On Sat, 18 Jan 2003 09:50:56 -0700, Michelle LeFree wrote:

>Sonny Boy Williamson II, IMO, did not possess "great tone",
>acoustic or otherwise.

>Barry B. Bean responded:
>> In my opinion, SBWII is the holy grail of blues tone. 

>I see what you mean.  I said I was risking being accused of heresy!  

Who would have thought that mere heresy would get you accused of being a heretic? 

>What I'm really trying to get to the bottom of with my deliberately
>provocative comment is precisely how list members _define_ TONE.  I know
>that knowledgeable players put great weight on tone, so I feel it deserves
>detailed discussion.  I understand that, by your definition, SBWII had great
>tone.  And, I certainly agree that SBWII could make his harp talk, laugh and
>cry, probably more so than any other player I can think of.  But, in spite
>of his amazing expressiveness and range, I still don't feel that he (or
>Sonny Terry for that matter) had the great, pleasing-to-the-ear resonant
>sound like Walter Horton is known for.  It seems to me that there is a
>pretty big gulf between these two famous players in terms of tone.  That's
>why I asked my question: Just how ~is~ great tone defined in the view of
>expert harp players who rightly place so much weight on it?

An expert is a guy with a briefcase from out of town. Next time I see one, I'll ask him.

But in the meantime, I think tone is the ability to get the exact timbre you need from your instrument. There are lots of components to tone - 
intonation, support, fullness, overtones, etc., but I think tone will ultimately be determined by context. Pete Pederson and Little Walter both played 
the same instrument, and could be said to have both had great tone. But clearly they had very different tones, and no one would mistake one's 
recordings for the other's.

You mention "pleasing-to-the-ear resonant" tone, and that may close in on the difference in our perspectives. I think you're thinking about a 
particular tone, whereas I'm thinking of tone in general. 

If I may make a more extreme analogy, Pavarotti and Stephen Tyler are both singers. Both are at the top of their fields, respected by their peers, 
and are widely emulated by up and coming singers. I'd argue they both have great tone. But would anyone really want to hear either of them sing 
the others' repertoire? Could you imagine Pavarotti's "Walk This Way" or Tyler's "Ave Maria"? 

>None-the-less, I still contend that SBWII didn't often exhibit a really
>pleasing, resonant sound, at least to my ear.

You keep talking like that and the villagers will soon be at your door with burning pitchforks.

>Back to my question.  Does tone equal expressiveness, such as you seem to

Expressiveness is necessary, though not sufficient for great tone.

>Perhaps, even though DL Terry constrained the discussion to acoustic tone,
>many players define tone in terms of the over-driven amplified Chicago sound
>so many strive for.  

I certainly think that's true for a subset of players.

>Thanks for replying, Barry!  It's nice to see you participating on the list;
>you always have much to contribute.  If a controversial statement like I
>made is what it takes to "smoke you out of the woodwork", then I'll try to
>do it more often!  ;^)

You're far too kind, but thank you. Personally, I always welcome the opportunity to spar with a heretic, so I'll be watching.

- --
Barry B. Bean
Bean & Bean Cotton Company
Peach Orchard, MO

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