Why do people try to sound dark?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Brass_of_all_Trades, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Pretty well given up even thinking about this one, Bumblebee. I can't reconcile the 'physics' explanation with what my mind expects of 'dark' and 'bright'.

    According to the physics Smack My Pitch Up should be the ultimate 'dark' sound (pure sine wave). But my brain hears mid-pitch piccolo and tells me it's one of the brightest colours in the orchestral texture. My own low C has far more harmonic/overtone complexity in it than my high C, yet when I hear it, my brain says 'dark'. In fact 'dark and somewhat raucous' unless I dull it down a bit with a less energetic buzz. No idea at all what a 'bright' low C is supposed to sound like. Loud and sharp I guess.

    What other people are picturing when they think 'dark', I just don't know. I remember posting the opinion that one TMer's clip sounded like he was playing down into a thick carpet. It wasn't meant to be a criticism, but I think he was a bit offended. His 'dark and sexy' seemed to correspond with my idea of 'dull and lifeless'. Maybe it's as much about our different musical backgrounds, expectations, associations and preferences that lead us to give positive or perjorative connotions to different sound textures and the words we use to describe them.

    Last edited: Oct 24, 2014
    bumblebee likes this.
  2. blew until blue

    blew until blue New Friend

    Oct 17, 2009
    I think that there are many moving parts to any production/performance and as such there are songs that are better suited for a darker sound. Especially when performing lead in ballads , which became popular and I still think Is popular ( but to a lesser degree) with the old standards, speak easies and jazz rooms. In my humble opinion I agree with the earlier post.... I can't play my coprion 15a in a chamber situation....it doesn't blend well, but as a solo in a soft piece ...it can be moving. I guess to sum it up ...that sound and the tools that facilitate it has it's place.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    We don't have to make this as difficult as it sounds. We do have to depart from the frequency response model however. I have taken part in experiments where we remove the attack from tones played by orchestral musicians, it then becomes very difficult to tell the sustained tones apart. It seems that our ears use the transitions between tones to fill in specific information. This is also key to dark and bright! Generally the dark sounding players do not use a very sharp attack, use rhythmic elements as well as vibrato to sweeten up the mix. They also keep the volume in a range where the trumpet does not start to distort (develop that sheen when we pass forte).

    Dark, as I have been saying from the beginning is NOT frequency response. It never will be. Trumpet players that have weak support can remove brilliance (not the same thing) by using equipment that is "too big". The musical result:MUSH.

  4. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    At long last, a light to brighten our darkness! ...or maybe that should read 'carefully placed silences' to brighten.... :-)

    If attack is a key factor, then perhaps non-harmonic overtones play a part too?
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I have often considered digging deeper into darkness but always came to the conclusion "why?". To appease the gear heads that don't listen or understand anyway?

    It is only important to teach musical intention. The rest kind of falls into place. I am sure that Chris Botti never had to polish up his sound or influence it in a dark way. He busted his ass in the shed and his brain ended up telling his ears and lips what to watch out for - without an intellectualism of darkness of sound. Gary Onady will for sure confirm this approach to darkness in his own playing. If your brain, ears and chops are not ready, you can duplicate equipment and still not even be in the same ballpark.

    So, for those wanting to play darker, start busting your ass in the shed. If you are serious, you will get there when your ears and chops can respond to what your brain has learned.
  6. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria

    Okay, I'm game for that :-)

    Particularly interested in opinions of what happens around 6:00.

    And why.
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    It took me 40 years in that shed to get the sound to where I really wanted it... not numbers of horns, but numbers of years. You know you are there when you never want to leave the shed. i look so forward now to playing every day, as much as I can, because when you get that sound, there is nothing else at the end of the day that is so pleasing.
  8. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    That's weird -- I spent a little time this afternoon trawling through youtube for different MacArthur Park renditions. Then in the evening I got a few calls after each other from the sub-continent telling me I "have a problem with my computer". Are you spying on me?

    But since I didn't come across this one I'll overlook that transgression for now. Thanks.

    That he's playing a flugelhorn suggests to me the sound will be voted as "dark".

    I blame Maynard for the trumpet at 6:00, which I consider "bright". I think his upper-register version had far-reaching influence. Or maybe I should blame Doc: Doc Severinsen - YouTube

    But in that Doc Severinsen clip at 1:00 I usually think of that as a bit "dark".


    P.S. After the first of three calls to my house informing me of my computer problem I'm afraid I tried a bit of acting, telling the callers thank goodness they called back, that I desperately need the ambulance to turn up in a hurry to treat the stabbing victim who is expiring in front of me, and to please bring the police to apprehend the perpetrator who is holed up with a weapon in one of the bedrooms. Unbelievably they still tried to get my credit card number before just hanging up, despite the urgent help I was requesting.
  9. jimc

    jimc Mezzo Piano User

    May 21, 2009
    Spokane, WA USA
    In the Last/Watkins recording I'd call it dark/bright, corresponding with the flugel/trumpet switchoff. But another important factor is microphone distance. With the trumpet he moved quite a bit further back, which would de-emphasize the lower partials, making for a brighter overall sound. (I wasn't overall very fond of this rendition, but Maynard's version is seared into my brain, everything else is 'wrong'. :-) )

    We aren't hearing and comparing live sound, we're talking about recordings. And that's a whole 'nother banana.

    The thing about Maynard is that he had such power and presence up in the screech zone. He wasn't screeching. (I don't like screechy sound.) Dare I call it a dark tone, but up so high and strong that it wasn't dark at all? I dunno, but that's sure a tough act to follow.

    AZTBNDAD New Friend

    Sep 3, 2014
    Chandler, AZ, USA
    "How do you describe dark?"

    I describe it by comparison with the rest of the ensemble....in my particular case, a marching band.

    A "dark" trumpet will blend to the point of vanishing with the mellophones and baritones. This is achieved via both equipment and composition. This conditions leaves the insidious piccolo to carry the high end of the soprano voice.

    The "bright" trumpet, will cut through and ride on top as the soprano voice of the ensemble...displacing the previously mentioned piccolo.

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