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Jazz Wayne Shorter - Footprints

Mack

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I love the full-throated alto-like tone he achieves. It don't always have to be like Jan Garbarek. Subtone on the soprano - it can be done. I can only take a couple of minutes of Wayne Shorter, mind. His playing is kind of PhD level jazz.

This video encouraged me to experiment with trying to get more of a flute like tone.

I went to see Gilad Atzmon on a rainy Tuesday in Exeter a couple of years back and during the interval he was at the bar, having a chat with the crowd (all 17 of us). I asked him about soprano tone - it was the first time I had seen him playing soprano and his sound was mesmerising, and he explained his take on subtone. He told me to blow slowly into the sax, trying to avoid actually sounding a note. Once you achieve that, blow in a gradually more focused way until you do achieve the note and take it no further. Voila - subtone. Simples.

 

jbtsax

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That ties in nicely with the thread "playing without overtones" in which it was discussed how at softer levels there are fewer overtones in the sound. It is like turning down the treble on your stereo. The resulting sound has a more mellow quality.
 

Mack

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...and makes it much easier to play the horn. You can feel the muscles round your mouth suddenly wake up and work harder when you try and play the higher notes and produce the overtones. I am still surprised how my tone on soprano has developed this kind of flute quality (I like to think - whether the listener thinks so I don't know). I think it might just be laziness - playing with subtone requires less muscular effort. And sounds better!

The other odd thing is that I assumed getting an open mouthpiece like the Vandoren V5 S35 would be hard work - more air required, a harder blow - but when I play a Selmer S80 c** it sounds very tight and constrained, a much less complex sound, and rather annoying. Difficult to express anything - and it is no easier on the embouchure.

A more open mouthpiece seems to allow a more breathy, fuller sound, allowing for more subtone.

Why do classical sax players think they have to produce a tight, defined tone? Flute players aren't expected to do it. I always think that alto sax, playing classical music, sounds too uptight and straightlaced. Loosen up! Music from the Debussy period onwards doesn't need that kind of sound.
 
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Nick Wyver

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Why do classical sax players think they have to produce a tight, defined tone?

Because, like everybody else, they want to get gigs and you're not going to get a classical gig if you sound like Dave Sanborn.
 

Jamesmac

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...and makes it much easier to play the horn. You can feel the muscles round your mouth suddenly wake up and work harder when you try and play the higher notes and produce the overtones. I am still surprised how my tone on soprano has developed this kind of flute quality (I like to think - whether the listener thinks so I don't know). I think it might just be laziness - playing with subtone requires less muscular effort. And sounds better!

The other odd thing is that I assumed getting an open mouthpiece like the Vandoren V5 S35 would be hard work - more air required, a harder blow - but when I play a Selmer S80 c** it sounds very tight and constrained, a much less complex sound, and rather annoying. Difficult to express anything - and it is no easier on the embouchure.

A more open mouthpiece seems to allow a more breathy, fuller sound, allowing for more subtone.

Why do classical sax players think they have to produce a tight, defined tone? Flute players aren't expected to do it. I always think that alto sax, playing classical music, sounds too uptight and straightlaced. Loosen up! Music from the Debussy period onwards doesn't need that kind of sound.

None of your comments make any sense to me, but it would be interesting to hear you play some Debussy on your Soprano Saxophone.
 

Mack

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Hmmm, point taken. Shame. Not that I want to sound like David Sanborn.

If a classical alto player had a Paul Desmond tone (not style) I don't think he'd get kicked out of the orchestra…?
 

Mack

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None of your comments make any sense to me, but it would be interesting to hear you play some Debussy on your Soprano Saxophone.
I find it very difficult to describe what is happening when I play and how my sound has developed - it doesn't really make any sense to me either! All good fun though. I have been thinking about recording something soon - a Faure piece. I doubt it'll be done in one take...
 

Mack

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Griff plays soprano with a really developed sub tone - makes the soprano sound like a different instrument. Any recordings to upload Griff? And are you expected to play it with a different tone at music college when playing classical?
 

Jamesmac

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The subject of being capable of producing sub-tone is a bit of a non event in my mind. Being able to produce a tone starting from nothing is a well known characteristic of Clarinet. ie. The first note of the Weber Concertina. Bb above the stave. It could be said that playing Sax PP with a breathy sound means that the player can't control the reed. But of course we know that it's the players choice of mouthpiece & reed combination that produces what we call sub- tone.
Which in turn creates a certain colour to the tone, and is very effective in Jazz.
 

Mack

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I've heard it said that subtone is simply out of fashion, belonging to the days of Ben Webster and Co. But whether or not you like Paul Desmond his playing certainly doesn't lack reed control. His use of subtone just adds a kind of softness and depth to his tone - especially effective on the high notes. It needn't be associated with woofling away on the bell notes. But you have made me think...o_O
 

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