I’ve gotten a few comments over the last few months with questions about developing a good sound. 

For me, it starts even BEFORE any exercises. It starts inside of your brain! We have to know WHAT a good sound really is before we can expect that we’ll be able to recreate one. 

There’s an exercise in my book “GET AHEAD” that will help guide you through this idea. You can grab it here: 

But it short. You must LISTEN, to find out what a good sound concept is. It crosses genre, and can even cross instruments. For me, my main sound influences are: JJ Johnson, Joe Alessi, Christian Lindberg, Curtis Fuller, Slide Hampton, Steve Davis, Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Michael Dease, and I could go on and on...

The thing about it though, is that there is really something SPECIFIC about each of those people, that I am attracted to (in their sound). I have my students make a chart, and describe what they like about their favorite players’ sounds in words. Then we take all of the words, and create a concept for ourselves. 

Before that though, we have to figure out what exactly a “good” sound is. How can all these players have “good” sounds but then all sound so very different? Come up with your own definition of what it means to play with a “good” sound. 

Our concept will include various parts of all their sounds. Then we imagine what that sound is in our mind’s ear. I try to even visualize what that sound might be, and then EVERY time I put the horn up to my face, it’s time to try and re-create that sound. 

Now, this isn’t the sound concept that is right for every situation. If I’m on a gig playing lead in a big band, a “classical” gig, or salsa, or funk, or a broadway show, the sound concept is going to be much different for each one. This is MY sound concept, when I am playing for myself. This is a flexible concept. It will evolve as you evolve. It might guide you to new equipment, or types of music. It needs refinement. It needs constant listening to sharpen. 

I want to know whose sounds you like, and what about them you like! Let me know in the comments - think critically, and figure out how to both describe these peoples’ sounds, and why you like them!

Grab the book and get the full exercise: 


See ya next week -