In our 18 Tips to a Better Tone series, we’ve talked about things you can do to improve your tone- from equipment recommendations to practice techniques and exercises. This week it’s a little different: how listening to professionals can help you reach the tone you want. To start off, here are a couple of analogies.
44 Hours of Driving
Let’s say you were going to drive from New York to San Francisco- that’s about 44 hours of driving without stopping! You have just enough cash/fuel to make it, but only if you make all the right turns. You’ve never driven across the US before and you’re not even sure where San Francisco is. You don’t have directions, a map, a smartphone (or any other device), and you most certainly never…ever…ask for directions. What are the chances you’re going to make it? They’re not very good chances.
If you knew where you were going and had a plan, most of us would make it. It’s a very similar concept with reaching an amazing tone. Have you mapped out your tone? Do you have an idea where you’re going with your tone? Or, are you just playing the saxophone hoping a good tone comes out? You may have a general idea of what you want to sound like, but there’s one more item of direction that is essential: a way to map out your tone. Before that, here’s one more analogy.
My Daughter is French
OK, not exactly, but she is in a French immersion school. The first 5 years of her life she strictly spoke English. Then she started school, and everyone speaks French. In fact, English isn’t even allowed in the classroom. She’s been attending the school for 4 years and the language seems to come easily to her. No, this analogy is not to brag about my daughter (even though it would be easy to do so), but to bring out 1 point.
She is surrounded by the French language 8 hours a day. She always hears it. On the other hand, I don’t. So, when I ask her to teach me a word, she laughs at my accent or feels bad for my lack of skills. Her accent (so her teacher tells us) is right where it needs to be. She has a clear idea in her mind as to how she should sound. In my mind, the French accent is still kind of a blur, so I struggle. I am improving though 🙂
I think you can see where I am going with these 2 analogies. In order to sound like you’re playing in the saxophone language, you need to have a clear idea of what the saxophone should sound like. I know we all know what a saxophone sounds like, but the more we listen to quality saxophone tones, the faster our tone will improve. This will help you have the right “accent” and “road map” you need to be successful. And the thing is, it’s one of the best parts of learning an instrument.
Listen. Listen a lot! As you listen often (while simultaneously learning an instrument) you’ll begin to understand what a good saxophone tone should sound like. Over time, your tone will begin to change (without any huge focus on your part) into a combination of all the great saxophone tones you’ve heard. It naturally happens.
Give it A Try
So go ahead and give it a try. This gives you a great excuse to buy some music and count it as part of your personal progress and saxophone education! You’ll have fun listening and you’ll love the tone that you eventually develop. Keep up the good work and have fun! And, as always, if you found this post helpful, please feel free to share it or like it with the social media buttons on this page. Thanks for helping us get the word out!