words to describe sound?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by _TrumpeT_, Aug 18, 2006.

  1. _TrumpeT_

    _TrumpeT_ Piano User

    Apr 26, 2006
    What are some words to describe sound? (dark, bright, brilliant, broad (?), rich (?), etc) Also, please name some examples to back up the sound you are referring to.

    I also have some questions about the sound. Can a trumpet sound bright and broad (ie blend in) at the same time? If a trumpet sounds dark, would you consider it to be rich as well? Is bright sound the same thing as brilliant sound?
  2. trumpet blower88

    trumpet blower88 Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 15, 2005
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I never really liked using the words "bright" or "dark". However, if I had too I'd use them more in reference to pitch. A bright sound might be a few cents sharper to where its kinda sticking out but still sounds alright, where a dark sound would be a few cents below the pitch.

    Personaly, when I think of makeing it sound differant, I try to imagin it sounding like other instruments. For example, if I wanted something a little more mellow, or even darker as some people might say, I'd try to play more like a French Horn or Euphonium. If I wanted to have a bit more edge to the sound, or brighter as some might say, if I was playing in the low register I'd be thinking a trombone sound, a higher register I might be thinking of a clarinet playing way up in the upper register, or even just a higher pitched clarinet like the Eb.

    I like words like Mellow, Soothing, Rich, Edge, Vibrant and Dynamic. "Bright" and "Dark" are hard to explain when it comes to sound because those are visual words, and its hard to put visual explinations into aural explinations.
  3. Alex_In_CA

    Alex_In_CA New Friend

    Aug 10, 2006
    I think you want to try for that round, pear-shaped sound.
  4. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    it is interesting. a couple of us had this discussion with the conductor of exultate. it is amazing how we use terms from the visual arts to try to describe musical sound, but it is still not really clear what we mean and is subjective. what is a dark sound to one person is dull to another. what i really have been listening for lately with me is lots of resonence to the sound.
  5. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    I’ve thought a lot about this question in the past. You may enjoy these links:

    What does “core sound” mean?

    Brilliant, or bright sound

    I really like what David Krauss had to say in the Yamaha Day of Trumpets video clip "The Importance of a Bright, Dark and Resonant Sound" – click the Video button in the lower left corner.

    This is a paraphrase-----

    Opera singers have resonance in their voices. Higher voices are brighter and lower voices are darker but the common tie between these sounds is the resonance.

    Likewise, some trumpet players have naturally bright sounds and some players have naturally dark sounds (or any of the infinite variations between light and dark). Finding the appropriate balance, the player that looks for a resonant sound first, allows a bright sound or a dark sound to be heard better. Resonance puts sound where it is represented best!
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2006
  6. Billy B

    Billy B Pianissimo User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Des Moines, IA
    There is no way to describe sound any more than you can describe smell, taste, touch, or sight.
  7. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    I understand where you are coming from, but I think that the original poster is able to hear clearly and is simply interested in refining his sound. In the past you have given me a great deal to think about related to the sound of the trumpet (and the sound in my mind that guides the end product).

    Here are some more words that have helped me:

    Pat Harbison on the Sound of Bill Adam

    • "When we talk about a `great sound' in the context of Mr. Adam's approach we are talking about a tone that has resonance, opulence, core, richness... These are all terms that poorly describe what we are listening for. This is unbelievably hard to describe with words, but here I am on the Internet giving it a foolish try.

      For an Adam Student a `great sound' is one that has the entire harmonic spectrum present and balanced in the tone. When I play my long tones I feel like I am developing the fundamental and overtones in my trumpet sound as if I were standing in front of a brass choir tuning and balancing the notes of a chord until it sounds absolutely perfect. A great sound is both `bright' and `dark'. The full harmonic spectrum is present in every note. This is what is called resonance, center, core, and a dozen other nebulous terms by different people.

      A great trumpet sound has nothing to do with musical style. It has everything to do with producing the complete harmonic spectrum of tone. When this (our definition of a `great sound') happens you know that your body is working in sympathy with the physical and acoustical properties of the instrument. Adolph Herseth has this kind of sound. So does Arturo, Maynard (in the 1960s), Freddie Hubbard, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Maurice Andre, Vacchiano, and Doc Severinsen. Listen to these players and see if you can find the common qualities in their tones. It is hard to describe, but easy (I think) to hear."

    David Monette on Resonance

    • "A brilliant, resonant sound is usually most desirable in acoustic performance. This is a sound that has both high and low components and in which the overtones are harmonically related to the fundamental in the spectrum being produced. A harmonic relationship between the fundamental and overtones in one's sound creates a resonance that can be felt as well as heard by the listener. This type of sound usually has the potential to make a more lasting musical impression on the audience. (Many of the finest players) talk about wanting as much `rub' or `burr' or `energy' in their sounds as possible. This quality gives their sound clarity, presence, and projection."
  8. jeminine

    jeminine New Friend

    Apr 14, 2009

    I'm pretty new here.

    What I suggest is use words that try to describe another instrument, but playing the other instrument in a different way. For example,

    Guqin- the Guqin is a seven-stringed zither without bridges. It is played by plucking the strings with your fingers. It means “ancient stringed instrument”. It sounds like a cello being plucked (pizzicato).

    That is an example of a Chinese instrument that sounds like something else.
  9. MJ

    MJ Administrator Staff Member

    Jan 30, 2006
    You found a very old thread for your first post Jermaine!
  10. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    What does an orange taste like?

    Try explaining Green to a blind (from birth) person.

    Such things seem impossible, until we remember that Anne Sullivan was able to use one sense to communicate where other sense(s) were absent. The human brain is capable of remarkable adaptation, and our brain is compelled to learn no matter how it is constrained.

    So importing concepts from the arena of one of our senses into that of another is a reasonable idea. We use LOUD to describe a visual perception. We use HOT to describe a taste (pepper) sensation. We use BRIGHT for flavor also. SMOOTH can be sound (music), touch, taste. A color can be WARM (red-orange)or COLD (blue), so can something we touch (part of this is actually directly related to the spectrum- infrared, red is the hot end - violet, ultraviolet the cool, and our skin is receptive to some of the same physical forces as our eyes, and vice-versa).

    Such crossover is a product of language and physical experience. There is a third arena, emotion, or more exactly, mood, from which we derive and into which we import descriptive words. BLUE, FLAT, DULL, BRIGHT, SAD, HAPPY, ANXIOUS, MELANCHOLY, etc, all find their way into descriptions of music and art. Barber's Adagio for Strings is sad?, heart-wrenching?, melancholy?
    Shostakovich's Piano Trio #2 conveys the angst of the composer over the loss of a friend and the horrors of the holocaust. One needn't be overly educated in music to feel it.

    So I think we can accept that our language is a flexible tool where one word has many connotations - a true outgrowth of the human condition. That these words are subjective in their application is no surprise, and is the problem we encounter when we have discussions of the sort in this thread.

    We are trying to arrive at a common ground of understanding for the words dark, bright, brilliant, broad, rich, and others as they apply to the sound of a trumpet. While accoustic resonance is a physical phenomenon, and can be defined: Acoustic resonance is the tendency of an acoustic system to absorb more energy when the frequency of its oscillations matches the system's natural frequency of vibration (its resonance frequency) than it does at other frequencies, the other concepts simply will not yield to being nailed down.

    And so the discussion continues. Perhaps with this modern technology which enables us to share actual recorded sounds in demonstration of what we feel is BRIGHT, DARK, BRILLIANT, BROAD and so on, we may be able to build some consensus which the instrument makers can then appropriate for their marketing efforts.


Share This Page