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  1. #1

    Default Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    Hey, I've been really trying to develop my tone, and I just can't get closer to my ideal alto sound. My sound is getting better, but it isn't going in the direction I'd like. I want a bigger, fatter sound (I listen to primarily Cannonball and Dexter) but my sound is leaning more towards bright. This recording isn't the greatest, but it's the best I can do. It's just me noodling around while I was learning the head to Lady Bird.

    Thanks for any help!
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    I feel you kinda have the cannonball "big" sound he's known for (or at least you have some essences of that sound). I know for me I played brighter as I was developing my jazz sound and gradually it mellowed out with more transcribing and working on tone. I would definitely transcribe a good amount of cannonball and even dedicate some time to his playing alone. Obviously transcribe others players as well, but spending a couple months just on Cannonball might open up your ears and allow you to make more noticeable improvements while going after a sound you obviously want to emulate. Other than that I would focus on long tones and trying to shape your sound to fit with your concept. Transcribing is pretty much going to get you there if you dedicate time to it.

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Dec 2005

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    First, be aware that what you hear when playing facing a wall is probably much closer to what you actually sound like than through a home studio recording. Second, sorry in advance for using vague terminology.

    I don't think your tone is really that problematic or bright. It's hard to tell on the recording but it may lack some "vibrance" or "complexity" (whatever these words mean) in the midrange frequencies which I would refer to core. This aspect is something I've been chasing after for a while now and although I've been improving, I'm still trying to figure it out so take my advice with that in mind...
    Things that have helped me: make a conscious effort to let the reed vibrate, practicing overtones diligently while concentrating on the feeling of them, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, blow less but harder, get a new horn.

    I didn't find there were too much highs in your tone (you don't sound too bright) but they could be less dense or more spread. I think if your midrange harmonics were louder (throughout the range of the sax of course), it could possibly balance your tone as well.

    FWIW, Cannonball played a relatively modest setup (small tip opening, soft reed). I've been playing a smaller and softer setup than usual on my tenor, with a low baffle / big chamber mpc, and it forces me to play right. With this kind of setup I know instantly if I'm blowing unfocused air, biting or slacking off with my tongue position. So I think it would be fair to say it's helping me discover a lot of opportunities for improvement.

    That said, my advice would be that your articulation probably needs more work than your tone right now. You "scoop" a lot of notes and you need to get rid of this habit. It's a lot of unnecessary movement (from your jaw, tongue, air...). It's possible your tone will indirectly get better as a result of getting rid of the habit. I can't comment on tonguing or playing softer notes: although it sounded like you could have some small issues there, you were also hesitating at times - most probably because you were learning the head - so a recording of you playing a tune you know would make it easier to analyze.

    Hope this makes sense.

  4. #4
    SOTW Columnist
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    JL's Avatar
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    Feb 2003
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    I don't think you sound too bright at all (that didn't come out right--I mean tone wise, not your mental state. It's a compliment! ). You are playing an alto, of course, which is relatively bright by definition. From what I heard on the recording, you sound good except you need to put more air into the horn. It sounded a bit breathy and like you were running out of breath on most notes. Best thing you could do is work on long tones, then keep the air flowing strong throughout each phrase and note you play. Don't cut the notes short. If you're playing a half note, be sure to hold it through 2 full beats. Don't end it until beat 3.

    Cannonball is a great role model. Also listen to Charlie Parker, not so much for his blinding fast execution, but for the power he put into the horn. Dexter was great, but I never heard him play an alto (so you won't sound like him on an alto!). But Dexter also had great air support, which is how he got that huge sound.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    I'll risk the wrath of the SOTW gods and venture the opinion that equipment matters. You've got a Sanborn sort of thing going on, tone-wise -- I like it. But it sounds as though your setup + you is not going to produce Cannonball very easily. Shop around, maybe check out some links/meyers/brilharts and see if that doesn't bring you closer. Also, ZZ's have always struck me as lending a sort of fat buzzy quality to the sound.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    Thanks for the advice guys! Was working on breathing exercises and it's helped a bit! I didn't realize how little effort I was really putting into actually BLOWING into the horn. I've been trying to hard to do stuff with my throat! And as for setups, because setup came into question, mine is actually pretty mild:

    Philtone Meyer 5 (.071)
    RJS 3M/La Voz MH/Java 3 (don't remember what reed was used here, I switch around)
    Yamaha 875 EX

  7. #7
    Distinguished SOTW Member
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    Feb 2003
    Los Angeles County

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    I liked the sound of your alto. Keep in mind a recording will probably not capture what you hear from yourself (maybe even fail to capture what the audience hears from 20-50 feet away), so my advice would be to relax, become yourself, be happy with what you hear from your own saxophone, and quit trying to emulate some other player. Your alto sounded just right to me. DAVE

  8. #8

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    It's funny because I'm also going for the sound of both of those players as well. Right now for Cannonball's sound i've learned how he plays the head to Stars Fell on Alabama and I play that every day before my longtones. I've also learned Dexter Gordon's version of the head to Willow Weep For Me and play that as well. I read somewhere that Cannonball listened to a lot of tenor players and most of his transcriptions were of tenor players. That would explain his bigger and fatter sound. Hope this helped.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Helping with improving my tone? (recording)

    I think you have a great sound!
    The fingers needs more attention i think.

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