Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Five Dimensions of Woodwind Sound

The Five Dimensions of Woodwind Sound

If we don’t know where we are trying to go, we don’t know how to get there, and we don’t even know when we’ve arrived.  I’ve lived a lot of my life like that.

For years, I didn’t know what a good clarinet sound was.   Good Clarinet Sound was my desired destination.  I knew people and clarinets and reeds that I thought had a good sound, and people and clarinets and reeds that I thought had a bad sound, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between the two.  The first I liked; the second I did not.  And I couldn’t tell you why.  Which made me feel stupid. 

I knew that some days, my sound made me happier than it did on other days, but I had no idea what I was doing one day and not doing the next to make that beautiful sound I wanted to make.  Which made me mad.

Over the years, I have kept up with new information about clarinets on the internet.  Some of the information I share in this post is widely repeated throughout other sites.  Other information has stayed in my head, but I have no idea where I read it on the internet.  I am responsible for none of the technical information here.  I am only putting it together on posts on this blog for the convenience of my woodwind friends in New Horizons Band.  Neither they nor I are young, and some of us don’t have time to search all over the internet to find out what we want to know about making a beautiful sound with our woodwinds.  Most of us are over sixty.  Some are over eighty.  Which gives me a sense of urgency.

In this post, I address the five dimensions of woodwind sound.  Because I limit my posts to 800 words, I will address the dimensions in separate posts.  This post identifies the dimensions and provides ways to remember them.

The five dimensions of woodwind sound are

·        Clarity

·        Focus

·        Depth

·        Stability

·        Color

I offer three mnemonic devices to remember the five dimension of good woodwind sound: a visualization exercise, a story, and a song.

The Visualization Exercise

Close your eyes.  We are going to hunt for a beautiful, rare black pearl.  Slip on your diving gear. 

First, we must be sure that the water is still.  We won’t go into the sea if the waves are high.  We want still, stable water.  Stable water represents stability in the woodwind’s sound.

We drop over the side of the ship and go down, down to the depths of the ocean floor where the oysters live.  Water depth represents depth of sound.

If the water is murky, we cannot see the oysters.  Fortunately, the water is clear.  The clear water represents clarity of sound.

The ocean floor is dark, so we use our small, high-beam, highly-focused light.  The highly-focused light shows us one oyster at a time.  The highly-focused light represents focus of sound.

The oysters stand open before us.  We want only one pearl: a black pearl.  Straight ahead we see exactly the right color:  a rich, rare, black pearl.  The color of the pearl represents the color of our sound.


The Story

A Woodwind Fairy Tale

The beautiful French Queen Clarinet  and the handsome German King Saxophone  ruled the marvelous, magical, musical  Land of Band.

Queen Clarinet and King Sax wore beautiful colors: she, a cape of grenadilla black draped with silver keys, and he a beautiful silvery-brass robe studded with pearl-white keys.

 Queen Clarinet and King Sax had stability, consistently the same size and shape, unlike the unstable Jester Trombone, who would change his size from short to long, long to short in the blink of an eye!  A real slippery fellow, he!

Queen Clarinet and King Sax were focused.  They sang a focused song, unlike the Tympani Sisters, whose sound made wave after wave like a stone dropped in the water.  Very unfocused, the Tympani Sisters. 

Queen Clarinet and King Sax spoke with clarity so everyone could understand what they were saying, unlike that rude Knave Trumpet, who could speak with clarity, but often stuck a mute in his mouth, and who on earth could tell what he was saying then? 

And Queen Clarinet and King Sax had depth of character, unlike the shallow Fairy Triangle, who often acted like an alarm clock gone berserk!

Ergo, to the chagrin of the brasses and the percussion, Queen Clarinet and King Saxophone ruled the beautiful Land of Band.



The Song

To the Tune of Frere Jacques (Are You Sleeping, Brother John)
We have stability,

Clarity and focus,

Color and depth,
Color and depth.

We have stability,

Clarity and focus
Color and depth,
Color and depth.

May the words of this post help you bring beauty into the world through the voice of your woodwind.



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