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Some tips please! (Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz playing styles/techniques)

MikeMorrell

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Many years ago (not long after I first joined the cafe) I read a question about which well known sax players (style, tone, etc.) were inspirational to you personally (the sound in your head that you most wanted to emulate). Twenty years later, I've learned from the cafe that - whatever your setup is - you mostly sound like yourself anyway!

Anyway, at the the time, I found this an interesting question that I'd never considered before: dark and sultry or bright with edge? I took a very quick (and very limited) YouTube sample and I decided that the 'bright with edge' style appealed to me much more than the 'dark and sultry'. From the limited material that I'd listened to, Dexter Gordon was my main inspiration. On the few tracks of his that I'd heard, I loved his 'bite' (attack) on notes. From then on, my gradual choices of mpc's and reeds were focused on getting closer to the 'Dexter G0rdon' sound (as I'd imagined it back then): edgy and flat.

Via this thread on "Playing" (listening to other video's on YouTube), it struck me that Stan Getz could do both (Dexter Gordon too but with a 'thinner' sound). What struck me was that Stan Getz (originally nr 2 on my list) plays some notes with almost no 'attack' and others with an immediate attack (edge).

From the (few) Youtube videos I've watched, Getz seems to put more air into his cheeks when playing 'sultry' (legato) and less when adding edge (attack) on notes. If I still had a teacher, I'm sure she/he could explain it but I don't. Any tips much appreciated!

Mike
 
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jbtsax

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I can only speak for myself, but trying to copy the tonal concept of a player I want to emulate takes hours and hours of playing along with a recording trying to "get into" that player's tone and articulation in addition to the "nuances" of style that make that player unique.

I did a lot of that listening to Paul Desmond when I was in high school. I also tried to sound like Getz on Girl From Ipanema and Desifinado. Later in college as I mentioned in another thread, I tried to sound like Marshal Royal playing lead alto in a big band. I am still trying to decide who I would like to sound like when I grow up. :)

You mention Stan Gets getting a bright sound. I suppose you mean when he goes into the high register. I have never liked the sound he gets playing up around the palm key notes. To me it sounds like he is overblowing and about to lose control of the tone. That sound certainly does not fit with the mellow, beautiful sound he gets in the low and middle registers IMO.
 

MikeMorrell

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Thanks for replying @jbtsax,

In hindsight, to be honest, I don't think my question was very useful to post here. But asking it has helped me. As sometimes (often?) happens, asking a question (off-forum and on non-sax topics too) prompt me to think more about it, explore the topic, learn more about the context, etc. So here's where I'm at. As always, I'd appreciate any thoughts/comments you might have on this.

I entirely agree with you about the futility of trying to copy the tonal concept of any player. I picked up early on that whatever my set-up, I would still sound like me and not like anyone else. So I never felt any need or motivation to try to sound like anyone else.

The original question on the cafe (many years ago, when I was just starting out) prompted me to listen to a few 'sound bites' of 'famous players' and form an opinion of which kind of "sax sound" (bright/dark, edgy/sultry) appealed to me most. It was something I'd never considered before. At the time, I decided I liked a 'brighter, buzzier' with some 'edge' more than a smoother, 'darker' sound with less edge. So from my few 'sound bites'. I liked how Dexter Gordon and Michael Brecker sounded. At the time, I didn't realize how 'limiting' the question or my responses would be. At least it's good to discover that my appreciation of the 'great' and 'good' sax players is much more nuanced than it was back then.

Asking this question about Stan Getz led me on to learning more about what the Dutch call "tone forming". If I'd had more than 2 years of sax lessons, I guess I would have learned about this much earlier. Still better late than never. I'm only now starting to realize that the 'color' (timbre) of tones (notes) and the degree of 'edge' (attack) on notes is something that sax players can control or at least influence. I'm sure different setups make it easier to form bright, edgy tones and other setups make it easier to form darker more sultry tones. But I'm sure that it's the player who forms the tones, not the setup.

I've listened to a few good (and great) sax players who intermittently play both bright, buzzy and edgy tones but also dark, smooth and sultry. They may not do it during the same gig, but they are able to do it. They of course always sound like themselves but they show great flexibility in adjusting their 'tone' to the gig, the mood, the piece, the section of the piece, etc.

So the lesson I've learned from posting this question (probably much later than I should have) is that sax players always sound like themselves but can also sound differently depending on how they want to sound.

I truly wish that my 2nd second (musical school) sax tutor hadn't been such a tunnel-visioned 'dots nerd'. He really put me off further sax lessons and told me that 'tone-coaching' would be of no use with the (Vito) sax that I then had. I never picked them up again. He really did teach me a lot about 'playing the dots'.

Mike



I can only speak for myself, but trying to copy the tonal concept of a player I want to emulate takes hours and hours of playing along with a recording trying to "get into" that player's tone and articulation in addition to the "nuances" of style that make that player unique.

I did a lot of that listening to Paul Desmond when I was in high school. I also tried to sound like Getz on Girl From Ipanema and Desifinado. Later in college as I mentioned in another thread, I tried to sound like Marshal Royal playing lead alto in a big band. I am still trying to decide who I would like to sound like when I grow up. :)

You mention Stan Gets getting a bright sound. I suppose you mean when he goes into the high register. I have never liked the sound he gets playing up around the palm key notes. To me it sounds like he is overblowing and about to lose control of the tone. That sound certainly does not fit with the mellow, beautiful sound he gets in the low and middle registers IMO.
 

hedgehog

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Thanks for replying @jbtsax,

In hindsight, to be honest, I don't think my question was very useful to post here. But asking it has helped me. As sometimes (often?) happens, asking a question (off-forum and on non-sax topics too) prompt me to think more about it, explore the topic, learn more about the context, etc. So here's where I'm at. As always, I'd appreciate any thoughts/comments you might have on this.

I entirely agree with you about the futility of trying to copy the tonal concept of any player. I picked up early on that whatever my set-up, I would still sound like me and not like anyone else. So I never felt any need or motivation to try to sound like anyone else.

The original question on the cafe (many years ago, when I was just starting out) prompted me to listen to a few 'sound bites' of 'famous players' and form an opinion of which kind of "sax sound" (bright/dark, edgy/sultry) appealed to me most. It was something I'd never considered before. At the time, I decided I liked a 'brighter, buzzier' with some 'edge' more than a smoother, 'darker' sound with less edge. So from my few 'sound bites'. I liked how Dexter Gordon and Michael Brecker sounded. At the time, I didn't realize how 'limiting' the question or my responses would be. At least it's good to discover that my appreciation of the 'great' and 'good' sax players is much more nuanced than it was back then.

Asking this question about Stan Getz led me on to learning more about what the Dutch call "tone forming". If I'd had more than 2 years of sax lessons, I guess I would have learned about this much earlier. Still better late than never. I'm only now starting to realize that the 'color' (timbre) of tones (notes) and the degree of 'edge' (attack) on notes is something that sax players can control or at least influence. I'm sure different setups make it easier to form bright, edgy tones and other setups make it easier to form darker more sultry tones. But I'm sure that it's the player who forms the tones, not the setup.

I've listened to a few good (and great) sax players who intermittently play both bright, buzzy and edgy tones but also dark, smooth and sultry. They may not do it during the same gig, but they are able to do it. They of course always sound like themselves but they show great flexibility in adjusting their 'tone' to the gig, the mood, the piece, the section of the piece, etc.

So the lesson I've learned from posting this question (probably much later than I should have) is that sax players always sound like themselves but can also sound differently depending on how they want to sound.

I truly wish that my 2nd second (musical school) sax tutor hadn't been such a tunnel-visioned 'dots nerd'. He really put me off further sax lessons and told me that 'tone-coaching' would be of no use with the (Vito) sax that I then had. I never picked them up again. He really did teach me a lot about 'playing the dots'.

Mike
As to the usefulness of posting your question, if posting it helped you gain insight, then it was really useful! (I am a retired IT worker. Once a coworker, a pretty smart guy, asked me to look at some code he was debugging. He began explaining the problem and suddenly said, "Oh, of course...look at that. Thanks!" I never said a word! Insight sometimes comes from simply framing the question. Best day at work ever.)

Regarding the substance, which was about tone, I think you're right...the player makes the tone. Listen to this vid of Don Menza where he does all kinds of tones with one sax, one setup. For a hobbyist such as myself, I think a different setup can help, but even I can get an edgy tone or a subtone with the same mpce, reed and horn.

You mention the concept of "tone forming," I haven't heard of that before. Can you expand?
 

Jeanette

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As to the usefulness of posting your question, if posting it helped you gain insight, then it was really useful! (I am a retired IT worker. Once a coworker, a pretty smart guy, asked me to look at some code he was debugging. He began explaining the problem and suddenly said, "Oh, of course...look at that. Thanks!" I never said a word! Insight sometimes comes from simply framing the question. Best day at work ever.)

That's happened to me many a time on both sides :)

Jx
 

MikeMorrell

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Hi @hedgehog

Thanks for this!

I used to work in and around (quality management, organisational change management) too. I completely get what you're saying. We used to have a saying along the lines of "if you really want to understand something, explain it to someone else". Somehow when structuring your thoughts to explain something to others (even preparing to explain something) everything you know suddenly clicks into place and you realize (being way ahead of those who you're trying to explain things too) what the real context/problem/solution is. I believe that it's always good to get input from others. But somehow, just by formulating and explaining a question seems to kick off a process of integrating all the pieces of the puzzle that you already knew but somehow couldn't see the whole picture. FWIW, I think this principle works in most disciplines. Explaining a 'problem' somehow makes focuses your ímplicit, fragmented knowledge into a more integrated, explicit understanding and perhaps even the 'solution.

Don Menza's video is excellent. I've watched it a couple of years ago and I really liked it then too. Either didn't pick up on or forgot his 'message'. I probably didn't have this question in my head when I watched it so I didn't take away as much as I could have. Thanks for posting this. It's very relevant to the question I asked. And it gives excellent answers!

"Tone forming' was my rather literal translation of the Dutch term. The correct EN-translation would be 'tone production''.

I stress once again that I'm just an amateur sax player with no more than 2 years of lessons. During those 2 years, we never got anyway near the topic of 'tone production'.

As an amateur and just for myself (though the internet and literature seem to support me in this) I consider 'tone production ' in 3 timeframes.:
  1. the 'basics' (lifelong development): developing the fundamental 'richness' of your sound quality (resonance, frequency range, harmonics); this has to do with (given your physical build) developing the skills (deep,breath support, channeling the airstream from your lungs through an open, relaxed throat into your mouth cavity and then (adjusting your mouth cavity and tongue position) channeling the air stream though this cavity through your embouchure into the mpc/reed. 'Basics' doesn't mean 'simple'! It takes years of practice to be able to produce the most consistent and richest 'sound quality' that you are capable of.
  2. Flexibility/control: with any mpc/reed you sometimes you might want to play bright, buzzy notes an a sax at other times darker, more subdued 'subtones'(lower frequencies). And everything in between. Sometimes you might want to play notes with a lot of 'attack' (edge/bite) and sometimes you might want to play 'smooth'' (little or no attack'.). Again, and everything in between. So Flexibility/control has to do with the range of 'tone qualities' that you are able to play in addition to normal 'dynamics.
  3. Playing a piece: the best players alternate (depending on the gig/piece/section) between different tone qualities. Dark, subdued sub-tones where they're called for and bright, buzzy tones where they're called for. The same applies to 'the degree of attack,
Depending on what you read, 'tone production' seems to fall into one of these categories. I've downloaded many great resources theat include 'tone production' (almost exclusively via the caf) If you're interested let me know.

Mike
QUOTE="hedgehog, post: 412127, member: 6346"]
As to the usefulness of posting your question, if posting it helped you gain insight, then it was really useful! (I am a retired IT worker. Once a coworker, a pretty smart guy, asked me to look at some code he was debugging. He began explaining the problem and suddenly said, "Oh, of course...look at that. Thanks!" I never said a word! Insight sometimes comes from simply framing the question. Best day at work ever.)

Regarding the substance, which was about tone, I think you're right...the player makes the tone. Listen to this vid of Don Menza where he does all kinds of tones with one sax, one setup. For a hobbyist such as myself, I think a different setup can help, but even I can get an edgy tone or a subtone with the same mpce, reed and horn.

You mention the concept of "tone forming," I haven't heard of that before. Can you expand?
[/QUOTE]
 

MikeMorrell

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Yeah, funny how this works. You ask a (truly genuine) question and by the time responses come in. you've sometimes figured it out yourself anyway. This doesn't apply to most questions on the cafe but I suspect it happens. Anyone who asks a question usually receives divergent (and sometimes contradictory) responses. So he or she has to make his/her own choices based on the (sometimes) contradictory responses..

I.M.H.O this is as it should be.Another point: I don't personally see as many links from Cafe Sax to TTS as I used to

Mike
That's happened to me many a time on both sides :)

Jx
 

AndyWhiteford

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I once asked what I feel is a related question- can your "tone-idols" have very different sounds?
or should you find a number of *tonally-similar-sounding* players who's sound you want to emulate ?
e.g. on tenor - can you really learn to sound like Stan Getz AND James Carter ???
or is it not better to emulate Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Spike Robinson and Duncan Lamont ??
 

rhysonsax

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I once asked what I feel is a related question- can your "tone-idols" have very different sounds?
or should you find a number of *tonally-similar-sounding* players who's sound you want to emulate ?
e.g. on tenor - can you really learn to sound like Stan Getz AND James Carter ???
or is it not better to emulate Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Spike Robinson and Duncan Lamont ??

That is a really interesting point.

There are several players on each size of saxophone who , when I listen to them, make me think "that's IT - that is THE right sound: if only I could play exactly like xyz I would be happy." For instance Dexter in his late pomp on a ballad or Rollins in his 50s and 60s prime on almost anything. But also Getz, and Webster and Hawkins and Jr Walker and Hank Mobley and Lester in the 30s and Iain Ballamy and ...".

Same for alto: Hodges, but also Phil Woods and Cannonball and Maceo and Hank Crawford and Joe Harriott and ...".

I guess the answer is to take multiple role models and by emulating them all, find your own sound and approach, so that you aren't a clone or a bad copy.

I think it's interesting when multi instrumentalists playing the different saxes and sometimes clarinet and/or flute too and have quite different approaches and sounds on all their horns. Quite how that happens and how they can sound so distinctive is a mystery to me.

Rhys
 

Trav1s

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Insightful to this new tenor player with an ear for Getz and Desmond. I am curious how my 30 plus years of playing is shaping my sound and I don’t even realize it.
 

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