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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Chromatic tunes
Chromatic tunes
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6608 posts
Apr 29, 2020
8:47 AM
Stuck at home and surrounded by harmonica, I’ve started playing some chromatic every day.
Must get back to ‘blues chromatic’ but this last week I’ve been learning other tunes
For some time I’ve played Nino Rota’s “speak softly, love”. I don’t really know the key, but I relearned it in the original after just transposing what I used to do on a C diatonic. I guess you can play whatever key you like but for playing along it helps to have original key,
Anyway, I’ve become okay with that and kind of enjoying it, so wanted some others in that vein.
Heard a fellow play ‘a time for us’, also Nino Rota I discovered. I have known that tune since I was 14 and like it so set out to play it by ear. Was rather gratifying to be able to do that and was surprised at how easily it laid out. Then I referred to the original score to check my hearing. Good news and bad news. Good news; I had all but one note, bad news, I was in C, original is Bb.
So I learned it then relearned it within a couple days.
Hey, I’m not claiming performance standard for this but I am able to recognize and correct my mistakes without reference to written notes.
Also Misty, in Eb. I learned this on diatonic, after Jerry Portnoy, and I’m happy to play it that way but also happy to play on chromatic. I love that tune after hearing Sarah Vaughn and I always think of her when I hear it, even when I play it. I’m just about to start memorizing the bridge.
And just for fun, the theme from magnificent 7.

I’m struggling with breathing and remembering the button pushes and using the range of the harp with good tone but that’s kind of the point. One of the points. The main point is playing tunes I enjoy, but I’m also just playing my chromatics and that must be teaching me something at the same time.
Might be time to refresh a few valves on the old cx12.
6611 posts
Apr 30, 2020
6:15 AM
I feel like getting back to my method book. I’m actually really loving this stock/standard/black cx12. It’s funny, it was the 2nd chromatic I bought and I only got it because it was a bargain at $180 AUD and virtually unused. I just couldn’t ever take to it.
Now though, it feels great to me. Must say though, picking up my favourite 270 now feels tiny.
I’m working to get a nice tone out of the cx12 and I think gradually I’m getting there. I don’t play very well above hole 7 but these tunes are helping. Misty goes as high as hole 10, and a-time for us takes me up to 9. It’s kind of like learning to get nice sound from the high notes of a diatonic, all over again.
6630 posts
May 13, 2020
5:08 PM
May 13, and I noticed last night that I’m starting to be more comfortable with this, to the point that I can loosen up and start feeling a bit more confident of where I’m going without needing to concentrate on remembering exactly which note I’m on and what comes next.

I’m sure there’s a sweet spot but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be hurting that I’m trying to memorize several pieces simultaneously.

I’ve added Autumn Leaves to the repertoire, which I’m excited about as I love that tune.

I’ve also begun working on jumping passages of these tunes into different octaves.

My exercises on the chromatic are not very sophisticated and I intend to lift that game. However, what I’m doing does seem to be helpful.
Mainly I play end to end, chromatically, in sequence without repeating a note, and I’ve noticed that the note names are beginning to pop up in my mind as I go.
When I play this exercise it requires me to be aware of exactly where I am on the harp, and of course that I don’t push the slide on E, or if I do, then I don’t play the draw F.
The note layout from holes 3-4 of course helps me keep track of where I am. I follow draw 4 with blow 5 and generally avoid blow 4 at this point, and same goes for the equivalent notes in the other octaves (the top octave is a bit special though)

So the exercise teaches something about the mental map and is forcing me to think of the note names and hole numbers, and I can notice it’s beginning to form a habit which I find quite a good sign for optimism.
Hasten slowly seems a good motto.

With these familiar-sounding tunes it’s tempting to play too fast but it reminds me of when I was learning to swim. If my stroke rate exceeded my ability to breath at a commensurate rate I could not keep my face in the water and thus everything was less efficient.
With learning these tunes I must go slowly and maintain good form, hit the notes accurately and coordinate the button pushes. Don’t become breathless, watch for sloppiness and address that. Play musically at all times, respect every note.

I do love it.

Something else I noticed. After playing Misty solely on chromatic for some time I decided to break out my Aflat diatonic and try it.
I’m still much more fluent on the diatonic but I think I noticed my ear has improved from playing the chromatic, and I also think my tremolo/vibrato is better.

I wonder if that is a real thing. I hadn’t considered the possibility but looking back I can see it really could be.
I’ve also been listening to great singers lately and really paying attention to what makes them so great.

Sarah Vaughan was so amazing.

I bought a set of 4 CDs which includes 8 albums she recorded between 1957 and 1962. It’s taken me a little while to really start appreciating it all but once I started to listen more carefully she blew me away, and continues to do so.

It’s hard for me to picture myself in this situation, listening to an album of Irving Berlin songs performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday et al, while reading a Billie Holiday biography, yet there I am on Monday afternoon doing just that and digging it.

OMG, what’s happening to me? I have Toots Thieleman playing on the car cd as well.
6640 posts
May 21, 2020
5:33 PM
With all the use of chromatics I noticed that after a few minutes I’d start having trouble with windsavers sticking. Generally they loosen up again if I keep playing but then I change tunes and get the problem on a different reed.

I thought it’s got to be time to clean these, so I started looking for advice about it.

The Hohner Workshop video on cleaning was not helpful about windsavers.

Winslow has a video suggesting use of dampened brown paper and sliding this under and between the valves and sliding it out while applying some pressure from above.

I get the idea, and I have tried it with mild success, but I really hoped I might find something better.

I found David kettlewell and he started off by hanging crap on those other videos so I felt like he knew where I was coming from.

Then he said as long as the harp isn’t wooden body, just wash it in water, which he proceeded to demonstrate.

Fair enough I thought, but I was dubious whether a good dunking and agitation was likely to clean much from the underside of the windsavers.

There didn’t seem a lot to lose though. I had 2 CX12s and it’s very simple to just pop out the cartridge with body and reedplates, so I did.

I used warm water and soaked and agitated both harps, tapped out the water and set them to drip dry on the shelf above the heater.

As I expected, no harm done. Also virtually no change in performance.

I feel like Winslow might be correct that each valve will need individual attention, but before i go there i think I’ll try the DK method again, with a variation. I’ll try it with some detergent in the water, and then rinse in clear water

Worst case, I might have to replace valves.

If that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll try wiping them individually.

Last Edited by SuperBee on May 21, 2020 5:34 PM

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