What words would you use?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by crowmadic, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. crowmadic

    crowmadic Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 3, 2006
    I'd like to see if there is a common vocabulary used amongst musicians to convey the color/charcteristic of a particular Bb trumpet. I've used words like: bright, dark, shrill, sweet, velvety, brassy, smooth. Maybe the way to do this is to mention your Bb trumpet/s and describe the color/characteristic each has, or you've been told by a listener it has.
  2. Jimba

    Jimba New Friend

    Dec 28, 2006
    well if ya heard my playing, you would have to add words like,



    "please stop that your scaring my cats away!"

  3. screamingmorris

    screamingmorris Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 4, 2007
    There can be confusion in the use of many words to describe the tone quality / timbre of an instrument.

    When I hear that a trumpet is "dark", that might mean that the trumpet sounds "dead", lacking higher harmonics, or that the trumpet sounds "rich" in harmonics, just the opposite of "dead".

    Bill Chase was famous for a "shrill" tone, but it was not a "thin" tone like Cat Anderson and some others allegedly had.

    Maynard Ferguson in concert sounded much better than he did on most records, and his tone with the 1970's Holton mouthpiece was extremely difficult to describe. His tone could be thin and wide open and bright and mellow and powerful and beautiful all at the same time. So how would one decribe it in just one word?

    I like it when someone says that a certain trumpet or a certain mouthpiece encourages a "Bill Chase sound" or a "Miles Davis sound" or a "Doc Severinsen sound" because it instantly conveys the type of sound without attempts at putting the analytical details into words.
    And I like it when someone says that a trumpet gives a more / less cornet or more / less flugelhorn sound because we instantly know what they mean.
    And I like it when people use analogies to convey types of sound, such as saying that Cat Anderson's upper register is a compact rifle bullet while Maynard Ferguson's upper register is a more diffuse shotgun shell.
  4. TrentAustin

    TrentAustin Fortissimo User

    Oct 28, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Brilliant, dark, cloudy, diffused, clear, etc come to mind for me.


  5. PSH

    PSH Pianissimo User

    Feb 20, 2007
    Minneapolis MN; Denton TX
    but it was not a "thin" tone like Cat Anderson and some others allegedly had.

    I'm sorry but i have to disagree with you on this one. I don't think "thin" is a word i would ever use to describe Cat's sound. His was much the opposite of that, in fact I would argue that he had the fattest lead sound of anyone I've heard. Unless we have different definitions of "thin"...

  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    As only the geekiest try to maintain a pseudo-technical language, we have been forced to borrow terms from other art forms. The problem is, no other art form has the heights or depths of the trumpet.

    I have several Bbs.
    The Monette sounds auburn, the Holton sexy, the Heckel rotary elegant, the M├╝nkwitz nat with the Bb bow can sound like heaven or hell depending if it is used at the beginning or end of the concert.
  7. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    My words for sounds I like:


    My words for sounds I'm not so crazy about:


    It's really hard to find common terms unless two people hear the same player at the same time and can discuss (That sounded warm to me...Really, I would say it was brilliant...etc). That way you can figure out what certain words mean to others.

    I try to stay away from dark and bright...no one ever seems to really agree on what's dark or bright. Brilliant or brittle are easier to agree on, in my experience.

    Even the sounds I say I'm not crazy about are useful and appropriate in certain situations. Most great players can play with a wide range of sound color, which only makes it harder to describe someone's sound in a few words. Makes it more fun to listen though!

  8. screamingmorris

    screamingmorris Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 4, 2007
    Since I am not personally familiar with Cat's sound, I was relying on how a friend described it to me in the early 1970's.
    He also said that Brisbois had a thin tone, which apparently even Brisbois admitted.
    I think of "thin" as lacking lower harmonics.
    So a sound can be extremely powerful but thin at the same time.
    You have me curious now, so I want to check up on Cat's recordings to see what he really sounded like.
    But I know from experience that most Maynard recordings did not convey what Maynard sounded like in person, so the same might be true regarding Cat's recordings.
    Thanks for bringing it to my attention so that I can look into it.
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I like to think my trumpets all sound appropriate for the context in which they are used. :cool:

    It is one of those cases where it is not the trumpet's sound being too vague for words, but the words themselves are too vague. This might be why we love to talk about mouthpieces so much.
  10. crowmadic

    crowmadic Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 3, 2006
    Screamingmorris and rowuk gave me more of what I was looking for. SM used words and phrases like, "encourages the sound of"(and name a well known player).....or.... compared the sound to that of a different type instrument-cornet, flugelhorn, etc.. Rowuk was most useful because the horn could be chosen specifically for the word he assigned: "auburn, sexy, elegant, heaven, hell." "Thanks to all who related their answers to the sound of the horn, and not the player. I know different players, with different mouthpieces, under different conditions, can make the same horn sound radically different. Perhaps I should have said the test is done by one player w/the same mouthpiece, playing the same things, in the same way, in the same location, under the same conditions, and within a relatively close time interval.....then....how would you describe the sound of THAT HORN?.........crow

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