So, if you’ve read through Parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know where we are now and how we got here. We’ve taken a particular path to try to identify what a “beautiful soprano sound” is to each of us, as different as they may be one to the other.
Remember that the goal is a certain beauty, a certain real quality of sound: a ‘voice” that sings with the tone and quality we are seeking.
We’re utilizing words, as imprecise as they may be, to try to identify qualities of sound. We are using whatever metaphors or comparisons or juxtapositions we can find to accomplish that, and we are not allowing ourselves to be self-conscious about doing it, either.
We are not being judgmental about our own ability to articulate these complex things and we expect to wrestle with the words and concepts a bit. But you will find out that it is an easy path to take. The hardest part is ‘to begin”. After that, it has its own momentum and it unfolds quite quickly.
You may well ask, then what?
Good question. I will attempt to answer it by using an example of how a particular effort might unfold.
So, there is a player who has thought about this subject as it relates to him or her, and now has put together some thoughts on “the sound” that has the beauty being sought. Here are those ideas:
“I don’t like a bright sound with a lot of “bite” to it. It needs to have some, maybe a lot of depth; round, not pointed or sharp. “Blue” more than “red”; maybe “purple?”. Not an oboe , nasal sound, but not an alto sound either. It should sound like a soprano in all the registers, but not a cartoon version of a soprano, if you know what I mean. To be beautiful to me, it shouldn’t sound like I’m working hard to play it; it should have a certain effortlessness in the voice, a certain gentleness. I don’t want to sound like Zoot Sims on soprano, but it should “feel” as smooth as his playing feels to me.”
That’s a lot of information to work from, and it asks as many questions as it answers too.
And, so, we begin.
I interpret his statements to mean he wants to achieve a sound that is vibrant. It will have some edge to it, especially in the middle and higher, but not a dramatic increase in higher partials from the lower half of the horn. It should maintain a recognizable ‘wholeness” regardless of where on the horn he is playing. It should not lack higher partials in the sound, even down low, but the higher partials should emanate from the low notes and not overtake the tone.
The statements about ease of play (effortlessness) tells me something else about how I think this player plays. I suspect he wants to put a modest amount of air into the horn, as opposed to someone who wants to pour air into the soprano. This is an important point, and will become part of the ensuing communication we will be having.
Here are a few of the questions I would ask, based upon what I have read and what I believe to be the significance of those things:
What soprano sax do you play?
What mouthpiece are you using?
What reed brand and strength?
What is NOT happening now, based on the things you’ve told me?