Hey folks, I have been practising the harp for about a year now and I finally wanted to share some of my playing with you. Since some of you had problems with the embedding-services I used in the past, I decided to upload something to youtube: As many other (online-)students of Adam, I have tried to learn his North Mississippi Front Porch Blues and here is my attempt at playing it. Since I have trouble with accurately assessing myself, I would love some feedback, especially on the following points (of course any criticism is welcome):
1) How do you rate my progress from scratch to my level of play within the given time (one year)? 2) Am I doing the „blue third“ correctly? I'm still unsure about that. 3) How is my timing? 4) How is the tone?
Some things that I already realised myself are:
-There are a couple of mistakes, but this is the first take and I didn't want to grind the song for months, just to get a more satisfying video. -I don't use my hands very well. My cup is small and I think I keep it closed on parts where opening it would be much better for the sound. -I think my vibrato is coming along nicely (at least on the 2 hole draw), but I still have trouble controlling it in the context of a lick or song (mostly due to tensing up).
So here's the video (I'm using a Special 20, key of Bb)
Last Edited by SkullKid on Dec 04, 2017 2:59 PM
A year huh? Don’t rub it in too hard. I reckon you assessed yourself pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. But there’s also not a lot wrong with it The main thing is that it sounds like you’re playing something you’ve learned. Funny that. What I mean is that I can hear it in the timing. I haven’t heard adam’s Rendition for a long time, but it was from memory a piece that sounded like he was feeling it, a little behind the beat at times, other times anticipating the beat, always in time but not right on top of the beat all the time. Yours doesn’t sound like that, it sounds like a piece you learned and are remembering, there’s just a hint of anxiety in it. That’s entirely understandable I think. After all, you are copying a piece and recording to camera for the purpose of assessing progress. You can definitely hold your head up with this. You have some good tone, obviously you're still developing techniques, but you’re on the wAy with that. You know what you’re doing. Great!
Thanks for your feedback, SuperBee - I totally get what you're saying and I've had the same impression: I can get the licks down, but the whole thing lacks the feeling of the original, mostly due to the pauses that Adam inserts - Another case where knowing when not to play is as important as knowing when to play. I will try to work on that!
Hi Skull, this page has been ve-e-eery slow lately. I reckon you would get a lot more attention on the main forum page. I’m sure people would be very helpful, there are some real legends of harmonica playing and teaching on that page who can offer more than I ever could. Good chance Winslow Yerxa would see it, maybe Todd Parrot, sometimes Jason Ricci reads the page, Scott Johnson, adam Gussow, Larry eisenberg (Iceman), bob Maglinte are all quite likely to see it and usually quite happy to comment especially on a relatively new player showing obvious dedication and aspiration to play well
THAT is far better than anything I can do and I've been trying longer than a year. Adams front porch blues is one of my favourites of his videos, even bought a Bb hap to play along. keep going all that practice is paying off.
Really good, you should be very happy with your progress.
I agree with SuperBee's comment that it sounds like a learned piece. The thing is that when people improvise, they are picking phrases and techniques from their toolbox of favourite things so they can really hit them hard. The 4-5 warble is a good example - Adam really enjoys a good strong warble, and can throw it in at will. When you're copying someone else's full piece, it's a different vibe.
As for the blue third, that's a moot point. A while ago we had a thread where someone listened to some supposed blue thirds from teachers videos (including Adam), only to find that the teachers were playing very flat - in fact flattened minor thirds. Actually was that your thread? Anyway, point is that it's ambiguous. I mean, the dictionary definition isn't, but what people actually play in where that note should be varies a lot.
Re vibrato - you could do a lot more there if you wanted. I'm hearing more on the lighter tremolo side of things than deep bluesy vibrato. Not a complaint, there's no obligation, just you asked. Some of the greats often didn't use much vibrato at all. In a sense it's another trick, an easy way to impress by sounding super-bluesy.
@knight66: Thanks a lot, I'm really motivated to keep practising hard now! :)
@ MTG: Also thanks for your praise! I agree that the warble is a good example - that is also one of the techniques that I have the most trouble with. Adam makes it fade in and out, which is a really cool effect I have yet to master, or rather even attempt.
Yes, the thread about the blue third was mine and you have a point. It's worth noting though, that Tomlin has taken his video off the list of videos you can find via the youtube-search - so he acknowledges that he did not hit the blue third correctly (he also told me in a comment on youtube, as you may remember). I think Adam just hits it low to exaggerate the fact that you've got to pull it up, I'm not sure. Anyway, since you have a point, let me rephrase it: Do the blue thirds sound good / bluesy to you?
Interesting point about vibrato - I agree that I mostly use tremolo, but my intention was to use vibrato on the 2 hole draw on 00:12 and 01:12 - as you said, it does not sound very deep, since I was tensing up; but is this not vibrato? I vary the pitch (within the note F) after all. This is still confusing to me. I will upload another video soon, where I will try to get the bluesy vibrato.
Last Edited by SkullKid on Dec 06, 2017 5:59 AM
Yes, warbles sound so naturally blues harp don't they? But they didn't come naturally to me, I really had to work on them. Adam clearly loves playing them and really puts his laces through it. As you say, fades in/out, bends and dips. Great stuff.
My point was more general that if you did an improv with your fav techniques, the ones you've really made your own, I bet you'd get the more natural feel that SuperBee is on about.
Anyway, on your specific questions:
'Blue Third' or that note (minor 3rd, whatever) yours sound good to me. Just like other people do them. People tend to be upset more when it's too sharp rather than too flat. I've just pointed that out myself in a thread on the MF, where there's a highly minor-sounding BT. But occasional use of the major third - the big boys do that all the time. So yes all good.
Vibrato - ok I listened at the times you said, and I stick to what I said. It's quite a light vibrato and more tremolo than vibrato. In fact I put it into Audacity to check slowed down, and I can clearly see the amplitude wobble, and the pitch changes a bit. I ran it through the compressor a few times to iron out the amplitude - and I would say that leaves a timbre change rather than a pitch change (e.g. yah, yah, yah, yah...). This is valid vibrato, but not sure it's what you are after.
It's a perfectly good sound, but I'm sure you can find examples of much deeper vibrato. So if you could go very much deeper if you wanted.
Last Edited by MindTheGap on Dec 06, 2017 7:13 AM
Yeah, I got that about using your favorite techniques and it's a good explanation for why Adam's version sounds much more organic! Thanks again for your reply on the blue thirds, I'm glad they don't sound off.
About the vibrato: I agree that it is quite light. I know exactly what you mean by deeper vibrato from some blues recordings or Will Wilde videos.
I tried to learn vibrato from Adam's video and his also sounds quite light, doesn't it? (I agree that this is not better or worse than the deep vibrato, I just want to sharpen my ear a bit to better understand the differences in vibrato)
Check for example 04:20
That sounds very different to me when I compare it to the kind of vibrato I'd like to have:
The difference between these two seems to be that, looking at the bendometer, Adam's vibrato stays "within" the note, in this case F, while the other guy's vibrato resonates between G and G flat.
Last Edited by SkullKid on Dec 06, 2017 10:02 AM
Wow Dude. I seriously wasn't expecting that. That's pretty great for the 1 year mark.
I concur with the others about lack of feeling, but ... that's something that's easy to fix. The camera makes me nervous too. I try to capture my improv on camera sometimes when I'm really on fire, but as soon as the camera turns on .. my playing goes to hell. Lol.
With the Vibrato, it was hard to hear. A very important tips i got from Winslow was to relax and seperate the parts of your throat and only use what is necessary for each technique. A good test to see if you are relaxed is ... try to do a controlled tremelo while holding a 2 draw bend. The top of your throat is used to bend, the bottom for tremelo. (This is how I think of it anyways. ) So if you are tensing your whole throat for bends you will not be able to do bent tremelo effectively.
Once your relaxed I think you'll find it easier to do a hard vibrato. Maybe I'll do a video to try to explain this. Because it was a bombshell piece of info for me and I think it could really help.
Anyhow your tone is pretty darn good. Just relax and put a bit more feeling in it and your golden.
The "blue third" in your video actually sounded more like the 3' bend to my ear.
Try this. Hold a 3 draw, then open your throat, drop your jaw, open your mouth real big, get your tongue flat on the bottom of your mouth (especially the back of your tongue). Do you hear the note clear up? If so ... THAT IS a real 3 draw.
My problem in trying to find the blue third. I was trying to find the space between the 3 draw and the first bend. However my 3 draw was actually a bit flat already because of my mouth/tongue position. The blue third for me doesn't actually take any "bending" exactly. It's like I put my tongue in bending position, but I don't really "pull" on it like I would to execute a 3' bend. I just play the note.
Maybe I'll do a video on both of these things to try to Explain them better.
Thanks, Killa, that's exactly the kind of critical feedback I expected from you - great!
Haha, the camera also makes me nervours - especially the fact that the battery is old and only lasts for literally 3 minutes before I have to recharge it - lots of pressure to perform; it's not meant as an excuse though, I think except for 2-3 silly mistakes, I played well, considering my level.
Good points about Vibrato. I get what you're saying about tensing up - this is something that I realised a few days after the video. Trying to be more aware of the parts of the throat that produce each "effect" seems very helpful, I will try that later! Also, this Shellist video helped me a lot since then, because he also says that the vibrato is more like going up from the bend to the unbent note. In general, I have been working hard on vibrato for the last few days, since a deep, bluesy vibrato sounds too cool! I will get there.
About the blue third: Isn't it a half step bend more or less (moved up)? Adam and the other guys on the main forum agreed that I hit it mostly correctly.
I would greatly appreciate a video on any of the subjects! :)
Last Edited by SkullKid on Dec 13, 2017 6:02 AM