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Sonny Boy II: Dissatisfied
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6046 posts
Jul 02, 2019
6:04 AM
Hi. I had occasion to think about Sonny Boy Williamson 2, and his song ‘Dissatisfied’ tonight.

This is an interesting piece to me, because Sonny Boy played it in Ab. I believe it’s the only song he recorded in that key.
I believe there was no such thing as a Db harp at the time he recorded it, and he used either a Koch slide harp or a Hohner 260 in key of C.
These are not quite like the familiar chromatic harp. Actually, the 260 could be obtained as a ‘solo-tuned’ instrument since before ww2, but it was originally produced in Standard German tuning, which most people seem to call ‘Richter’, the same as a standard 10 hole diatonic.
The harp SBW2 used on the record is in C, tuned like a standard 10 hole diatonic, but it has a slide, so you can change any note to a note a semitone higher by pushing the slide.
You can also bend just like on a standard diatonic. And, if you are holding a bent note and you push the button, the new note will also be bent if you have decent technique.
Sonny Boy did something a bit different though. He held the button in, so it’s a bit like playing a Db harp, and in second position that put him in Ab. Now, if he lets the slide out, the note is a semitone lower.
Of course, he didn’t let the opportunity pass by. In his solo especially he makes great use of this chance to go from the 3 draw half step bend to the 3 draw whole step bend with great ease.

He uses it briefly in the intro too.

I have no idea whether he chose to play this song in Ab just so he could use this cool effect, or if the band was in Ab and he used the harp because that’s what there was, but I suspect the former. It’s the only time on record (to my knowledge) he played this key. I’d expect the band to accommodate him, rather than the other way around.

If you want to play this song, or play along with it, you may be able to grab a harp the same as Sonny Boy, but they aren’t all that common. My friend in AL sent me the one I have, which I believe belonged to his late father in law.
I’m currently restoring it, so it’s out of action at the moment.

Instead I used a standard Db Special 20. A ‘progressive’ model, no less.
Later, I did a pitch-shift on the software to put the song a semitone lower, and played it on a C harp.

I’m glad I decided to play along with a standard harp. It was easier to learn and I think I’ll be able to transfer the knowledge to the 260 when I get it working again.
The intro is very nice on this song. It has a strong theme. The solo is just a single chorus and also has a strong theme.
If you want to really give your 3 draw bends a workout, this is an exercise.
Without the slide harp, you don’t have the luxury of just pushing the button to go from 3’ to (effectively) 3”. On the standard harp you have to actually work those bends, for example, something like 3’ 3” 3’ 3” 3’ 3” 3’ 3” 3’ 3” 3’ 3” 1. In time.
Even just for the sake of getting a strong appreciation of some elements that made SBW2 such a wonderful stylist, it’s worth trying to play along, put him on loop, a phrase at a time.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Jul 02, 2019 6:12 AM
6047 posts
Jul 02, 2019
1:34 PM
There are a couple of places in the intro where his excellent timing is vividly on display, really worth attention from my POV at least

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