Sounds Good Column with John Daniel

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is John Daniel. I’m lucky enough to be a full-time musician. I perform, instruct, and record on woodwind instruments for a living. Thus far, my secret for success has been my sound. The airwaves floating out of my horns and flutes are decadent: rich, fat, and deep.

This lovely sound isn’t some mystical enigma that only I can create. With enough practice and the right direction, any wind instrumentalist can make their horn sound great. I’ll give you some tips today, and check back for monthly installments with Long Beach Independent.

Not long ago I had a musician friend visit, a pianist who wanted a little help with an arranging project he had taken on. He was visiting to show me how to best use his preferred software so we could work most efficiently. He put his software away in his music bag and I saw a recorder. “You have a recorder!” I said in surprise. Sheepishly, he admitted that he taught an elementary school class. I’ve always loved recorder and told him so, and he handed me his to play. I started playing a bit and he says, “Wow! You are really talented if you can make that recorder sound warm!”

Of course I had to show him how. Wind teachers often explain embouchure, meaning the position of the mouth. What isn’t often explained is the voicing, or inner-embouchure, the shape of your mouth and throat. Embouchure isn’t much of a concern with recorder, but the voicing sure is. So here’s how I made the sound so nice: the throat should be open and the tongue low in your mouth. This shape is made naturally when you sigh or yawn. Breathe slow, warm air, like you’re fogging up your glasses for cleaning. Recorders, saxophones, harmony [alto/bass] clarinets and flutes will sound much more rich and resonant when voiced like this.

Some instruments, like the clarinet, require fast air. With the clarinet, your tongue is higher and your throat a bit closed, like you’re saying “hee”. Your throat and tongue act like a De Laval nozzle, compressing the air and accelerating its speed. That’s the type of constricted opening used in jet engines and pressure washers to accelerate air/fluid. Your mouth is like a jet engine!

I hope this helps on your journey to play and sound better! For comments, questions, inquiries for performances, lessons or studio recording, please contact me through my website at

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About the Author

John Daniel

John Daniel is a talented and versatile wind instrumentalist who has been teaching and performing for over 15 years. A Northern California native, his first professional performance was with the Mt. Madonna Big Band (playing tenor saxophone) at just thirteen years old. Professionally impressive from the beginning, his first gig led to positions with the Kuumbwa Jazz Ensemble and several other jazz bands that toured throughout California and Nevada. At eighteen, he played Carnegie Hall with the UC Santa Cruz Wind Ensemble on bass clarinet. John holds a Bachelor of Music in Woodwind Performance from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music. John has performed with various professional orchestras, chamber ensembles, concert bands, jazz ensembles, rock groups, and world music groups.

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