Brass Players Obsession To Find And Keep “The Sound”

We will begin by replacing the word “sound” with the definitions “tone quality/color” or “timbre”. When approaching something as complex as a brass player’s concept of his/her “sound” we must first set accurate parameters for this discussion.

“In music, timbre (/ˈtæmbər/ TAM-bər, also known as tone color or tone quality from psychoacoustics) is the quality of a musical note, sound, or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices and musical instruments, string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments”.

Now; on to the topic which will occupy the next series of posts from your humble correspondent.

Here are 5 reasons why brass players are more concerned with the quality of their sound than non-brass playing musicians?

1. Brass players are more involved with the actual generation of their product than other musician (excluding singers, of course).
2. Brass players tone quality is directly affected by the condition of their lip rather than the condition of a string, reed or drum head.
3. Playing a brass instrument is much less forgiving than other instruments (excluding singers, of course).
4. Brass players are basically insecure (excluding lead players, of course).

Brass players and singers are very unique for they are completely in control of all of the physical elements required to produce their product. It is true that in the case of brass players, their selection of equipment will have some bearing on the timbre of the tone but more basic than one’s equipment, the physical makeup and function of these elements are what we will be addressing in this and our following posts.

A brass musician’s never ending search for and retention of that perfect timbre on their instrument seems to occupy many players’ minds and for that reason we become shaken by any fluctuation from that perfection. There are many blessed performers who may never be concerned with this struggle and I applaud you for your God given talents, but for most of us, each day begins with the question, “I wonder what it will be like today”? To better understand this daily dilemma, I will try to identify as many variables as this over-worked, advancing in age individual can muster.

As we address this constant struggle of “I wonder what it will be like today”, it is my wish that we all become more confident that tomorrow will bring us closer to that perfect “sound” (tone quality) each and every day.

Next Installment- What Is The Perfect Tone?

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.