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I was talking about this with a few of my students so I figured I'd ask here - how much does sound matter to you? Specifically, as far as the elements go of your own playing (or playing of someone you enjoy listening to) where does sound/tone rank compared to melodic development, phrasing, harmonic motion, technique, sight-reading, etc?

For me, sound is #1. I could allow myself to have an "off" night technically, harmonically, whatever. But I could NEVER accept having the sound in my head not come out of my horn. Same thing when I'm listening. Someone could be playing the hippest stuff out there, but if their tone quality isn't good I just won't enjoy it. Conversely, someone could be not playing the best stuff but if their sound is killing I'll love it.

Now I always strive for both and listen to players with both...I don't want to sacrifice one for the other at all.

Just wondering your thoughts on the matter!
 

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Sound is #1 for me! If I don’t like somebody’s sound, I don’t care what they’re playing. I would have no interest in listening to them if I didn’t enjoy the sound.
When I was in college and I was studying with the great Jimmy Giuffre, he said the same thing to me.
He said I don’t care how you improvise or how many riffs and patterns you have memorized, if you don’t sound good to me, I wouldnt be interested in hearing any of that.

I feel the exact same way
 

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Sound is #1 for me! If I don’t like somebody’s sound, I don’t care what they’re playing. I would have no interest in listening to them if I didn’t enjoy the sound.
When I was in college and I was studying with the great Jimmy Giuffre, he said the same thing to me.
He said I don’t care how you improvise or how many riffs and patterns you have memorized, if you don’t sound good to me, I would be interested in hearing any of that.

I feel the exact same way
100%! And the thing is it doesn't have to be one or the other...the goal should be to be able to play everything you want to play, as complex or simple as you want, WITH that amazing sound. That's what I strive to do everyday anyway!
 

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#1, period. I ask my students what makes them enjoy their favorite players and/or what makes them keep listening to someone? The obvious (and correct) answer is one thing......sound. I also ask them what they think the biggest difference is between me and them. The #1 answer is sound. Well, volume too. ;-) Without a good, solid sound, nobody will continue to listen. Doesn't matter if someone has amazing technique, range, whatever... If I don't dig their sound, it's quickly over for me.

I think we can all recognize our favorite players within 3 or 4 notes by their sound. Does the concept, style, etc. also matter? Of course, but to me and I'd imagine most everyone else, it's ALL about sound.
 

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Perhaps you guys are assuming something i don't assume or take for granted. Intonation (being in tune) and time are 1 and 2 for me and then tone. Even a sweet sound played out of tune is unpleasant for me. There are players (Stan Getz for one) who's tone is not really my cup of tea, but his pitch and time and ideas are so amazing that i still enjoy listening.

But if we're assuming that pitch and time are happening, then yes, tone, closely followed by ideas, is what i value.
 

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Let’s assume we are talking about listening to the old guys that we like to listen to. They all could play in tune and had good timing, to an acceptable level. Some better than others, and I bet we can agree on that. I certainly wasn’t referring to hearing some students play or any of that. Hearing someone play horribly out of tune is never pleasing. So assuming we are talking about the older players that we like, sound for me is everything.

I wouldn’t care for someone if someone was perfectly in tune and had perfect time, if their sound wasn’t good to me. Let’s face it, the old guys that we love to listen to, had good timing.
Two of my favorite players are Gene Ammons and Jackie McLean, and they both can play very sharp at times, but that doesn’t bother me really. There is a whole lot of passion behind that sharpness. 😀
Look, I don’t like hearing players squeak when they play, but Stan Getz is one of my favorites, and he squeaked more than anyone I’ve EVER heard. I love Stan because of his sound.
Scott Hamilton has incredible timing and plays incredibly in tune, but I love him most because of his sound.

If I am talking about what’s most important to me in my personal saxophone endeavors, for me tone is everything.
 

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sound #1, time #2
 

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Sound is #1, always. Often times player will make a mistake and then as they play they dwell on the error and it causes that downward spiral leading to more and more mistakes. When I make mistakes I focus on still playing with the most beautiful sound I can and it helps to move past the mistakes and recover to still have a great show!

After that, #2 is respect the rhythm, respect the beat and stay with it!
 

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Sound is #1. Period.
I regard playing the saxophone as almost equal to singing. It is your voice. Your personality. You play like who you are. That is the fun of playing improvisation music like jazz and blues.
If it doesn't sound quite the way I like it or want it I am having a bad day.
I am not much of a technically schooled player anyway.
 

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A player's sound and how he plays is what grabs you. Sound/tone is everything. Only musicians care about the structure of what he's playing/how many notes a second. The non-musicians, who are the ones paying the bills, are excited by an effective player and that effectiveness begins with his sound.
 

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As most others have said, it's the FIRST thing I notice about a player. To the point that if I don't like the tone I don't care how interesting the playing itself is.
 

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I agree with pretty much everything said and as an amateur player, I really try to focus on my sound, but I find the term "sound" a little general. While everything we do could be considered part of our sound, I assume people are referring here primarily to tone and stylistic elements like use of vibrato.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I agree with pretty much everything said and as an amateur player, I really try to focus on my sound, but I find the term "sound" a little general. While everything we do could be considered part of our sound, I assume people are referring here primarily to tone and stylistic elements like use of vibrato.
That's why I wrote sound/tone then said "tone quality" after - Obviously things like dynamics, articulation, intonation, etc. are part of overall "sound" but I'm just talking about the quality of sound coming out of the instrument for this thread.
 

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While I think producing a good tone is important, there are a wide variety of tones we come to enjoy, in part because of a player's ideas and feel. In other words, I think we learn to like people who play hip stuff, even if their sound does not compel us right off the bat. A lot of Brecker's later recordings/videos sound thin and really bright to my ears; when I listen closely to Giant Steps, Trane sounds even brighter and harsher than he normally does. I thought Joe Henderson sounded "small" when I first listened to him (compared to say Sonny Rollins or Dexter Gordon). Stephen Riley is a modern guy I dig whose sound is really unorthodox (really breathy). These are not sounds I aspire to by any means, but the time and ideas are so happening, I can't help but like them. If I heard someone playing that way with bad time, I would immediately turn it off.

This thread also reminded me of this video of Steve Grossman playing Night in Tunisia with an Italian tenor player who was clearly trying to imitate his schtick. The sound was fairly close in terms of the quality, but the rhythm and ideas were just not... I always used to skip over the guy's solo to listen to Grossman. Just watching again, man, the way Steve comes in on his solo is so f******* hip. Here's the link: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5bjng
 

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Discussion Starter #17
While I think producing a good tone is important, there are a wide variety of tones we come to enjoy, in part because of a player's ideas and feel. In other words, I think we learn to like people who play hip stuff, even if their sound does not compel us right off the bat.
I think for me it's a turnoff - even if they're playing something good, sound makes it or breaks it. For example, I can't stand listening to a lot of Jackie McLean because of his sound. Once again it's a personal thing. Same as Coltrane's soprano sound - I just do not enjoy it at all, so I can't get into what he's playing because I can't get past the sound.
 

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I've based my whole career off the mentality that a good sound can cover up bad playing bad the reverse is usually not true :D
Yup! Totally agree. Mulgrew Miller, RIP :(, said this to me about my sound and I'll never forget it as long as I live: "With a sound like that, you can rule the world." I can still hear him saying it in my head!
 
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