beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Snake Oil
Snake Oil
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SuperBee
6180 posts
Sep 20, 2019
11:14 PM
This is the inspiration for my latest project.
Actually, this isn’t exactly the version but close enough to it.

The atmosphere and tone are what I want, and the licks.

I’m gonna study SG for a while, starting with this. I think big rewards are available from working at getting this tone and working the phrases in this song.

https://youtu.be/3IrQkiHJVdc
SuperBee
6184 posts
Sep 22, 2019
4:42 AM
I know I’ll have to revise again tomorrow (and probably a few more times after that) but I can play through it from memory pretty well now.
I managed to play it without looking at notes, just before I went out to band practice today. Now it’s 8 hours later and I’ve had to revise choruses 7,8, & 9, but I have played through it several times from memory again since.

I’m feeling quite hopeful I’ll have it well-embedded by the next weekend. The catch is that I have a 3 hour gig next Saturday night, and actually need to focus on repertoire for that this week. This song won’t make the list. I have another gig the following Friday but may not get another chance to rehearse with the band before then. Never mind.

At practice today I could tell ‘something’ is working. The sound coming out my amp is just better. I was messing around with some pedals but at some point I looked to see what I had running and saw in fact I was playing dry.
It may be the impact of playing chromatic, developing my breath and diaphragm. It may be the scalar exercises I’ve been doing, it may just be all the playing I did yesterday. Who knows? But this song could well be part of it. Guyger has a fantastic natural tone on the studio cut of this song and in a way it’s not really very complicated, or it doesn’t seem to be.
The song is very heavily working the blues scale, with only a couple notes in the whole song which don’t sit squarely in the E ‘blues scale’.

He uses a plain 3 draw about 3 times, and he blows hole 2 once.
He does use 3 blow a fair amount and he hits the 3” a couple times. Some people consider 3” is part of a larger ‘major blues scale’ anyway.

But the nature of this song is like a clinic in basic tone production.

It’s largely made up of ‘long tones’ and certain passages use a lot of vibrato/tremolo (excuse me for being wishy washy on this but I’m not convinced it is always one or the other. I think it’s sometimes a bit of both). There are also quite a few bends, and the tune is quite fluid.

So, in general I think it’s a very ‘educational’ number and there is probably the reason Dave Barrett transcribed it and provided it to students who complete one of the early ‘levels of achievement’ on his site.

Each ‘chorus’ is quite short, just 8 bars, and while there are 10 choruses, 3 are quite similar (choruses 1,2 and 10). Chorus 6 is quite a lot like chorus 8 as well.

I’m pleased to be getting around to this ‘at last’. The more I listen the more convinced I am of the benefit to be extracted from this one.
SuperBee
6185 posts
Sep 22, 2019
8:53 PM
I guess I’m sharing this just to show my process.
I think it used to take me quite a bit longer to memorise things like this. No doubt I’m quicker now through having done it a few times.
I found some study which suggested that if you want to memorise something, the most effective way is to practice in the evening just before bed, and again fairly early in the day.
That’s how it often goes for me.

It’s lunchtime now and my first opportunity today to play. I managed to get through the song with just a couple of stumbles.

I need to find a backing track.
SuperBee
6188 posts
Sep 25, 2019
4:46 AM
This is going better than I’d hoped.
Still haven’t found a backing track though.
I had periodontal (?) treatment yesterday and that put a tight end on practice for a while but back into it today and it’s all there still.

The choruses are really quite short, just 4 phrases in each and nothing too technical. Just requiring your best in bending, timing, and tone.
dchurch
296 posts
Oct 01, 2019
10:39 PM
You clearly have a great work ethic. I'm curious how you feel about straying from the song or the version you are working on. Do you strive to duplicate each note and beat?

Yes, love those slow heartfelt blues full of soulful tone and technique.

I hope the oral issues are all in the past.

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Harmonica Mutes & Accessories
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SuperBee
6192 posts
Oct 02, 2019
6:09 PM
Hi, dchurch. It seems like a straightforward question but I realised I have a lot to say about it.

to keep it brief though, if im learning a piece because of the harp, for the purposes of learning I try to stick as close as i can to what is on the record, in every way i can.

performance is a different thing. i sometimes play it just the way i learned it. usually in fact, when i start to play something i've recently been studying, i will play something very much like the record. then i'll change it over time, sometimes through inspiration and sometimes by accident but always based on what seems 'right' to me
SuperBee
6194 posts
Oct 04, 2019
5:11 PM
I do think this one is ready to roll. I left it almost a week then was able to recall the entire thing so now I need to bring the band in on it.

Next project; in the short term possibly one of Little Walter’s instrumentals. I like ‘Sad Hours’ but I feel I’m being encouraged to do something with chromatic.

In the longer term it’s Gary Primich’s take on ‘Caravan’. That is going to take a while because it requires ‘chops’ I’m lacking. But how better to develop one’s chops than taking on a ‘stretch’ project? (That’s what they’d call it at my office; I’m successfully avoiding taking on any such projects in that context).

Oh, I just remembered though, Walter Horton did a cool version of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and I already did quite a bit of study on that tune so maybe we can get something together on that fairly quickly.

There are songs I’ve been playing for years in the band which I feel are just getting better. Some, like ‘Caldonia’, I think I’ve played at every gig and I am not sick of it.

I did have a person in the audience last night complain the harp was too loud after the opening number of the second set. I think it was actually just that the guitar was giving space as it was a harp instrumental on chromatic. I briefly reduced the volume but found I had to bring it back up as the guitar was more active in subsequent songs. There was no other complaint and in fact the same person called for an encore when we were done.

Our last 2 gigs have been very good. One person told me they’d been intending to go sample some fine spirits at the local distillery, then settle in to watch World Cup rugby, but when they heard us they decided to settle in the cafe. This fellow was visiting from Scotland and had some people with him from Brisbane. The man from Brisbane told me he was associated with Brisbane Jazz Society and that our music would be a good fit with what they present. He was very enthusiastic about the sound we are putting out as a simple quartet.

I also heard this week that there are gigs on offer for us in Western Australia. That would be cool (or not! It’s a warm climate over there) but both QLD and WA are a long way from where we are.
Still, these things are good to hear and I’m inspired to see if I can get some gigs further afield in our home state.
Mirco
623 posts
Oct 28, 2019
2:34 PM
This is a great tune. By the way, Dave Barrett's got it all tabbed out...

If you pass through Level 1 of his LOA program, you can access it through bluesharmonica.com
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Marc Graci
YouTube Channel
SuperBee
6238 posts
Oct 29, 2019
3:25 PM
LOA1? ok, i thought it was LOA2 but its been a while. i thought the Jerry Portnoy study was unlocked at LOA1

When i first looked at the transcription of Snake Oil about 7 years ago i thought it was achievable but seemed like a lot of work. Its some measure of progress i suppose, that i can now pick stuff like this up in a week or 2.

I have always liked this song, but now that i'm able to recite it and play it with my band, i find myself wondering whether its gonna fit into the set. How will i best use it, just because i can play it, does that mean i should? The main question is around the point of it being a harp instrumental and I'm already playing a few others. its also rather 'pedestrian', in that the tempo is very steady, almost trance-like, and the chord changes are few and far apart. I can see beginning a set with it, maybe a dinner set. i can also see doing a transition into a livelier number. we do a thing where we go from Watermelon Man into Rocket 88, which works quite nicely, but WM is a well-known song with a few more changes. I dunno, we'll work out something i expect
Mirco
625 posts
Nov 01, 2019
5:42 PM
Oh, you're right! It's LOA 2.

It is a GREAT song, in the right setting. It's certainly not jam friendly, but it's good if you've got a band that will rehearse it with you.
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Marc Graci
YouTube Channel
SuperBee
6301 posts
Nov 18, 2019
12:36 AM
I’ve been a bit up and down about this one. Learned it, worked at it, tried it with the band and it seemed promising.
Next time we met I ran it again and it was problems.
Gave it a miss at recent gig, tried it again at last rehearsal (at bass player suggestion) and identified the main problem was guitarist instinctively playing a turnaround figure. This had the effect of breaking the piece up and destroying the mood. I pointed it out, we tried again and to my mind much better. I still have reservations about how we’re going to use it. In fact, I’d probably decided it was a dead end and consequently had stopped practicing it, with the result that I found I was a bit unsure in places.
Still a worthwhile project though, for tone, bending, timing practice.


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