How do I get a big dark sound

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rowuk, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I am sure that this subject may be subject to flames at one point or another, but maybe there is something to learn here!

    My take is where do you want to sound dark: to yourself, to the audience, to a microphone? Is playing dark even sensible (dark sound in marching band can mean poor projection)? A lead player with a "dark" sound will have trouble putting "edge" on the brass ensemble sound.

    So first we define where you play and if dark is suitable there. If yes, we need to define what dark means.

    The overtone series on a trumpet is mathematically fixed. All we can do is change the balance of them. More overtones means brighter and there are various ways to change them. Embouchure, mouthpiece cup depth, bracing on the horn all can affect the overtone structure. A hardened bell will vibrate and give the player bright feedback. A heavy, annealed bell will focus more energy in the audiences direction giving the player much different feedback.

    We also have to consider how we practice. If our room is small and has hard walls, we are basically piping the trumpet sound right into our ears. That sound is bright regardless of how one plays. If we try and adjust our tone for the practice room, our live sound in decent acoustic spaces can end up VERY stuffy.

    So, what to do?

    Like any other intelligent decision, we need to figure out where we are NOW. Go to the type of room you normally play concerts in and record yourself from various positions. It is very possible that your sound is already just fine. If not, then you need to make sure that the basic mechanics of playing are OK (breathing, long tones slurs, articulation), then perhaps an equipment review is in order (when all other factors are deemed satisfactory!). Getting a bigger sound is easiest when one practices in bigger good sounding rooms. Believe me, if a symphony player practiced for 4 weeks ONLY in a small bedroom or office, they would have a much rougher time on stage. Their rehearsal schedule means that they are playing a great portion of the time in big rooms where projection and sound concepts can develop!

    I think that many times players say that their concept is dark, because they heard somewhere that that is cool. None of the major symphony players that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing or hearing, has had a "dark" sound in my opinion. Adjectives like "brilliant", "massive", "delicate", "full" are more like what reaches my ears. Dark sounds I hear when certain jazz players blow right into the microphone on some smokey chorus. 10 minutes later, they can wail without the mic in the brass section. That variety of color is my goal. My sound concept is "robin" and that is dark, light and everything else.
  2. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Great post Robin.

  3. Richard Oliver

    Richard Oliver Forte User

    Jul 18, 2006
    Casper, WY
    Right-O. "Cool" is a bugbear.
  4. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    I think a players sound can be changed by the player when needed. I can, I'm just not sure what I do to change the sound, it just happens.
    You can be limited by equipment but, if you go somewhat middle of the road with the equipment it can be very versatile.

    I took some lessons with Charlie Schlueter. In the lessons I have heard him sound dark and full in a very small room. It's hard to know from a recording because you never know what mixing was done. If you listen to Charlies recordings you will hear some very dark sound and some very bright sound. I guess we would have to know that they were all recorded in the same room and that the engineers didn't mess with the mix. The point is, different sounds on the same equipment.

    If you go to Phil Smiths My Space - Philip Smith - New York City, New Jersey - Classical -
    you will hear what I consider a somewhat dark sound. It is certainly the sound I strive for but, I don't think it would work for me playing lead with a big band. I'm listing to him play while I'm writing this. The sound gets darker and lighter in the same song. It has to be mostly the player.

    Last night I was hired to play bugle calls at a fund raiser dinner. Call to the colors was very bright and taps was very mellow. All played on a Bach 37

    I wonder, what is the physical change that we do that changes the sound?
  5. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    I think the way we change the sound is one of those things that we can't think about, we can only imagine the sound that we want in our mind and then produce it. the moment we think about it we tie ourselves in knots and shut down.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    You get a dark sound by removing overtones. The easiest way to do that is to play more softly. Playing loud and dark is an equipment thing. For many players, they can darken their sound up by pushing the tuning slide in a 1/4 inch or more and relaxing more when playing. Tension will brighten the sound up seriously (as well as cutting down range and endurance).
  7. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    I strive for a rich, not dark, sound in most situations. Good post about what you hear vs. where you're playing - some good ideas here.

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