Tone Shaping. What do you want to do when you want to sound a certain way?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jerec576, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. jerec576

    jerec576 Pianissimo User

    Feb 12, 2009
    Miami, Fl
    Alright, so we have what we sound like when we play right? But what about when it comes to disiring to sound a certain way?

    I've heard players (Miles Davis is an example of this, as well as other jazz players, I have healrd the same with Gilbert Johnson) sound as though they are playing on another instrument (i.e., narrower, brighter, darker, all sorts of adjectives and variety)

    Surely gear has an impact on it, but what about the player?

    What if you wanted your sound to sound airy, or fat and big?

    I'm expecting many differently phrased answers along the same line;

    (This is the sum of what I have heard so far):
    "Focus on your sound before you play it, picture whatever your goal is, or even listen to a player that has that objective sound and player and keep your mindset on it"

    And that exactly is what I try, I try to sound "fat, dark" and will spend 30 minutes just working on one note, and then it happens! I get just about what I wanted! But then I take a break, pick up the horn later and- darn*, its gone; I sounded like I did before :dontknow:.
    My object is to alter my sound for a longer term.

    Some Examples I am very familiar with:
    Woody Shaw sounding dark on a Bach 180 37 bell (5c/7c)
    Art Farmer sounding like a flugel on a trumpet
    Arturo Sandoval sounding very blazing, forceful, masculine.
    Gilbert Johnson sounding as though he has a mute on when he doesnt, just very focused and dense core to his sound.

    How is it that they may accomplish that? I listen to other players, local, and I hear that they may sound with almost completely different depending on their approach?

    I understand that the player's emboucher/gear/setup impacts this but there is also a period of development i hear in some long term (Jazz Players) in which their tone on their instrument changes completely:

    Example: Jon Faddis from his work in the 1970s (JF&Oscar Peterson Album) to his most recent album (Teranga is it?)

    This is something that really interests me.
  2. rbdeli

    rbdeli Mezzo Piano User

    May 8, 2009
    I don't have an answer to your question, but I am curious as to what others say. Because along these same lines, I have always wondered what do you do to make your vibrato? Do you use your lips, air supply, or apply pressure on the horn with your fingers to make it gently vibrate? I have heard from some people to never use air to vibrato, only use your hand to make the piece of brass in your hand vibrate. Is this true?

    I don't mean to hijack your own thread, but I think this topic on vibrato definitely fits in with the sound one makes on the horn.
  3. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    The elements of electronic sound synthesis involve ADSR (Attack, Sustain, Decay and Release), and the filter/format elements.

    Attack for trumpet can vary from a “Tah” (sharp curve) to a “Duwah” (slow curve, and pretty unmusical); Sustain how long the note is held at the volume directly after the attack; Decay as it gets softer; and Release at the end of the decay.

    The filter/format elements have to do with the overtone makeup of the sound without the ADSR.

    ADSR in broad terms, deals with articulation over the entire duration of the note, and usually is what we refer to as "tonguing."

    The filter/format sound elements include variables such as equipment and oral cavity and effects, including mutes and vibrato.

    To master all this—listen to every note and between them, and then try stuff out.

    Have fun!
  4. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    First, I'm far from the best at changing the color of my sound, but for what it may or may not be worth, here's how I try.

    I listen to whoever or whatever I'm trying to sound like, and if possible play the same piece, or at least something similar. I like to put it in context of a tune instead of just an isolated note.

    As Arnold Jacobs would say, I really try to play the "horn in my head." I try to play along hearing Rafael Mendez or Bud Herseth or whoever, in my mind.

    I don't know how to really explain this, but I try to make my breathing match the sound and character I want to get.

    I'm sure stuff changes in the chops, but I don't control it or really even notice. Some of my best playing comes when I'm thinking this way. I should probaby do it always!

  5. CHAMP

    CHAMP Piano User

    Nov 16, 2005
    hear it.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    We are stuck with our "basic" sound. It is determined by the geometry of our face and the equipment.

    What most people perceive to be a "big" change in tone color is primarily volume and then articulation.

    Recordings (or playing live into a microphone) changes the acoustic perspective. We can forget about believing those truths as an actually played whisper can be turned into thunder and bolts of lightning can be smoothed off in the mix!

    So back to your question: "HOW do I do it"? You practice very softly until the chops respond reliably. That is where we find dark(er)! Then you build from there, adding volume to "brighten up" your tone. At the same time, listening to the articulation of the masters will give you insite into the ADSR that Vulgano Brother talked about. That ADSR is useless if we have not developed a musical brain, so listening is paramount here.

    I will go on record as saying that many if not most players will not be able to appreciably, reliably modulate their tone, simply because they 1) don't have it in their head, and 2) haven't built the chops to realize those swings.

    The technical part is pretty easy: we buzz into the horn, that sets up a standing wave that is pretty much hardware dependent. The weakest (softest) possible resonant state has the least amount of overtones and is the darkest sound. When we start blowing harder, the distortion of the waveform increases and distortion adds high frequency content that is not harmonically related to the original resonant state. That brightens our sound up and gives it the "power" to overpower.

    The master player can manipulate those states at will, add articulation from cotton candy to great balls of fire and with very slight rhythmic, musical shading perfect the acoustic painting.

    It all starts with soft and reliable! The only way to achieve LOUD and dark is with equipment. Soft and bright is possible on any horn by playing wimpy. Most audience members are not as aware of tone color as trumpet player gear heads are. To them smoky has more to do with playing style and a musically sensitive player rather than the physically measured overtone pattern.
  7. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    When ever I want to alter my sound I do it by changing my air flow and embouchure tension, like rowuk stated equipment does come into play here, I have played lead trumpet exclusively for the last 34 yrs. when I use a darker sound on a ballad it's not the darkest sound you've ever heard but it is darker than my lead sound.
    As far vibrato , I prefer using the hand vibrato, it doesn't upset embouchure or air flow.

    ps, I forgot to mention tongue levels also affect the tone.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
  8. operagost

    operagost Forte User

    Jan 25, 2009
    Spring City, PA, USA
    On the scientific side, it has been shown that the attack of an instrument is responsible for most of its perceived tonal quality. If you synthesized a tone that had the exact same harmonics of a trumpet, but gave it a clarinet-like attack, it would sound more like a clarinet. So studying articulation, as Rowuk indicated, should be a big part of your journey.

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