Bright Sound or Dark Sound


Bright Or Dark


There seems to be a lot of confusion about how we describe sound. It seems many people these days want what they call a dark sound, but when I delve deeper into what they mean, I realise it may not be the same as what I call a dark sound.

Dark or Bright?

I write a lot about saxophone sound, but there seems to be some confusion over terminology, which got me thinking…Dark can be used to mean the same as warm, which some people think of as the opposite of bright.

But when I say dark I mean the opposite of light rather than bright (but you might think the opposite of light is heavy). As far as I’m concerned the opposite of a bright sound is a warm sound, but you might well think of a warm sound as the opposite of a cold sound. But then I call a cold tone what some people call a clear tone .

On the other hand some people might call that a focussed tone (or a tone that projects). But to some a focussed tone could be an edgy tone, a compact tone, or maybe even a centred tone, (which are surely two different things) and then again to others it might be thin, the opposite of which you might say is fat, however it could be argued that this is unfocussed, which is the opposite of what some people call bright. Or you might like a big fat warm dark round sound, the opposite of which is…

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So how do you find a bright sounding saxophone or a dark sounding mouthpiece?

While it’s true some saxophones may have an inherently brighter or darker sound, the biggest influencer of the tone (after the player) is the mouthpiece. So the good news is that if, for example, you want a brighter sound, then it’s much simpler and cheaper to just try a different mouthpiece



In another article I talk about visualising your sound as a useful method to help with control of your tone.

What do sounds look like?

What kind of tone do you imagine when you think about these images:


Fluffy tone
Spread, unfocussed, warm & fuzzy, fluffy?
Focussed, compact, bright?

Add to the dictionary!


Since writing this I have recently heard a few more descriptions of saxophone sounds, please everyone feel free to add to the list using the comments box below.

  • Creamy 
  • Smooth 
  • Buzzy 
  • Smoky


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2 thoughts on “Bright Sound or Dark Sound”

  1. I have been a percussionist my entire life. Now , in my sixties, I would like to produce music with a melody to it. I am very new to considering taking up the saxophone. With regard to your description of tone, above, which type of saxophone (tenor, alto, etc.) would produce a sound covering the range from soft holiday music to jazz to 60s style rock. Thanks very much!

  2. This is a question best asked on the forum. I’m not sure what soft holiday music is, but to be honest any of the saxophones can cover those styles. Perhaps soprano is not so common in 60s style rock.

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