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Discussion Starter #1
Can someone please give a practical explanation of what a "dark" sounds is, or "warm" or "bright?" Bright is obvious, but I'm not sure about the dark and warm. Thanks.
 

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This is my personal definition.

A dark sound contains less harmonic content than a bright one.

My feeling is that brightness is determined primarily by the relative amplitude of the 3rd through the 8th harmonic to the first three harmonics.

The upper harmonics, the 9th through ~14th or 15th harmonic determine edge.

Some folks would disagree with this however, because 'warm' 'dark' 'bright' 'round' 'edgy' are all subjective descriptions of saxophone timbre.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
hakukani said:
This is my personal definition.

A dark sound contains less harmonic content than a bright one.

My feeling is that brightness is determined primarily by the relative amplitude of the 3rd through the 8th harmonic to the first three harmonics.

The upper harmonics, the 9th through ~14th or 15th harmonic determine edge.

Some folks would disagree with this however, because 'warm' 'dark' 'bright' 'round' 'edgy' are all subjective descriptions of saxophone timbre.
Did I say "practical?" I guess I meant "layman's terms." lol thanks.
 

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Fighter: Those terms are hard to define simply because they mean different things to different people. It is all in the ear of the beholder.

I've written about this incident before but because it is obvious that not everyone reads the whole SOTW site, I will re-tell it. At a recent gig we had a substitute alto player. I've always admired this guy's sound. He had an old Martin alto (1920's vintage) and I had my Ref 54 alto. Before the gig, we switched horns. He played a few scales and arpeggios, then handed the Ref 54 back to me and said, "Nice and bright."

BRIGHT?! That would the last word I'd use to describe my Ref 54 - either when I play it or when he played it.

In another thread today I read where someone asked about finding something darker and warmer than the Morgan Vintage 7 soprano piece he was using. DARKER?!?! My Morgan Vintage 7 soprano piece is about as warm and dark as I could find!

However, I did not reply because we all react differently to mouthpieces and we all hear things differently. Mouthpiece recommendations are about the most useless things discussed here on SOTW. Dark? Warm? Bright? Who really knows? DAVE
 

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I cannot explain why, but most vintage horns have a warmer sound than most modern horns. And I cannot say I have sampled hundreds of horns to make that conclusion; however I have owned close to 20 vintage tenors (mostly sold now) in the past 5 years and play tested them against modern horns such as Selmer's and JK's with the same Morgan L chamber mouthpiece (the control in my little study). Was it the higher quality, heavy-gauge brass they used years ago, as some say (with possibly a higher copper content)?

I think the mouthpiece can be just as big of a factor in the bright/dark equation (though the horn impacts this as well). But from my experience the horn is the primary factor when it comes to sax "warmth."
 

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I would guess that it's more about 'fashion' than metallurgy..... they have the technology, I am sure, to copy virtually anything... at a price, of course ;)

If anything, the available technology and materials should make it possible to make saxes better.

No, I think the modern saxophonist more commonly wants a brighter sound, so that's what they make...... but it's just a guess!
I'll be interested to see the outcome of Hanson's attempt to copy a MkVI, with their new ST-6... maybe I'll get to blow one some day!
 

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These are my understandings:

When people talk about bright, dark, and warm tones, they're usually talking about the basic core tone, or timbre, of a given horn or mouthpiece.

A bright core tone emphasizes the higher partials, e.g., Yani, Yamaha, Selmer Series III. A dark tone emphasizes the lower fundamentals, e.g., Keilwerth, Martin. A warm tone emphasizes the mid-range overtones, e.g., Buffet SDA, Conn 10M.

Notably, edge typically refers to a preponderance of high overtones, but a tone can be bright and edgy, warm and edgy, or dark and edgy. In other words, the edge is superimposed over the core tone.

In addition, the brightness, darkness, or warmth of a horn's tone is can vary over the range of the instrument.

It can be difficult to use these terms as absolutes since they are fairly relative. They are easier to use when comparing two different mouthpieces or saxophones, e.g., a Keilwerth is darker than a B&S, but a B&S is darker than a Selmer Series III, or, a Morgan L mouthpiece is darker than a Morgan M.
 

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To me, a dark tone would be something coming from Captain Nemo's organ.

I've assumed that "dark" as used in this forum would mean mellow.
 

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I think if you did an experiment, say played a series of sax recordings and asked listeners to rate them using these subjective terms, you'd find little agreement in the ratings because the terms are so subjective. Nonetheless, they persist because they are about all we've got, other than comparing one player's sound to another's.

Look in Larry Teal's The Art of Saxophone Playing to see about as good an effort as you are likely to see at providing meaningful definitions of some related terms. Go to the Amazon listing search page and type in tonal terminology and click on page 47 in the search results.
 

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On a related subject, I hear people say "I tend to play dark" or "I tend to play bright". Why? What causes this? How can one darken or brighten ones playing without changing gear?
 

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Leon said:
On a related subject, I hear people say "I tend to play dark" or "I tend to play bright". Why? What causes this? How can one darken or brighten ones playing without changing gear?
The timbre of a note can be affected by amplitude. The louder you play, the more complex the sound.

Another way is by 'voicing', that is you change the shape inside of your mouth by moving tongue and soft pallet. The 'Oh' vowel sound has less emphasis on the upper harmonics, the 'Eee' sound has the most emphasis on the upper harmonics.
 

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I always thought people who said that were referring to the reed and/or mouthpiece they like to use. People who use a soft reed will sound bright, even on a dark mouthpiece. The softer reeds vibrate more easily so there are more high partials in the sound.
 

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bfoster64 said:
I always thought people who said that were referring to the reed and/or mouthpiece they like to use. People who use a soft reed will sound bright, even on a dark mouthpiece. The softer reeds vibrate more easily so there are more high partials in the sound.
It's a complex system, so, as usual, there are no 'simple' answers.

I'm not sure if the modes of vibration of a reed are related harmonically (whole number multiples of the frequency). It appears the stuff I need to read is on the 'members only' part of the AES website.:| (Not to mention that the math is probably WAY over my head).

Maybe Toby, John, or SA will weigh in on this....
 

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Dave Dolson said:
At a recent gig we had a substitute alto player. I've always admired this guy's sound. He had an old Martin alto (1920's vintage) and I had my Ref 54 alto. Before the gig, we switched horns. He played a few scales and arpeggios, then handed the Ref 54 back to me and said, "Nice and bright." DAVE
So, Dave, what was your impression of the Handcraft at the time?
 

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The Martin was okay- much like other vintage altos I'd played and own(ed). I liked my Bueschers better.

I liked the way the other guy sounded it on it better than me, but I was in a different position (behind the horn, obviously) so not a true test. DAVE
 

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I've played both a Buescher TT alto and a Martin Handcraft alto. Loved the Buescher, but, for me, the Martin had more focus and punch. You may add those terms into the mix, if you like...
 

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dstack79 said:
Aw, c'mon. I thought post #11 was pretty close.;)

Dark to bright:

Oh, ah, ih, eee
 
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