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OK, it's time to light the josticks, gather round a bowl of crystals and get all 'like yeah, man'...

How do you visualise your tone?

The way people translate what their senses tell them differs. Some people have the extraordinary ability to 'hear' colours...others can taste them. Likewise, what people hear can be put into shapes or turned into colours...or even physically felt.
I once spoke to a player who told me his 'vision' of tone was like a map of an island...when what he played matched what he was trying to achieve, the map turned green...but when it wasn't it was tinged with areas of browns and blacks.

As someone who plays a lot of different horns, I'm always looking to reference the results with what we know as our 'core tone' - and for me it seems to come about as a sense of taste...not as in 'having good/bad taste' but rather the sense of 'this is too sweet/sharp' or 'this is very moreish'.

So what's your idea of tone...what passes through your mind in the middle of that cycle of blowing a horn and hearing it?

Regards,
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I see tone as colours and textures. I believe it's a very important part of developing a good and versatile sound, though I know many people poo poo the concept.

Some tones have two colours, (twotone) kind of like where there isa core and an outside. This can be very useful when practising long notes for dynamics, e.g. its possible to see the core remaining a constant colour, while the outside changes intensity. (There's a chapter on this in my book, and a bit on the website:

Visualising the tone
 

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"Sweet and Sour", Eric Clapton used this analogy back in the 1960's--when he was a unique voice---and it's a good one, Sanborn and Parker possess that in their alto sound.
Think Cider Vinegar mixed with Honey.
 

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Sweet white wine on my Berg's, crystal clear tone, Brown ale or Guinness on my H/R.
Rob.
 

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I dont get colours but if I "tune in" I see shapes like peaks and troughs, or a moving mountain range, according to pitch, a bit like you see on an equaliser. Thats how I remember phone numbers as well but they are more like a bar chart.
 

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Jazz House...only had a glance at your tone tube. Gotta say man...it is excellent. Will have a few hours later to get into it. Ditto below...looks like Pete has done a " musings "...look forward to checkin it later....a
 

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Of the top of my head...an immediate; i would like to think of my....nope, that is the shape of my sound...not color or tone. Hmmm...a
 

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I do try to visualize my tone. Kind of hard to describe. I think I "feel" it more than "see" it though. I try to think round and warm. When I play long tones or overtones I visualize the long and flat horizon in the desert or at sea...

On a different idea, I do feel differences between the keys. Some people have said I was nuts, but even in listening (especially to piano-heavy music), I find some keys more pleasant than others. Some seem dark and some seem light. I even feel it when someone is just running scales (all of the same quality) on the piano or keyboard.
 

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Some people have the extraordinary ability to 'hear' colours...others can taste them. Likewise, what people hear can be put into shapes or turned into colours...or even physically felt.
.
Back in my youth I took substances that enhanced this ability to a very high degree!!

Actually I'm a big believer in visualization techniques. I mainly use it to learn new tunes (I 'sing' and hear the tune in my head, over and over, as well as sections of the tune that might be giving me problems), and also to visualize chords, chord changes, etc. In the process I'll sometimes 'feel' the fingerings, but mainly it's the sound and rhythm that I visualize. Or should I call it audiolize? There, I invented a new word.

Tone is a bit different. I think for me it is a 'taste' thing. Which seems strange, but there it is. The lower register tastes rich and kind of like dark chocolate. As I move up in pitch the tone gets sweeter or more sugary. Something like that. Sounds crazy, I know.

Oh yeah, and as Pete suggests, there's a definite texture to tone. The lower notes have a resonant or buttery texture, while the higher notes are more glassy. I try to avoid any unpleasant texture (like 'scratching on a blackboard' with the high notes & altissimo).
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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B
Oh yeah, and as Pete suggests, there's a definite texture to tone. The lower notes have a resonant or buttery texture, while the higher notes are more glassy.
Oh yes, I forgot to elaborate on that point.

One of the textures I hear in my playing that I don't like, is "papery". I totally understand buttery as well. That's a good one. Chocolate too,which is a combination of a colour and a taste.

But I do think of all these may be completely subjective so although I suggest the visualisation thing (because I do see colours that go with tone), I don't bang on about it as some folk probably think I'm mad.

Well they probably do anyway most of the time - I discovered that when I found I have a different interpretation of "dark". Apparently many people think it merely means a lack of overtones or a warm bass heavy tone. To me "dark" has a mysterious brooding quality, even if the sound includes some edge, more overtones or high frequencies.
 

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Ditto JL...used to enjoy the odd enhancement. Seriously ; once those " doors are open "...stuff like this, kinda is a way of thinking; though i still stuggle to translate into words. I am thinking my tone is a neon green pinpoint laser. However..prisms are dotted around. I can at any time aim at a prism and open the full spectrum...move away from..the constant easy green, but pinpoint laser stays....dinner...will post...a
 

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Yeah thats kind of OK. Whether i can access that full spectrum; or should i say its range of colors...at will. I dont think i am that good. Playing through different keys, and to a lesser extent over changes. I think in shapes. Ebmaj...chunky blocks. Fmaj...linear, thick middle. C# and F#...thin angular shapes. Bmaj...chunky/thin....chunky bottom end. My sound...hmm. A diamond, as on playing cards. Essentially...always pointed, direct, forward. Capable of opening to its max....diamond wide point. So....i have just proved myself totally mad, in front of the whole sax nation. Thanks Stephen!!....seriously...i tried. Great thread man...a
 

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I always thought of myself as odd for thinking this way. I agree with the different hues of intensity per color. Higher registers have a more penetrating color. If pushing more of a breathy tone, which I would visualize as a more , almost, transparent hue. Versus a more straightforward full tone is more opaque.As far as the taste thing, with drums this happens more. Tony williams style is fiery spice, versus brian blade brushes is smooth silky fudge. Good thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Well this is interesting!
I kinda felt that maybe three of four people would respond with "I've never really thought about it" type answers, but it already pretty clear that it's not as uncommon as I thought it was.

Something that's already caught my attention is that some people have a three-dimensional perception of tone and others can use two-dimensional imagery.
I suppose that begs the question "Is one better than the other?" - but then it risks the subject developing (degenerating?) into a huge thread in which supporters of each camp beat each other over the head.
And what of the fourth dimension - time? I mentioned that I tend to 'taste' the tone, but there's also an element of how long it lingers...an aftertaste, if you will.

Swperry1 brought up the point about keys feeling different - and this is something that's long been established. Many gigging players know how changing the key can dramatically affect the mood of a number - which just goes to prove how connected our emotional state is to musical stimuli.

Regards,
 

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Could you elaborate on the time aspect, Stephen? Do mean the time of change in the perception of the color, or time itself? Going from one color to another, is there a time factor that increases or decreases the change in color perception? Do different bpm create different color aspects?
 

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But I do think of all these may be completely subjective so although I suggest the visualisation thing (because I do see colours that go with tone), I don't bang on about it as some folk probably think I'm mad.
Play a saxophone, go mad! :)
 

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For me, tone is perceived over time and over a frequency range, so it's a kind of shape. How does the shape of the frequency spectrum change over time. The most predominant aspect is the attack - how the note starts.

First comes the "noise" phase - frying spit, reed thwapping, gurgling sounds, etc., that occur before the tone actually starts. A good Link sound has a lot of cool noise in the attack.

Then comes the actual, initial, accentuated tone of the attack. As on a synthesizer, the envelope shape of this attack, for each frequency, is important. Too rapid and short, the tone sounds wimpy. Too slow and long, and the sound becomes labored, and tiring to hear. This is the most important part of any note, IMO.

Then there is the static tone, which, when perfectly static, is boring. How the spectrum shape responds to dynamics, minor inflections, vibrato, etc., is what determines it's real character. For a good tone, there is a pleasing resonance balance, within which, all the resonances are responsive to air/embouchure/articulation variations. On a real instrument, the a good tone is constantly changing and evolving from one part of the note to the next.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
On a taste-based perception it's how long a particular taste lingers, how it arrives and how it fades.
For example, when you drink wine you get the 'nose' first, and then the 'mouth taste' followed by the 'afterglow'.
The faster the music the more complex the taste - so a single, slow note is going to be something very definable (let's say mint) and a series of fast notes is going to have more of a 'bouquet'.

Regards,
 
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