Sounding like yourself

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Rick Chartrand, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. Rick Chartrand

    Rick Chartrand Piano User

    Nov 22, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Hey Guys

    I was thinking...we all model our sound after someone. After all its ''someone'' who inspires us to begin playing...right? For me it was seeing Miles Live in 1990.

    What mekes us develop our own sound? I think the trick is this. You can model your sound after someone like Miles etc. but after years and years of practise, playing and performance something magical happens. You put all your influences together and you develop your own sound, and sound like yourself :)

    Im sure in our first couple years of playing that we've all heard something like ''Stop sounding like Miles and play like yourself''. Am I right?

    I read in Miles Autobiography that his main influence when he was a student was from a teacher named simply Buchanan. Miles was 15 and was playing like Harry James with tons of vibrato and thought he was sounding slick. This teacher simply told Miles ''One day youre gonna get old and shake like crazy, so why have all that vibrato in your playing?'' Miles took this and incorporated it into his sound. Its tons of small stuff like this that develops your own sound. But takes YEARS to happen.

    Thoughts and Stories on your influences and how you've developed over the years???

    Rick AKA Trumpet Man
  2. Chris4

    Chris4 Pianissimo User

    Jul 16, 2005
    I think you hit it right on the head. IMO, your sound develops overtime from little things like you said. Just little bits of info and inspiration that all come together into your own sound.
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I think that for me, what really puts a concept of sound in my head are the recordings that I listen to, but at the end of the day, I'm just blowing the book, and what comes out is me, for better or for worse.

    I used to play with a lot of vibrato until someone pointed out I was doing it - before that I really hadn't stopped to think about it.

    Someone else told me "you play hard", meaning that I tended to attack everything I was playing pretty agressively and probably played:
    1.) to loud
    2.) hard articulations

    When I stopped and looked at what I was doing, he was right - I didn't always play that way though - when I was playing in a quintet, I was probably playing at my highest level of musicality and technical finesse that I have ever played...and it was a much different sound from my sound now.

    Cool topic!
  4. Daff

    Daff Pianissimo User

    Jul 10, 2004
    It would be just awful if I sounded like myself.
  5. talcito

    talcito Piano User

    Feb 18, 2004
    A few years ago I was doing a recording project. Just after I recorded the solo on the first track the guy who hired me asked the engineer to stop recording. I was a bit surprised as I was very satisfied with the solo I had just improvised. At that point the guy who hires me pulled out his black phone book, shows me the book and says ''If I wanted to hire the guy who you just sounded like I could have called him myself---his number is right here---Could you please just sound like yourself"!

    Since then I have focused on developing my own style by transcribing myself! I am an excellent whistler----I record myself whisling over play along tracks and then I transcribe the best parts of my solo and practise these licks in all the keys. Some its good, sometimes its terrible---but its always me!

    By singing or whisling solos you can transfer your internal ideas much better than trying them on the instrument first because you do not have the limitation of the instrument holding back your ideas.
  6. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    When I first got to the four year college I graduated from (I transferred from a 2 year school; I was on the 3 year plan there! :shock:) I had some really nasty concepts of sound. I had come fresh out of a drum corps where the instructor taught us to play higher, faster and "oh my gosh my eyeballs are bleeding" loud. The guy that I played lead with...he's now playing in Salsa bands. He had some chops, and I tried to play like him without understanding what he was really doing. My tone, needless to say, had a nice warm laser-like quality to it. No paint left on the practice room walls after I left. In all seriousness, it was spread, harsh, forced and tense. (I have no idea how I got into school with a sound like that).

    After working with my teacher a while on Concone, Bordogni and Schlossberg, with some breathing excercises, and listening to the likes of him, Maurice Andre, Wynton (who was still doing classical recordings at the time), Bud, Phil Smith, the Berlin Phil (don't know who was there then), Israel Phil (same) and some of the top students in the studio, my concept began to form. I had made a change, and became somewhat enamored of the German sound: big, dark, heavy. I stuck with that approach for a while.

    While doing my grad work, I discovered some of Ed Carroll's recordings. They particularly fell in favor with me; the smoothness of attack and articulation, fluidity and seemingly effortless grace of his techique, fullness and clarity of tone. That became the ideal to which I aspired.

    Then, several years ago, I attended a workshop with Mr. James Thompson. I remember this very clearly, as it was not so long ago. He played some very relaxed 2nd line G's; the articulation excercise on p. 6 of the Clarke Characteristic studies. He did not play loud by any stretch; but the room rang for seconds afterwards. He made a distinct point that we do not have to be loud; just in tune to project. This rang true (no pun intended) and consistent with somethiong my teacher was trying to get across to me; to listen to the quality of the sound; the amount of ring present in it. A flat pitch sags and sounds dead; sharp is pinched and harsh sounding. He also made some interestting points about "dark" vs "bright" sound, and the presence of overtones in each. This had become my next approach: listen for overtones and ring; if I could get the cymbals behind me (or the pots hanging in the kitchen) to resonate after I had finished playing quietly, I knew I had done my job.

    Most recently, I have been very much influenced by Manny's take on the horn; about relaxing into the breath; not actively pushing from the diaphragm, but relaxing; sighing. Breathing full; trying to keep the syllable "tooh" regardless of the register you are playing in. Vibrato. Visualization and imagry; the internal trumpet in your head. He has such a relaxed and stress free style and sound. (I'm still learning this one...)

    Long story short, all of these experiences have layered one on top of the other, along with other experiences that either I know very little about and thought "what an interesting approach" and experimented with or just players I've heard. I think that could be the case for all of us. We are made of our surroundings; unless we live in a cultural bubble, we are melting pots of influence; a gumbo of our teachers, favorite artists, past experiences, and new discoveries. I can hear changes in my style, playing, and sound from each of those "phases" I've visited, yet they are all still very much present (at least I strive for them to be) in my playing and practice routines.
  7. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    When talking about a players sound, James Thompson considers sound to be the combination of tone, attack, note length, volume, vibrato, intensity, releases, etc. In addition, style and content (especially when improvising) can make up a player’s sound.

    When modeling my own sound (symphony trumpet sound) I tried to touch on each aspect of the components that Jim Thompson mentioned. If my note lengths were too short for a specific line (or even a single note in a particular phrase), I would consciously identify the difference and then make a change. In the big tutti passages, symphony players seem to have wall of sound coming out interrupted by articulations, but full note values. I was missing that when I started to scrutinize what was different in my playing compared to the symphony players (years ago).

    I also never had any vibrato in my sound. Adding some, in the right style when appropriate has changed my overall sound concept.

    Articulation is another area of my sound that has undergone changes. I used to do articulation exercises using only one style of articulation (closer to a legato approach). I now mix things up and will try to vary how I tongue to get a bigger palate of styles available to me when I play music. This can dramatically effect how I sound for different styles of literature.

    The biggest aspect of my sound that I have investigated is clearly the tone component. When I first heard the resonance and vibrancy in the sound of a great symphony trumpet player "up close", I was shocked at how my sound (tone) paled in comparison. This is an ongoing journey that I have written about extensively. Clearly my sound today is a direct reflection of how I was influenced by hearing how exciting this "most resonant sound" can make music come alive.
  8. Rick Chartrand

    Rick Chartrand Piano User

    Nov 22, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Hi Guys

    What a great bunch of responses! I read each of them with great anticapation. Thanks :D

    Just when I think I have learned alot I read a bunch of great stuff like this. I particularly identify with Patrick's response because I think you are a Jazz and popular music player like me.

    Another point that was brought up in this thread was that whislinig or singing can help you play better and I totally agree. Holy Cole (Jazz singer) says that she listens to the way instruments sound and incorporates this into her sound. Since hearing her say this I started listening to singers and the way they particularly articulate and phrase thier songs. Barbra Streisand is an excellent study for long tone and vibrato while Anita Baker's newest CD contains some tracks where she is amazingly using her voice like a musical instrument!

    Another thing that i do is that I record myself after learning something new because even with all my years of playing, sometimes I can still sound different in my head (or Ego) then in reality. Recordings dont lie.

    The last point that I wanna touch on is the letter that touched on Manny's playing, attack and breathing. Manny is a brilliant player and I just LOVE the way he describes the way to technically do something. For example when he was describing tripple tounging. The way he described it to me, I instantly got the concept in my head and was able to do it.

    Thanks again for the responses guys. Great stuff :D

    Rick AKA Trumpet Man

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