Can your sound get too dark? Does it?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rhosch, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. rhosch

    rhosch New Friend

    Feb 19, 2009
    I've always leaned towards a dark sound, well for anything that wasn't marching or jazz (though even then often dark as well). I've often prided myself in having such a "pleasing" mellow and dark tone (well, to me... that's part of my problem/question). I especially like my sound on louder passages in that middle range around the top of the staff. I feel like it's a large sound without being shrill or edgy at all. Somewhere in that ground between bright trumpet and cornet. However, too high or too soft and there sometimes isn't enough voice to cut through clearly (and that applies to solo performances too).

    I recently listened to myself on a recording, and I was longing for that "brilliant" trumpet sound in what I heard. Perhaps the recording equipment/venue/process had played a large role, but since I've always strived towards that tone I did have to ask myself if I had gone too far.

    I made the move early in elementary from 7c to 5c, then in junior high I started on a Warburton 4D/8. I played that until college, when I wanted an even "fuller" and darker tone and moved to a Warburton 3D. I still use the 3D and 4D interchangably depending on what I'm playing, and there is a very obvious difference to me in the sound I get.

    What are your thoughts on this? Does losing the brilliance of the trumpet lose the better qualities of the instrument? I guess some might say why not just play a cornet. :) I've heard a lot of players that were just too edgy, where the sound just got difficult to listen too when the volume was cranked up, and I want to stay away from that. Any suggestions on how to add a little brilliance to the middle of the range and softer passages without ruining the mid-upper range forte beauty that I like?

    I know there are endless threads on mouthpieces, and a seperate forum for that, and I suppose I could start another thread asking essentially the same thing, but in the spirit of cutting down on cross posting any thoughts on my mouthpiece choice and/or alternatives I might be interested in trying would be appreciated as well.
  2. Labidochromis

    Labidochromis Pianissimo User

    Jan 7, 2009
    Armstrong BC.

    For me the first thing to do was define how I want to sound. I play a Cornet that has a mellow sound to begin with and using a 7C mouthpiece. I can make this horn do whatever I want it to do, laying back on the horn it has a soft mellow tone or really make it ring out with a sparkling high register. It is amazing to me how flexible this horn really is.

    The better qualities of your sound are really a subjective thing that only you can answer. If you feel your sound is too dark and does not feel or sound right for you then it probably is. Possibly going for some more neutral hardware and doing some recordings would help. Get a clear Idea in your head of the sound you want and make it happen. It all starts with clearly knowing what you want to sound like.

    One of the things I try and do is listen to lots of other players and try to understand how they sound the way they do. Is it their setup, hardware or style of playing. By listening to other players I start to get an idea of what I like and it helps me define my sound (This is still in the development stage) the picture is a little different for each player.

    Not sure if this answers your question but I hope it helps.


  3. rhosch

    rhosch New Friend

    Feb 19, 2009
    Thanks. I can certainly stand to do a little more listening to some of the greats to redefine in my head what I'm wanting.

    I guess a parallel question to all of you is what you prefer in the sound of a trumpet. Part of my question to myself is whether the sound I've worked for is really the most desireable sound to have. I'd hate to think that the only person who was pleased by my playing was me. :) Do you feel that part of the nature of the trumpet is a certain degree of brightness or brilliance?

    Perhaps what I'm lacking at the moment is a certain flexibility in my playing, whether that is me or my equipment is up in the air. I'm beginning to realize that I've learned over the years to play with a very mellow tone, even when high or loud, and have equipment that helps me do that. And when I play jazz (or, back in the days of marching), I have equipment that I prefer that helps me achieve the piercing, clean "lead" sound I want. But maybe I'm missing out on a setup that allows for a degree of flexibility so that I can nudge the sound darker or brighter depending on the passage or even within a passage.

    So I welcome expanded input... mouthpiece, horn, and execution tips that might head me in the right direction. I currently play on a "Franken-Bach" consisting of a 37 valve section, 43 reversed leadpipe and 72 bell all in raw brass. Weird setup, but I found that it really did what I wanted it to... back then at least. That's what I generally use for orchestral, pit, ensemble, and solo playing. For jazz and lighter playing I use a strad 37 that was once silver and has since had the plating removed, usually with a Warburton 4D, 4MC or Schilke mouthpiece. Another weird one. But it's a slighly lighter instrument than a standard 37, tones bend and blend from pitch to pitch easier (for better or worse) and I hear a lot more of myself off the backside of the bell than on my franken-horn.

    I'm interested in all of your thoughts.
  4. gordonfurr1

    gordonfurr1 Forte User

    Aug 2, 2010
    North Carolina
    I'm primarily an old (French) horn player...and dabble with trumpet simply because I want to and there are more venues to dabble with it than a horn around here. I LOVE the rich, overtone-riddled complex sound of a horn...and produce that. Oddly, I prefer for trumpet solo work a dark trumpet sound. My old thirties Buescher 205 with a deepish mouthpiece pleases me.
  5. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    It is all in what you like. As a kid, we had the first trumpet for the symphony play a solo at our spring concert. I had a top notch reel to reel and recorded it. When I moved to Pa, I brought it in and played it for a big band leader and the brass section. They all said it sounded like a French horn. Way way to dark. Bright was in there. I was around some of the best players in the state here in the South back in the 60's- they all went dark (most were symphony oriented). Moving to PA required a complete change in the way I thought about the trumpet sound. The particular piece will likely dictate more of what is needed. I am surprised that a regular poster hasn't already put in his post. Usually something to the effect of "it is a trumpet. bright=good, dark=bad."
  6. Dean_0

    Dean_0 Piano User

    Jan 21, 2013
  7. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    I used to play with a 24 throat and all of my horns sounded dark. No brilliance whatsoever. When I switched to a piece with a tighter throat, the brilliance came back.

  8. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Personally, I've always gravitated toward a brighter sound, and music that calls for a brighter sound, but even when I was doing more classically oriented music, I didn't really think about it all that hard. I always just tried to play the center of the horn - not the dark side, like some of my peers did. All through it, I was able to color my sound to what it needed for the context of the situation.

    If the context calls for brilliance and you don't produce it, then you're doing something wrong IMO. Likewise, if the context calls for something darker, you need to make that happen as well.
  10. strad116055

    strad116055 Pianissimo User

    May 27, 2014
    if you play alone, then you can play any way that pleases you. if you play anyplace else, you're going to want to play musically in context. this does not mean you go the the trumpet store or the mouthpiece website every time you get a gig. altho your musical life may tend to dicatate what equipment you own, it is essential to be able to make the right sound in more than one situation with whatever your main setup is.

    trumpet playing must always be at the service of musical goals. when you are playing in different situations, it is essential that you know what kinds of sounds are typically required in that genre of music. notice the plural. to play in an orchestra that covers 300 years of repertoire, you have to have many different types of sound at your disposal. this means you have to do your listening homework. and you need to develop the skill to make those sounds. there is also a great deal to know about musical style. you need to know how to articulate and how to phrase in the style of music being played. you need to understand the trumpet's role, and your part's role, in the music that you are playing. this is just as true in jazz as it is in classical music. it is just as true in band music. these things all have technical ramifications, which are all part of the sound you are expected to produce. when you actually get into the situation, you have to listen to whoever is already there and work with them. not supporting the sound of the section is as bad as not blending with the section. if you're going to be a member of an ensemble, no matter how much you like your sound, if you don't fit, you're taking away from the ensemble instead of contributing. equipment can help you do this, but there is no substitute for using your ear and having the skill to adjust your playing appropriately to the circumstances.

    we have had posts here that dealt with this subject at length, and i recommend you read as many of them as you can, starting with "how a trumpet works." the arturo clip above is also a real eye-opener. you'll see that there is a great deal of useful information, and also a certain amount of dissent. my takeaway is that sound is in the ear and the concept of the player first, and in his equipment second. some say equipment makes all the difference, and others say it makes no difference. some people get hung up on terminology. others say terminology only confuses the issue. i think a middle road is best. we need words to communicate, and even to think. but words are only symbols, not trumpet playing.

    when we produce any sound on the trumpet, we are a trumpet player. when we produce music on the trumpet, we are a musician. the latter is the goal. music always implies a context. the skill to function within a particular musical context is what we're trying to develop.

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