Tone/sound can be and often is a lifelong search for most if not all instrumentalists. Tone is influenced by how and what we practice, what “gear” we have, and often who and what we listen to. I find, it is also informed by our lives and experiences. So the question must be asked, what leads to a good tone and how can we work on it?
While I cannot speak definitively on all woodwinds, I have spent over a decade playing and performing on the saxophone, flute, and clarinet and have learned quite a few things over that period of time.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Spending time with your instrument is, in my opinion, the number one thing that will lead to developing a great tone. Practice long tones using a metronome and a tuner, practice scales, practice material of differing styles and make sure to practice material that you find difficult.
2. Record Yourself
You don’t need a fancy recording setup to record yourself. Listen back to it and make some notes about what you liked and didn’t like.
3. Listen to Great Musicians
Listening to masters and leaders of the field/instrument can actually go a long way in changing and improving your sound. Listen to their tone and entonation, listen to how they phrase passages and how they interact with the band/orchestra. Try to transcribe (play along, or write down) their performance of a piece or their solo by ear.
4. Take Private Lessons
A private lesson teacher can often spend more time with you than a band conductor or music teacher can. They can help you learn and grow.
5. Play with Other Musicians
Practicing and performing with colleagues and friends can help you hear other peoples sound and tone as well as help you learn to blend with other musicians.
Performing music is a different experience than just practicing and in many ways can help you develop a great tone.
Gear such as your instrument, mouthpiece, reed etc. can also influence your sound, although it is near the end of this list because ultimately a great player is a great player, even if they are on a student level instrument with a stock moutpiece.
Remember woodwind tone is a lifelong journey, so don’t get in a hurry. Take your time, practice, listen, perform, learn, and grow.
Grosse Pointe Music Academy: https://www.grossepointemusicacademy.com/
Brighton Music Academy: https://www.brightonmusicacademy.com/