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How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby BBruce107 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:30 pm

Hi all! I have been intrigued by my recent practicing on how bright of a sound I have been getting on my VMI 3302. I was curious of any advice on obtaining a darker sound. Could it be an equipment change? I use a Parker Hitz cup with a Euro Shank. I appreciate any insight that you may have and I thank you in advance!
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby happyroman » Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:34 pm

Arnold Jacobs was fond of saying that there are three variables in producing a sound on a brass instrument, the instrument, the mouthpiece, and the player. Of these, by far the most important variable is the player. So the first thing to do is focus on what you want to sound like, vividly, and using imagination and imitation, strive to produce the sound you are hearing in your head.

I imagine that you do not want to change tubas, so the remaining variable is the mouthpiece. If by darker, you mean you want more fundamental and less overtone in the sound, you would want to use a mouthpiece with a deep cup. I've never played the Parker-Hitz, but from the website, it is described as "a medium sized cup and works well for quintet, orchestra, and band playing. The tone of the mouthpiece is dark, mellow, and centered. Intonation on the Parker-Hitz model is very centered and even throughout all partials. Designed for Andrew Hitz of the Boston Brass, this mouthpiece is geared for the player who has to play a little bit of everything. From Stan Kenton arrangements, quintet classics, solo playing, Shostakovich string quartet transcriptions and everything in between- this is the perfect mouthpiece for the cross style player."

Based on that description, I would recommend a deeper cup mouthpiece and do a lot of work conceptualizing the sound you want and then work on imitating what you are hearing in your head. Listen to players that have the same sound qualities you desire and imitate what you hear. Imagination and imitation are very powerful learning tools.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Michael Bush » Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:25 pm

happyroman wrote:the remaining variable is the mouthpiece.

This.

This model tuba is quite capable of producing a very dark sound. The volume of the mouthpiece (and possibly the oral cavity) will turn out to be the issue, I suspect.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby bloke » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:34 pm

This is a fabulous TNFJ topic, just fwiw.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Michael Bush » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Yeah, just replace "dark" with "world class" and we're there.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby pwhitaker » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:07 pm

Just coat the horn with melanin.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby THE TUBA » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:08 pm

Whenever I want a darker sound, I just turn out the lights.

Jokes aside, what is "darker" is a little subjective. Some folks associate "darker" with "resonant." Others liken a "darker" tone to being more like that of a double bass. To some, "darker" is what others will call more "presence." So the first step is to have in your head what you want to sound like.

The second step is to do the right things physically to produce this sound. Things that make me (to my ears) sound darker (in my definition): lots of thick wind (I think "wide," "slow," and "thick" wind, but that metaphor might not work for everyone), space in the oral cavity (inside of mouth), tension-free body (especially the chops), centering notes (buzzing the right pitch), and using clean attacks/releases. Again, YMMV and this is just what goes through my head, so you might use something different. What you do physically doesn't really matter, though, if you don't know what you're looking for.

If you have the right mental concept and you're doing the right things technically, then the next step is to examine your equipment. Generally you'll want to experiment with different mouthpieces first before trying to change your horn. Although it isn't necessarily always the case, the popular opinion is that larger mouthpieces (wider diameter, deeper cup) are more conducive to producing "dark" sounds. The Parker-Hitz is kind of a medium-sized mouthpiece, so you may want to experiment with something a little bigger if you're not getting the sound you want.

Be advised, though, that changing mouthpieces won't make that much of a difference if you don't have a strong mental image of the sound and solid fundamentals first.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby goodgigs » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:33 am

BBruce107,
Two words: Sing opera.
Brass playing is mechanically identical to singing except instead of vibrating your larynx you vibrate your lips.
Look in the mirror and watch yourself sing opera. You will notice that when you sound like an opera star,
Your uvula (voice box) will raise up. Now play the tuba that way.

Good luck and happy honkin'
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby bort » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:20 am

Not trying to give a cop-out answer, but go take a lesson with a good tuba player in your area. He or she will be able to tell VERY quickly what is good or bad about your embouchure, and can set you on a path to correcting it.

Come to think of it, the first tuba lesson I ever had, I almost didn't play any notes at all. It was all about technique. Notes come later!
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Donn » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:52 am

THE TUBA wrote:Jokes aside, what is "darker" is a little subjective. Some folks associate "darker" with "resonant." Others liken a "darker" tone to being more like that of a double bass. To some, "darker" is what others will call more "presence."


Is it really that scrambled? You're describing three categories of highly delusional tuba players, if they think those terms add any clarity to the matter. (I admit I'm somewhat out of practice, but when if I were to drag out my double bass and start bowing, it would sound like a rusty door hinge, hopefully in a good way but probably not. "Resonant" and "present" just seem to mean "makes sounds.")

I have been under the impression that "dark" means "stronger and clearer low partials", and for the tuba we would choose typical examples from the brass family, e.g., euphonium is darker than trombone, when played fairly loud. Hence the suggested deeper cup mouthpiece.

My Holton was a very big move to the dark side, and I mention it because last night I was marveling over how hard I'm playing with this huge BAT, in not a very big band. Aside from the bell-front can't-hear-myself problem, I think it's partly because the darkness of the tone makes for a less efficient presentation of the bass line. I'm going to have to work particularly on getting "brighter" articulation, and I guess there's the point of this rambling narrative: to the extent I manage to accomplish this brightening with technique, I get a broader range of tonal possibilities. To the extent it's equipment - Dr Young mouthpiece, BAT - I just trade one unsatisfactory range of tonal possibilities for another.

I was playing a somewhat beat up King 1240 before that, which I'm not sure is conventionally expected to be particularly bright equipment, and I've wondered if a tuba's state of disrepair could make its low range "brighter"?
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby TheGoyWonder » Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:45 am

NO NO NO. Darker = more low frequency content than other frequency bands = smoother more sinusoidal waveforms. Objective. Relative in that it doesn't mean anything on its own you have to compare it, but not subjective.

Ambiguity come from dark as synonym for "ominous" which more of an emotional thing and could mean anything as a description of tuba playing.

[quote="THE TUBA"]Whenever I want a darker sound, I just turn out the lights.

Jokes aside, what is "darker" is a little subjective. Some folks associate "darker" with "resonant." Others liken a "darker" tone to being more like that of a double bass. To some, "darker" is what others will call more "presence." So the first step is to have in your head what you want to sound like.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Three Valves » Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:06 pm

I want to sound less like this, and more like that!!
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby timothy42b » Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:23 pm

goodgigs wrote:BBruce107,
Two words: Sing opera.


So, just add vibrato?
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby swillafew » Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:26 pm

I admired a prominent player with a dark sound. I asked him if my embouchure looked ok. He said, "blow warm air into the palm of your hand", and asked me tell him what my throat did when I did that. Your lips will be in a good position too.

If you put out as much air as a tuba needs and make it warm air, you are blowing like (an expletive). I don't take breaks because my lips are tired, I'm whipped from the blowing.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby PaulMaybery » Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:58 pm

I've got a little time today before heading out to do an Easter rehearsal.
So, hear are some thoughts. Maybe they will help... or perhaps ... well you decide.

Vowels and air speed. Lower vowels Ah, Ooh, Uou.
Big but moderately slow air stream.

There is also something about the center portion of the lower lib, that when the lips are pulled open too much seems to not vibrate or perhaps not as rich as it should.
You can often detect this when playing scales with a practice mute. On the notes that don't speak clearly, it is usually the buzz from the center portion of the lower lip.

Blow through the center of the mp and avoid trying to blow sharp or on the top part of the tone for loudness.

Keeps the corners firm, strong buzz, and feed the air.

Try not to do funny things to make things work. The 3 points in the above sentence will make it work. Its physics.

In your diet of practicing, the low register studies such as the Snedecor greatly enhance the openess and darkness of sound. But it can take quite a bit of time.
I found after 2 years there was considerable improvement in my sound with regard to weight and presence along with might be called "darkness,"

As far as equipment, a resonant tuba will help as will a mouthpiece that is deep enough to support the fundamental.

My take is that the depth of the cup is rather significant, perhaps moreso than the openess of the throat. The latter seems more to offer a louder sound.
Having a relatively deep cup, while enhancing the fundamental, also generates what is needed to offer color to the upper notes. Something that might be construed as "darkness."

These opinions are mine, and I believe that they work for me. Most of them have be derived from some great teachers, who I will not embarrass by naming them here.
Some of you know that I recently came back to serious professional playing after about a 20 year hiatus of doing everything else in the music field but actually playing my tuba. These past 6 years have been a great opportunity to start fresh and work diligently on some serious stuff. I'm 70 now and find that I am playing better than I ever did, and that is due to working to be extremely efficient.

Perhaps I should take a moment to express some gratitude for the wonderful dialog here on TN. Some times it is on the mark, other times just silly. But TubeNet for me is a great place to share ideas, old and new information and to just keep the candle of enthusiam lit and burning brighy. I think we all here love the tuba for one reason or another, and probably all of us are here for a different reason. It's that diversity that makes it so alive and so much fun.

Paul (sometimes a silly old sap) Maybery

My biggest challenge these days is simply schlepping the equipment around. And ... I like big toys. So there ya go.

OO!! But most of all - RELAX. Tension takes away darkness.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby EdFirth » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:29 pm

Possible oversimplification here but my personal listening has had a lot to do with where my sound goes. At Disney we played two or three sit down concerts in Town Square every morning. Without fail if I had been listening to a live recording of Chester, be it with BSO or the Pops, on the way to work people around me could tell and would often comment "So we rode in with Chester today". While teaching at Stetson I gave my kids a "Chester tape" and he results were pretty amazing . No equipment adjustment, just a sound in their heads. So to the OP's question, if there's a particular sound you like, from my little findings, if you listen to it alot the sound will become inbedded in your head and you will start to make that sound . It is, after all, an oral art form. Best of luck, Ed
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby russiantuba » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:06 pm

TheGoyWonder wrote:NO NO NO. Darker = more low frequency content than other frequency bands = smoother more sinusoidal waveforms. Objective. Relative in that it doesn't mean anything on its own you have to compare it, but not subjective.



I have heard many people refer to a dark sound as a resonant sound. I have heard others mention the sine wave/fundamental definition. Almost 50/50.

To the original poster: figure out what YOU want to sound like. Get the sound in your head, sing that sound in your voice to the best of your abilities. Record yourself doing both and upon hearing it, adjust the concept in your head.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Slamson » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:35 pm

When I'm trying to come up with the best sound possible, I think of this guy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8CYkkgFzG4

play the tuba the same way. Next to Jake, this man's my hero. Melchior knew the song, and had the wind by the tail!
sorry, I don't do signatures.
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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby bloke » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:30 am

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Re: How to Achieve a Darker Sound

Postby Stryk » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:32 am

PaulMaybery wrote:
Blow through the center of the mp and avoid trying to blow sharp or on the top part of the tone for loudness.


^^^^^^^^^^^^
This. This and relaxed air - don't force it but give it all the air it will take. I can't say a Monette mouthpiece is better than any other mouthpiece, but one thing it does well is to almost force one to do these two things. If not a dark sound, these factors at least make the sound more "round".
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