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 Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: Clariphant in Bb 
Date:   2007-09-01 03:05

I've noticed that some players, in addition to changing dynamics, will change the amount of focus in their tone to aid in expression. Richard Stoltzman does this a lot. Kalman Berkes does it probably even more. I really like the sound of this effect, but I can't easily recreate it in my own playing. Clearly, you have to be very sensitive to what minute changes in embouchure do to your sound, but I'm wondering if anybody has any advice beyond this. I'm having trouble accomplishing this, especially without messing up my tuning or changing my volume.

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2007-09-01 04:25

just an idea... try changing tone to what you want and then bring it back in tune. Use a tuner to be sure what pitch you are aiming for. It probably will take several months to do well.
things to try changing- angle of instrument, angle of your head/neck, angle of your body (lean forward/back a little), tongue position, mouthpiece placement, etc.
good luck

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2007-09-01 12:53

What is meant by "amount of tonal focus"? Some examples of such changes would be appreciated.

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: grifffinity 
Date:   2007-09-01 16:13

Harold Wright also does this - most notably by softening the altissimo register in a way - I quite haven't figured out "how" he does it to make it so warm. I can only guess this technique is a combination of changing the speed of air while also changing the shape of the oral cavity - sort of like vocalising on the clarinet. Perhaps a less extreme and refined example of tonal changes one would use in Klezmer and Jazz.


I'm having trouble accomplishing this, especially without messing up my tuning or changing my volume.

In your practice time, I can only suggest that you indeed go to the edge of messing up your tone or tuning. Its like sculpting - you make the rough cuts and chisle away before you refine and smooth. As you understand the technique behind how to create a certain tonal nuance, you can then pull back - and then worry about refining the approach.

This summer past summer I was in a pit for Fiddler on the Roof - I have never played Klezmer or even Jazz, so there were a lot of new techniques I had to experiment with. My practice time during the first week was more ugly than not - but it was useful as I learned how to create and then control these "new to me" tonal colors. If I had tried to be pretty about the whole thing, I don't believe I would have been as successful with my end result.

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: rtmyth 
Date:   2007-09-01 18:59

Both Portnoy and McLane have written articles on this subject, where, unfortunately, I can not remember.

richard smith

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: susieray 
Date:   2007-09-01 20:14


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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: srattle 
Date:   2007-09-01 20:47

I think the only way to find what you're looking for is through music. It doesn't really make sense to find tone colors outside of the music that you can use like a database. Find a color that you want in your head, with a specific part of a piece that you feel needs this, and then do whatever it takes to create that sound. Experiment, and improvise. If you can feel it, and hear it, you'll be able to make the sounds you want and it will get more refined as time goes on. Just don't be afraid to make something that sounds ugly to you now

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: Aaron 
Date:   2007-09-01 21:30

If you want to make your sound less focused (something I've never actually heard recommended), lower the back of your tongue.

Think "haaaaa" instead of the "heeee" "eeeee" or "shhhh" that makes a beautiful sound.
...Or should I say a conventionally beautiful sound?

Aaron M

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: kev182 
Date:   2007-09-02 02:09

I know exactly what your talking about. Sabine Meyer does this is Premiere Rhapsody

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: Clariphant in Bb 
Date:   2007-09-02 02:46

To the poster who asked for an example: Off the top of my head, I know Berke's Brahms 1st Sonata 2nd Movement has this sort of sound in it a lot. Actually, it's in the very first note, if I remember correctly. Stoltzman uses this technique frequently in his recording of the Prokofiev flute sonata transcription.

To the poster who mentioned Harold Wright: That's true. I failed to mention him in my first post, but I do notice this in his playing. There are others that do this as well.

Now that I think about it, perhaps the reason I find it so notable in the players that I mentioned is that (I believe) both are recorded more close mic'd than a lot of others. Maybe that makes this subtlety more noticeable. I tried this more today and recorded myself, and I think I've progressed at least somewhat in the direction I want. It seems that slight embouchure changes are less noticeable to me while playing than while listening to the recording. I also find that a softish reed helps when I want to sound to be slightly less focused but not ugly. Overall, for me at least, it seems mostly reliant on tongue position.

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: denner22 
Date:   2007-09-02 11:37

Think warm air (as opposed to cold), experiment with different syllables (aah, ee, oh, ooo, etc) and above all relax the throat...really relax the throat...no, REALLY relax the throat...

Good luck with that  :)


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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2007-09-02 13:06

As Clariphant points out, what we hear when we play differs from what we sound like to others. It almost sounds like recording or other feedback is necessary to develop this technique.

One reason this interests me is my dislike for the hard-edged, almost metallic tone in the clarion register that I hear in many recordings. While that coloration definetly has it's place, it seems to come in far too frequently (for my taste). In fact, I hear it with some artists whenever they make a crescendo or play a forte or louder. It sounds ugly in too many places. Can such a broad application possibly be intended?

A notable exception is indeed Harold Wright, who in recordings displayed the hard edged sound far less than most, and often made musical sense to me with it.

Maybe what I hear is an artifact of the recording process. For example, Sabine Meyer displays absolutely gorgeous sound in some recordings, but in some others I hear the metallic edge almost throughout.

Thanks to the poster of the Portnoy link. Despite my questions, this now adds into the infinite practice heap. Speaking of which . . .

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 Re: Expressive Changes in Tonal Focus
Author: mnorswor 
Date:   2007-09-02 15:00

In my studies with Stoltzman, he constantly emphasized getting the desired color or timbre by using different vowel sounds or consonants in articulation. He thinks of playing the clarinet like many think about speech. In his descriptions he would constantly refer to words or syllables that he had designed over his years of playing that helped him achieve the color or timbre that he wanted. One of the most difficult for me to do was always the "N" type of articulation. It sounds almost connected with only a hinting of a break while the sound continues. He does this by articulating on one side of the reed so that the other half keeps vibrating. For me (still) it's frustrating to try and make this articualtion but I've found it very useful in a myriad of situations.

In the upper register, Stoltzman is concerned with not having the clarinet sound too "clarinety". He likes a singing and more open sound as he thinks the clarinet gets too thin sounding. His primary vowel for the upper register is more of an AH or an EU (in French). This doesn't raise the tongue as much in the back as an EE would and allows for focus and warmth.

I'm not sure if this helps but since you asked about someone I studied with extensively, I thought I might offer some suggestions. Discovering colors and timbres is one of the joys of our instrument because we have so many possibilities and for me it's a lot of fun!

Happy practicing and playing!

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