Notwithstanding those long posts I made about the chaos within order i called “distractions”, I want to make special mention of my adventure with playing chromatic harp over the last 3 months or so.
I guess it’s also 3rd position, and it may have partly grown out of that but I’ve really been procrastinating about it for years.
I am a bargain hunter, and I like fixing things. Maybe I just accumulated so many chromatics that the tension finally became too great for me to continue not playing them.
For the last 2 months I seem to have played on the chromatic every day. It’s become a ‘carry harp’ for me.
I thought today about the last time I was having so much fun playing harmonica and I think it was when I started to get the hang of 1st position.
My 1st position play is fairly limited but I think I keep developing it and it’s always fun for me, and 3rd position on the chromatic brings the same kind of fun.
I have spent quite a while in the background, just playing the chromatic uncreatively, just messing with it, trying to figure out tunes, and appreciating how great are players like Stevie Wonder, Rob Papparozzi, Bill Gallison, Robert Bonfiglio and others too numerous to list... What a great instrument it is, able to be used to strong effect in jazz, blues, classical, pop music
I started with David Barrett’s ‘no sweat’ lesson. My wife said ‘that sounds like you in 20 years’ By that I think she meant it lacked energy. She uses the word ‘power’ a lot when she talks about ageing. ‘You lose your power’. Well, I’m aware the Barrett song was not something to play to a typical crowd of drinkers out for a wild time at the bar. It’s a lesson in the form of a song, so it’s teaching ideas to the student player, not driving the punters to start throwing shapes on the dance floor.
I think you usually have to crawl before walking.
In Barrett’s 1st lesson (I think he has 2 more) he does teach some pretty cool licks and turnaround moves. I think it’s a good introduction to the instrument
I've fallen out with my Chromatic. Nothing wrong with the harp it's me. The harp is a SCX64 Chromatix as soon as I pick it up everything goes wrong embouchure, breathing finding the right holes, you name it. So over the last few days I've been making the effort to get top side of it.
I’ve never tried a 16 hole. I have 2 270s and 3 cx12s, and an old old 260 My first 270 was an eBay bargain ‘unwanted gift, never played’, and my first, black, cx12 was similarly a barely played 2ndhand bargain Then I bought a prewar 270 for $30, complete with broken comb and reeking of frankincense. My friend in Alabama sent me the 260 which belonged to his late father-in-law. It also had a broken comb.
I eventually replaced the 270 combs with Power combs. This was after I left the good 270 on a table near a sunny window and found the heat had caused the reed plates to expand and crack the comb. The crack closed up when everything cooled down and if I’d known what to do I could’ve repaired it, but the Power combs are good. I eventually got around to mending the 260 comb but it could be better. I’ve order a new wooden comb. My pride and joy chromatics though are the pair of ‘Jazz’ model CX12s I bought from mbh member droffilcal.
I was practicing a lot and I kept bumping my front teeth on the mouthpiece of my 270 so I switched to the plastic bodied harp, fearing I’d chip my teeth on the metal mouthpiece of the 270. I saw droffilcal had these cx12s for sale at $125 each and I jumped on the deal. I like them a lot.
I was saying how I’d done all this casual, disorganised and irregular practice over years on the chromatic. That’s kind ofvthe background. I think probably since 2012 I’ve been messing with it.
But the last 12 months or so, a bit more regularly I’ve been picking up to play Speak Softly, Love. I had a tab to play it on diatonic. It’s mesnt to be great practice for the 3 hole bends; if you play it in Dmin on a C harp you use all 3 bends in 1 measure of the song. So I had taken that and transposed it to the chromatic. Sometime later I realised the song was originally in Cminor, and that it’s usually in that key when you hear it, so I relearned it in Cmin.
On the diatonic you could just change harps but on the chromatic it’s just a different position. It took me a while to memorise it. There is a bit more button-work playing Cminor compared to Dminor.
This is what led to me picking it up more often, trying to drill this song. It’s a beautiful melody, and I thought if I could learn to play it would be very nice. I do like it more in original key. But there’s a catch as the song can’t turn around on the octave below so I have to go up. If I had a 16 hole, it would be different.
Anyway, just having the chromatic out and picking it up a lot, raised my interest I suppose. And having a few of them seemed to taunt me, so I resolved to learn a song.
I thought about Blues in the Dark, but the bass player in the band had long ago suggested Fast Large One so I started working on it.
I can tell you that is a much more driven groovy number than No Sweat, and also quite instructional in it’s way.
I took a couple months, maybe 6 weeks to get it down, and I’ve started performing it with the band but it’s still coming along. 12 choruses is quite a lot to memorise but some are pretty simple and others are quite patterned so there are plenty of triggers.
This then encouraged mr bass to suggest I should use the chromatic on I’m Ready, and here I have encountered my first real problem.
I’ve been playing the song for a couple years, using diatonic and based on Carey Bell’s ‘blues harp’ album version.
It’s not too difficult on the chromatic and I was happy with it in practice but when I get with the band it sounds weak.
I thought maybe I need to play the octave splits on it but frankly I need a lot more practice at that. It sounds good when I get it right but I’m still rather inconsistent and sloppy and that doesn’t sound so good. Winslow suggests I’m not cupping the mic/harp well, and that seems very likely. So practice required.
Aside from that, I’m quite happy with how it’s going.
I have some transcriptions of cool numbers. I’m tossing up between Blues in the Dark, Gary Primich’s take on Caravan, Georgia on my Mind, or something else.
I’d jump at Blues in the Dark but I’m a bit leery of doing too much note for note stuff. I’m trying to break that habit. Same goes for Caravan I suppose, but it’s a very cool head and could be built on.
Watermelon Man could be an idea maybe. Or the old favourite ‘work song’
Super Bee, there are some lovely old songs in that list of yours. Blues in the dark is one I remember from way back and would love to play. I always associated it with a female singer, doesn't sit right for me with a male. Having said that you could say the same of Big Mama Thortons Hound dog, but Elvis did well enough with it. I have her version but not his. Another song in the same them as blues in the Night is Black Coffee. hopefully one day I shall be able to play well enough to do them justice. Speak softly love is a beautiful song, I listened to Andy Williams version of it yesterday, not my favourite, but that note he hits at the end is not what I associate with him, briliant! it kinda took me by surprise.
Stcik the 4 hole, just do what I said, trust me on this.
The scale was the first thing I was told to learn when I took a chro lesson. I practice this everyday for 3 months, 15 minutes every morning, until i had it down cold. Then I learn to play it playing octaves. The other thing I was told, TONGUE BLOCK. Stick the entire chro in your mouth and block 234 holes and play 1 and 5. Yes, it takes practice, buyt it is ESSENTIAL to playing blues harp.
There you go, as goodas a Gussow lesson. good luck
Last Edited by 6SN7 on Jun 23, 2019 7:19 AM
i ruin a cx12 learning splits, i just had learn. breath control is essential, no biker harp weezing, you must be mindful
learn that, its a step up in the learning curve and translate to the diatonic learning the blues scale on a diatonic harp is a skill set than 80% of the folks playing at a blues jam can't do. its a game changer