re: TONE [ain't ~sound~]
- Subject: re: TONE [ain't ~sound~]
- From: tom ball <havaball@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 11:42:44 -0700
Hi y'all... well, it looks like Robb has taken me to task, so I have
no choice but to reply. <grin>
Tom Ball [of all people] said:
<Probably the first time Walter would've even
<heard his 'tone' would've been upon playback.
<the "tone" we are discussing is
<all-too-often a result of the addition/subtraction of
other musical information via electronics
<And all this is without even getting into the
<inalienable fact that when it comes to tone, one
<man's ceiling is another man's
Those, above, are examples of someoneís ~sound~. Not
their ~tone~. This is NOT semantics. If a
student carelessly drags his bow across their violin
they ruin their ~tone~ [and no one will yet care about
Firstly, I like your list of "absolutes" below -- many excellent
pointers to the development of better tone. Kudos there.
With regard to the stuff above:
Although you insist "this is NOT semantics," any time we have a
conversation premised with "tone is not sound," of course it's
semantics. <g> We're discussing words, therefore it's semantics,
yes? What else could it be -- it ain't corn muffins?
Having said that, of course I agree with your general premise that
tone is not sound. Tone is, without question however, a major
component of a player's sound. And I'm also pragmatic enough to
realize that for many people, rightly or wrongly (OK, wrongly <g>,)
these terms are nearly interchangeable.
When it comes to my points regarding recording, here's what I'm
trying to get at: It's generally recognized that BW had killer tone,
acoustically and electrically, right? But BW has been gone for over
20 years, so the tone that people are responding to is necessarily
My contention is simply that the recording process (whether
purposefully or accidentally) is capable of adding and/or subtracting
bits of musical information that could skew *anyone's* apparent tone.
I would contend that an F# harp, combined with a shrill condenser
mic, combined with a limiter and bad EQ decisions by an engineer
*could* create a scenerio by which even the great Big Walter could
*apparently* have had lousy tone. For that session, at least.
I'm speaking theoretically here -- I've never heard bad tone from BW
- - but it's certainly a consideration for any player.
but you are making newbies think that ~Tone~ is something like
~groove~ or ~style~ <snip>
No I'm not. Not sure how you read that into my comments, but if
that's how my comments were interpreted, I will happily clarify:
"tone" has nothing to do with "groove" or "style." Different animals
entirely. Never meant to imply otherwise.
<snip> ...or ~His Sound~. It ainít. It ainít. It ainít. I beg you to
think it over and make a clarification.
"His sound," maybe. Because I think anyone would agree that a
person's tone IS a major component to their sound.
~One manís ceiling is another manís floor~ is a perfect example of
applying to things like ~style~ or ~goodness~, but it has little to
do with ~tone~ [Itís comparable to telling a beginning piano student
that the amount of pressure they put on the keys, or how they sit or
finger is irrelevant, ~so long as they are happy with it~. When is
~one manís, ~fat, well-placed, full TONE~, another manís shabby, thin
shallow tone? When is someoneís thin, ill-conceived, weak tone
someone elseís ~GREAT TONE~. Answer: Never.].
RE the "one man's ceiling" comment:
A few days ago someone here on the L stated that they thought SBWII
had lousy tone. Other folks jumped in and disagreed, contending he
had terrific tone. <shrug>
I can think of no better way to support my 'ceiling' statement than
that. Because if even the great SBWII (whom, BTW, I think had
outstanding tone,) can be disagreed about, then it's clear that there
are no absolutes. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are
always going to be differing opinions about what constitutes "great
tone." No biggie.
[And yes, someone did die and appoint me the Harp-l Philosopher King;
I will decide that for everyone.] [Thank you. Thank you very much].
(Laughing) If nothing else, I am proud the Harp-l Philosopher King
was kind enough to mention my novel in the same post where he shreds
my opinions. <g> But actually I don't think we're very far apart on
this stuff, Bing.
Now this is what free exchange of ideas is all about. :)
Here are some absolutes:
- - -If you play stiffly, from note to note, concentrating
on the area between your molars and the harps
edge; youíll probably have worse tone- - If you have
enough skill and knowledge to play smoothly,
and concentrate on the areas between your diaphragm
and the back of your knuckles; youíll probably
have better tone.
- - -If you cover only enough of the harp with your lips
to isolate your hole; youíll probably have worse
tone. If you place the harp as deeply in your mouth as
possible and open as widely as possible- while
still being able to isolate the desired hole; youíll
definitely have better tone.
- - -If you have thin, small, stiff dry lips; youíll
probably have worse tone. If you have large soft,
lips that make a good seal on the harp [and not
dry-mouthed]- youíll probably have better tone.
- - -If you hold your harp with two fingers on each side
of the harp; youíll probably have lousy tone.
If you form a cup around the harp that allows you to
totally control where ANY air goes/escape; youíll
probably have better tone.
- - -If you understand the music that you are playing on
many different levels [and therefore know what
you want to play-down or emphasize] youíll probably
have better tone. If you are playing
~by-the-numbers~ and sustain or mute only according to
what you read or hear; youíll
probably have worse tone.
- - -If you have shallow breathing youíll probably have
lousy tone. If you breathe from deep in
your lungs youíll be at an advantage for producing
- - -If you have a big, wide, full ~sound~ in mind that
you want to emulate [and THIS part is
subjective. LW had the saxophone. I have LW] then
youíll probably have better tone.
- - -If your ~sound~ is big, round, smooth and full;
youíll probably have better tone. If your sound
is small, thin, rocky and weak; youíll have worse
tone. There are factors that effect the above
mentioned qualities; none of them are subjective or
fit under the rubric: ~Oneís man ceiling
is another manís floor~ [Iíd tried to head this off
with my comment: ~One manís good tone is NOT another
manís car alarm~]. There is lots more I could say but
better teachers have already said it better [Steve
Baker, Kim Wilson, Portnoy, Gindick, Hunter, David
Like a cello, you do not have the option to play
stiffly or scratchily or with extraneous static
[sounds YOU donít choose, like running the bow on the
strings in a non-smooth way]. If you want
good tone with harp you need a good cup, a good
embouchure, a good breathing technique
and a good appreciation for what you are playing. No
way around it. Some of you might have
good tone without having had to study or practice, but
that doesnít change the fact that those
other things are necessary.
Now. For the Blanket Statement Police out there who
believe that ALL generalizations are
bad [except this one]; If you wants to pick at these
nits, have at it. Iím done until we are discussing
harp-knowledge in a way that will forward us [and THAT
is also subjective]
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