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That's me.

Regarding sound... I used to think that I wanted a particular sound for jazz music and a particular sound for classical music on clarinet. That's no longer the case. Honestly, I think that part of what changed my thinking was Eddie Daniels playing the sox off of "Metamorphosis" on that early 90's album, but I think I would have come to the same conclusion in the end on my own. I have a particular sound in mind, that I want. Most people would call it a "classical" sound, but to me it's MY sound. MY sound also includes the ability to bend notes, halftone, half-hole, shriek out fff on high A and up, and sing (more like growl) while I play when I want to. When I don't want to do those things, I don't. In other words, while I recognize that jazz clarinetists in the 30's and 40's sound very different from good classical players today, I feel no need to try to "sound like them". I try to sound like ME...the best ME that I can. Upshot is, I have one mouthpiece and one ligature that I use for everything, because that's what I use to get my sound. I'm playing Jazz or symphony or klezmer or balkan music FOR ME, sounding LIKE ME, and while I don't want to be an uneducated musician, and be unaware of traditions, I don't feel the need to sound exactly like those traditions.

I will admit that "my sound" would not pass muster in my symphony if I sounded like Benny Goodman, Pete Fountain, Bill Smith, Jimmy Guiffre, or Jimmy Hamilton....all of whom are absolutely phenomenal clarinetists. So the mindset thing....I have my clarinet heroes, people who are playing role models, but I acknowledge that while I admire them, I don't want to sound exactly like them. I know Natalie Mowbray-Parker, the principal clarinetist in the SF Ballet orchestra and the Farallon quintet and I absolutely ADORE her sound, but I wouldn't want to sound exactly like her. I'd love to have her control and accuracy, though!

The only exception to this is the incredibly rare occasion when I play what might be called "traditional jazz", and I have a different, very aggressive mouthpiece for that purpose.

This is not the case, yet on saxophone. I'm no spring chicken, so I doubt that it will ever be like that. I find myself listening to recordings and thinking that I do or do not want to "sound like that". That leads fairly naturally to thinking about gear and equipment and so on, that will help me "sound like that". For example, I love Paul Desmond, have loved Paul Desmond even though college where Desmond was (in my circles) sort of looked-down on and you had to be listening to Phil Woods and Irakere. Anyway, I would love to sound like that. On tenor, I'm all about Zoot Sims. I'm NOT all about Sonny Stitt or Charlie Parker, though I recognize their huge contributions and influence. Another way to say it is that I haven't yet developed my own solid personality on any saxophone, despite having played alto off and on for 40 years.

So I'm curious. How about you folks? Do you have a solid concept, a solid mindset of what you want to sound like on one instrument, but are less defined on your "doubling" instruments? If you think about yourself really hard and really honestly, do you want to "sound like" someone else on all your instruments? How does this relate to what you consider your primary instrument?
 

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Interesting post. In my non-expert opinion, I don't think you can ever really go wrong in striving to sound like yourself on whatever instrument(s) you play.

I don't play clarinet unfortunately, but having just recently picked the flute back up again after many years, I just want to develop a clear, consistent, beautiful tone that I can apply to classical, jazz, and anything else I might play. And as much as I love Sam Most, he's already the most Most there could ever be, so I'd rather try to pick up some things I like from him (and Rampal, Moody, Lateef, Newton, etc.) and try to develop something personal out of the building blocks.

The other thing I'm noticing is that doubling on flute seems to be changing my approach to tenor. I don't think I'm consciously playing differently, but the flute has a nimbleness and lightness that is quite different from tenor (at least the why I play it.) Over time, I think this might help free up my playing somewhat. Also, I now seem to have a bit more detachment when I pick up my sax because my entire musical identify isn't bound up in that one instrument anymore. In my case, I think that's probably a positive, because I have a tendency to try too hard.

One final observation is that I'm now listening to a lot of flute-centric music (classical, jazz, Afro-Cuban) that I wasn't listening to as much before, which is quite a change from my normal focus on tenor saxophonists of the 30's - 60's. I believe this will add to my internal library of sounds and help me to become a more versatile and hopefully a more interesting musician.
 

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Alan, this is just me and my opinion, so take it with the proverbial grain of salt...
I most definitely have a solid concept/mind set of what/who I strive to sound like. I'm primarily a tenor player, but play plenty of alto (lead in my big band) and clarinet as well. With each, I have MAJOR influences and have used them in regards to sound, style, concept, etc. for the better part of 40 yrs. Now having said that, it's still ME that comes out of every horn I play. I don't think there are any (and never will be) carbon copies of great players and that of course is a good thing, but in my not so humble opinion (and what I highly stress to every student I teach), we all need inspirations.......people who played the instruments we're on......to give us something to reach for and yeah, even to "copy" in our own ways. Don't worry about sounding exactly like someone, because you WON'T! Can we get close? Sure, but what exactly is wrong with that? I'd rather have someone tell me I sound a lot like Coltrane than.....well, no one in particular. No saxophone or clarinet player is going to reinvent the wheel, so I don't mind "sounding a lot" like someone who was very........very good.
Hope that makes sense!
John
 

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I CAN'T sound like anyone but me.
 

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In the words of Miles Davis "Sometimes it takes a long time to sound like yourself"

I think for many of us we take in a number of influences and with time, distill it into our own essence. I feel pretty much the same as you describe. On my main instrument I think I have a certain voice, but on other instruments I feel that it is maybe more generic and not quite an established personality.
 

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Yes, I have a sound in my head, inspired by certain artists in my favorite style of jazz (think Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, and George Lewis, all on clarinet; well Bechet's soprano, too), but I end up sounding like me. What that sound in my head brings me is the ability to play tunes associated with those guys but I still don't SOUND like them (oh I wish . . .). DAVE
 

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Let me name-drop a little :whistle:......... When I was young, classical clarinet was my primary instrument and music. Sax was only something that would occasionally get me paying gigs. Then I heard Art Pepper play a concert at Occidental College. A friend that worked for the school paper asked me if I wanted to accompany her to interview him after the show. I went. I listened. He was completely loose and what seemed very open. I remember him joking around and asking my friend if she wanted to go on a date with him. He talked about the music and how to approach classical compared to jazz and on and on. After the interview my friend commented that she really didn't have to ask any questions and she wished all interviews she did were that easy. I was transformed. From that moment, I wanted to sound like Art Pepper on any instrument I ever played. Eventually "I" started to stick out when trying to sound like Art Pepper. In other words, you will sound like yourself on any instrument after a decent amount of time. Even if you want to sound like someone else.
 

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Wow, this is disconcerting. I'm still hoping I sound as good on sax as a couple of the high school kids I've heard the past 10 years.
 

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I was a clarinetist first and got my bachelor's degree on the clarinet, but I've always struggled to feel like I could develop what I'd consider a "personal" sound on the instrument, in large part because I felt like there was always so much orthodoxy around the clarinet, how to play it, how to sound, how to phrase any given bar of any given piece and like there was an army of classical clarinetists ready to pick apart every artistic decision I made. While I think I built a lot of anxiety into that that I didn't need to, there was some kernel of truth there. A clarinet was "supposed" to sound a certain way in the world I was inhabiting.

Even though I was doing my juries and playing in the orchestra on the clarinet, I was playing the bass clarinet in all kinds of small ensembles playing contemporary (often newly-composed) music, playing jazz, playing heavy metal and generally doing the opposite of Mozart.* In the process of doing this, I found I was able to develop a bass clarinet tone and playing style that was really my own. I didn't feel like I had to measure myself against other players or anything else. There was almost no orthodoxy and I could just be me. It was freeing.

Having those kinds of realizations about the bass clarinet let me apply them to the tenor and bari (and later the alto). What's so fun about the saxophone, for me, at least, is how players are really expected to develop their own sound. I loved it and I embraced it. Not to say that I was a fully-formed musician with a totally clear tonal concept at age 22, just that I was starting to understand these things.

Ultimately, I virtually quit playing the clarinet for fun for about 5 years. I would play it when there was a gig that needed the clarinet and that was it. I would practice enough to make sure I was in shape, but just didn't feel inspired by the instrument at all. I mostly focused on the bass clarinet because it just made (and still makes) me feel free.

It's only been in the last couple of years that I've realized the extent to which I've let anxieties about the clarinet really take over my enjoyment of the instrument that made me fall in love with music. I realized that, while there's definitely an orthodoxy that says "you need to play this way", that just has nothing to do with me. And I need to get on with my musical life.

So now I'm learning to be me on the clarinet. And I love it again. But it took me learning to develop a personal sound on my doubles to get perspective on what I wanted out of it.




* NOT a dig on Mozart. I love Mozart. I play the clarinet, after all.
 

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Some players are probably versatile in their sounds. They would perhaps be conscious of the parameters affecting tone, and experiment until they get the sound they want (or want to copy). Some might do all the adjusting subconsciously.

Apart from reed, mouthpiece, and possibly ligature, inter-related parameters might include the following, which might be different for the attack and the sustain:
- Air pressure from lungs.
- Air flow past the reed.
- Area of lower lip against the reed
- Pressure of the lower lip against the reed.
- Location on the reed to which that pressure is applied.
- The vowel shape that is present in the mouth cavity, governed by genetics and the position of every part of the tongue, especially the proximity of the back of the tongue to the the hard or soft palate, and the proximity of the sides of the tongue to the upper back teeth. As with vowels in speech and singing, it is largely the tongue that determines timber/vowel sound, i.er. the combination of upper partials (overtones).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I was a clarinetist first and got my bachelor's degree on the clarinet, but I've always struggled to feel like I could develop what I'd consider a "personal" sound on the instrument, in large part because I felt like there was always so much orthodoxy around the clarinet, how to play it, how to sound, how to phrase any given bar of any given piece and like there was an army of classical clarinetists ready to pick apart every artistic decision I made. While I think I built a lot of anxiety into that that I didn't need to, there was some kernel of truth there. A clarinet was "supposed" to sound a certain way in the world I was inhabiting.

Even though I was doing my juries and playing in the orchestra on the clarinet, I was playing the bass clarinet in all kinds of small ensembles playing contemporary (often newly-composed) music, playing jazz, playing heavy metal and generally doing the opposite of Mozart.* In the process of doing this, I found I was able to develop a bass clarinet tone and playing style that was really my own. I didn't feel like I had to measure myself against other players or anything else. There was almost no orthodoxy and I could just be me. It was freeing.

Having those kinds of realizations about the bass clarinet let me apply them to the tenor and bari (and later the alto). What's so fun about the saxophone, for me, at least, is how players are really expected to develop their own sound. I loved it and I embraced it. Not to say that I was a fully-formed musician with a totally clear tonal concept at age 22, just that I was starting to understand these things.

Ultimately, I virtually quit playing the clarinet for fun for about 5 years. I would play it when there was a gig that needed the clarinet and that was it. I would practice enough to make sure I was in shape, but just didn't feel inspired by the instrument at all. I mostly focused on the bass clarinet because it just made (and still makes) me feel free.

It's only been in the last couple of years that I've realized the extent to which I've let anxieties about the clarinet really take over my enjoyment of the instrument that made me fall in love with music. I realized that, while there's definitely an orthodoxy that says "you need to play this way", that just has nothing to do with me. And I need to get on with my musical life.

So now I'm learning to be me on the clarinet. And I love it again. But it took me learning to develop a personal sound on my doubles to get perspective on what I wanted out of it.




* NOT a dig on Mozart. I love Mozart. I play the clarinet, after all.
I really love this response, in large part because you so closely reflect my own experience. In HS, I remember someone telling me at band camp that I sounded like Pete Fountain, and since Dad listened to a lot of Pete Fountain, I was stoked to hear that. I didn't find out about the orthodoxy until I got into college. Then, for the next fifteen years, while I was still playing different types of music, I was still busting hump to sound "correct". It's only been in the last six or seven years that I've realized that I don't need to.

Now those fifteen years of chasing the orthodoxy has paid off in terms of breath control, evenness up and down the scales and so on. Also, I don't make my living playing clarinet. Strangely, this is freeing. I'm not going to lose a job and a source of income if I don't sound perfect in the way that I'm "supposed to sound".

last night we played a simple blues after we finished the evening Vespers service at my church. I bent notes all over the place, let my sound get edgy when I wanted to, but also played quietly and with good control when I wanted to. It's nice to not worry about what my teacher thinks, any more.
 

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I double on all the horns, including double reeds, and yes, I do have a definite mindset as to how I want to sound on each. Mainly it comes from hearing somebody play whose sound i want to emulate, and always remembering what that sound sounds like. For example, when I learned clarinet in high school, I had heard a Glen Miller record and had that lead clarinet sound in my ear. So when our jazz band played one of his tunes, I was able to reproduce it faithfully.
 

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Ah, but jaysne, that's the point. You had someone elses' sound in mind, and you tried to emulate that...whoever that lead clarinet's sound was, in the Miller orchestra. You're trying to sound like **that guy**. Nothing wrong with that!

I did the same thing for years, and still do, on saxophone. I have Zoot Sims and Stan Getz in my head when I play tenor, Paul Desmond in my head when I play alto. I have to kind of FORCE myself to play differently when I play lead alto in a big band. I take off my Selmer C* Soloist mouthpiece and put on a Meyer 7 and my sound totally changes. It's all good. I'm trying to "sound like someone else"... or "Sound like what's expected". There's nothing wrong with that.

But on clarinet, I've LEARNED from other people, emulated them, tried to pick apart why they sound the way they do, and understand it, but now I don't try to "sound like" any of my heroes. I'm aware of them, but I just play what seems right to me.
 
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