Close-up 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 music students don’t pay close attention to tone production nor the emotional language of tone color.

Here, then, are six tips for building masterful tone control.

6 Ways to Cultivate Expressive Tone

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 at various volume levels. If not, consult a teacher for guidance.

“Sweet tones can charm, almost like magic, and harsh sounds quickly put people on edge.”

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 when executing piano versus dark when executing forte – here’s an example 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.

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

High-quality recorders enable us evaluate our work objectively and make our practice optimally productive.

But only devices created with musicians in mind will capture the subtleties of tone color expression.The Musician's Way book cover

Recommended Audio Recorders: Zoom H4n | Zoom H2n

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

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

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