Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Tips for woodshedding in silence
Tips for woodshedding in silence
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FreeWilly
28 posts
Aug 26, 2011
5:21 PM
Sure, you want to practice all day everyday, but you don't want to disturb people. And you don't want anyone to hear you wailing on that 9 blow bend, which you obviously need to do.

My solution to this problem (apart from going to the forest or sitting in a car) is taking a small towel and pressing it on the back of my harp (in as many layers as possible, but without choking the sound altogether).

This 'solution' is imperfect, because you can't practice cupping-techniques this way.

Did anyone find a better solution?
Tommy the Hat
257 posts
Aug 26, 2011
5:26 PM
How about low harps harps?
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Tommy

Bronx Mojo
nacoran
4508 posts
Aug 26, 2011
6:20 PM
If you get a really tight cup on the back of your harp you can mute it a lot, but it's easy to accidentally slip and suddenly let out a real loud squeal.

Piedmonts are quiet, if not particularly good harps and like Tommy suggested, low harps are quieter. You can work on some skills playing extremely quietly. Your right though, if you have to be really quiet it can be hard to play. You've already named the easiest solutions- muting the harp somehow or practicing in the car. Another possibility, depending on how quiet other people need it, is to play along with louder music. The other people hear the louder music and don't hear the harp as much, which can be good, particularly if you are just learning a song. It's not great for getting one song down really well but it's okay for learning to key songs quickly and figure something out on the fly.

Maybe someone needs to invent a practice harp with really stiff reeds, air leaks and plastic nearly completely closed back covers! Actually, maybe stiff reeds aren't the way to go. I was thinking they'd have a smaller amplitude, but it would be harder to play really really quietly on them. They'd just be quieter under normal playing conditions.

The other thing is to ask people how loud you are being and if it's bothering them. I had a nearly deaf upstairs neighbor for years but I was still always nervous I'd bother her with loud music. The funny thing is she was always worried that her TV was too loud for me. Knowing when it's okay to be loud is important too.

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Nate
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joeleebush
330 posts
Aug 26, 2011
7:31 PM
This is going to sound crazy but I STILL do not understand this word "woodshedding".
Back in the stone ages (when I was a kid) poor people out in the country had a "woodshed" where they stored firewood. But I'd wager there hasn't been any of those around in maybe 60 years.
Would someone please explain this word for me and how it relates to practicing music?
Thanks,
Me
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"If you think you can or if you think you can't...you are right"
KingoBad
874 posts
Aug 26, 2011
8:03 PM
Joelee,

Its just the place you go and practice. Where no one will be disturbed when you play the same lines or song over and over. A place where you can let it all hang out in private to work on your chops. Adam uses the example of a woodshed because it was that building out back where you wouldn't disturb anyone or be disturbed when you worked on your stuff.

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Danny

Last Edited by on Aug 26, 2011 8:04 PM
Tommy the Hat
258 posts
Aug 26, 2011
8:06 PM
I thought a Low G was really quiet
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Tommy

Bronx Mojo
joeleebush
332 posts
Aug 26, 2011
8:19 PM
Thank you KingOBad...now I understand.
Although, I just cant resist this...."I thought that building out back where you let it all hang out and worked on your stuff was called an "outhouse".
I know..I know, I am such a jackal at times. LOL LOL
Regards,
Me
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"If you think you can or if you think you can't...you are right"
Diggsblues
960 posts
Aug 26, 2011
8:21 PM
Before gas, oil, propane etc we lived with wood as our chief fuel in many places. Summer or winter you needed
to split wood constantly. The woodshed was a place of hard work for long hours. In my younger days I split wood with a sledge hammer and an iron wedge. Now they
have mechanical splitters. Yes I spent my time down on the farm.
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Jorge Jane
32 posts
Aug 26, 2011
8:28 PM
How about a harmonica you can plug head phones to that can't be to difficult hey maybe i just dicovered something.
BronzeWailer
240 posts
Aug 26, 2011
10:18 PM
Practice the 9 blow bend while busking. If you hit it sweetly, people will drop money. If not,they may pay you to stop...

Seriously, JJ, I think Turboharps are developing an 'electric harp'. Maybe that will be the solution...
Ant138
1081 posts
Aug 26, 2011
11:48 PM
The Seydel Big 6 is small enough to get a real good cup which mutes the sound alot.

I know you cant practice your 9 hole blow bend but you can practice everything up to hole 6 like a silent Blues Ninja.
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http://www.youtube.com/user/fiendant?feature=mhum

Last Edited by on Aug 26, 2011 11:49 PM
nacoran
4509 posts
Aug 27, 2011
1:40 AM
Bronze, I think Turbo's electric harp still uses reeds. It has built in pickups though. There was that iPhone app, but it was a chromatic and not really particularly useful for real practice. There have been some synthesizers that used a harp shaped device as controllers, but I don't think anyone has tried it real recently. I've seen a couple pictures of them. They were horribly oversized and expensive. I'm actually surprised no one has made an updated version. The technology has got to be a lot better now and it would let you change tunings on the fly.

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Nate
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Mojokane
431 posts
Aug 27, 2011
2:30 AM
Alien technology is needed here.

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BronzeWailer
242 posts
Aug 27, 2011
3:17 AM
@Nate. I guess what we're after is a virtual reed, something that senses your breath, tongue position, mouth cavity shape, diphragm expansion, etc. etc...It would never go out of tune, never wear out... naw dumb idea.

I have done 'air harp' (articulation only) in quiet places such as hospitals, but my wife syas I look (even more) unbalanced when I do them.
selkentblues
14 posts
Aug 27, 2011
4:20 AM
I live in an apartment and gladly play all of my instruments (guitars, bass, various synths and keyboards, accordion, melodeon, harps, mandolins, banjo, ukes...and on and on...) as loud as I like, with no problems from the neighbours at all.

At least thats what I thought, until one day last week when I was trying to master the Feadog Pro Irish tin whistle in D (THAT is REALLY hard...), when after failing miserably to get the slur right over and over again, I heard from outside my wondow...

SHUT UUUUUUUP!!!!
FreeWilly
29 posts
Aug 27, 2011
4:27 AM
There's actually some useful tips in here. Although not perfect still, but hey.

Doesn't that Big Six use the wide Seydel-holes which makes it useless for most of us? It a good idea all the same though.

What do you mean by air-harp? The only thing I thought of (is that what you meant?) and often do, is practicing nakatakanakataka. It does get that tongue up to speed (let's keep that one implicit shall we?). That's the only thing that's really silent. Although one time I started doing that while lying awake and my GF (who tried to sleep) did notice. That's when she started seeing my harp-obsession as a problem..

About that electric harp. Would be awesome, but I mean: Big companies like Suzuki can't even get the playability Hohner stumbled upon using REAL reeds (OT: I liked my Manji at first, but after a while I still find it hard to hit a sweet -2bb with almost completely full lungs the way you can on a Sp20.). How is there going to be an engineer that gets it done using hitech? From low A to high F there are so many different subtle air-compression and flow changes... I don't see that happening...
harmonicanick
1286 posts
Aug 27, 2011
4:51 AM
You need to get a neighbour like mine who texts me to play louder!
The Iceman
77 posts
Aug 27, 2011
4:59 AM
why not try practicing at a very low volume. You will learn a lot about harmonica technique and maybe even discover "It's not force, but finesse" to better playing.
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The Iceman
colman
70 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:00 AM
dynamics gets a poke here,playing lite as a feather and control of what you are playing leads to crack the whip playing .go from breathless to big honk can
grab an ear.so ,lite breath playing can enhance your total pkg.woodshedding could be anyware it`s a state of mine not yours ?
5F6H
826 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:10 AM
Practice in silence, if we really mean silence, take the reed plates out of harp put it back together, practice a move/lick that you are working on & familiar with and mentally visualise (audiolise?) the notes. Try it.

@ Jorge, "How about a harmonica you can plug head phones to that can't be to difficult hey maybe i just dicovered something." this won't stop the reeds from ringing & making significant noise at unsociable hours.
Rubes
401 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:13 AM
Here down under the 'Shed' is an ingrained piece of our culture! Traditionally a place of refuge from the harsh realities of the family life and the outside world. Nowadays on any given night in Oz you will find endless accounts of the worlds problems being solved and the greatest songs written and performed by your average Joe and his mates in....... The Shed. The trick now is to soundproof the beast!
BronzeWailer
243 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:13 AM
@FreeWilly. Well, naka taka is all well and good but you should check out Peter 'MadCat' Ruth. He has a whole bunch of 'rhythm words' like 'yakata happa shi, happa shi, happa pa shi...' Try doing that on the couch and the GF may be calling in the counsellors...
I have also recently learned to do the rolling R thing...
kudzurunner
2667 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:17 AM
I did a little searching--heck, I googled "woodshed practice music," not in quotes--and found a lot of stuff. I've added a couple of new paragraphs on the subject to the FAQs page of this website. Here's the addition:

_________________________________________________________

In several of your videos you talk about "going to the woodshed." What does that mean?

It means finding a musical practice space--usually a bedroom, study, den, or other quiet room in your house or apartment, but also possibly a car, a tunnel, a barn, even a sequestered park bench--where you can make noise to your heart's content. It's the place in which you work stuff out; a place in which you delve with obsessive curiosity and focus into the machine-language of the blues, and the blues harmonica. You may bring jam tracks along to your woodshed. You will almost certainly bring a selection of great recordings by the masters of the blues harmonica AND, if you know what's good for you, by other masters of the blues and jazz: sax players, trumpet players, guitar players, etc. Record-copying, as it was called back when records were the recording medium of choice, is an essential part of the woodshedding process. I still remember a period, many years ago, when every time I spoke with Dennis Gruenling he was transcribing a different solo by George "Harmonica" Smith. Eventually he transcribed all of them. That was some heavy-duty woodshedding! And it's one of the reasons why he is such a sensational player today: hard, patient work with no immediate payoff except the slow accumulation of small discoveries and the occasional unexpected flash of enlightenment. (Please don't fool yourself into thinking that a daily tour of YouTube videos and a few minutes of spirited playalongs will transform you into the next Little Walter, or Dennis Gruenling. We all worked very hard to get where we are today. We make it look easy because we spent a lot of time in the woodshed.)

A woodshed is a place, ideally, where you are completely free from the burden of performing for others and being judged by others. This liberates you to play the same passage a hundred or five hundred times in a row without fear of a bystander saying "That's boring" or "Get a real job!" Many of the great jazz musicians--Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins--approached the woodshed as a spiritual practice: with reverence, conviction, passion, and a calm but focused desire to move forward, fearlessly, into uncharted territory. Here's a great short essay about the meaning of the woodshed:

http://www.bigapplejazz.com/woodshedding.html
The Iceman
78 posts
Aug 27, 2011
9:07 AM
In the award winning (and cool movie for musicians) Movie "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould", one segment is about him woodshedding a classical piece in silence....worth renting for an evening.
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The Iceman
2chops
29 posts
Aug 27, 2011
2:34 PM
I think another good term for this these days would be a "man cave". I used to have a really cool one that was insulated, had a lockable door and was beside the house, next to an alley. Noise was never an issue. Now days I just use the house when the Mrs. isn't here or do what I call harpoonin some fish. I grab the harps & the dog and head for the River Walk and drop on down next to the river. Tall weeds cover my appearance and muffle the volume somewhat. But it's a great spot.

I read a story once of a famous trumpeter who spent 20 years playing in the middle of some bridge during the middle of the night, trying to get the sound he wanted. I think it was Louis Armstrong, but I'm not sure. I also read that Paul Butterfield did the same thing at the end of some rock outcropping, for 8 hours a day to till he got the sound he was trying for. I think there's something about doing the blues, or any music for that matter, by the water that's inspirational.
The Iceman
80 posts
Aug 27, 2011
2:41 PM
2chops - That was Sonny Rollins, the sax player, who played on the bridge. Don't think it was 20 years, though.
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The Iceman
2chops
30 posts
Aug 27, 2011
2:46 PM
Now that you mention it you're right. Thanks. It was a long time ago when I read that story.

So what do you think about the playing by the water scenario? Anybody else?
BronzeWailer
244 posts
Aug 27, 2011
3:01 PM
@2chops

Sounds like a good spot. I like bike riding so sometimes I take a harp with me and practice under an overpass. My appearance is the opposite of weed-hidden. Garish due to hi-vis bicycle clothing, but the acoustics are good. Only a few passersby anyway...
tookatooka
2439 posts
Aug 27, 2011
4:18 PM
Selkentblues. Feadog Pro Irish tin whistle in D. Slide a metal paper clip over the fipple and it takes the volume right down for practice purposes.
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BronzeWailer
245 posts
Aug 27, 2011
5:12 PM
I remember hearing about some famous Chinese pianist who had to practice using a keyboard rawn on a piece of paper when classial music was viewed as a decadent Western art form...
JInx
47 posts
Aug 27, 2011
8:54 PM
After you get done in the woodshed, it's time to go out and cut your teeth.
Aussiesucker
885 posts
Aug 27, 2011
10:35 PM
I understand your problem. I have found the quietest harp I have is a Suzuki Folkmaster in Ab. It's a sweet sounding very low volume harp. It's very well made for a Chinese cheapie. The same size as a MB. It's always in my pocket. It takes very little breath ie doesn't leak air & in fact it is really tight. The good thing is that it teaches one to practice using minimal breath force - which is good. OK, it's not the harp you would use when you really want to be heard but for listening & playing quietly on my own I really like it.
Mojokane
432 posts
Aug 28, 2011
3:04 AM
yeah, we can all agree, woodshedding is the only way to see yourself progress rapidly. There many ways to approach it. This thread is full of ideas, too. Great thread.
Let me add one more. WATERSHED...not exactly in silence, though...
There's nothing like a little privacy, having a good soak, while playing your harp.
I haven't done it for a loong time.
I much prefer laying back, relaxing, and playing my favorite tunes.
It fills the room like a cathedral. Every note jumps out and sound soooo good.
And then have a goooooooooooooooood jerk.



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Why is it that we all just can't get along?<

Last Edited by on Aug 28, 2011 3:07 AM


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