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So I've been playing for a year now. Always tried to focus on the technical side of things. But recently I've been paranoid about my sound.

When I hear my teacher's tone, it makes me feel two things. At first, it sounds to me like he's really singing out of it, the tone's so warm and desirable. It sounds like what a saxophonist should sound like, if you know what I mean. Then it makes me feel like s**t.

But I digress, so to the point. I've realised that this lack of ... sound holds me back. I've tried playing some sheet music before that sounded soooo much better being played by someone else. I play long notes, but when I do, all I'm doing is just holding the note as evenly as possible. It sounds like I'm just pushing air into it. When I hear others do this, it actually sounds like they're singing through their horn.

So more experienced people, do you have any advice/explanations?

Thanks, SotW.

P.S: I use play a Hanson, but it's apparently the same model as the Yamaha ... 27 (or some other random numbers)? My mouthpiece is an old hite mouthpiece found in the school. I use a Rico Royal 3 and 2.5 that feels thicker than the 3 and have just gone back to Rico Royal 2s to experiment. I like the roughness of the 3, but I just feel like I have no control. :(
 

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Someone's bound to say it so I'm going to jump in first...

Long tones!

Actually I'm in no position to give advice, my sound is so-so at best. But that's common advice that's given re improving your tone and when I finally started putting in some time on long tones the effect was noticeable within a week. YMMV of course.

By "some time" - in my case, given that I battle to get more than 30-60 minutes a few times a week to practise, I'm only talking about maybe 10 minutes of long tones a few times a week. I'm sure I'd get far more benefit if I put in substantially more time that that - but even that was enough to make a noticeable difference.

It may be that there will be mouthpiece/reed advice coming your way. Again, I'm in no position to preach as I have just launched into a mouthpiece search myself. But probably at a year in that isn't going to make as much difference as working on technique.

EDIT: forgot to say - 'bland' within a year of starting is actually probably pretty good going!
 

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Another point not to forget. The tone itself is not all: your teacher, like all of us musicians, also sings through the articulation. Attack, release, pitch, dynamics, etc...
Most of this stuff isn't actually written, or only partly, and is each player's own signature.
After only 1 year, all those subtle "pronunciation" aspects of playing music still need to be improved and worked on. This also makes you feel "bland" compared to a seasoned musician. Try to observe and pick-up how your teacher (or any other model/hero, from recordings) actually plays each single note. How he "pronounces" the music.
Keep in mind that many of us feel bland compared to Cannonball Adderley or Michael Brecker.
 

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Just keep at the long notes, I would vary them a bit with vibrato, dynamics and articulations (see http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-tone-control.html )

The real expression though comes from you, you need to think of the notes as if you are singing them. Also try some effects like growling, be able to turn vibrato, growl etc. on and off.

Also a very very important part of the tone is actually the very start of the note, so work on articulation: varying degerees of attack (hard tonguing, soft tonguing, ghost tonguing, no tonguing)

BTW, I don't think a Hanson can be the same as a Yamaha.
 

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You've only been playing a year. Give it some time. Your sound/ voice is a personal thing, and it will come with practice, emulation and time on the horn... Oh yeah, I already said practice.

Guess what. When you think you get there, you will hear or feel something else and gravitate toward that.

Ask your teacher. If he doesn't tell you that developing your own voice is a lifelong evolutionary process, then you should go find inspiration elsewhere...Anyone can teach you how to read music and learn scales.

Okay, don't fire your teacher, but listen to the greats. Guys with a bunch of records out over many years. Listen to the tone alone, and hear the changes over the years...And don't forget to listen to non-sax players too. I mean really. "Birth of the Cool" Miles would have sounded silly and out of his league playing "Bitches Brew."
 

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Someone's bound to say it so I'm going to jump in first...

Long tones!
I'll be the second to say it. I know they're on the same level as poking yourself in the eye with a stick, but at least with long tones there's a benefit. The fact that you're focusing on this now is actually a good thing. What I get out of your post is that the technical side of things is getting to the point of becoming second nature to you and you can move on to something else---like your tone. Another thing to remember is what you hear with your ears at the mouthpiece and what others hear is not the same. I always thought my tone was pretty bad no matter what my instructor at the time said. It wasn't until the group was recorded a few months afterwards that I realized "Hey--I really can play this thing!!" So find a way to record yourself, preferably playing with others, and you'll have a much better idea of what you really sound like.
 

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I think you need to spend some time listening to players and working out what you like and don't like. Long tones will give you an even tone across the instrument, control, etc etc, but until you know what tone/sound you do want then it can't get you there. If you like your teacher's tone, then use that for inspiration, or go for Coltrane, or Lester Young, or even Earl Bostik. But you'll never get anywhere just not liking your own tone.
2c worth!
 

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At the risk of setting off a discussion that exists in a thousand places on SoW, I would also go to a good music shop and try out a load of different mouthpieces, to see if you find you get what you want with one of them. I know there are no chops in a box, but I don't do many long tones, and I think I sound OK, which is in some measure a result of trying mouthpieces and finding the ones that give me the sounds I want. Even at an early stage, you may find that another mouthpiece makes life a lot easier.
 

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You've only been playing a year. It takes longer than that to get develop a nice sound. Just keep at it and don't get discouraged. Listen to lots of players and do long tones.
 

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You've only been playing a year..
+100. You've only been playing a year. I had to resist the temptation to put that into caps!

I know it's hard to be patient, but the fact is, you have to keep at it (long tones, articulation, everything) and at and at it, for some time (far more than a year). That is what separates the players from the pretenders. The fact that you are concerned about your sound is a very good sign and it's part of what will keep you going.

Now, and I hesitate to say this because it's only a small part of the 'formula' but at some point you will want to upgrade your horn and mpc. Right now it probably won't make a lick of difference, but eventually it will.

Listen to a lot of players and emulate what you hear. Keep going and you'll get there.
 

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Long tones... BLECH... Personally I hate them and often times find them to be a useless exersize.

Your sound is bland huh? Well that issue can be cured very easily without too much difficulty.
This is what I do with some of my students to help them get a more 'mature' sound.

I have them choose a nice slow ballad. Something that THEY REALLY LIKE.
Then I have them practice it like they mean it. You know, sing that ballad through the horn.
Sing it to the cat, the dog, the photo of thier latest crush...
Feel the emotion, play the emotion.
At the same time they have to listen to the shape of their sound. Is it full and round or thin?
Experiment with the sound to get it where it sounds 'right', then just let things soar.
This is all pretty simplistic, but it seems to work.

Your Hite mouthpiece is not that bad. You just need a little more 'maturity' in your playing before you go on the quest for something different. :)
 

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When you do the long tones, open your throat and pretend that you're singing them while you play them. Also, do overtone exercises, over time they will help you achieve this "throat effect". Don't use a reed that's too stiff, a 2 1/2 is usually a good starting point in most brands. Be patient with yourself and persevere.
Good luck!
 

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I have them choose a nice slow ballad. Something that THEY REALLY LIKE.
Yeah, ballads, that's a great approach and keeps things interesting and motivating.
 

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...and...one more time....only 1 Year...I started taking lessons at 8 years old and kept taking them till 16, but I kept playing..I am now 57. I practice everyday. I am still trying to find a decent tone!....
 

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I'll second what others have said. One year is not enough to develop a mature sound BUT I know a lot of sax players who don't have a mature sound after years of playing. You do have to work hard at it.

Here are a few things that have helped me get a better tone :

  • Experiment with different embouchures. This means experimenting with making a seal with your lips using different sorts of muscles. It takes a while to "discover" and "train" the right muscles. It also means experimenting with how much mouthpiece you take in.



  • Throat, pallate and position of tongue awareness. Depending on the register you play, your throat (soft?) pallate and tongue need to be in different positions. This can be explained in lots of different ways (trying to describe the actual placement of these, through vowels sound, etc.) but you'll have to get it on your own.


  • Using a double embouchure (no teeth on the mouthpiece) to detect potential problems. With a double embouchure, you'll notice instantly if you're biting or too loose, if your air stream is unstable or unfocused.

  • Check Phil Barone's tone exercises part I and II on this forum.

  • Listening and playing along to saxophone plyers whose tone I love.

And the list goes on. One thing you have to be aware of is that you could play those exercises all your life and still make progress as you get better. If you feel you've hit a plateau doing one of these above, just switch to another exercise and come back to the one giving trouble a few weeks or months later.

I would also suggest you bring your horn to a tech so he can make sure everything's working fine with your horn. IMO, that's be money better spent than on any new mouthpiece or equipment.

Hope this helps.
 

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Yeah, ballads, that's a great approach and keeps things interesting and motivating.
I don't know if you are in agreement, or being sarcastic.
If a ballad doesn't float your boat then maybe a nice slow classical piece is in order.
Anything SLOW will work.
The student doesn't have to worry so much about fingerings and can concentrate on forming the desired sound.
The majority of my students are beginning band kids or those who need a little extra time behind the horn in order to keep up.
Sometimes I have to break things down to thier simplest forms.
I apologize if some of my teaching techniques are not up to those of the 'Pros'.
 

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I apologize if some of my teaching techniques are not up to those of the 'Pros'.
Don't apologize, you are the one who always sounds professional. I always use ballads instead of long tones per se because a ballad requires more than blowing disinterestedly for 4 seconds...
 

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do you listen to a lot of saxophone music? i try to play along with the greats and emulate their sound and articulation. a slow downer software/app helps with this when needed.
 

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You mentioned sheet music in your posting. Try getting away from the sheet music and play more by ear. I remember when I first started, my tone wasn't as good when I read music as it was when I was just making music without it. It seemed I was visually distracted from actually listening to what I was playing. I was able to put more into the sound when I wasn't distracted by concentrating on trying to read. In time I was be able to combine the two, but at first the effort to read was distracting me from my tone and expression. Sing into that horn, as has been mentioned. Make it an extension of you and your voice. Let the love and emotion come through your horn. Tasteful VIBRATO is very useful here. Caress each note!:) Relax your throat and embouchure and think of blowing warm air into the sax, like trying to fog up a cold window with your breath.
One last thing, play facing a wall or a wall corner to get some feedback as to what is actually coming out of your horn. It may sound better than you think. What you sound like in front of your horn is different than what you usually hear behind it when you're playing.
 
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