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Best acoustic tone

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Boris Plotnikov
Jan 28, 2010 11:15 AM GMT

There was topic about best amplified tone

Let me ask everyone here about best acoustic tone you've heard recorded.

1. I greatly insist on giving Steve Baker the first place. Too strange that his amplified tone is ok, but not the best as it's a bit raspy and "sandy".

2. The second place I'd give to Howard Levy (but undoubtly he has first place for musicalite, technique and composing).

3. And third place I'd give to Richard Hunter (yes, he plays Lee Oskars, which is not good for most players here).

4. Most classical chromatic players have incredible acoustic tone. Listen to Larry Adler for example.

5. Lee Oskar - his tone is not clearly acoustic as he cups the mic, but it's his signature tone.

6. PT Gazell

7. Brendan Power

... Maybe I forget somebody.

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Comments (18)

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Jan 28, 2010 11:56 AM GMT
John P Replied:

Sugar Blue's acoustic tone on a 364 is phenomonal. You've got to hear it live to fully appreciate it. "Another Man Done Gone" is available on the MP3 album of the same name. Incredible acoustic tone!

Jan 28, 2010 12:24 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

Hm... I relistent to that track. It's ok but nothing special for my taste (However electric tone of SB is one of the best). Speaking of low harps listen to low harp acoustic playing by Greg Szlapczynski - Pour Alice he has much power acoustic tone on 364 (or another low harp) on this track than SB on Another Man Done Gone. You can listen to this track at his myspace

Anyway they both rule.

Jan 28, 2010 2:15 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Boris, i heard SB live this summer and he did an exended unaccompanird acoustic version of Another man Done Gone and his tone just blew me away. i probably have that stuck in my memory. But, yeah, I agree that his electric tone is great.

Jan 28, 2010 2:34 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

sonny terry, while not having tone in a classic sense, was able to put across such an incredible variety of sounds that i would put him at the top of the list.

i am also a huge fan of the bits where jason ricci does acoustic. the way he mixes his hand vibrato with mouth articulation to get the wha's is amazing, his tone on his overblows is amazing and his use of vibrato, while not as heavy as some, is impeccable.

Jan 28, 2010 2:56 PM GMT
greg r Replied:

Boris- My favorite for acoustic tone is Phil Wiggins.-Greg

Jan 28, 2010 5:14 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I can think of a few in a few different genres:

Charlie McCoy Mike Caldwell, Lonnie Glosson, Wayne Raneyfor country music.
Toots Thielemans for Jazz
John Sebastian Sr. (father of the harp player who was in the Lovin' spoonful and played on the theme for Welcome Back, Kotter) who was an awesome classical chromatic player

Jan 28, 2010 7:19 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

Yes Sonny Terry has his signature tricks and tone, but I can't say it's as perfect as Steve Bakers tone control.

Phill Wiggins - ok, but still not for my taste.

Jason Ricci sounds good acoustically, but I prefer him much more as amplified player.

Most jazz chromatic players (Toots too, although he is real musical genius) have much weaker tone than classical chromatic players and it really strange for me...

Charlie McCoy really has big and clear acoustic tone.

I also forget to mention signature tone of JJ Miltaeu. He has some breath noise in tone which could be estimated like breath mistakes, but it makes his great feel and musicality.

I unfortunately never heard Mike Caldwell, Lonnie Glosson, Wayne Raney andJohn Sebastian Sr., I'm dgoing to go to youtube and google to find their samples.

Jan 29, 2010 2:48 AM GMT
Not a Replied:

Boris, I would have put Brendan Power higher in your list! I don't think I could have ordered them all, but PT, Brendan, Richard, and Steve are all on the same level. I'd describe their tone as "Pretty" with the ability to be a little "raunchy". To that group I might add someone like Richard Sleigh. Someone with just honky dirty soul acoustic tone is Adam Gussow and his teacher Nat Riddles. Howard is on another level, and not comparable with them (but maybe with someone like Chris Michalek). Howard's tone is different, more horn/jazz in style...

Jan 29, 2010 3:57 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:


You're right about Brendan Power, he can be higher in this list. Adam Gussow great acoustic player too, although his recorded music is amplified mostly.

Yes they are very different styles. It's just fun to speak about harmonica players (((-: This topic is only about the tone. Howard Levy I think is pure genius and he has 1-st place for all playing components (speed, dynamics, musicality, phrasing, technique), except tone (but his tone is still incredilble!).


We're forget about Stevie Wonder! He sounds great.

Jan 31, 2010 12:47 AM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

Here's my question. When I'm jamming at home with friends, we don't amp up since the house is small. When we jam at a bar, we use amps because no one would hear us otherwise, whether it's a guitar, a harp or anything else.

If you record and it's a professional job, the engineer has the equipment to make different instruments louder at any time. Does this change the acoustic quality of the music?

abner (BluEyes, I think I'm typing this acoustically)

Jan 31, 2010 5:42 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:


Small tube amps always alter your acoustic tone. While big PA amplifiers and speakers don't (if they are good, but their often not good). If you can properly work with vocal microphone plugged to PA for acoustic playing (closer as possible, but don't cup and hand always opened, except beginning of "wah sound") you have to produce the same tone as at your home jams but louder.

When you record your music the first aim of sound engineer is to record sound as good as possible with maximum natural tone and flat response, not to make it louder. If you want some acoustic stuff, you're just have to sit down with your guitar player like at home jam and play behind mikes.

If you want some overdriven harmonica stuff you have to carry your favorite amp to studio and engineer place a mic in front of your amp (it even better to place amp to different room to make it loud and to avoid feedback).

Feb 01, 2010 12:59 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

Kenny Neal.

Feb 01, 2010 2:33 AM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

ok, now I understand. So it seems all this time at open mic i was playing acoustically. I play in front of the singers mic. Its a good mic and its the only one that is plugged into the monitor. Its still hard for me to get that down and dirty blues sound. Thats something that will come in time. And only if I practice,practice, practice.

abner (BluEyes, how do you get to Carnegie Hall )

Feb 01, 2010 2:58 AM GMT
Reed Triller Replied:

Abner,there are computer programs you can use which act like a full on recording studio and you can get that sound you want.

Feb 01, 2010 3:06 AM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

Thanks Big Daddy, my problem is being a num nuts when it comes to computers or any kind of programs. Its kind of ironic, my twin brother has been a computer programmer for over 30 years. Im wondering if there is a recording studio program that can make me sound like a pro thats been playing for 30 years and not a middle aged man tooting along.

abner (BluEyes, in,out, out, in, bend )

Feb 01, 2010 4:13 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:


What's problem with dirty bluesy sound? You have blowsmeaway harp mic (BTW, which element is in yours one?) and kalamazoo amp. Just take it to the open mike, plug it intowallwartand micamp with the same vocal microphone on a mic stand. Pretty fast and easy.

Working with computer programs can helps to make you play better. You can record yourself and listen to your playing, thenget frustrated and start practice over every chop you use. You can record solo, stop recoding if you're make a mistake and rerecord it. You even can record your solo phrase by phrase and when it's finished you can work on playing it from the start to the end, very useful! I constantly record myself. Just jazz standarts from Jamey Aebersold songbook.

Feb 02, 2010 9:25 PM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

I love the sound of dirty blues, the dirtier the better. I just cant get the sound. its a mental block. I have taken my amp and mic to open mic. its just that some people get drunk and like to touch. I spent very good money and want to keep my stuff for a very long time.. I use to record in the computer, then somehow my mic with the usb went missing. As I was typing this I just got Idea.

abner ( BluEyes, slow as molasses on a cold winter night )

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