Achieving Tone

I have avoided this thread for some time, (I didn't care for the tone),
although its been interesting reading.  But now Michelle has brought it into
focus on techniques for achieving tone.  I agree most with the comments made
on "appropriateness" of tone.  I see that in terms the appropriate tone for
a musical genre.  Clearly appropriate tone for the acoustic Piedmont Blues
of Sonny Terry or Cephas and Wiggins is different  than the appropriate tone
for amplified Chicago Blues and yet again different for a Stevie Wonder
approach to chromatic playing.  To me tone is connected with the musical
style, not the player.  If you accept this premise, then the techniques for
achieving appropriate tone are going to vary.  I would agree with Michelle's
comment  " terms of tone, it's the breadth and degree of control
over one's tone that makes a great harmonica player".  Control over one's
tone is a function of practice (duh?), but before you can practice
effectively you have to know what to practice, how to shape your resonant
cavity, open up the back of the throat.  Michelle writes;

"In my quest to better understand tone production, I'd really like to learn
more about Mike's statement on involving the diaphragm in the production of
tone.  I understand the concept of diaphragmatic control in the production
of a vibrato.  And we all know that diaphragmatic breathing is a requisite
to good, even proper harp playing.  But, as Mike says, vibrato is a
technique, not an aspect of tone.  So I am having trouble figuring out the
direct role of the diaphragm in tone production, unless it is that deep
diaphragmatic breathing opens the resonant cavity (as compared to chest
breathing).  Can anyone enlighten me on this?  Mike?"

I think your last statement about "deep diaphragmatic breathing opens the
resonant cavity" is right on target.  My harp teacher suggests pushing out
my stomach and abdomen and breathing from as deep as I can.  I have to say
pushing out my stomach is not a pretty sight.  But I can feel and hear a
difference.  Michelle further states;

"Again, my studies and personal experience have led me to
develop the ability to modulate the amount of resonance inside my mouth by
changing the size of my oral resonant chamber by moving my tongue forward or
backward as I play (and I'm not speaking of bending here)."

Moving the tongue back and forward on the 1,2,3 hole chord can create an
eerie sound of tones washing in and out like the ebb and flow of water on
the shore.  I use this technique to set the stage before launching into
Amazing Grace.  Done right, it can come off sounding a bit like a bagpipe,
just long enough to get your listeners' attention before starting the song.

Thanks Michelle for bringing me out of lurkdom.  I'd like to hear from
others on techniques for achieving tone.

Best Regards to All,

Larry Boy Pratt

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