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Discussion Starter #1
I have several different mouthpieces, but whenever I try them there isn't much of a difference in tone. I play along with different sax players, but for some reason I still have my same sound. I am looking for ways to change my core sound and get the one that I desire.
 

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I have several different mouthpieces, but whenever I try them there isn't much of a difference in tone. I play along with different sax players, but for some reason I still have my same sound. I am looking for ways to change my core sound and get the one that I desire.
What do you want to change it to sounding like?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I have several different mouthpieces, but whenever I try them there isn't much of a difference in tone. I play along with different sax players, but for some reason I still have my same sound. I am looking for ways to change my core sound and get the one that I desire.
Long notes, tone studies.
 

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It depends on what you mean by your "core sound." You're always going to sound like you.

Having said that, by following Pete's advice above and doing lots and lots of deep listening to your favorite player(s), it's possible to influence your sound to move more in a particular direction, i.e. brighter, darker, more or less edge, etc. You have to have that sound clearly in your mind before your body can learn how to reproduce it.

Also, when we hear another player and recognize his/her signature, a lot of what we're picking up on is nuances like how they articulate notes, how they use vibrato, their time feel, the rhythms they like to use, their note choices. Whereas "core sound" might be somewhat fixed, these other elements can absolutely be studied and changed. I think it helps to try to be as precise as you can about what you want to change and then go from there.
 

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What do you want to change it to sounding like?
The reason I ask this is because you need to have a solid idea of what you want to sound like before you can change your sound. Every slight change that you make will then move you closer or further away from that sound. If you know what you want and can imagine it then you will know if the change was for the better or worse. Just wanting to sound "better" is not good enough, it has to be specific.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the advice. Just recently I started getting into Kenny Garrett's playing, and how he has a full and unique sound. Then are there things I like about Gerald Albright his responsiveness in terms of the altissimo, and how he can cut through the whole band, but then I like Kirk Whalum's mellowness. I know that each one has their own sound which might be on opposite ends of the spectrum, if I could take a little from each player and combine it. I want to be bright/edgy yet have some mellowness/uniqueness to my sound. I just feel like my sound is too generic.
 

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According to another recent thread, it would seem that "core sound" is something specific to certain brands and models of instrument. Namely the Selmer Mark 6 and SBA. So maybe you need to get one of those if you don't already own one.
 

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According to another recent thread, it would seem that "core sound" is something specific to certain brands and models of instrument. Namely the Selmer Mark 6 and SBA. So maybe you need to get one of those if you don't already own one.
As mentioned in that threads I am not totally sure of the meaning. In the cases of SBA and mark 6 do you know why it is called a core sound?

Does it mean the instrument itself has a sound that is there whatever the player does?

I play an SBA and au contraire I find it quite versatile
 

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I play along with different sax players, but for some reason I still have my same sound.

I am looking for ways to change my core sound and get the one that I desire.
i think that is the cross we have to carry, as sax players.

We get "our" sound.

i think what determines our sound is the players we listen to, together with what we do to get that sound.

Really close listening to a player whose sound you really like is the way, I think.

obviously at some point you need to listen to lots of different players, before you can decide what you like best.
But at some point it could be very beneficial to just hone in on one that really excites you and listen to that one player all the time.

If you are at a level where you can transcribe some of the lines played by that player that would also be very beneficial. it doesnt have to be whole solos. just the lines that you can manage.

Lastly, tone production exercises/long tones are hugely beneficial.
 

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I think it's impossible to change your core sound by messing with gear. The only way to actually change anything is by hard work, which gives you more control, which then allows you to do more with your playing. But even then I do not believe your core sound will change. Thickness, brightness, intonation etc may change but the core will stay the same.
Maybe with extreme life changes there may be some shift in the core, but not with gear.
Not that I'm knocking the fun of messing with gear occasionally......
 

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I think it's impossible to change your core sound by messing with gear.
very very true. You can to a certain extent change the tone, but not your "sound" - two different things see below.


I think it's impossible to change your core sound by messing with gear. The only way to actually change anything is by hard work, which gives you more control, which then allows you to do more with your playing. But even then I do not believe your core sound will change. Thickness, brightness, intonation etc may change but the core will stay the same.
What are loosely described as tone exercises are ideally which are a lot more than just long notes. When extended these will help your control over your sound. As I said, this is not just tone, which is basically the inherent timbre of the instrument/mouthpiece/reed and is made up of certain frequencies that are present and cause what we think of as bright tone (more/louder high frequencies) or a warmer tone (more/louder lower frequencies) and various tones in between. The frequencies can of course be manipulated by an experienced player via their embouchure. Perhaps this is what people mean by "core."

OTOH "Sound" to me is when you have a great technical mastery and control ooo that there is added value to the tone. For these include pitch variations (e.g. vibrato), dynamic variations (swell, Sforzando, accents) and articulation. So I always add these to basic long note exercises.

In addition to having control over the parameters of those things, I find it also important to be able to "turn them off and on." So a player's sound might involve no vibrato at all, except right at the end of a note. They may mix legato and tongued in various patterns, they could add a very slight swell at the beginning or middle of a note etc, add just an imperceptible tiny amount of growl. All little things that can go toward a signature sound that is being just tonal frequencies.
 

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Long tones, etc. are great for improving your tone and control. However, that's only going to solidify the "core" sound you already have. I think the key to changing your sound is through mimicry. Listen to an artist you want to sound like over and over and over, play along until you start to match their sound. There are too many variables to comprehend, but they will all fall into place naturally if you simply try to copy the sound that you hear. This could take a long time and a lot of experimentation with embochure, pressure, air direction and speed, tongue position, mouth/throat size/shape/volume, but I think it's the only way. Players with their own unique sound have simply managed to copy the ideal sound in their heads. Either way, it's a matter of adjusting all the physical parameters until you get result that matches what's in your ears/head.

Great players can mimic just about any sound they want. Don Menza has a great youtube video illustrating this (I can't find it at the moment). I'm not that great, but I've been able to match pretty much any sound ever since I started playing 40 years ago because listening to records and playing along until I could match them came somewhat naturally to me. But I think all humans have this ability to some extent simply because we can do it with the sounds in spoken language. Think of how a baby learns to speak. Nobody ever explains the complex mouth shapes and movements required to make certain sounds. Children just do it over and over again until they get it. They end up copying even the same inflections as their parents. Playing your instrument works the same way.

Long story short, I think the key is to listen, play along, keep trying to match until you get it. Soon you'll naturally figure out how to sound however you want.
 

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Long tones, etc. are great for improving your tone and control. However, that's only going to solidify the "core" sound you already have. I think the key to changing your sound is through mimicry. Listen to an artist you want to sound like over and over and over, play along until you start to match their sound. There are too many variables to comprehend, but they will all fall into place naturally if you simply try to copy the sound that you hear. This could take a long time and a lot of experimentation with embochure, pressure, air direction and speed, tongue position, mouth/throat size/shape/volume, but I think it's the only way. Players with their own unique sound have simply managed to copy the ideal sound in their heads. Either way, it's a matter of adjusting all the physical parameters until you get result that matches what's in your ears/head.
Well, this would certainly help you to sound like somebody else, but I think could be counterproductive in building your own sound. Of course we should be listening to and in some respect copying the masters to some extent but if you want your own sound then you would also "reverse engineer" dissect and reassemble the basic building blocks (as mentioned in my post above) it will not be so easy to get your own sound.


Children just do it over and over again until they get it.
Indeed they do, but I have to wonder whether what works for babies and small children would necessarily translate to working for adults. Unless they are the very few natural geniuses, adults don't mostly don't learn to play golf, or do quantum physics by observing and mimicry. If they did there would be no need for teachers.
 

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You have to have that sound clearly in your mind before your body can learn how to reproduce it.
A lot of good advice in this thread, this point really gets to the heart of it....growing up I listened to a lot of Desmond and Adderly on alto and a lot of Getz on tenor...transcribing a lot of their solos...I can get close to their sound, because of all the time I spent listening...listen and play along...you'll still sound like you and you'll get closer to the sound you want...
 

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When you say "core sound," do you mean your TONE or your SOUND CONCEPT (phrasing, articulations, etc.)?

I think that is an important distinction.
 

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At least several things will dramatically impact your sound. Gear is among the least of these, but things like mouthpiece facing, tip opening and baffle do count.

Breathing is probably the biggest thing that'll affect your sound. Get a full tank of air as fast as you can expanding your stomach and not your chest (or expanding your stomach first). Keep your stomach muscles flexed. Pay attention to not just air volume, but airstream speed. Try different air speeds and see if that affects your sound.

Embouchure is a really big deal, but to me, there isn't really a single correct way. For me, it's about having no contact with teeth, gathering the corners of my mouth inward slightly, and flexing muscles from my nose to upper lip to around my mouth to the tip of my chin. I try to not bunch up my chin, making what clarinetists often refer to as a 'chin dish' -- my chin bunches up sometimes, but my sound is clearer if I don't do that. You may have to do exercises for these face muscles, such as placing just the eraser tip of a pencil between your lips and holding it straight out with only your face muscles. You'll feel the burn -- those are the muscles you want to develop. For others, and for you, it may be more like stretching your lower lip over your teeth and having just enough muscle control to avoid air leaks.

Practice long tones, closed-tube harmonics, and overblowing 6ths from high C# to F. These will impact almost everything about your sound -- getting harmonics to pop out may take a lot of face manipulation at first, but you'll discover the posture your face needs to make it work, and your sound will change.

Beyond stuff like that, size and shape of your head and oral cavity come into play, I don't think there's much to change about that.
 

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Thanks for the advice. Just recently I started getting into Kenny Garrett's playing, and how he has a full and unique sound. Then are there things I like about Gerald Albright his responsiveness in terms of the altissimo, and how he can cut through the whole band, but then I like Kirk Whalum's mellowness. I know that each one has their own sound which might be on opposite ends of the spectrum, if I could take a little from each player and combine it. I want to be bright/edgy yet have some mellowness/uniqueness to my sound. I just feel like my sound is too generic.
Your sound has to be in your imagination and ear. Then it takes a years of practice trying to get it and find it. You have to imagine what it is you want to sound like but also you have to hear how you are falling short when you play. When you play a note, you have to critique it. If it's darker than how you want to sound then you have to figure out how to brighten it up. If it is too spread than you have to figure out how to focus the sound more. If it is too bright then you have to figure out how to darken it, etc.........

My feeling is that your adjectives are still too vague. You say Kenny Garrett which I can understand when I think of his sound but then you describe his sound as "full and unique" and that's why you are into his playing. Full and unique is really vague and doesn't describe anything. It could also describe everything. Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum have very different sounds than Kenny Garrett in my opinion. Instead of trying to blend all of those together from the start I would suggest going after Kenny Garrett's sound. Play with him on tunes he plays. Try to copy his phrasing and articulation. Try to copy his sound. Experiment. It takes months and years to get there sometimes.Once you get close to the sound you want then you can tweak it to be your own.
 

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I just want to chime in and say I'm really enjoying this thread. I've come to realize I'll never be a brilliant player partly from lack of internal drive to make myself one. Maybe partly because I don't believe I have it in myself no matter how hard I worked at it.

Instead of working endlessly at being able to fly across the keys in every scale I've decided to practice toward making pleasing sounds on simple enough songs that I can play well. This thread is giving me a lot to think about in that goal. Thanks to the experts here who share their knowledge.
 
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