Why do people try to sound dark?

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

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Believe whatever you want. Obviously there are enough members here that understand the concept. I am not interested in "saving" the rest.
  2. jaemard

    jaemard Mezzo Piano User

    Jul 2, 2012
    San Rafael, CA
    I like sounding like me.
    gmonady likes this.
  3. Tjnaples

    Tjnaples Piano User

    Aug 30, 2013
    Listening to Ron Miles playing in the song "By Myself Some Freedom" is why I like the dark trumpet sound personally. If you haven't heard this preview for free, I bought it in a second as its that good. He's just absolutely incredible.

    Double V by Otis Taylor
  4. scottfsmith

    scottfsmith Pianissimo User

    Jul 2, 2014
    I've been lurking on this thread and find it puzzling. Dark tone has a pretty clear scientific definition, a tone is relatively dark if it has relatively more low overtones and relatively fewer high overtones. It only makes sense in a relative context of two sounds, e.g. one trumpet/mouthpiece/player sound compared to another. Its a well-understood, widely used term in many communities including professional music theorists. You can even calculate it if you have a strobe tuner: play the two sounds and take a snapshot of the pictures and compare the relative strength of the overtones in the two strobe readings. Make sense?

  5. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Ahhh... that IS my definition as well, but I simplify it to producing a pure tone (to the human ear). A Martin Committee plays a pure tone... it is considered a "dark" horn. HOWEVER Ever hear Dizzy play in the high range.... yep he plays a Committee... but in the high range, Diz is anything but dark. His sound rings, shines and gives one of the brightest sounds that ones could finds.

    So "dark' a label, not reflective of quality of the sound that WE hear.
  6. scottfsmith

    scottfsmith Pianissimo User

    Jul 2, 2014
    Dizzy isn't dark at all in his highs, as you say he is super bright. He'd probably be even brighter if he had a horn more prone to brightness. Horn, mouthpiece, and player are all big parts of the final sound but ultimately you can only talk about "dark" for the sound itself. Horns and mouthpieces can only be prone to be more or less dark. Make sense?

    I should add I have only been playing cornet for a couple months and never played trumpet.. I'm just trying to figure out all these different sound dimensions. Right now I feel like my goal is to make a "vocal" sound in terms of the overtone balance, I get the most pleasure out of having a similar overtone profile to a human singer. I also don't like it when the sound gets too bright and that has been a factor in which mouthpieces/horns I end up playing the most.

  7. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    Perhaps you just enLIGHTened some people on this thread - thank you for your response
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Actually, this highLIGHTS the problem. The definition is NOT a one node scientific explanation. A (useless) dull or mushy sound is also devoid of overtones and fits in your definition - but is surely not the goal. There are also stylistic issues when we play in a veiled, non-aggressive manor. In the professional community, dark or bright are not really used to describe playing. There, value is placed on being able to move in and out of the sonic fabric as the musical flow dictates. Many of the players perceived to be really dark play into microphones. What happens at the mixer is anyones guess.

    My only point here is that "dark" or "light" have little to do with music. The player that has problems with blending has other issues than timbre. Blending applies not only to multiple players becoming a "section" by balancing tone and volume, rather also acquiring the style of play that the listener perceives as "smooth", "creamy", "luscious", or "sensual". When a player understands the stylistic issues, the rest falls into place. Those looking for a "simple" explanation, just ramble and never get where they proclaim to be going. Make sense?

    A fine player with a strobe tuner can manipulate the amount of active overtones, not just producing a technical result, rather a musical one. Ron Miles was mentioned. I am sure that he has LOTS of overtones anytime he needs them.

  9. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    Well, I wouldn't question you what you, personally, have or haven't heard - I would have to take your word for it - but I've worked in the "professional community" all my life and "dark" and "light" have been used as a regular part of a musician's vocabulary. In my experience, it has been common.

    Definitely agree with this, though:

  10. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    Because sometimes I don't want to play with a brilliant and projecting sound, but I don't happen to double on horn.

    I used to play in a four-horn combo (two saxes, trumpet, trombone) with a decent book: lots of Wolpe arrangments, as well as the Dave Pell Octet charts and other stuff arranged for two reeds and two brass. The group had, and still has, a standing monthly gig at a local bar -- on the enclosed back patio, with a concrete floor and hard surfaces all around. The leader insisted on setting up mics for each horn, despite the fact that the room really didn't call for it. I tried to only play into the mic when I was muted.

    Anyway, in that particular setting I didn't want to be the obnoxious trumpet player who hurt the (mostly elderly) audience's ears. So I typically played my vintage Martin Committee, with a deep (for me) mouthpiece. The resulting sound probably satisfied your definition of "dark."

    For those of you itching to suggest it, I did play a cornet sometimes, and it worked fine. But I have an old Committee trumpet, and this seemed to be the sort of gig it was made for. Playing flugelhorn the entire night wasn't an option, because some of those Wolpe charts go pretty high (E's at least) and my flugel doesn't really slot over high C.

    My point is, I want to play trumpet in as many different settings as possible. In many of them, a bright projecting sound is appropriate and that's what I try to bring to the table. But other times the gig calls for a much different approach, and if I can deliver a dark, quiet sound I'll get those gigs too.
    rowuk likes this.

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