Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Sonny Terry not a lip purser
Sonny Terry not a lip purser
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shaneboylan
147 posts
Jul 31, 2015
9:31 AM
I've been listening intently to his tracks for the past few weeks and am now convinced that there's a lot of tongue work going on in his style. Consequently I don't think the classification of him as a lip purser is fair - particularly given that without tongue blocking, mot of his techniques are damn near inaccessible to the learning player.
mlefree
349 posts
Jul 31, 2015
10:10 AM
Shane, I'm afraid you will need to provide specific examples with exact times and detailed explanations that support your findings.

I seem to recall a number knowledgeable people contending otherwise, including Sonny Jr. (Gary Onofrio) and Tom Ball who wrote the book on Sonny Terry licks and who himself is a lip purser.

But I'm all ears.

Michelle

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timeistight
1832 posts
Jul 31, 2015
10:26 AM
Joe Filisko also thinks that Sonny Terry mostly tongue-blocked.

Did no one ever ask Sonny Terry himself? Aren't there still a couple of fairly well-known players who were mentored by Terry?
waltertore
2867 posts
Jul 31, 2015
10:39 AM
I helped Sonny Terry get around NYC for a bit. These kind of questions were never in the thoughts back then. Today everything is dissected to the nth degree. I just felt like a lottery winner getting to sit next to him and here him play/talk. I would put my money on lips. Walter
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marine1896
294 posts
Jul 31, 2015
11:15 AM
Don't quote me on this but I'm sure Paul Lamb said somewhere that ST was a LP that occasionally TB ???
BTW how is Paul Lamb doing anyone know?
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sonny3
276 posts
Jul 31, 2015
11:31 AM
I think that all the guys that learned directly from Sonny had him as a lip pursuer. A lot of his percussive technique comes from tongue off the roof of the mouth along with constricting the throat and hand smacks on the harmonica.
tomaxe
54 posts
Jul 31, 2015
11:48 AM
I think there is a confusion at times from some people, especially beginners, who think it is one or the other with a player—lip purse OR tongue block, and never the two shall meet. I'm no technique expert, but I think there is probably no way you can play some of the sophisticated techniques of a Sonny Terry without putting your tongue on the harp at some point, but to my ears he sounds like a lip purser mostly—especially for clean single notes. That said, he definitely uses tongue techniques like slaps and flutters in almost every performance, so....
tmf714
2793 posts
Jul 31, 2015
12:10 PM
Lip purse using the tongue for effects-

Possibly lip block is what your hearing-

Last Edited by tmf714 on Jul 31, 2015 12:13 PM
jawbone
581 posts
Jul 31, 2015
12:11 PM
I agree with Tomaxe - I am a LP but use the tongue for a lot of different techniques, split octaves, pulls, chugging, slaps, etc.
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Last Edited by jawbone on Jul 31, 2015 12:11 PM
Frank101
108 posts
Jul 31, 2015
12:32 PM
Lip pursing leaves your tongue free to create all sorts of effects. Plus of course you vary the size/shape of the lip opening.

Nothing against tongue blocking as a technique or the players who use it ... but every now & then you run into the TB Police, who will inform you that REAL blues players ONLY use tongue blocking, because you CANNOT play the blues using lip pursing.

In fact, isn't that pretty much what the OP is saying - "Sonny Terry can't be a lip purser, he sounds too good"? (My apologies to the OP if that isn't what he means.)

Last Edited by Frank101 on Jul 31, 2015 3:01 PM
Glass Harp Full
42 posts
Jul 31, 2015
4:12 PM
It's funny I was just looking at Tom Ball's Sonny Terry licks book on Amazon last night. He does say Sonny Terry was a lip purser.

But I agree with Rontana, the main thing is whether it sounds good and brings you (and hopefully the audience) pleasure.
mlefree
351 posts
Aug 02, 2015
9:21 AM
The breadth of the TB effects that can be quite effectively produced by an accomplished lip-purser is amazing to me. I can't do most of them; that's why I dedicated ten years of my life to learning how to TB.

But as long as we've mentioned Tom Ball, he is an excellent example of such a lip purser. He even demonstrates in that same book/CD. Jason Ricci is another primary lip-purser who can do all sorts of slaps and pulls and other effects you'd normally think of as strictly in the TB domain.

It takes an expert ear or inside knowledge to tell what embouchure a player is applying at any given moment just by listening.

Michelle

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Littoral
1279 posts
Aug 02, 2015
4:33 PM
Michelle gives a good summary here, I think. To the degree that the techniques can be separated I think the difference between Jason Ricci and Dennis Gruenling demonstrate the best of each.
timeistight
1834 posts
Aug 02, 2015
5:13 PM
You know, I'm pretty sure Jason tongue-blocks a lot more than most people think he does.

Last Edited by timeistight on Aug 02, 2015 5:45 PM
1847
2633 posts
Aug 02, 2015
5:17 PM
yep..... sonny terry too...
sonny3
277 posts
Aug 02, 2015
5:48 PM
Anyone interested in learning about Sonny Terry would do good to read The Harp Styles of Sonny Terry by Kent Cooper.I think nearly everybody puts tongue on the harp sometimes but according to the guys that asked him,Sonny said he did it mostly for warbles.I guess that makes him predominantly a lip purser.
shaneboylan
148 posts
Aug 03, 2015
2:54 AM
To clarify my point - firstly - I would consider ST to have been a hybrid player who both TB'd and lip pursed, no doubt. My post was merely exclaiming my realisation that someone who I primarily thought of as one of the "original lip pursers" actually utilised a lot of TB effects and in some songs, probably used a smaller TB embouchure - say on about 2 holes or so.

Listen to his playing on "Midnight Special" for example

This was by no means a TB vs Lip pursing point, if anything, it confirms the value of both techniques. In my view, there are more than two embouchures - there are all the possibilities in between TB'ing and lip pursing and any player would do well to explore them.
Littoral
1280 posts
Aug 03, 2015
3:00 AM
Yes:
"In my view, there are more than two embouchures - there are all the possibilities in between TB'ing and lip pursing and any player would do well to explore them."
Fortunately the majority of these threads have moved past the simplicity of either/or. Your title did set the "tone" though. I wish we could edit post titles :)
shaneboylan
149 posts
Aug 03, 2015
4:11 AM
You are right Littoral :) but hey at least it got people talking if nothing else
harpdude61
2302 posts
Aug 03, 2015
5:58 AM
"Lip purse using the tongue for effects-
Possibly lip block is what your hearing"

I'm with tmf714 on this one. Many rhythmic effects are available to the lip blocker. Not just tongue to roof of mouth, but by blocking/unblocking one or both sides of the note being played.

Whether you are part time or full time LP, TB, or LB, unless you have practiced and studied under advanced players, you may not be aware of every technique available.
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groyster1
3056 posts
Dec 31, 2017
11:40 AM
sonny terry did not tongue block.....he played octave splits,which I can do.....but sorry he did not TB
1847
4611 posts
Dec 31, 2017
12:01 PM
how are splits achieved if they are not tongue blocked?
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groyster1
3057 posts
Dec 31, 2017
12:12 PM
okay......what I meant was that true tongue blocking is blocking 3 holes to play an open hole.....not octave splits
Jaybird803
39 posts
Dec 31, 2017
12:23 PM
What does it really matter if Sonny Terry pursed his lips or blocked with his tongue, or both? How his music sounded is what counts.
groyster1
3058 posts
Dec 31, 2017
12:32 PM
@jaybird......no it really does not matter at all.....but the history of him and butterfield is that they lip pursed with occasional use of octave splits.....how long can this controversy go on????some cannot accept the fact that lip pursers can be just as effective as tongue blockers.....
FastFourier
17 posts
Dec 31, 2017
3:38 PM
Perhaps a definition of what's meant by "tongue blocking" would help. Of course, anyone who plays splits is blocking holes with their tongue. But doesn't tongue blocking usually mean also blocking holes to play notes that could be produced just by lip pursing?

I'm just an intermediate player, and don't have a dog in this fight.
WinslowYerxa
1502 posts
Jan 01, 2018
1:31 AM
Gary Onofrio actually traveled with and learned from Sonny. I believe that Will Scarlett and Mark Lavoie also knew him and subbed for him with Brownie. Those would be the guys to ask.
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Littoral
1546 posts
Jan 01, 2018
7:02 AM
I see our interest in this topic (Lp/Tb) as based on developing technique. Any "debate" on it is just the messy noise that happens when people try to understand things.
I cop being of the TB police - and say a player is short some critical tools without it. It's true for Lp as well.
I haven't noticed any classic signal note Tb from Sonny Terry. Octaves, yes.
1847
4612 posts
Jan 01, 2018
9:02 AM
build a thousand bridges, they call you a bridge builder...
but tongue block one octave....
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tmf714
3115 posts
Jan 01, 2018
9:14 AM
From this forum in 2014-
My post:
Gary Onofrio aka Sonny Jr says Sonny Terry only used tongue blocking for splits,intervals and that's about it-he was predominately a lip purser-Gary actually spent a lot of time with Sonny Terry-
florida-trader
1248 posts
Jan 01, 2018
9:59 AM
I used to be a 100% Lip Purser and then I made a commitment to learn how to Tongue Block. Now I understand that using one or the other exclusively is like playing the piano with only one hand. You’re kind of limited in what you can do.
I have spoken with Jason about LP Vs. TB. Like a lot of people, he started out as primarily a LP-er and has since incorporated TB-ing into his playing. Here is a video from 10 years ago.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhthBSWbQ-o
And here is one from Howard Levy about TB-ing. One might think that with his extensive use of OB/OD he would be primarily a LP-er.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp2MjjBUlDE

I don’t know whether or not Sonny Terry was a LP-er or a TB-er, but I do know where you can buy one of his harmonicas from Sonny Terry Estate LLC.

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www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com
Blue Moon Harmonicas
nowmon
154 posts
Jan 01, 2018
10:46 AM
How would or could a harp player who loves it, play without attack of lip`s, tongue slap, pop,any thang that works.......the more the merry !
groyster1
3059 posts
Jan 01, 2018
3:26 PM
bit rich for me tom......and I have no right for sonnys harps anyway.....they should be in museum
florida-trader
1253 posts
Jan 02, 2018
7:01 AM
groyster1 - a lot of them are going to various museums.
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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas


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