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Author Topic:  Tone Is Not In The Players Hands
David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:46 am     Reply with quote

Tone is not in the players hands. Heck you say! Let me explain. What is in the players hands is musical articulation not tone. Musical articulation is like speech articulation. One guy stutters when he talks and sings, one guy talks like a country hick, one guy has a raspy voice like Rod Stewart and another has the voice of an ABC/NBC newscaster. They can all have the same tone or frequency response but one is a lot more desirable to listen to. That is speech articulation. A musician has musical articulation as well. Tone in the old days in radio was nothing more than a radio or TV with two knobs. Bass and Treble. Later as hi-fidelity came in around the 1960's tone controls became frequency equalizers and tone was derived from multi-band frequencies having differently amptitudes. If you boost 2k up 5db you will get a different tone.
Tone for a pedal steel player starts with the picks he is using, the strings he is using, then moves on to the changers fingers, through the axle, through the changer housing, vibrates the wood and metal the instrument is made from, then the pickup recieves the vibrations and the magnetic pull from the strings and sends it through the cables and volume pedal (yes those two items change the tone too) then through the preamp and power amp stages on out to the kind of speaker you are using and the enclosure it is mounted in all affects tone (frequency response). Then finally the most drastic tone change of all is the acoustics of the room for monitoring that tone. If you don't sound like Buddy Emmons or Lloyd Green even if you try hard it's because you don't have the same articulation (speech) as they do but you might be getting that same push pull and LDG tone that they get. I learned about articulation the 12 years in music classes in school. Started playing trombone in the 5th grade.
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:51 am     Reply with quote

Nonsense.

Play right next to the bridge. Move two inches to the left, and repeat the phrase, emphasizing complete replication of your "articulation."

Tell me your tone didn't change. Now try changing the angle of your picks. Now try changing how hard you attack the strings (you can keep the volume even with a knob on your amp).

If you think none of these things arose in your hands, or that they didn't change your tone, I'll accept your premise.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 11:10 am     Reply with quote

All those items come under articulation except moving close to the bridge and that is physics. The less the string can vibrate the higher the pitch. The very center of a string yields the most low end or bass. Pick angle attack is musical articulation. If my tongue has been paralyzed I'm not gonna speak very clearly will I. But do I get a bad tone? Probably won't get much tone at all. The word tone on the steel guitar forum seems to mean player ability. In the recording world tone means only one thing and that is frequency response. A guy that can't hit his strings right we just say his/her playing sucks and we don't have enough tone controls to fix it.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 11:16 am     Reply with quote

I like your description David. It's what I've been thinking for years, but couldn't put in words. There is a difference in how a combination of gear sounds and how a player plays.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 11:49 am     Reply with quote

Right Jerry. I can get all kinds of tones out of my steels (tinny, bright, mellow, bassy) but I always sound like David Mitchell because of the way I articulate or form my speech pattern between my two hands. Jeff Newman himself once said that tone was in the players hands but I think he used tone for the lack of a better word because he proved on a few recordings articulation is in the players hands because he could make his steel sound just like Ralph Mooney playing it. I could not have told the difference if I hadn't seen him playing it. His tone was about the same but he articulated just like Mooney.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 12:04 pm     Reply with quote

http://study.com/academy/lesson/articulation-in-music-types-notation.html
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 5:41 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
Tone is not in the players hands.


TRUE!

Sure, you can change the sound by your picking position, but the fundamental "tone" is in the gear.

What many perceive as "tone in the hands" when a player "sounds like himself" no matter what gear he uses is style. NOT tone.

Many professional musicians are very recognizable, but not because of a specific tone - it's because of *how* they play - style.

The "tone is in the hands" statement is very prevalent in the 6-string world. And it's funny considering how many of the players used as examples play many different guitar models, specifically because of the different tone they provide.

A stock Fender Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul do not sound the same no matter who the player is. Install the same pickups in each and they still sound different because of fundamental differences in construction.

The same is true of many amplifiers. In the tube amp world typical Fender, Marshall and Vox amps each have very specific tonal "envelopes".

Differences in tone are somewhat less noticeable with modern pedal steel gear - but differences in tone, other than that created by the aforementioned pick attack, are still gear-based.[/b]
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 5:45 pm     Reply with quote

Call the big name trombone instructor in your area. Tell him you think articulation and tone are the same thing (I freely admit they are not independent variables.)

Please report response.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 6:23 pm     Reply with quote

I think tone has become a catch all word. When someone says it I know what they mean. Kinda like "He's got the groove man" or "she's got soul". They mean there is a whole lot more to their playing than just playing the right notes. Someone else could jump up on stage and play their instrument and sound totally different yet have the same tone. It's because there is so much to playing just a single note and having convey a message to someones heart.
Someone like Lloyd Green could convey a message using the worst tone that a steel guitar can get. I've heard horrible sounding tone on old Lloyd Green's records but his performance was still intact. It wasn't his fault it sounded bad after the original master tape got transfered to vinyl then scratched up by somebody then played on a substandard worn out needle with a gritty tone then placed on YouTube that compressed the crap out of it. Through it all it still sounded like Lloyd Green because his style, articulation, identity, soul, groove or whatever is still imprinted in the recording even after the sound of the record turned to trash.
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 7:48 pm     Reply with quote

What's the difference, between Doug Jernigan and Buddy in tone? No matter the gear, their unique tone/personality comes shining through. No matter the EQ, or phrasing, the personality overrides the gear. From the many steel players I've heard, the the tone is in the hands.
http://picosong.com/YySX/
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:01 pm     Reply with quote

Strange that you used those two for comparison because I was thinking the same thing. Two of the worlds best players. Both have killer tone but yet two different musical personalities.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:05 pm     Reply with quote

Lol! Perfect example!! Buddy already said it long before I did. Great!
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Damir Besic


From:
Nashville,TN.
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:26 pm     Reply with quote

I remember the story about Chet Atkins playing his guitar, some guy came to him and said "this guitar sounds great", Chet got up off his chair, walked to the guitar stand, placed the guitar in the stand, and walked back to the guy, and said "what does it now sound like" ...
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:27 pm     Reply with quote

Here is an example of why "tone" or "timbre" is not what attracts the listener. If tone attracted listeners we would have never known what an mp3 file is. What attracts the listener is performance and technique. Here the tone of Lloyd's steel is garbled from an ancient vhs video recorder that's been laying in a closet for decades but yet we still enjoy it because of Lloyd's playing technique and the musical choices he made. His tone was probably great when he was performing this but not so great now. At least on my speakers his tone is one of the worst I've heard but still enjoyed listening.

https://youtu.be/kzxzHa6c7Jc
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 31 Oct 2017 10:53 pm     Reply with quote

Now here is that same player getting great tone mainly because he has one of the world's best recording engineers capturing it. He's still playing with that tasty touch that only Lloyd can do but his tone has improved drastically over the garbled live performance. I think most people have trouble telling the difference between technique, articulation and tone. BTW, it's a real shame that the videos we have left of the world's greatest players have awful tone, noise and distractions. My only only regret is I didn't rent a remote truck with Chuck Ainly to come engineer the performances at Scotty's in ultra hi-fidelity where we could really hear the tones they were getting.

https://youtu.be/CtAr9b-bBR0
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 1:39 am     Reply with quote

well how come when others play my Telecasters, same guitar, same amp, we don't sound the same ?

Now I'm not arguing the case, but TONE comes from the Instrument, the strings, the amp ,the players ears and ability to produce , the weight of the bar , bar technique and the right hand pick attack , it's multi dimensional .

The best recording engineers in the world do NOT make a player sound great, they capture what is already accomplished. The best recording engineers in the world use as little added " after the fact" as possible to preserve whats been tracked. The best recording engineers in the world are not knob tweakers.
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Tim Russell


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 1:48 am     Reply with quote

Tony Prior wrote:
well how come when others play my Telecasters, same guitar, same amp, we don't sound the same ?


True statement, Tony.

I know a fellow who played a Sho~Bud, got this beautiful magnificent tone out of it, very "smooth" sound, I would describe it; when he got up and I sat at it, it sounded harsh and jangly," lol.

I don't think it is as cut and dry as the OP states.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 4:14 am     Reply with quote

Tone is in the bar and the skilled usage of it.
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David Mitchell


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 5:47 am     Reply with quote

Well if we want to get technical about tone then -
1) Tone is not made in the hands. Try making your hands sound like a pedal steel with no pedal steel around.
2) Tone is not made with the picks and bar. Try to hear music from them while they are off your fingers laying on the table.
3) Tone is not made with the guitar or amp. Back to the Chet Atkins story. They don't make a sound without someone to play it.
4) Tone IS made when someone exerts a force (aggression) on a musical instrument and the instrument responds to that force in the form of vibration.
How that tone or vibration sounds in the brain depends on the construction of the instrument played, the apparatus used to play it and the players technique. But none of the first three items make tone by themselves so hence my statement "Tone is not in the hands."
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Peter Freiberger


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 6:31 am     Reply with quote

John Coltrane said of the mellifluous Stan Getz, "Let's face it--we'd all sound like that if we could."
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J R Rose


From:
Keota, Oklahoma, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 7:16 am     Reply with quote

Well, I am just an old country boy here on the farm and know nothing but my thoughts are that it is a combination of everything. Good gear helps you sound better. But you could set Buddie or Lloyd at a piece of junk gear and they could make it sound great and they would likely sound just like them. I have know a couple of outstanding fiddle players that could take a gourd so to speak and make it sound good. But they would sound better with a good fiddle. I have seen pro pickers set down at their steel and grab some strings without the bar and it just sound awesome. That is the results of all the above mentioned elements in the kind of guitar body,pickup, strings, pedal, cords, amp & amp settings. Learning how to set your amp, fine tune it is a big part of everything. I think everyone's ear hears things different. Pickers that have that perfect pitch in their ear/head I am very jealous of. Just my thoughts, J.R.
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Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 10:03 am     Reply with quote

Perhaps tone is in the listener's ears.
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Larry Behm


From:
Mt Angel, Or 97362
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 7:23 am     Reply with quote

I like to think of all of this as expression. That is why we sound just like us on any guitar. Your voice is your voice.

I played a Carson Wells once at a steel jam and everyone thought it was my PP, go figure.

I sometimes us a Walker amp, a Bandit 65, 2 Fostex hot spot mic stand mounted 100 watt monitors, I always sound like me with a slight variation in the overall sound.

Could I make a bad guitar through a bad amp with a cheap volume pedal-Radio Shack patch cords sound good? I think I could get the best out of a bad situation but would be limited by the quality of the equipment.

I would want to sound like George Jones but might sound like Pee Wee Herman. Still able to communicate but who wants to hear that?

So after years of straddling the fence on this issue, I guess I still need more lotion!!!!
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Barry Blackwood


Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 8:31 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
Perhaps tone is in the listener's ears.

By jove, Lee, I think you've got it!
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Alan Bidmade


From:
Newcastle upon Tyne UK
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 10:14 am     Reply with quote

We tried this out at the recent North East (England) steel players' group meeting. Derek plays a Rains, I play a Ben-Rom. When Derek plays my guitar - it sounds like Derek!
Tone? He was at the bar, getting the beers in. Laughing Laughing
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