What is necessary in order to achieve a focused, warm, tone quality?
I see this question (or a variation of it) just about every day on various Internet message boards and social media posts. I also see the numerous responses to this question – some are insightful, others are just plain ridiculous. What I try to teach my students is that a tonal concept ultimately comes from within the individual player. The equipment we use is only the set of physical tools that helps one to create their tonal concept as best as they can.
So this begs the question: what should a saxophone sound like?
There is no single answer to this question. It depends upon the personal preferences of the individual player. For myself, I like the darker sounds associated with one group of saxophonists. When I was much younger, I listened to these players over and over again and got that type of tone inside my head (or inner ear). I have striven to emulate this tone as best as I could, which necessitated purchasing a certain type of mouthpiece to help me achieve that type of sound. Once I had my new mouthpiece, I worked diligently to sound as best as I could on it. After some time, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my tone quality; however, I also noticed that I didn’t quite sound like the players I was listening to. I sounded similar, but not exactly like them. There is another crucial element to determining one’s tone quality, and that is the construction of the player’s oral cavity. Since each person has their own unique physical characteristics, these would undoubtedly have an influence on that person’s tone quality. This, as well as the inner tonal concept, are the two most influential parameters of a player’s tone quality. Even if two players use the same exact mouthpiece, ligature, reed type/strength, and instrument, they will sound different from one another. There will understandably be similarities, but each individual will sound slightly different due to their differing oral cavities and inner tonal concepts.
There is no “magic” mouthpiece or trick. A good tone comes from within. It comes from your physical being, your tonal preferences, a great deal of hard work, and a mouthpiece that helps you to best achieve the sound you’re searching for.