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5892 posts
Apr 21, 2019
7:13 AM
I hear so many things I want to play.
I know that progress comes with focus.
I spent years messing with bits of songs and not really getting far, but last year I learned a lot of songs. I’m not sure it advanced my progress toward my main goal very much but at least I have songs and probably some more vocabulary.

I noticed I had a problem with playing things the same way all the time
I mean, it sounds good. I found a good way to play a song and I learned it and played it like that. And then the next time that song came along, I did it again, and so on.
It sounds good, so I keep doing it that way rather than taking a risk of sounding bad.
This means I’m approaching an improvisational form of music in the wrong way.
So I thought about what to do about that.
I thought I could learn some alternative things to play in some songs.
I figured if I had 3 different solos for a song, and I played only 1 of them, I could probably mix it up enough that it would be less noticeable. If I practice my 3 solos, I’ll be able to choose which one to play and probably eventually they’ll all get mixed up anyway

That was one thought

Then I thought I should just practice all my solos for various songs, using different grooves, so that I might start swapping them around between songs. If I stop thinking about solos belonging to particular songs I think I’ve probably got a lot of material, but I have to learn new ways to trigger it. I figured that breaking my learned solos down into component licks and then jamming those licks with generic tracks might be a good way to Start reaching the point of being able to jam the way I want.

Anyway, last night I muddled a couple of those ideas together

I have played Jr Wells’ early in the morning for quite a while. I used to play something I made up, inspired by rough attempts to play something a bit like Jr Wells played on Hoodoo Man Blues. And at the same failing to reach it in significant ways.
Then I learned the way Harry Duncan approached it on the Box Scaggs come on home album.
Recently I realised Jr recorded a version on which he played 1st position on a Bb harp.

Wow, I thought. What if I learned Jr’s 1st position thing, and also went back and tried to cop his second position thing and mix that up with Harry’s thing. Then I could have a couple different approaches and I could use the 1st position thing on a different song as well

So great. But in the afternoon I’d been working with other 1st position stuff for another song

And I’m trying to convert I’m Ready into a chromatic song.. for me, I mean, because I’ve been playing it on diatonic up until now.

I’ve just studied a chromatic instrumental with 12 choruses and it’s given me a bug for chromatic, and our bass player has decided that use of the chromatic on I’m Ready will lift it from a filler to a feature, something worth having

So I’m carrying a CX12 in my jacket and practicing improvisational variations to go with I’m Ready, in my car mainly. When I park it, I often break out the CX 12, then while I walk about 10 minutes down to work. Again if I have to move the car at lunch, though this usually means I’m too close to work to have had much of a walk, so it’s usually on the days I didn’t get to practice in the morning.
Then when I return to the car in the evening I will usually have another brief session. The walk is uphill so I usually practice shorter ideas and maybe less breath-demanding things. Or I practice breathlessness. Then I practice in the car a bit but I’m conscious of getting home and being not to late

I’ve also got Lee Sankey’s timing lesson plan to work on and this is something like the point

Too much

One thing at a time.


Some great ideas, but choose one and do it. Maybe 2, or even 3 but probably 2 maximum.

Maybe I can do working on vibrato and generally better breath control, simultaneously with learning to play a song, and do some other thing like a scale exercise or some other mind map knowledge thing, like timing.

Maybe I just work on the vibrato every day, every time I play, and probably some bending exercise at random times,

And I could do the timing course at home in the evenings.

And just work out what song I’m working on, and then stick with it until I have achieved something, before moving on with the next idea.

I just remembered today, our guitarist lent me a rotary simulation pedal. I knew that I needed to try it so today at last I plugged in through it and tried to remember what I’d been thinking.

Eventually I thought I remembered thinking about trying to simulate an organ playing minor chords or such, behind Help Me.

I didn’t get a long way with that, needs a bit more thought

Then I was distracted by playing Don’t get around much Anymore with octave splits and a rotary speaker effect and it was beginning to interest me when I suddenly lost my privacy and my noise would have been an unreasonable irritation to others,

So I repaired some harps instead. At least that was practical and earned me some money. Had I not repaired the harps I likely would have gone to a jam and that would have been potentially useful also, and maybe I’d have chased down a gig.

Too much going on and then again very little.

I was repairing Marine Band Deluxe harps today. 4 of them.

All needed reed replacement.
2 G Harps. 1 required 6 draw, the other a 5 draw. 1 had been mended before, with a fresh 7 blow.
One of those harps was 10 years old.

Since 2017 i put in new reeds using rivets where possible, because I find it’s much easier than using screws. On of the harps today had previously been repaired (by me, probably in 2015) using screws, so I had to ream out a reed and mount it with a 1.4M screw. I reused the one already there.

I always wash up the parts in an ultrasonic tub, assisted by toothbrushes and elbow grease (plus a little dish soap, usually), but wooden combs need special attention.
I’ve got some aftermarket combs I use to mount the client reedplates while I work on tuning and testing.
I have to scrape the customer combs.
It’s not the best part of the job. I dampen a paper towel to wipe down the tines and the mouthpiece, but some stuff needs to be scraped.

Plastic combs are much easier to deal with.

Anyway, distractions. I’ve found it’s possible to be really heavily involved in harmonicas and play a lot, give over a lot of my life to it, and through distractions reallynot achieve very much in terms of playing goals.
I think more progress is possible with less energy investment.
I didn’t even mention the great stuff I got from PT Gazell which I’ve been meaning to get back to
5893 posts
Apr 21, 2019
7:31 AM
Oh that’s right, I forgot the part where I saw John Nemeth playing Mother In Law Blues and spent about an hour or so trying to play it that way and looking up the lyrics

I’m 55 years old. Hardly anyone in this country even thinks this is music, and most of those who do are older than me and go out maybe once a month if that

I feel like you have to be an absolute gun to attract any attention around here, and without drawing power, the gigs are pretty thin and not very well-paid. I must admit, I understand. If we played for tips we’d be in big trouble on mst gigs.

I have just booked 2 good jobs, though they are still a few months away. There’s a bit of an ordinary payer coming up at the end of May and we will have to put some work in to pull it off, as it’s involving another singer, and likely more country-style stuff...I probably should be studying up on country style playing.
263 posts
Apr 21, 2019
8:33 AM
I am mighty interested about PT Gazell. I like his whole concepts of flavoring ones notes and phrases..
as yet though I haven't how he goes about it technique wise.

for country I always go to Charlie McCoy..he list all of his songs...what key and key harmonicas he used to play them...mighty nice of him and course he is so...smoooth and articulate..
Course i'm in a different country.
either way..
You're a good player you'll probably have a blast...!
84 posts
Apr 25, 2019
10:50 AM
SuperBee, Thanks for that, the first two paragraphs sound so familiar. I keep telling myself I need to learn maybe half a dozen tunes as it would be nice to pick up a harp and reel off a few songs. I have no intention of playing in public, so it's not so important, but it would be nice.
5909 posts
Apr 26, 2019
4:38 PM
Ha! I know Mind The Gap said we shouldn’t apologise for our playing here, should we choose to share, but I feel I probably should apologise for my writing at times.

I was trying to both describe and demonstrate the problem, but it made for a long and rather divergent post!

That’s what I’m living with though.

Knight66, I’m such a ‘gonna’ I took years to get around to learning Juke. Chorus 1, 10 years ago. C2, 5 years back. C3 last year. C8 (approximately) 3 years ago while I was waiting for a bus.. it just popped in to my head and I started playing it. I’d never tried to learn it.
It also wasn’t quite right, but close.
So when I sat down to try and play the chorus which was on the record, I had to unlearn some things.

At that rate I probably still had a few years to go to learn the whole thing.

The event which finally tipped me to knuckle down on it was a conversation with a local player I respect.
After that conversation I went home with new resolve, worked through what I’d already learned and fixed the parts which obviously weren’t quite right. I mean the notes and timing, the tone and dynamic is an ongoing project. Then I started on ch4. A couple days later ch5 and started in on 6.
Liam Ward threw me off a bit when he said ch5 was not what I thought it was. I found it pretty easy and was feeling very encouraged but then Liam said it was actually a 6-9 split followed by draw split octaves and a left side tongue block draw bend.
That was gonna take me a couple months to get down a single 4 beat measure..

I had a trip to US and prepared some other material to play and the whole Juke thing was stalled for a couple of months but while in US I bought an A harp from Deak

When I got home I was looking at this harp, wondering what I was gonna do with it. I didn’t really like it all that much. I just bought it because of the reputation and I had to know. I was on the spot, with people offering me a lift to where I had to go but they were leaving right now. So I put my hand in my wallet and bought this $250 Marine Band.
Mainly I didn’t care for the shape. I thought I would be unlikely to play it, because I had at least 2 A harps I’d rather play, neither of which had cost as much as this one.
It seemed a shame not to play it. Then I decided I would finish my Juke project and make this my Juke harp. So it will not only be a reminder of my trip to Clarksdale but would also carry the memory of working on this iconic harp song.
That is exactly what I proceeded to do. It was very satisfying to complete the project and I do think my playing has improved as a result. Not just my playing; I believe I’ve improved my ability to learn and concentrate on picking up a song by ear.
Since then I’ve studied a few more, but the major project was Fast Large One, which is 12 choruses. I did this entirely by ear, with no coaching material available. To my knowledge there is no transcription available.

Ironic that I started by apologising for long winding posts, and immediately launched into another

And that I should be writing anything advice-flavoured, given my admission of struggling to focus.


My advice (to self as much as anything) is that making things into projects seems to work for me. Attaching some ‘significance’ to the job, quasi-emotional or ‘spiritual’, whatever.

You know, I play Mr Downchild with the band, and when I was in Mississippi I visited Sonny Boy Williamson’s grave. It seemed rather silly at the time, but I played the intro to Downchild while I stood there. I didn’t know why I was doing that, but to my surprise I have discovered that now whenever I play that song it brings back a very strong and clear memory of standing at Sonny Boy’s grave on a sunny May day, the colours, the whole visual and other sensory aspects of being there come back to me so strongly. It’s better than a video.

I can’t say that playing Juke on the Deak harp is quite so vivid or specific but then again I do have a lot of vivid memories surrounding that transaction so maybe it didn’t hurt.
85 posts
Apr 27, 2019
7:08 AM
PT Gazell is a player I had heard of but never listened to, well that was a mistake. I like what he does a lot and I shall listen to a lot more of his stuff. I have a low A Seydel which I bought in error and have never played, tried but couldn't get on with it. So I got that out and had a play, distractions, off in another direction.
Too much to learn so little time to do it in, like a kid in a sweet shop.

Last Edited by knight66 on Apr 27, 2019 7:10 AM

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