RE: Factors determining big, fat, smooth tone in acoustic harmonica
- Subject: RE: Factors determining big, fat, smooth tone in acoustic harmonica
- From: "jross38" <jross38@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 14:16:18 -0500
So, to take your example from a cello to a violin, you say there is one
objective standard of "tone" for violin, and that a student can only bow
properly in one way to achieve this. My question, is this "tone" the
same for every style of music? The difference in tone between various
fiddle types and various formal/classical violin types just within the
European tradition can be quite extreme. Perhaps you would classify
this as "sound" as opposed to "tone", but I would argue that the
difference is not so easily distinguished and that the one blends into
The same is the case for harmonica and tone. Sound and tone are not
mutually exclusive terms, and the confusion over where one ends and the
other begins is there not because of poor wording but rather because it
elucidates what occurs in reality: they blend into one another.
Please stop attacking me with your strawman of "subjectivism", as I am
talking about nothing of the sort. I am pointing out that "good tone"
is subjective, as it is a value judgment--and value judgments are
inherently subjective. To argue differently is to deny that people
differ, and insist that everyone see the world in the exact same manner.
That's not objective, that's just foolish.
As I said, there are many things that can be quantified objectively in
harmonica playing, but "good tone" or even "big tone" is not one of
them. Perhaps aspects of what you or the majority believe is "good
tone" or "big tone" can be measured, but that does not mean that a
definitive statement can be made about such that applies universally to
all players and listeners. This isn't a case of muddying the waters or
trying to make everything unclear (which you equate with subjective),
but rather the opposite. Only by understanding the difference between
what can be quantified and what cannot be quantified can actual
understanding occur. This is again similar to the tone/sound question.
Only when we understand that there is in fact no hard and fast line that
separates the two can either be properly understood. The one blends
into the other, and we can look at what the differences are between the
two, but that doesn't mean that a rock-solid definition of either can be
given exclusive of the other.
This is not to say that discussing tone, sound or the like is useless.
But, it is to say that trying to "nail down" either in absolute terms
is, because they can't be "nailed down". Again, that doesn't lessen
understanding of either, or make discussing either necessarily more
difficult, in fact it does the opposite.
>Mr. Ross is referring to Tom Ball's mention of
>old amplification/recording techniques, that
>undoubtedly effect what we come to think of
>as Little Walter's ~sound~ [and that it might blur
>what we hear as his ~tone~]. He already conceded
>the distinction but it's true that few of us know
>what he sounded like at a live concert. I think
>that is also a good topic for conversation
>but it's separate from one about ~What factor's
>determine a harp students acquisition of tone~.
>As I said, of course anything can be done in
>the studio and this subject could easily bleed
>into that one. I'm trying to keep it distinct.
But that's my point. Trying to draw distinctions where none can be
drawn is not elucidating or educating, but rather the opposite. That
these things (tone and sound) do in fact bleed one into the other is a
significant issue, and a large part of any discussion of either will
show just that: that tone and sound are not hard and fast defined
separate entities. Recognizing such a bleed through is not a step
backwards from knowledge but rather a step towards appreciating what is
actually occurring in terms of playing.
How does this help the individual player improve either their tone or
their sound? Simply. You can work on either in one way, and
essentially one way only: listen. Listen to yourself when playing.
What about your sound or your tone do you dislike? What do you like?
Now, how can you alter either? Well, if you want to project more a way
of doing that may be altering the way you cup the harp. Or, you could
try focusing your breathing from the diaphragm rather than the mouth.
If you want to have a deeper sound (ie, less high overtones and more
fundamental), you can try altering the shape of your mouth in relation
to the harp in various ways: placing the harp deeper in the mouth
cavity. Dropping the jaw so as to make a larger resonant cavity inside
your mouth. Forming various vowel shapes with your mouth while playing
and seeing how these effect the tone of the harp.
But, all this will also affect your sound, because tone is not
independent of sound, nor vice-versa. Anything that alters your tone
will alter your sound, IMO. To me this is not necessarily the
inverse--you can sound different playing through two different amps, but
still have the same fundamental tone. But, that doesn't mean I can
definitively say where the one ends and the other begins, just that they
are related in various complex ways, not all of which are obvious.
Moreover, I recognize that where I draw the line between the two may not
be where someone else does. Someone could easily create a very good
argument as to how playing through different amps does in fact alter
tone as well as sound--doesn't mean I have to agree with them, but also
doesn't mean that they'd be inherently wrong in believing such.
To me, that is an intelligent way to discuss tone and sound, rather than
attempting to shoehorn either into some dictionary definition which has
a limited (if any) correlation to the way these things actual function
in the real world.
In the end, this isn't a debate about judgments or subjectivism, but
rather an attempt to find the best means of discussing a complex
subject. I would say that rather than trying to shove things into boxes
that don't fit it is better to see the whole picture and discuss things
with regards to their inter-relations.
()() JR "Bulldogge" Ross
() () & Snuffy, too:)
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