Image of flute player“The quality of your tone will probably have a more immediate impact on listeners than any other feature of your execution.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 22

We performers know the power of tone quality. Sweet tones can charm, almost like magic, and harsh sounds quickly put people on edge.

Nonetheless, I’ve found that many students don’t pay close attention to tone production nor the emotional language of tone color, so here are six tips for building mastery.

  1. Understand Tone Production
    Be sure that you grasp the inner workings of tone production with your instrument or voice and that you can readily alter your sound by significant amounts. If not, consult a teacher for guidance.
  2. Vary Tone in Scale Practice
    Refine your tone-producing skills by employing tone color variations in your scale practice, experimenting across registers and keys.
  3. Explore the Expressive Grammar of Tone
    In your repertoire practice, use tone colors to enhance expressive gestures, going beyond your habitual patterns. Compare, for instance, how passages comes across when you make your tone bright versus dark. Here’s an illustration of how brighter tone enhances echoing passages, excerpted from Chapter 2 of The Musician’s Way:

    From JS Bach, Prelude to Suite No. 6 for Cello

    From JS Bach, Prelude to Suite No. 6 for Cello


  4. Attune Your Listening
    Bring fresh attention to the density, color and shape of your sound in each phrase you play or sing, opening new avenues for creative expression. Also listen to recordings of master artists and scrutinize how they use tone color.
  5. Perform for Colleagues
    As you expand your tone-color vocabulary, do practice performances for colleagues and request their feedback.
  6. Record Yourself
    Good-quality digital recorders enable us evaluate our work objectively and make our practice optimally productive.

See The Musician’s Way for far-reaching strategies to grow your artistic powers.

Related Posts
7 Essentials of Artistic Interpretation
Beautiful Repetition
Habits of Excellence
Playful Practice
Self-Recording in Practice

The Musician's Way book cover

© 2015 Gerald Klickstein
Photo of flautist © Furtseff, licensed from

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