Perceived Tone

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by camelbrass, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Manny,

    I hope I can explain this well enough for you to be able enlighten me on.

    Over the last year or so I've been aware that the sound I hear while playing has developed a slightly 'reedy' quality at all volumes and in all registers. It's not weak or airy but has a distinct buzz.It's also not the instrument because it's there regardless of whether I'm playing a Bach or a heavy weight.

    I've also noticed that over about the same time my conductors and fellow section members (and members of the audience) have been complimenting me on a great sound (and that in itself is very satisfying) and what is being heard is definitely not that 'reedy' tone I'm hearing. I don't play in an environment that gets recorded very often so it's very difficult to ascertain whether what's being heard in the auditorium is what I'm trying to emulate or not. Can I sculpture my sound based on how I want to sound (my 'ideal') even given the very obviously different feedback I receive from behind the trumpet or do I ultimately end up with the resultant and have very little control over it?

    If we can control it what are the key elements that players should look for in their tone as they perceive it, from the mouthpiece end (so as to speak)?

    It's all a bit esoteric, I know, but I would appreciate your insights.


    Regards,


    Trevor
     
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    That's a fascinating question and I'd like a little time to chew on it. There are several ramifications to your thoughts and I want to think about them clearly.

    ML
     
  3. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

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    Jun 16, 2005
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    Trevor and Manny,

    Great topic! I think about this a lot and I'm looking forward to how this develops. I always like to pick up new ways to discuss this topic!
     
  4. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
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    Derek,

    I've been thinking about it for a while and was recently listening to Gerard Schwarz play some baroque stuff thinking 'what a fantastic sound'. I know we've talked a lot about 'resonance' and I've sort of grabbed hold of that but what I hear in his sound may be totally different than what he hears...what is it that he hears and how does it differ? Maybe there is no difference and I need to sort myself out, I don't know, but I suspect Manny does. It's a great opportunity for me, as an amateur, to ask a guy who knows what he sounds like from both angles and has a tone worthy of aspiration.

    Manny,

    Take as much time as you are comfortable with. I'm sure that the reply will be well considered and as poignant as ever.


    Regards,


    Trevor
     
  5. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    First of all, Trevor, good to see you!

    Now, I realize that your question has a few facets. Asyou say, you have to consider the sound that your ears get from behind the bell. Depending on the construction of the instrument, you're going to hear less or more. When I played the Schilke years ago the sound was around me all the time. With Dave's stuff, it got further and further away the heavier they got.

    What to do.

    The only thing you really can do is back off and trust. What is it that earns your trust? I think there is some physical feedback that lets you know things are, at the very least, working effeciently. For some, it is that nice feeling of warm electricity that starts at the embouchure and goes to your eft hand holding the instrument. I don't like to feel the horn rattling too much but, as I say, the nice current of vibration will always validate what I'm hearing. Maybe that's why we're so attracted to low C's in the morning; we like that sense of the 300 or so cycles per second that we can feel in the lips and then fewer, more palpable ones as we descend.

    For me, I guess the trust issue is a big one. Without that trust it's very hard to interpret pieces stylistically. It's funny you mention Gerry's sound. It was a very beautiful and warm sound but oddly innappropriate for a fair bit of the orchestral repertoire I heard him play. He did not play, by today's standards, a large mouthpiece. It was a 5C, Bach. He used it to blend with the other instruments in the Philharmonic and myriad solos. It gave him a lot of flexibility yet the massive sound we associate with today's orchestral principals.

    If one has a handle on the style one wants to play, that earns a lot of trust points, I think. A proper acoustical environment is, of course, huge in its contribution to earning the trust of your approach and sound. So, a good development tool is to sneak into the largest venue you can and play to the empty seats. That feedback is priceless. It's what gave me confidence to play a horn whose sound was being thrown away from me.

    Finally, it's a question of taste, isn't it? I can remember clearly going to a rehearsal of Mahler 1 with Bud and company and also a show where they played Pines. Bud was using his Monette and I was absolutely knocked out at how huge his sound was. It was like a wall of sound and then delicate and sweet when he chose to have it be that way. I loved it because my concept of sound possibility was changing and it fit my ear perfectly. I would later scratch my head when I'd hear that "Bud doesn't sound like himself" and that sort of thing. I had to ask myself "What are these folks hearing? I don't get it." So, it's a very subjective thing to make a pronouncement about sound. There are so many variables and unltimately it's about what you like or what you're looking for.

    I have a feeling we're just getting started with this subject.

    ML
     
  6. PH

    PH Mezzo Piano User

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    Manny nailed it. The sound the player hears behind the horn is very different than the sound the conductor or audience hears and the way the sound records.

    The trumpet sound is very directional, and (as Manny said) some horns spread the sound in such a way that more comes back to your ears, shile others keep a tight core that projects. This has nothing to do with "brightness" or "darkness". This is something I had to get used to. In my experience, when I am playing my best the tone sounds really bright in comparison to how the recording play back sounds. That is due in part to the directional nature of a good trumpet sound.

    Another factor is that the higher parts of the harmonic spectrum give the trumpet sound its unique color. At close range these sounds are very intense, partly I suspect due to the shorter wave lengths of these frequencies (I would appreciate a scientist's opinion on this). Out in the hall these higher frequencies blend with the rest of the harmonic spectrum so that they give the tone greater projection at any volume...the quality that allowed Herseth to play ppp and be heard at the back of the hall even though his dynamic was ultra soft.

    I suspect the ringing of the high overtones in your sound is what you are hearing as a reedy quality. The presence of this part of the spectrum is what your conductor is digging about your sound. I guess that new Bach is working out!!!

    I remember a time in graduate school when one of my fellow students pointed out to me that every time my sound got REALLY centered I would change it. I realized that, because of was the way I was used to hearing a trumpet from the audience, when I heard that reedy buzziness in the tone I would mask it. I thought I was darkening my sound, but in reality I was killing it.

    As a side note, this is why you should make every effort to try out a new trumpet in a variety of rooms with different acoustics. The way the sound is reflected back to your ears can greatly influence your perception of a new instrument.

    Fabulous topic!
     
  7. PH

    PH Mezzo Piano User

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    Footnote:

    As a trumpet teacher I try to use a lot of modeling in lessons. If a student's sound is lacking in high overtones I will bring this out in my playing. If their sound lacks fundamental I will emphasize this. I know that they will unconsciously alter their playing by subconsciously pursuing my model. This is a way a good teacher of this approach can cause subtle physcial changes in a student without telling the student anything about the physical process and keep their mental focus totally in the sonic realm.

    Anyway, I know the acoustics of my studios well enough to know that the student hears a different part of my sound if I face him/her than they do if I stand beside them. I know that they hear different aspects of my tone if I point my bell at the stand than if I point it at the wall, the floor, or my filing cabinet. I use all of this intentionally in order to color the sound model I want them to pursue.

    BTW...This is an approach to teaching where Bill Adam is the unrivalled master. It is one reason his teaching doesn't translate well to a method or explanation. You really have to be there and hear the sound he plays for you at any given time.
     
  8. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

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    Boy, there is a lot to digest in this thread as well as a similar thread over on TH. Just a few, random thoughts to chew on:

    Manny mentioned 'trust', maybe it should be 'feel' ? I have a good sound and my new teacher made it even better. To get that ringing sound, a key part is playing a note 'in tune' and 'centered'. A player has to develop a very good ear and know when they are (and aren't) playing in tune. For centering, a player has to know how to control their airstream----by the way they breath out, and by very tiny adjustments with their embochure. An analogy would be 'shaping' a flow of water coming out of a garden hose with your hands. You can make it flowing, or you can make it a tight stream.
    The feedback from the horn (those vibrations we feel) are a good indicator of when the note is centered and in tune.

    Producing the 'right' sound, when what we hear isn't what everybody else hears. At first glance, this seems almost impossible. How would you color the sound? I guess you would by either bringing out or diminishing the overtones that are heard.

    What I keep coming back to though is that what a player hears is not what they sound like. I've found that out by listening to recordings of myself. I don't like what I hear and I guess it's because it's so different from what I think I hear. My fellow players and audience like the sound, but it just doesn't sound like the 'me' I hear every time I play. How do you come to like the sound you really have?

    Bill
     
  9. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Thanks for the feedback guys.

    It's interesting that Manny identified 'back off and trust'...from the feedback I get from people listening to me play this is when I achieve the sound I'm aiming for. It also that point where I'm getting the strongest feedback (this is not when I'm playing at my loudest). One of the reasons I bought up Gerard Schwarz's sound and one of the reasons I've been listening to his playing is this complex bell like sound, particularly in the mid register....it's this bell-like sound I'm trying to achieve, a sound with a round 3-D core...almost not a brass sound at all. I can understand that may or may not be what's required for Mahler (and of course the greats can adapt accordingly) but I must admit it's that particular sound that attracts me to the trumpet. Interestingly enough I have the MSO recording of the Alpine Symphony that you did and although it's a very different environment than solo or small ensemble playing, it shares certain characteristics (obviously at very different dynamics). What I really need to do is, as you suggest, get into a large auditorium and listen for clues.

    Pat's also bought up some interesting observations.....funnily enough I hate my reflected sound off a close wall or even a music stand. It's harsh and not pleasant at all. If that was my measure then I'd be throwing the horn in the rubbish bin. This whole subject of projection/volume will bring Derek's resonant sound topic into the discussion...I think I've grabbed that but regardless I only need to go back to my school days when it was obvious that a solo cornet (or soprano) sitting on top of a brass band at ff need something more than volume. I think sound models are really important and one of the real reasons that the internet will never replace a real, live, great sounding teacher.

    The other thing that this has made me consider is the capacity of a player who spends the bulk of his time playing with a teacher (who may not be aware of sound as Pat or Bill Adam) and very little time actually playing in ensembles large and small. Is his capacity to develop this complex sound inhibited, regardless of his technical skill? It seems that it is very dependent on the environment the player is subject to.

    Pat, the Bach is working a treat. I've actually sold all my other trumpets....I'm now a one horn type of guy.


    Derek, does this fit the work you've been doing?


    Regards,


    Trevor
     

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