Tone, Taste, or Technique... which is most important?
I know all three are important... but what is the most important. Maybe a better question would be what is the relative importance of each. Now I'm not talking jazz but something a like blues.
IMO, none of the above.
Rhythm/timing are the single most important element in music - if they're off, nothing else will save the day. If you're dead on in your groove, you could be playing Row Row Row Your Boat and most people will dig it.
Once you've got that, it depends on who your audience is. Having great tone and no taste is like reading a novel with great words, but no plot. It'll work as background, but it's not something you pay attention to (or listen to a second time). So tone is a great focus if you want to be in the background but have nothing to say.
If you've got great taste but lousy tone, you can be popular within a niche. There are fans of old recordings by Leadbelly, etc. where the tone just plain sucks (no doubt due to the technology of the time, but still.... it just sucks). Great taste with tone will get you a wide audience.
If you've got great technique but not much else, you only get fans from folks who play the same instrument. Go to a concert by Yngwie/Buckethead/Batio/Gilbert/etc. and ask those around you if they play guitar. I'll bet at least 90% of them do. If you want to speak to the masses, they don't care about technique - they care about the music. Go to a concert by Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/John Mayer/etc. and you won't find nearly as many guitarists in the audience - it's just the general listening public. Their technique doesn't suck, but it's not best in class.
So if you're talking about what the average music fan wants, I'd rank the choices:
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the music you make. whichever one you think that is.
comparing blues musicians to neo-classical shredders and saying one group has technique and one doesn't is misleading. it's no easier or harder to have a good sweep than it is to have a good vibrato. it's all in how much you put into it.
also, you just inspired me to listen to some leadbelly. he's a hell of a singer, and you get used to the old vinyl noise.
you're not going to move the audience if you're not moved yourself. you might as well ask whether it's the rims or paintjob that makes a car fun to drive. those three things you describe are byproducts of music, not the soul of it.
I'd actually go even further, and say showmanship. I can imagine at some nights you're entirely worn out from touring and doing the same show 3-4 nights a week, and to then not let your audience notice: that's amazing, in my opinion. I personally find both Jason and Noteboat's answers to be great, considering the rather odd question :D
For the three choices you gave, I would list them from most important to least important to me:
Music has to be inspiring. Taste is the germ, without it you don't have music. Technique is what the person with taste uses to manipulate his/her instrument, and tone is what the instrument sounds like.
Insights and incites by Notes
Without technique you the rest doesnt matter. You can have the best tone, and the best taste in music ever...have ground braking ideas on music that will flip the world on its ear.... but if you cant play.... well who will know about the rest.
Mostly, I've always been attracted to tone, first.
You ask in a blues context.... probably especially in a blues
context, with the possible exception of
As to the question of Coltrane having good tone,
c'mon!? IT'S GREAT!
Stevie Nicks.... Not so great.
Then again, I think she has a weak voice
and is a terrible musician, especially when
compared to Christine Perfect!
Peter Green! Now he had TONE!
After that has got to be taste.
I mean, who's better than Jimi and Keef?
Neither had great tone.... but, "if you meet
me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy,
and some TASTE!
Keef's lead work is especially inspiring.
Simple, yet complicated.... thanks to his wonderful
use of SPACE.
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
You see, that's why tone is not so important. I dislike Coltrane's tone and prefer that of Getz, Prez, and other players.
So if I have perfect tone for you, I'll have mediocre tone for me. And we both listen with trained ears. Neither one is right, neither one is wrong.
Don't get me wrong, 'Trane is a certified sax genius and one of the true masters of the sax. I just don't prefer his tone.
I think as long as your tone is in the ball park for the genre of music you are playing, taste and technique will get you more mileage.
The thing is we listen with musician's ears, most of your audience does not. So what we like isn't as important as what they like.
They will respond to taste as long as your technique is adequate. And taste involves your phrasing, timing, ornaments, melodic constructions, dynamics and all those other things that turn robotic notes into music. Your technique has to be good enough for you to be able to do these things, but without the "art", technique only goes so far. I've heard a number of competent but uninspiring players in my day, and I'll take someone with less technique that moves my soul any day.
But I repeat, we all listen with musician's ears - the public does not.
I gig for a living, and I play things and watch and/or feel the audience reaction. If you stand on stage long enough, they audience will tell you what they like.
Insights and incites by Notes
Technique , without a doubt ! Taste is like beauty , in the eye (ear) of the beholder .You will never please everyone . Tone is constantly changing . The tone you use in one song , or even in a different part of the same song , will be completely wrong for another song or section . Again it comes down to taste . However , I don't care how good your tone is or what song you're playing , if you don't play the right notes at the right time everybody will notice!
If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .
For me this is what's the most important.