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Dave G

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Nov 29, 2005, 12:27:15 PM11/29/05
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http://www.saxontheweb.net/Price/SecretOfGoodSound.html

The Secret of a Good Sound
by Sue Terry

Recently I was in Washington D.C. doing a residency for the Kennedy
Center. One of the groups I coached was the award-winning Walt Whitman
High School Jazz Ensemble. Director Chris Allen said to me at one point:
"There are only two kinds of players that practice longtones. Beginners,
'cause they can't play anything else, and professionals, because they
know how important longtones are."

It's so true. Every teacher tells students to play longtones, and every
student thinks they're the most boring thing in the world. I mean,
what's interesting or fun about holding out one note for a long time?

First, let's talk about what longtones are good for:

* Strengthening the embouchure.
* Improving breath control.
* Improving tone quality.

It's obvious that beginners need to strengthen their embouchures,
because they don't have one yet! Likewise for breath control. But why
should someone who's been playing, say, a year or longer play longtones?
Answer: to improve his or her tone quality.

Sounds like a good idea. Wouldn't every sax player like to have a great
sound? How do you get one?

First, realize that every single tone has many aspects, or levels, to
it. The three basic categories are:

* Main tone, the "edge" sound (most obvious to the ear)
* Shadow tone (same pitch as the note you're playing, but in the
background)
* Overtones (high-pitched whistling or buzzing tones floating above
the main tone)

Many players focus only on their edge tone, in fact they may have never
practiced listening to their shadow tone or their overtones. That's too
bad, because discovering and listening to those other levels of one's
sound is one of the most interesting things about music.

Play your longtones against a wall, so you can hear the sound bouncing
back at you. Listen deeply to each tone. The shadow tone sounds almost
like an echo of the main tone. It's a very plain sound; it wouldn't be
very interesting by itself. It's as if you took a black crayon and
rubbed lightly on some paper. The color would be grayish, wouldn't it?
Then you take the crayon and rub hard over the gray, and it comes out
black. But the gray color is underneath that, making your black even
richer and fuller. That's your shadow tone.

You'll notice that as you approach the curve at the bottom of the bell,
the shadow tone may start to deviate in pitch from the note you're
playing. It may go as low as a minor third below. This phenomenon is due
to the abrupt change in direction of the airstream as it follows the
curve of the horn, and it may help you to become aware of the shadow tone.

Now play your low Bb against the wall. Chances are you will hear the
octave + 5th F sounding faintly as well; this is one of the most easily
heard overtones. The saxophone has many overtones in its timbre. It's
fascinating to discover these aspects of your sound that you may have
never noticed before! Regarding the overtones, all musicians should be
familiar with the overtone series; please consult other sources if you
are unfamiliar with it, as it is beyond the scope of this article to
explain it adequately.

So to conclude, play your longtones against the wall, listening closely
to them. Play them for five minutes every practice session. Be a "sound
scientist", and dissect each tone with your ear. If you don't hear any
shadow tones or overtones immediately, don't worry. As you focus your
attention on listening to your sound, in time these aspects of your tone
will begin to stand out more.

By the way, the overtones and shadow tones are what give players their
different sounds. Each player's ear draws him or her to a preferred
emphasis on one of these tonal aspects — all you have to do is follow
your ear. It's also important to listen to professional players of your
instrument, both live and on recordings. Your ear needs to be "lured"
towards a good sound from outside yourself, as well as inside yourself.

To quote Chris Allen again, professionals understand how important
longtones are. A pro sound is like a beautiful healthy plant, and
longtones are the water. You stop watering your plant, and no matter how
healthy it is, it will slowly die.

So remember, five minutes of longtones a day keeps the blues away!

© 2002-4 Sweet Sue Music
--
"i'm just a soul who's intentions are good, Oh Lord, please don't let me
be misunderstood"

Stephen Howard

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Nov 29, 2005, 12:53:10 PM11/29/05
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On Tue, 29 Nov 2005 17:27:15 +0000, Dave G <D...@large.com> wrote:

>http://www.saxontheweb.net/Price/SecretOfGoodSound.html
>
>The Secret of a Good Sound
>by Sue Terry

<snip>


>
>First, realize that every single tone has many aspects, or levels, to
>it. The three basic categories are:
>
> * Main tone, the "edge" sound (most obvious to the ear)
> * Shadow tone (same pitch as the note you're playing, but in the
>background)
> * Overtones (high-pitched whistling or buzzing tones floating above
>the main tone)
>

<snip>

Pukka stuff that!

In particular, the line "Your ear needs to be "lured"

towards a good sound from outside yourself, as well as inside

yourself" suggests perhaps yet another tonal category.... Core tone.

I suppose I'd describe this as being YOUR tone...the tone you get, no
matter the horn or the piece. In essence it's perhaps what starts in
your head - it's the sound you try to achieve whatever you're playing
on.

A good exercise for nailing core tone is playing outdoors, in as wide
open a space as possible.
It can be rather a disconcerting experience if you've never done it
before, and I'd say that it tends to feel as though your tone is being
physically sucked from the horn.

What I've found is that you really have to focus in on the centre of
the tone - if you just blow and hope for the best you get a kind of
'scattergun' effect, whereby the tone just seems to fade away once
it's gone more than a couple of feet.
Concentrating on the core tone acts like channeling, and focusses the
tone - which seems to give it more projection and better stability.
Building on the interesting 'crayon' analogy I'd say that it's rather
like a can of spray paint with a wide nozzle...you spay it onto a wall
and get a very wide but indistinct spread. Focus the nozzle, narrow
it, and you can start to write your name on the wall.

If you're sceptical, give it a go...and follow it up immediately with
a spot of indoor playing. I'm pretty sure you'll hear the difference
in the stability of your tone.

Nice post Dave, thanks

Regards,


--
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
www.shwoodwind.co.uk
Emails to: showard{who is at}shwoodwind{dot}co{dot}uk

Dave G

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Nov 29, 2005, 1:04:03 PM11/29/05
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Stephen Howard wrote:

interesting...

> Nice post Dave, thanks

ditto.

Pete Thomas

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Nov 29, 2005, 3:52:10 PM11/29/05
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This is great. I'd only take two issues with it.

1. Practising against the wall can be a double edged sword:

a. You get to hear your sound more
b. You get to hear your sound combined more with the resonant
frequencies of the wall and the room.

2. The last bit, "five minutes of long tones..." this is not enough
practice on long tones. If you can only afford the minimum 30 minutes of
practice a day, I would say at least 1/3 of this should be long tones.
Of course this becomes less than useful if your mind cannot concentrate,
in which case at least practise long tones in a more interesting way,,
e.g. playing Sophisticated Lady very slowly in many keys.

--
Pete Thomas - www.petethomas.co.uk
***********
On-line saxophone exercises, composition and jazz theory courses,
Saxophone Instruction DVD
***********
To reply privately please use the link on my site.

Saggy

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Nov 29, 2005, 3:57:31 PM11/29/05
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Well, er uh, it's like Mom and apple pie, and all, but very bad advice
for most students in my opinion.

Because.... here is the deal........most of a player's 'tone' is not
the actual tone of the instrument !!!!..... it is the expressiveness
with which the player plays...... the way each note is attacked, the
vibrato or if not vibrato the variation in tone that the player lips or
breathes as the note is played, and finally the release.

So, what most students really need is not better 'tone' but more
expressiveness in their playing.

How to obtain expressiveness ..... that's a toughy. I'd say start with
vibrato............this is it !.........the most important
thing........then after you've got a killin vibrato..... and you attack
your notes in some kind of characteristic way.... and you play like
you're really playing music instead of making sounds...... then..... if
you have some free time left over....work on your long tones.....

Needless to say, this is all *** in my opinion ***

Finally, if you are going to practice long tones.... (I don't) .. I'd
think more about strong breath support rather than trying to 'hear'
some great sound..... I notice that the difference between my playing
and my teachers (I've had 2, both very strong) is that they have
greeaattt breath support.

Also, even though my 'tone' is not that great....but, because I play
expressively.... I'm always told I have a great tone (when I play out
i.e. gigs).... my teachers have both told me to practice long tones!

Tom Mc

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Nov 29, 2005, 5:37:37 PM11/29/05
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"Saggy" <namma...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:1133297851....@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com...

> Well, er uh, it's like Mom and apple pie, and all, but very bad advice
> for most students in my opinion.
>
> Because.... here is the deal........most of a player's 'tone' is not
> the actual tone of the instrument !!!!..... it is the expressiveness
> with which the player plays...... the way each note is attacked, the
> vibrato or if not vibrato the variation in tone that the player lips or
> breathes as the note is played, and finally the release.

'Expressiveness' is irrelevant if your tone is no good. There's a guy in
the city where I live who regularly plays his sax at a busy intersection
downtown. He is expressive as can be, but his tone sucks. I've wondered
whether his tip container is to actually pay him to stop playing.


Saggy

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Nov 29, 2005, 6:13:47 PM11/29/05
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>>.There's a guy in the city where I live who regularly plays his sax at a busy intersection
downtown.

Berkeley?

Barry Isaac Levine

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Nov 30, 2005, 12:29:52 AM11/30/05
to

>> Well, er uh, it's like Mom and apple pie, and all, but very bad advice
>> for most students in my opinion.
>>
>> Because.... here is the deal........most of a player's 'tone' is not
>> the actual tone of the instrument !!!!..... it is the expressiveness
>> with which the player plays...... the way each note is attacked, the
>> vibrato or if not vibrato the variation in tone that the player lips or
>> breathes as the note is played, and finally the release.

I agree with you about expressive value of attack, vibrato etc, but
different players can have quite distinctive tonal qualities.

For example, compare the tone of Stan Getz to that of Sonny Rollins. or the
tone of Paul Desmond to that of Cannonball Adderly.

Long tones are fine and useful. But personally, the most beneficial
tone-building exercises for me have been the mouthpiece exercises (see the
SAXFAQ), because they helped me learn to give notes better air support. But,
as is often noted here, YMMV.

Regarding "bad tone", what grates most on my ears are sax notes that start
with bad intonation and are then quickly lipped up, creating a kind of
bleating sound.

barry


delete the spam to contact me.
--
my sax stuff: http://users.norwoodlight.com/barrylevine/

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Stephen Howard

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Nov 30, 2005, 4:46:13 AM11/30/05
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On Tue, 29 Nov 2005 22:37:37 GMT, "Tom Mc" <temcc...@juno.com>
wrote:

I'd agree with that.
My very first sax teacher always banged on about tone being the most
important thing ( after tuning, of course ) on the grounds that no
matter how good a player you were from a technical point of view, it
didn't count for anything if no-one would listen to you.

Glenn

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Nov 30, 2005, 10:10:11 AM11/30/05
to
Right on, Saggy!

Listen to Johnny Hodges, maybe the most recognizable sound of anyone
ever. What characterizes his sound are vibrato, pitch glides, and the
many different ways he had of attacking a note.

Long tones are unmusical. No one plays long tones at a gig except Kenny
G (nuff said). Practice ballads.
Listen as you play. Shape every note. Your sound will get better. So
will your time, your expressiveness, and your repertoire.

Christopher von Volborth

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Nov 30, 2005, 12:26:09 PM11/30/05
to

"Glenn" <Kill...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1133363411.9...@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com...

> Listen as you play. Shape every note. Your sound will get better. So
> will your time, your expressiveness, and your repertoire.

The part about learning the saxophone that can't be intellectualized is the
evolution from where the instrument ceases to be a device separate from the
player to where it becomes an extension of the player's musical mind; i.e.
the objective "overcoming" the instrument becomes the subjective instrument
as an extension of the player's organic whole. Everything that you can do,
from long tones to copying solos to sitting in etc. contributes to this
evolution. Ultimately the music springs from the heart and soul of the
performer, not the instrument. Above all, it is important to remember that
music is a social art form requiring audience as well as other musicians.
You can have perfect pitch and play beautiful long tones, but if these are
not well received in the musical community you're not playing music.


Tom Mc

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Nov 30, 2005, 10:07:45 PM11/30/05
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Not Berkeley.

"Saggy" <namma...@aol.com> wrote in message

news:1133306027.4...@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

Saggy

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Nov 30, 2005, 11:18:23 PM11/30/05
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>>>Not Berkeley.

There is a guy that plays in downtown Berkeley.... sort of like a
street person....plays all up and down the horn.....plays the jazz
canon.......and plays ''enthusiastically" which could be mistaken for
expressively..... but no vibrato.... very straight un inflected
notes....kind of odd....I thought you might have been referring to
him.....

Toby

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Dec 1, 2005, 12:20:02 AM12/1/05
to
>
> Play your longtones against a wall, so you can hear the sound bouncing
> back at you. Listen deeply to each tone. The shadow tone sounds almost
> like an echo of the main tone. It's a very plain sound; it wouldn't be
> very interesting by itself. It's as if you took a black crayon and rubbed
> lightly on some paper. The color would be grayish, wouldn't it? Then you
> take the crayon and rub hard over the gray, and it comes out black. But
> the gray color is underneath that, making your black even richer and
> fuller. That's your shadow tone.

What is this "shadow tone"? It certainly has to be a part of the
fundamental, if it is the same pitch as the note being played. The sound
consists only of fundamental and harmonics, so I can't begin to imagine what
you are talking about.

Great post overall, though.

Toby


Tim Price Jazz

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Dec 1, 2005, 8:13:32 AM12/1/05
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YES- That is a very excellent article Sue Terry wrote for SaxOnThe Web.

I'm glad Dave posted it here for those who might of missed it.

It has a lot of helpful things- Tim Price

Pete Thomas

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Dec 1, 2005, 11:55:44 AM12/1/05
to


I'd agree with this but you must be careful when discussing whether a
tone is good or bad. E.g. loads of players would say that Lee Thompson
doesn't have a good tone. They'd be right in some repects - his "tone"
doesn't exactly sit well with the Larry Teal concept. If he was trying
to get a gig in a saxophone quartet, a studio orchestra, a theatre band
etc it would not be a good tone, but his playing with Madness is
certainly expressive.

Pete Thomas

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Dec 1, 2005, 12:02:41 PM12/1/05
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Glenn wrote:
> Right on, Saggy!
>
> Listen to Johnny Hodges, maybe the most recognizable sound of anyone
> ever. What characterizes his sound are vibrato, pitch glides, and the
> many different ways he had of attacking a note.
>
> Long tones are unmusical. No one plays long tones at a gig except Kenny
> G (nuff said).

Not true. If you are on reading gig or session and you are given long
notes to play - you need to play them or you'll be out of work soon
enough. It was having to play long notes on a session (very long low B
subtone on tenor) that made me switch from a MKVI to a 10M.

Practice ballads.
> Listen as you play. Shape every note. Your sound will get better. So
> will your time, your expressiveness, and your repertoire.
>

I agree with that though. Practise ballads *and* long notes.

Barry Isaac Levine

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Dec 1, 2005, 1:07:02 PM12/1/05
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In article <1133363411.9...@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com> , "Glenn"
<Kill...@gmail.com> wrote:


I agree with everything that's been said about the vibrato, slurring,
attack, and expressive playing.

To say long tones are "unmusical" - well, lots of exercises are "unmusical"
too. Arpeggios, overtones, scales. These are building blocks.

Music consists of contrasts - loud/soft; harsh/mellow; fast notes/long
notes. Got to be able to do it all. And the longer notes are hanging around
for a while, they better sound good.

When was the last time you listened to a singer you liked. Was it her voice
that caught your ear, or was it how many notes she managed to cram into a
bar?

Again, I'm not putting down some great scatting I've heard, but the QUALITY
of a singer's (and saxophonist's) voice makes a great difference.

"No one plays long tones at a gig" ... how about Gato?

As far as the G-man and his use of long tones, maybe he's on to something
(even if his music is treacle.) Are audiences counting notes per bar, or
are they listening for a voice that touches their feelings?

Barry


--

Rockinsax

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Dec 1, 2005, 2:18:59 PM12/1/05
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It's not an either or situation, no one is saying play long tones and
nothing else.

Your playing is a sum of it's parts. Looking at long tones and how Sue
described it, would lead you to learn how to manipulate your tone, add
a bit more of this here, throw in a pinch of that there. Listening,
really listening is what she is talking about.This will help give you
those tools, to add expressiveness.

Mikal

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