What is "Dark"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpetsplus, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    I sometimes get enquiries about dark and bright sounding trumpets. Recently someone has asked whether I could make their trumpet dark.

    Following is what I have replied. I expect to write a blog on this, but for now, would like to receive comments.

    There is not necessarily one component that will make a trumpet dark. Trumpets, unlike synthesizers etc, require a relationship with the player. It is the sum of and relationship between, all components - player's physique, player's (teacher's) concept, mouthpiece, trumpet, idiom/genre - which all themselves inter-relate to produce the sound. Yes, greatly enlarging the throat of and deepening your mouthpiece could serve to darken your tone; you can check this out with a Flugelhorn mouthpiece in your trumpet. However, I suspect that by "dark" you are also referring to "plaintive", the sound striven for by disciples of Miles Davis/Chet Baker.
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I find the easiest parameter to change is mouthpiece depth. Speaking Bach here, but back in the day I used a 1.5 rim with a 3c cup, a 1.25b cup (filed down just a bit to match the rim) and a 1.5d cup. It helped a lot in getting near the sound I wanted and I suspect my body made adjustments as well. I still use three different cup depths.
  3. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    On my particular horns, cup depth has never really mattered that much. I remember a certain person (hi Eric!) staring at me after playing a Curry TF and it didn't sound any different than the other pieces I was using.

    Throat seems to matter more, and of course oral cavity shape.

  4. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    With any given player/trumpet combination, making the tone more "dark" is easiest done with a deeper, more open mouthpiece as you stated. Then, there's the mental concept of playing "dark", which involves a different approach to playing - different tonguing, breath support, phrasing, etc. Going too large on a mouthpiece will sometimes cause a trumpet to lose its richness and go tubby, though. I suspect that's mainly a function of the various components of the mouthpiece not working together correctly, or not working with a particular horn. When I want "dark", I'll usually play a cornet, though.
  5. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Maybe it's easier to define "dark" as less "bright" - just as a space becomes dark when the light is removed. Sounds overly simplistic, but this came to mind after my old Holton had become "the-horn-that-found-me" for a few weeks, then got the Olds Super out for a blow. Same mouthpiece, same player, but first thought was an emphatic "that's bright!".

  6. rockwell

    rockwell Pianissimo User

    Dec 6, 2011
    Don't larger bells and bells and trumpets of heavier gauge brass and different bell metals make for darker?
  7. sounds7

    sounds7 Forte User

    Sep 4, 2004
    New Orleans
    changing the mouthpiece to go darker will have other side affects, more limited range up high for example. I have always been of the opinion that you can always make a dark horn brighter easier than making a bright horn darker. That is the case for me anyhow. Miles and Chet didn't need huge mouthpieces to sound dark because they played the right horn.
  8. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I believe this is key. I firmly believe that a bright horn has a lot more higher frequency overtones as a result of vibratory characteristics of the horn, that has a lot to do with all components of the equipment used. Some horns are more designed to produce the higher frequencies, but as VB notes, a mouthpiece can dampen this effect. I have tested this against a well tune piano chord that has a tonic of a sounded note in the chord. When you play a trumpet note against this chord, you can hear the overtones that the trumpet is producing. A darker horn has less overtones, and the darkest horn will produce a pure tone, and NO harmonics are heard when sounding a note. So I believe dark = pure tone; bright = a wide array of overtones.
  9. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I agree. When you have a pure tone horn like the Martin Committee, mouthpiece changes will likely have less of an effect on the darkness of the tone.
  10. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I believe the bell has a marked effect on the trumpet tone, but I believe it is more related to the flair of the bell than the heaviness of the metal.

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