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I recently posted a thread about getting burned out. I took one of the posters suggestions and forced myself to go back and listened to the music in my past that really "turned me on".

I put on some old albums of sax players that I have always really dug and that I hadn't listened to in a while. A few of them were Kenny Garrett, Stefano di Battista, Gerald Albright, Phil Woods, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, and a few others.

It really took me back in time and I started remembering how much I envied all of their unique "jazz" sounds. I remember saving money to buy different mouthpieces, ligs, reeds, etc. I never ever could get that "sound". This really wasn't all too long ago. I've been playing for about 13 yrs and have always struggled with getting a decent "jazz" sound. I tried overtones, longtones, and all kinds of things. I had just never understood the reason for doing them. What frustrated me the most was that I had an incredible classical sound. There were many times when I had auditions and judges would comment that I had one of the best tones they'd ever heard. I never even worked on tone exercises to get it. It just happened effortlessly.

Now I am pretty satisfied with my "jazz" sound. After listening to the sax players I mentioned above, I realize how much those albums really influenced my sound and how easy it really was to get a good sound.

I can remember the exact day that my tone/sound started to really grow and evolve. I never realized the effect it would have and how easy it was. The day I said, "I'm just going to use this setup and make it sound the best I possibly can with the knowledge that I have." "No more searching for the holy grail of mouthpieces, or blaming it on not having a Mark VI, or blaming it on the reed." I decided I was going to adapt to my horn instead of trying to get my horn to adapt to me. I decided that I wasn't going to let "having a bad sound" keep me from enjoying to play music. To me, those guys have sounds of gold. I thought I had a sound of a ****, but I said to myself that I would polish the hell out of it..lol.

I basically quit worrying that my A didn't sound like Kenny Garrett's. I started just trying to make the A sound as best as I could even if it was going to sound more classical. I wasn't going to sacrifice the music anymore by buying new mouthpieces and trying out different "tricks" to get a better sound, which was never comfortable and just made me stick out more like a sore thumb.

I started working on just getting a good and even sound on whatever I was playing. It didn't matter if I sounded different than the way I sounded the day before. If I picked up a "bad" reed, I didn't throw it away or try to fix it, I learned to adapt to it. I hardly ever play on a "bad" reed. They may not be very consistant but 9/10 are "playable" on just about any brand. When I started learning to adapt to the reed, I realized it taught me how to really control everything about my air and other things.

I started focusing heavily on blending with the music the best that I could. When trying to accomplish blending, First and foremost is Intonation. If you are not perfectly in tune you will never blend and be able to connect with other musicians, in most cases. I started by playing all styles of music that really caught my ear and blending with the bass the best I could, then moving on to the other instruments.

For me, focusing on blending and letting my ego go, were the things that really gave me a good sound. I stopped trying to sound like so and so and looking up what everyone else was playing on, and just focusing on "me" and "my sound" and making sure it fit what everyone else is doing. Besides, I love all of those mention above's music and their sounds, but that's not "exactly" what I hear in my head and truly want to sound like. My main goal is to contribute to the music.

By becoming open-minded and focused about what the music needs to sound like and what I can to help acheive that, I can get just about any sound I want. I can play soft and smooth like Desmond or bright and edgy like Sanborn. I still have that core sound of "me and my sound", but the dynamics of my tone can vary greatly any way I choose.

I think where many make the mistake and where I made the mistake of finding YOUR sound, is that they focus way to hard and overthink their concept of tone. Instead of just playing each note of music the very best that they possibly can. I have learned if you just worry about trying to make what you got sound good to your ears, then "that sound" you have always been searching for will come naturally and without paying hardly any attention to actually spening time "working on your tone". I think many people, as I did, spend way too much time working on and worrying about their tone, that they forget about the most important things that make up a unique sound. I.e. intonation, time, emotion, etc.

Here's the way I think about what someone's sound is:

Let's take Kenny Garrett for example. To me, he sounds like someone on an a really open mp with a fairly stiff reed and using a hell of a lot of air.(Anyone can do that) Then, you take into consideration his mastery of intonation throughout the entire horn. (A lot less can do that). Then, take into consideration his feel/swing/timing. I don't think anyone could be more in time..lol. Check out Song di Fang on YouTube, if it's still up. The only way you are going to be able to play that in time is when you really FEEL the music. A computer/metronome can't help you get that kinda timing. You gotta feel what everyone else is doing. It's the human element in music. That comes from a lot of listening and playing with others. Then, you take into consider is emotion. Listen to his solo on "Delta Bali Blues" on his album Simply Said. To me, that's why Kenny Garrett sounds like Kenny Garrett.

I believe it's those factors that give you "THAT/YOUR" sound:

1) Being comfortable with your set up. Can you play from low Bb to high F fairly easily? Then your set up is fine to get the "sound" u desire.

2) Mastering Intonation. If you can't play in tune, you'll never play with confidence, which is probably the biggest factor. You'll never blend, therefore, nothing will ever sound "right" or it might sound "a little off".

3) Time/Feel. Easy but complicated. Don't even wanna go there...lol.

4) Emotion. Don't just growl or play an altissimo note because you can, play it because that's what you feel and because it's what the music needs.

Basically, i guess what I'm trying to say is, quit worrying about you and "your sound" and focus on the music. What does the music need? Do you blend with the rest of the sound/band members?

I believe if you focus on those things, then that desired sound/tone will come naturally and with ease. The more you work on those things, the more you fine tune all those little muscles to be able to do what you want them to do, thus, creating YOUR unique sound.

I guess to sum it all up, you should just focus on a sound, not "your tone".

Sorry if this was a little hard to read, my mind is going a mile a minute thinking about this and it's really hard to get it all out..lol. Thank you ADD!

I could probably go on and on about things like where influences play a huge role and other things that pertain to this subject, but I guess I'll stop here and hopefully hear your thoughts on the subject.



Thanks,

Ben
 

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My sound concept is pretty close to what is coming out of my horn at the moment and it feels good. I agree to some extent that you shouldn't get to caught up in gear but it is a fact that certain mpc and horn combos are better to get sound X if u know what I mean. If u have a really dark set up and u want to play bright u could pull it off with practice but you might be making yourself work to hard.
 

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Thank you for a very interesting read!

As a player looking for his sound this is almost a spiritual guide!

How about stickying this in the "Tone" forum?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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My concept is to get as many different tones as possible out of the horn. I often "see" tone as a colour, and I want to be able to use them all.

That doesn't mean I dislike it when a player only has one or a few colours, in fact sometimes I prefer that. I just know what works for me and what I want.

having said that, the more colours available to you, the more chance you have of blending in a section if that is required.
 

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...you reached back into your past and dug out the old stuff like Kenny Garret, Stefano, and Gerald Albright, eh ?

:|

:cry:


....crap...I'm fookin' ancient.....
 

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I'm no virtuoso, and I don't have blazing speed, but I do have exceptionally good tone. Whenever I've gotten complements on my playing it's been my tone. I've noticed that changing mouthpieces will not improve your tone if it's not good in the first place. However if you have a good tone to begin with, the change in mouthpiece can be quite noticeable. Our bari player was a ways away and walking toward the stage while I was warming up. His first comment was what was the new mouthpiece. His next comment was how distinct the change was. (was going from a Florida Link to a Barone Hollwood). I play a 41' 10M, which after 41 years, I've gotten to know, which brings us back to some other comments by the OP. Get set up and esablish your tone. Just my 8 and a half cents. Good thread btw.
 

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you've got quite the story there, man! i'm so glad you're getting back into it, i was worried when i originally read your burnout story. in fact, it seems like you've come back better then ever! anyway, i too am one of those people who uses the same mouthpiece for everything, and my tone changes depending on the situation. that being said, i do tend to favor a "fat and thick" sound on all my instruments. unless of course, the situation calls for something different :-D
 

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Man! I'm glad you have shaken it off! I knew the 'time machine' would work - I take trips on it all the time to reconnect with many of those same players - at the least the older ones like Getz, Woods, Desmond - I have no idea who the others are.
What I've learned about mouthpieces boils down to this; a mouthpiece you think is 'good' allows you to produce that golden sound in your head easier than others. So, why is the mouthpiece hunt eternal? Because that 'golden sound' is ever-changing! A really good mouthpiece will be flexible and will be able to go with these changes, which typically are in the form of 'adjustments' rather than 'reversals'.
One thing in your post was not clear - did you manage to retain the wonderful legit tone? Hopefully you have built on that rather than trying to make a 'night and day' change.
 
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