and reed are the bigger factor, it's just that I'm basically fairly settled on my mpc/reed combo (Link HR and Alexander Classique), and I discovered a difference in sound between two horns using the same mpc/reed setup. I'm glad you agree that there is some difference between horns, and it's that difference that I'm interested to explore. It might be small difference compared to changing mpc, but the difference I heard, while small, was also distinct and, I felt, significant.

I agree about the ambiguity of "dark". I think I might be one of those people who means what you call "warm". Heck, I don't know exactly what I mean myself. That was why I thought it might be useful to mention Chris Cheek as a reference. I would describe his sound as quite "dark", but I can see how that could mean several things. Without doubt his sound is "warm", as well as what I can best describe as "open" - very full, broad, not edgy. And his sound is very distinctive, I haven't really heard anyone else much like it. Would anyone else who knows his playing care to comment? (And if you don't know his playing then I really recommend checking him out! The album 'Guilty' is a great demonstration of his tone)

Thanks to the poster who suggested trying Bueschers as well as the 10M. Other suggestions welcome! I'd also like to know what it is in a horn that affects the tone. Although the crucial thing I guess will be just to play a bunch and find out what I like, I suppose it's not actually that important to fully understand why, I'm just curious.
 

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I'd also like to know what it is in a horn that affects the tone.

Having switched from a Selmer MK VI to a Conn (and sometimes a Buescher) in order to darken and fill out my sound I've often wondered myself. Best I can come up with are design issues (meaning internal dimensions and proportions). But I've gotten nowhere trying to figure out exactly what horns have what dimensional attributes. I'm guessing a lot of that kind of information may have had to do with trade secrets or lost information. Not that folks haven't claimed that "such and such" a horn had a larger (or smaller) bore, size variance at the bow, et cetera but the claims are not always consistent. I suppose these things can be measured. Although the variances are likely to be rather small the effect in tone seems to audible enough that certain brands, vintages seem to have certain tendencies, generally speaking.
 

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I agree there is some difference, it's just minimal in my experience compared with layer reed or mouthpiece. I'm wary of the word "dark" anyway, some people use it to mean a tone with few(er) overtones or in the way I would use the word "warm".
Hear hear. I think "dark" implies restraint and a certain minimalism of expression. Rather than a warm tone, it could be heard as a cold tone.
 

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Having switched from a Selmer MK VI to a Conn (and sometimes a Buescher) in order to darken and fill out my sound I've often wondered myself.
Strange. I remember my MKVI as being easier to get a dark sound than my Conn 10M.

Hear hear. I think "dark" implies restraint and a certain minimalism of expression. Rather than a warm tone, it could be heard as a cold tone.
Yes, I agree dark can be cold, but also kind of sinister, mysterious and broody.
 

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Arnett Cobb ... warm, dark ,,, wow ... Selmer and Link ..look for a video on youtube. I am looking for more of his recordings and videos !!
 

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Ironically my new tenor, the "Two Voices" helps a lot as it really does have two voices. It's kind of taken me by surprise a bit, I mean getting more than one tone at the same time. I'm sure some people might say that is just unfocussed, bit it seems to be two very focussed sounds at once. Spooky eh?
Sound clips! Sound Clips! Sound Clips!

:)
 

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In my experience the saxophone makes very very little difference.
I have a lot of respect for Pete Thomas, but my experience is opposite. For the same player, mouthpiece and reed, a Conn 10M, Selmer SA80 series II, a King Zephyr 1943, an SML Gold Medal I, a Kohlert '57 and a Beaugnier "Duke" Vito all sound clearly different. I know because I have witnessed such a trial a couple of times.
Still, it is easy to recognize the player across all these brands of saxophone. Reason: Personal sound is much more than tone. It is attack, intonation, vibrato, phrasing and voicing/bending.
A skilled player, like Dexter Gordon can then, with time, develop his tone on a new brand of horn, so that he sounds like he did on the old one.
 

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I'm a believer that differences in material (within reason), finish (or the lack thereof), or gluing stones to your octave key arm; or paying $100.00 for for a titanium alloy neck screw, make no difference in sound. However, with the same player, same mouthpiece, same reed, I suspect that differences in neck and horn bore dimensions might favor different partials that would translate into a difference between horns that would be audible. I base this on nothing empirical, just my own experience. I play a Buffet SDA low A Bari, which is a bigger bore horn than most modern horns. In fact, the initial neck dimension requires the thinnest cork possibe to accomodate some new mouthpieces. I've tried other Bari's (Yamaha, Chinese Import, S-80, Vito) and the sound is different not only to me but to the listener, best described as darker, fatter, (favoring the lower partials). Not necessarily better or worse, just different. I have the same experience with my 2 R-13 clarinets , one pre "golden era" and one "golden era" ( 50's - late 60's) where we know the bore dimensions were changed. The difference in sound is very discernable.
(I prefer the 50's horn). INTERESTING TOPIC.
 

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I think mouthpieces control the type of sound. If you have a bright sounding mouthpiece it will still be bright on a dark horn. I feel Link type roll-over baffles can bring out the characteristics of a horn more and show the differences between instruments whereas flat baffle are more controlling and level things out more.
Pete's tenor shoot-out showed 'different' tenors sounding pretty much the same, though I could pick out the Martin and Conn. Some of the sound difference is not just about tone but also about 'texture', with Martins being a hard, clear sound, Conns can be a bit 'velvety'. Selmers have a subtlety. They can seem to have a more even spread of harmonics, neither very dark or bright, (though mouthpieces can bring out the tone one way or the other). The difference between horns can be subtle but are noticable when you try to get a sound like Getz or Hawk. I can produce that Getz 'Selmer sound' on my 16M Conn, but not on my TJ which has a harsher dark edge. It's not quite fat enough to give me a Hawk sound. My King S20 has a nice tone, pretty even throughout and I find it hard won't give me Hawk or Getz. It can do the early Griffin sound which the others can't.
Don't know if that makes any sense, but I know I can hear that Getz quality in some saxes that I just can't achieve in others.
 
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