re: tone and proficiency

Rather than speak of "good" tone, it's better to think of appropriate tone. 
For example, a violinist playing Prokofiev would use a different tone than a 
violinist playing Cripple Creek. A guitarist playing Hendrix would use a 
different tone than a guitarist playing the Ventures.Listen to Johnny Hyland 
playing Nashville telecaster compared to Muddy Waters playing the same 
guitar. Both had awesome tone, both sound completely different. Listen to 
Annie Raines play jug band music. She nails the jug band sound. Close your 
eyes and it sounds just like the real deal. She also nails the warm Chicago 
tone.Both tones are good. Both tones are different. 

Music is a language. Proficiency just means being able to speak the 
language. Again with proficiency, the harp is just an instrument with 10 
holes. You don't get proficient on the harp, you get proficient playing a 
certain kind of music on the harp. In a jam band setting you can't beat John 
Popper. For Chicago blues, where you need to hold back, and part of the 
music (like hip hop) is a lot of space in the music, you can't beat Sonny 
Boy Williamson. I can get get a great amplified tone and I can blow a 
million notes a minute, but Annie Raines is a much better blues musician. 
She's learned to hold back, to swing, to be concise. She knows the language, 
and she expresses herself much better than I do. 

Fortunately, learning the language is fun. Take a couple of theory classes 
at your community college. Listen to a lot of CDs-not necessarily harp CDs 
but CDs in the genre you're interested in. Find other musicians to play 
with.You won't get as good as Annie Raines overnight, but the process is so 
much fun that it doesn't really matter. 

Rainbow Jimmy 

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