Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Quest for "Tone"

It is still very early days in my saxophone playing, and one thing I recently explored has been modifying how I sound via changing mouthpieces. For some reason, after trying out a multitude of pieces, I went "back to basics" and am currently using a classical piece, a Vandoren V5 A27 (yes I bought yet another one).

Veering off topic for a bit, as mentioned in a previous post, I'd picked up a Vandoren V16 A6S after doing lots of tests down at the sax shop. Playing the V16 for a bit still gave me the feeling that it was not as flexible* as I thought it was. The Vandoren Optimum AL4 has that flexibility - or perhaps it is all the harmonics - but I heard the tone as quite nasal. The V5 sorted that out, not nasal, brighter, more focused. On the flip side, the V5 bears similarity to the AL4 in that middle D took more effort to play resonantly - unlike the V16 that seemed to sort that out. Similarly, the lower register took more effort to play. The V16's lower and mid registers were effortless to play, notes just spoke! On the higher octave, the AL4 and V5 A27 had more body and fullness to them whilst I made the V16 very thin sounding.

Is this the sound concept I'm looking for? No... at this moment I must say I am not exactly sure what kind of sound concept I'm looking for. Why I went for the V5 is mainly how I hear the saxophone - I can't put it down in words, but it sounds like me. It's as if the V5 provided more projection, removed the nasal tone, but did not color the sound, and allowed me to come through. For now, I'm content, and can finally focus on playing, expressing oneself on the sax.

This brings up similarities between photography and the sax - the endless quest for "the lens". Will it give the smooth bokeh, the sharpness, the warmth? All these are valid points, but they do take time away from actual photography. A bit of a rant, I see too many "photographers" kitted out with the latest specs, and sometimes asking me why I'm using an old camera (2007), or why I'm actually using flash in broad daylight >.>

I feel really sad, that in this modern day where information can be found at a click of a mouse, people don't seem to use that capability to *learn*. There is so much out there on the web that just 10 years ago, non existent even in libraries. Few seem to realize that to develop a skill, it's not about buying the latest and greatest. Something even more expensive needs to be used to obtain these skills - time. Time to learn, time to practice, time to put the practice into action.

I think any art form revolves around woodshedding or practice. Endless practice.

And yet, practice just for the sake of practice, I find equally pointless. There have been many days I forced myself to do photography or hobby X - but there was no heart in it. Progress would be minimal. Another key factor, I'd like to think is drive. Passion? No. I don't think I have a "passion" for photography or the sax. Rather, I just enjoy them. For me I think my "passion" is the act of learning, accumulating new skills and gaining knowledge.

*flexible: As it the tone production feels locked down, or guided by the mouthpiece not me.

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