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Beginner Developing a Personal Saxophone Tone...

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,093
Hello,

I'm heading enthusiastically, and probably to an obsessive degree into developing my saxophone tone. I've been unhappy with it for a while and felt it lacked clarity. Over the weekend I have been solely working on tone development exercises such as those in Top-Tones and had a bit of a revelation, my embouchure was terrible.

I had taken to dropping my jaw back which I think was having the knock on effect of constricting my throat and also my ability to articulate as the tongue also seemed to have restrictive movement. This is all hard to explain but by pushing my jaw forward, and therefore back into a more neutral position, like saying 'V', where the top and bottom teeth are above each other with the bottom lip just resting on the bottom teeth, my tone is clearer, louder and more flexible, but I'm really having to concentrate not to slip back into past (bad) habits.

Wanting to keep the momentum going, I'm keen to work on my tone and develop it. I keep being drawn to David Liebman's 'Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound' but then shy away from buying it as it's near £30 from JazzWise. Has anyone read this book or used it? Is it any good?

Best wishes,

Chris
 
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Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,004
Wanting to keep the momentum going, I'm keen to work on my tone and develop it. I keep being drawn to David Liebman's 'Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound' but then shy away from buying it as it's near £30 from JazzWise. Has anyone read this book or used it? Is it any good?
No, sorry can't help you with that book.

But it makes me think. I used to want a paersonal sound, so I listened a lot to players who i thought had a personal (=unique) sound, e.g. Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Lee Allen, Earl Bostic. The more I worked on developing that kind of personall sound, the more I ended up sounding like Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Lee Allen and, Earl Bostic (but not as good).

II would hope the Liebman book helps you sound like you, not helps you sound like Liebman. If it does that, then my hat is off to him!
 
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TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
One of the best exercises I do on trumpet is to just play the mouthpiece in the tube of the trumpet (lead pipe [not as in metal but 'leading']) but with the tuning slide removed so that you are only blowing into a metal tube about 12" long. No actual note is produced but you can hear the tone that you produce. Since doing this as a warm up exercise my tone has really developed further. I wonder whether a similar exercise with a sax mouthpiece and neck only may produce similar results for you - it will be harder to sound like Sonny Rollins by doing this but may enable you to progress towards a greater sense of your own tone. I'd be interested in any feedback you can give.

The other issue must be something about understanding what features you want your tone to have. I've gone for rich & complex with some edge, and seem to have got somewhere quite significant with that. My main musical influences are Jan Garbarek, Charles LLoyd, Gilad Atzmon, Andy Sheppard and Wayne Shorter, and I am not entirely sure how and in what way they do collectively, but I feel at ease with my own tone.

Kind regards
Tom
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,093
No, sorry can't help you with that book.

But it makes me think. I used to want a paersonal sound, so I listened a lot to players who i thought had a personal (=unique) sound, e.g. Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Lee Allen, Earl Bostic. The more I worked on developing that kind of personall sound, the more I ended up sounding like Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Lee Allen and, Earl Bostic (but not as good).

II would hope the Liebman book helps you sound like you, not helps you sound like Liebman. If it does that, then my hat is off to him!
Hi Pete,

Good point, my desire, I guess like most people's is to sound like me, but for my tone to be flexible to suite different styles, rich so that it has got depth and interest, crispness for clarity but not tiring on the ear! Yeah I have no idea, but it'll be fun trying to find and develop it.

One of the best exercises I do on trumpet is to just play the mouthpiece in the tube of the trumpet (lead pipe [not as in metal but 'leading']) but with the tuning slide removed so that you are only blowing into a metal tube about 12" long. No actual note is produced but you can hear the tone that you produce. Since doing this as a warm up exercise my tone has really developed further. I wonder whether a similar exercise with a sax mouthpiece and neck only may produce similar results for you - it will be harder to sound like Sonny Rollins by doing this but may enable you to progress towards a greater sense of your own tone. I'd be interested in any feedback you can give.

The other issue must be something about understanding what features you want your tone to have. I've gone for rich & complex with some edge, and seem to have got somewhere quite significant with that. My main musical influences are Jan Garbarek, Charles LLoyd, Gilad Atzmon, Andy Sheppard and Wayne Shorter, and I am not entirely sure how and in what way they do collectively, but I feel at ease with my own tone.

Kind regards
Tom
Hi Tom,

I often find I desire different aspect of different saxophonists 'tone' and will often come away with conflicting ideas of what I want. I also find it difficult to judge the tone of some players as their technical prowess, speed and choice of notes often leaves me with an impression of a whirlwind.

When I played the guitar I had a clear idea of the tone I was looking for, and could often within a few notes recognise a particular player. I've not yet developed the same skill for saxophonists, and yet I'd have thought, with the sax being a much more intimate instrument, that the player would have more of a personal sound that would be easily identified.

Tone is such a subjective and elusive thing that trying to nail it down would be like trying to nail a blancmange to the ceiling!

I'll give your idea about the mouthpiece and neck some thought but I struggled last time I tried the mouthpiece on its own, and didn't get on with the mouthpiece silencer I bought.

Best wishes,

Chris
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Chris!

I certainly think that mouthpieces on their own sound dreadful, be it sax or trumpet, and have questionable benefits, hence the different exercise suggested above....

Kind regards
Tom
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
A sax mouthpiece sounds much better on the neck, than on it's own. I'd be interested to find out if the exercises help - at least blowing mpc +neck makes it clearer what mouth/throat/lung/embouchure do to your sound, so at the very least, you'll develop the control without the body of the sax and the tone holes interfering.

But I guess that you'll end up workign on the whole instrument pretty quickly.
 
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visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
Hi Chris,

This is certainly a deep subject, not that I'm an expert, but I have been in a masterclass held in NZ by Jamie Ohlers an Aussie saxophonist who talked about finding his own sound and the mental anguish he went through to understand what that would be. He had been copying other players styles and phrasing literally for years. He has had private lessons from Hal Crooks & David Leibman himself on the very subject your talking about, so apart from the technicallitys of sound production and the exercises which no doubt are important in producing the actual sound, clarity and ease of production, I do have the Leibman book you mention, but not the patience to perdue the exercises. I think it is very good material (he also learnt some of it from Joe Allard another American teacher. I think you may have the personality to learn alot from this book. Now if your talking about you sounding recognizably like you, this is quite a different matter, this includes sound, your equiptment, your phrasing, your personality.
Ponder for a minute, how did Coltrane, Parker, Ben Webster, Art Pepper, Johnny Hodges, Garbarek, Joshua Redman, Sandborn, and even Kenny Gee, develop individual sounds..... all I think did it after a very long process, and even after that there uniqueness must have been in them at the start... undeveloped... in football terms, not everyone is a Pele, or Maradona, or George Best!
Good luck in finding yourself!

Cheers
Jimu
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Tom Mapfumo's Theory of Personal Tone Development:

1. We like the sound of the sax and start learning to play. We may have a hero or two and have music we would like to be able to play.

2. We try to produce a sound and experience a gap between what we produce and what we hear on CDs, Live gigs etc.

3. Hence our first focus may well be on trying to sound better, and eliminate faults etc. We begin a search for reeds and mouthpieces that may help/inspire us.

4. Once we are up and running our focus is more positive - trying to narrow the gap between us and our heroes/more experienced players. At the same time we develop more of a focus on the actual quality of sound we produce, having mastered the basics.

5. Up until now much of this will depend on our own subjectivity - we may lack any direct feedback from others who are experienced in the sax world - just partners and friends who may just know when we sound less worse than we used to.

6. A view/views from outside can often help clarify a. that we have a certain sound b. that we may or may not sound like someone else. The former may be better than the latter for our own sense of personal development. I remember when Mangoes first appeared - people would try to describe the taste - often ending up with a description of something that combined aspects of Orange, Banana and Apricot. I would hazard a guess that many of use would just know what a Mango tastes like without reference to other, more widely known fruit. Same with personal sax tone - it may well be that we are always, unconsciously, developing our own personal tone, but only gradually see it as that, and then more consciously modify it subsequently. Sounding similar to someone who is already known may well be an important step on the way, but we can only ever end up sounding like ourselves, rather than an inferior version of someone else. When we are aware that we DO have a personal sound it is maybe then that we can actually nurture and develop it.

Or maybe it all boils down to the right choice of Ligature............;}
 
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Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,953
I don't think it ever occurred to me to try and sound like somebody else. I've always (for a long time anyway) had a good idea of what I want to sound like though, I've just never related it to another player. I'm going to sound like me anyway, so why fight it.

Actually, if I'm being strictly accurate, I know how I want to sound on bari, tenor and sop but have never really formed a coherent picture of my alto sound. Dunno why.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Thus played WyverThruster...........................! You may be unconscious more often than you realise, which is true by definition...;}

You can of course wonder the degree to which earlier exponents of the sax ever wished, at least consciously, to sound like someone else. Either you are more grounded, Nick, or just suffer from anti-social personality type......;} I believe the former is more likely to be the case.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,953
Unconcious? Well, probably.

Good point about the early pioneers.

Even if I wanted to sound like someone else, I could never decide who.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Nick, I hope that's normal bottled beer (and not one of ones with yeast in the bottom) you have in your right hand.

Back on topic.
I don't think I ever thought about sounding like anyone else. I just try to make the sax sound that suits the type of music being played. As we progress it will all happen naturally.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I'm thinking that if I ever tame the beast my personal tone will develop on it's own.

Itzhak Perlman a violinist once said something to the effect, "You'll either produce the sound you want, or you'll give up". Of course he was talking about violins, but it probably applies to all instruments.

I haven't read the book you've mentioned on developing a personal saxophone sound, but from reading the link you provided it appears that he's going to offer insight into all the things that affect your sound. The idea is to take that knowledge and use it to get the sound you're trying to create I imagine.

One thing that scares me is that most of my instruments, including my sax, are basically cheap toys. Make-believe instruments. It may simply be impossible to get the sounds from these toys that I would truly like to get. I've been playing an $80 violin for over 6 years, and even though I basically re-worked the whole thing and put $100 worth of professional strings on it, it's just never going to sound like a 'real violin'. The same may be true of my toy saxophone.

I often wonder what it would be like to play a "real" instrument. Although I do have some really nice guitars, so I have some idea of what good instruments are capable of.

Currently I'm just starting out on the sax, so I don't even have control of it yet, much less trying to work up to creating the sounds I want.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
I'm not sure that we hear the sound we produce accurately anyway. If starting out, try and make the sax sing! you'll know when it does.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,662
I have two issues at the moment (well probably a lot more if I'm being totally honest, When I took up the sax nearly six years ago, I don't think I could name any sax players. I had not done any research into players, I mean I'd heard the sax played, obviously, but I only knew them by the song title rather than the player.
When I got my first sax, the alto, I just knew the sound that I wanted but I had no idea about how to achieve it. I thought it would simply come with practice. If I listened to the Blues Brothers, then I'd probably be listening to Blue Lou Marini and his was a sound I liked. I simply didn't understand the art of changing mouthpieces, reeds and ..ahem.. ligatures ;} until I found this website. I was also trapped by budget. I've been on long term sick leave for two years (now happily over) but I'm one of the great unwashed now, so budget is still a factor (not that you'd notice with the amount I've recently spent on GAS) Anyway, what I'm saying is that having read all about peoples quest for the perfect sound and how they "change this" and "change that" I realised that I must be one of the few who didn't and maybe I should?
Well I hit the devils junkyard, still with a budget and bought a mouthpiece. Not one I wanted but one that I could afford, one that I thought looked ok too. Well I bought my Quantum but it was a #10 so probably way too open. It proved to be a difficult beast to tame too, but I got there in the end. Its a raucous piece and great for Rock 'n' Roll, but I can also smooth it out and play some lovely ballads too. What I'm trying to say is that I love this sound and it's varieties, is it me or this magic mouthpiece?
So does it all boil down to what kit we use or personal ability, oral cavity shape, hair colour and trouser length?
The other issue I have now is, now that I've experienced a professional sax, I've just realised what poor condition my tenor is in :crying::verysad
 

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
I have the book, but can't go into detail at the moment as I'm on my phone! If you'd like some further info on what's in it drop me a pm to remind me!
 

mikro

New Member
Messages
2
Hello there,
I'm a total beginner and currently reading this book and I would recommend it. It describes how to breat properly, how to use the larynx, tongue, forming embouchure, etc. Many mistakes and errors on tone building are mentioned there, what causes it and how to solve it. It gives You a good starting point to create your own tone.

The book is a bit harder to understand, but it may be because english is not my native language. But still the book helped me alot.

wish you a nice day...
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
I just noticed that the book is 56 pages long and costs £27.25 - sounds a bit pricey to me. £11.95 would sound reasonable IMO. I am surprised that there are not cheaper ways of acquiring such wisdom as may be contained therein.......
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I just noticed that the book is 56 pages long and costs £27.25 - sounds a bit pricey to me. £11.95 would sound reasonable IMO. I am surprised that there are not cheaper ways of acquiring such wisdom as may be contained therein.......
Maybe it's because people value information according to what it costs, not what it can do for them. Thus higher price = better information. :)))

And higher price menas the buyer is more likely to use it. Or does the GAS syndome mean that it's acquisition, play, discard? >:)
 
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