I had identified Pontiac Blues would be my next project following Tigerman. I accidentally started learning Sad Hours. This is probably a bad move. Another slow instrumental is not what I need most urgently at the moment. However, I have an idea for a project.
I was reading Margie Goldsmith’s book, and in the Rick Estrin interview, Rick mentions that back in the day there were basically 3 records which formed the basis of harp education; the best of Little Walter (12 tracks), Sonny Boy Williamson 2 - Down and Out Blues (12 tracks), and The Best of Muddy Waters (12 tracks but not all have harp). I guess Rick was saying these songs are what most of the the great players in his generation used as the foundation of their playing.
I was struck by that, because Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter are the 2 main players for me. Oh sure, I love lots of others but those 2 are kind of like the main characters for me. The first real ‘harp record’ for me is Sonny Boy Williamson “the real Folk Blues”, and some time ago I realized I could play a number of songs from that record. When I looked at The Best of Little Walter though, I was surprised to see I had learned half the tracks already. So I suddenly had this idea to make a project of learning the rest and Sad Hours is track 2 side 1. It’s only 5 choruses too, and it’s slow. How hard can it be? I thought. Well, it isn’t exactly like changing your socks, but it’s doable I think. The mix is a bit tricky as usual but I’m hearing through it. It’s Little Walter though, so as usual tone and time is challenging. Great for working on those shakes/warbles though and the little licks he did so well. It’s simple in a way, but not.
Anyway, I don’t know exactly what I’m gonna do with it once I’ve learned it but it’s going to be great for my chops and I’ll find a place for it I expect, if I can find a guitarist prepared to also put some work in.
To complete my ‘Best of’ project will take some time. I think ‘mean old world’ is the simplest of them. Tell Me Mama is one I’m already keen to learn. You’d better Watch Yourself has great sound quality, rhythm is a march rather like You’re so fine (which we play already). The other 2 are instrumental and of those I think Off The Wall is the big challenge. Blue Light maybe easier but any instrumental requires a lot of work. If I can get all those I think I’ll have a lot more development under the belt. I could easily spend the next year on this I expect, especially because the band mates will probably have other ideas.
Last Edited by SuperBee on May 10, 2021 11:01 PM
The nice thing about some of these slow songs is that there aren’t too many choruses. (Lol) I’m 3 choruses into Sad Hours. Chorus 3 was the hardest to hear so far, but I think I have it. I’m looking forward to Ch4 because I think that’s quite memorable and also has some cool tonal effects. I’ll consolidate the first 3 though before I move on to that. It’s midnight and I’ve just put a pretty solid session in on choruses 2 and 3 so I’ll sleep on those and see if I can have a run through before work tomorrow.
I do think I have a backing track for this one, so when I’m ready I’ll move on to that. Maybe a couple weeks away yet.
I slowed my play along track to 80% and that seems good enough for learning.
The guitar is the unsung hero in this song. What a great part.
i have it all 'basically' memorised; now i just have to keep playing through it so i iron out the spots where memory sometimes fails momentarily. there are lots of drone shakes in this. Those are a challenging aspect. they really need to be smooth and im not especially good at it. good reason to work on it. also i have a tendency to bend the 2 draw (especially) too flat, so that becomes a distraction when playing, trying to be more aware of it. im hopeful ill get that bad habit under control. there are a couple of places i find i'm a little breathless too. that might be a legacy of my age and smoking history or my fitness level, or just poor technique.
i reckon another week of daily practice and i might be ready to make a video
Found I have 2 backing tracks for this. One in E, one in F
Spent a fair portion of the morning playing along, broke out a mic and amp. Even fired up the pedal board to get a slightly ‘wetter’ sound.
The song is relatively simple but all the shakes and long tones make it easy to run out of breath if I don’t take advantage of all the opportunities to breathe. Sometimes I can forget to breathe and often get away with it, but this song is not forgiving in places.
I’m fairly happy with how it sounds now. I was still prone to forget how it goes this morning but after the first couple of sessions today have been pretty much nailing it 3 out 4.
Acoustic version. still a bit rough, too deep on the 2" at times, shakes could be smoother, dynamics will get better i think as i become more familiar with the piece but fwiw, this is where i'm at after a week
Cheers Jeff. I was playing ‘electronically’ yesterday with delay and Reverb and I think that I was getting a fairly decent sound but for purpose of checking progress I think acoustic is preferable. I maybe playing a bit too hard at the lower end of the range too. Mainly at this point still working on memorisation by lots of repetition and thus identifying problem areas. Give it a chance to see if I can recall, if not, I go back and listen again. Gradually ironing out the glitches. I have shown a tendency to lose concentration. I’ll work hard to get the first few phrases and tune out or gloss over the details in the turnarounds for instance. I’m trying to be aware of that and pay attention when it gets challenging to hear. It’s usually just a matter of ‘zooming in’ and focusing on small sections. I think these difficult parts are likely where the growth can be found, but when you’re starting out it can seem like it’s all difficult.
For me, in this song the tricky parts are: all the shakes. Little Walter was a true master of this and it’s one of his signature sounds. The 3rd chorus turnaround. It’s not really difficult but it is a horse you can easily fall off The 4th chorus turnaround leaves me short of breath. I’m usually short of breath coming into it so I need to find the right place to breath and make sure I use it. Playing more softly may help with the breathing.
The shakes annoy me because I’m trying not to shake my head too much. This makes for more hand use, which often starts out fine but I run out of steam and then it gets jerky or intermittent. I guess it’s muscular/nervous system training. No matter how efficiently I memorize, physical skill takes time to acquire. I’ll just have to keep working on that aspect.
I think that’s really the point of studying a song such as this anyway; learn what makes it great, and what skills are required. Through emulation, aim to acquire those skills and become a more capable player.
seriously that’s probably a way forward with a lot of stuff I currently play. I appreciate the share. Westside Andy is always mind-boggling to me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play something I didn’t love
I made a quick video playing through an amp. It’s on the main page. My Kreisler amp broke down again so I have used the Vibro champ XD (ie the made in China hybrid champ-style amp) with some Reverb (not much, about 1/2 past 8 o’clock on Tone and Reverb) from a LW Reverb pedal and some delay from LW original Delay pedal.
Kreisler was working beautifully last weekend so I dunno what’s up. I suspect the volume pot but it’s not even scratchy.
Working on Sad Hours again this week (and last). Last week managed to memorise it all again so now I can concentrate on playing it. Closed up the offsets of my Bb to help with breath control. There's a lot of long notes and a lot of final dynamic control so I can't play this with a lot of wind. I think it's really key to playing lots of this stuff to save your air which means playing as quietly as you can (while still playing the songdynamically) I do think there's a lot to be learned here.
Hey David - great resurrection (as opposed to insurrection, which ain’t so great!) of an old thread. And timely, as Sad Hours is my latest project with David Barrett. Ive been at it for a month - found the first two choruses to be pretty straightforward, but 3 & 4 are much more complicated and time consuming to get them into muscle memory. I’ll be working on the 5th verse today. My goal is to get a version I could post here. I’m so glad that in the midst of a crazy 2020 I was fortunate enough to become David’s student and (begin to) learn to tongue-block. It opens up so much additional sound on the harp.
I hope you and your family are safe & sound. Have you had the jab(s) yet? We got #1 last Tuesday- Pfizer - and are schedule for the 2nd on the 27th. Here’s to a (more) normal 2021. Adios amigo.
Hi Sundancer! I'm so glad to hear you are continuing with David. There are lots of lessons in Sad Hours. I learned it as per the video i made (possibly no longer available through that post as i think i made it private) and took it to the bandroom. I could tell they weren't really keen though so it didn't proceed, and so i didn't continue playing it and it gradually slipped away. Having been through the process of memorising it once before, it was quicker to pick up the second time around. It might even be better sometimes to let things drop for a while. I often hear things i hadn't noticed before or that I'd kind of glossed over because something else seemed more important. As you develop you also become more aware of nuance of technique whereas for me at least with a lot of the stuff i learned a few years ago i was just happy to get the notes in order and around the right time.
Dennis Gruenling said this is the first LW song he learned to play and is still his favourite. He has certainly performed some wonderful renditions.
We are all well. I think i am category 2B for vaccination. Thats "general hoi polloi", lowest priority and as such i'm not expecting to receive vaccine before October at the soonest.
I'm happy to hear you are receiving the vaccines. Even though ours are some time away yet, we have basically no virus in the community so i can move around without too much trepidation.
The original recording is in F (Bb harp). I picked up an A harp today and played it while I went out to check the mail. It was a quite good A but when I came back indoors I found my Spiers Bb (which I've been using to practice) and the degree of difficulty dropped several points immediately. That A harp has been fitted with a slightly fatter comb, and it does have a slightly more mellow tone I think but I've noticed it also takes a bit more air to play compared to other A harps. Anyway, it reinforced my feelings expressed before about the demands this song makes on the breath, which is possibly one of the most valuable lessons to take from studying it.
Wow, 18 months later (since i started the thread) and ive recorded it again. In the meantime i spent a year or so forgetting about it, then the last few months picking it up again and trying to play better.
I think this is marginally better than the video i made in November 19. I recorded it 3 times this morning and this is number 3. This is in E, on a Special 20. I think i'll just keep playing it for a while and think about what parts i can borrow, try some licks out over different grooves etc.
anyway, here it is in full copycat mode. except I've been struggled with the first chorus today and still getting the last few bars mixed up in the 1st chorus. Its all about the struggle, and thats the value of recording anyway. Since recording it ive done some more listening and i think i understand it now EDIT: i meant to say, one thing i think has changed since November 2019 is that ive lowered the breath pressure some more. Its not a huge amount but its significant i think. YMMV but to my ears the tone and dynamics are better in this latest recording. I think i'm strangling the 5 draw in this opening lick though, so thats something to work on.
You did a great job on Sad Hours David. IMO the key is the turnarounds - especially in chorus four. Little Walter is insanely creative in them. And of course all of chorus five is challenging. Good on ya.