beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players >
Jul 05, 2020
There are lots of ‘one to many’ sessions online lately.
I’m still evaluating what I think about this.
Some are better than others, because some teachers are more experienced than others.
I’ve been to some where the facilitator/tutor is clearly well-across the subject matter and knows how to explain it, but seems to lack experience of dealing with groups and the session became dominated by people asking random/non-sequitur questions, often at very basic level.
Someone like Ronnie Shellist, who has years of experience running these sort of sessions, doesn’t allow this to happen, and usually gets through the curriculum.
Today I attended a webinar about 3rd position, run by Dennis Gruenling.
Dennis spent a reasonable amount of time explaining what 3rd position is, and what it isn’t.
He advocated that people learn some basic principles of music theory, so they could understand what they are doing when choosing to play in a position other than where they’re already comfortable.
I’ve been thinking about what are the takeaways for me.
I took some notes.
I think it comes down to 2 or 3 specific things for me
1) continue to practice precise bending skills, because bending in 3rd position is used to obtain precise scale notes, and this will sound bad if the bends are not accurate. You can get away with imprecise bending to some extent in 2nd position because the notes thus obtained are all ‘blues notes’ ie blue 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th. In 3rd position the 3” is the 5th, the 2’ is the 3rd and if you’re playing minor (which is often why a person chooses to play in 3rd) then the 2” is the minor 3rd and needs to be in tune. There are other reasons too, but the message is that 3rd position places higher demand on accurate bending to pitch.
There was further advice on practice to achieve this. Dennis advocates using a tuner, and practicing the bends 5-10 minutes, maybe 2 times a day.
Regular practice habits was a theme throughout the session, but this needs not be a big chunk of time, just regular.
2)blues scale in lower octave, alternate between 2nd position and 3rd, using harps which put you in the same key eg G harp for 2nd, C harp for 3rd. You could use Low F (2nd), Bb (3rd).
Those are probably the best pairings. You could do A and D but D might be a bit high for 3rd at first (but see point 3)
3) practice bending on all your keys of harp.
4) use 1 chord jam tracks, that is tracks which hang on the same chord and don’t change. Use these pairs of harps as mentioned above and alternate between 2nd and 3rd. So for instance find a 1 chord track in C and play a Low F in 2nd, then use your Bb to play in 3rd and match what you played.
Dennis said this is his number 1 practice routine for teaching 3rd position.
The things you play could start out with the blues scale for instance. They could be licks. Take your 2nd position licks, and convert them to 3rd.
So that is 4 things.
There was quite a bit of talk about octave splits and why to choose 3rd over some other position. Most common thing people think about 3rd is ‘minor’ and the other most common thing is probably ‘jump blues’, and DG pointed out that while both of those are good choices, it is misguided to think of 3rd as only good for minor and in fact the popularity of 3rd for jump blues kind of makes the point as that style is usually somewhat less ‘bluesy’ and more often quite major-sounding.
This is why he advocates learning from the bottom octave and getting to grips with the bends rather than locking into the middle and avoiding the bends, which does kind of restrict you to minor sounding licks as you have that minor 3rd in 5 draw and not a lot you can do about it except over blow the 4
There were some other things discussed such as octave splits and chords
The point was made that the draw chord on 1234 is actually the IV chord so while it’s ok to play it a little over the I chord it doesn’t sound that good if you hold it, flutter it etc as you might in 2nd position, but it’s fine over the IV chord.
Splits work fine for 3rd but to make the most of them you need to come to terms with the 5 hole split for the draw holes involving 6-10 5-9 4-8 3-7
Then it was all q&a and you know, it’s good if you actually have a question and sometimes it can be good if others ask good questions. It was good that DG held the questions for the end.
Ok, that’s my report.
Jul 05, 2020
Nice report. It sounds like you got a lot out of the webinar. I think Dennis has also produced some of the best instructional videos. I like his pace and content, plus his cool deep voice.
I've experienced some similar pitfalls at harmonica workshops. Its a bummer when things get sidetracked or when absolute beginner questions are asked at a "intermediate/advanced" workshop.
I realize that great players are not necessarily great instructors. I'm okay with that but think these type of group settings should at least be well controlled. Another problem I've seen are workshops being held at festivals where drinking is a popular sport. The old Blues & Brews setting is a sketchy place to hold a workshop. Hopfully you don't have drunks attending a webinar.
Harmonica Mutes & Accessories
Jul 27, 2020
Ah, yes, drunk people often don't help.
I don't suppose there's really any way to exclude them from a webinar but you can probably ignore them more easily.
I'm glad I posted those notes above. Sometimes I forget to get out my notebook.
I went to another of DG's webinars on the weekend. This one was on first position. To be honest I think this one maybe just consolidated a few thoughts, maybe emphasised some things I'd heard before.
Similar to the third position class:learn the scales, practice with tracks that hang on the I chord and use a harp in second position and match it with one infirst person. Again the emphasis on bending and understanding the role of the bend in that position ie is it a "blue" note that can be bent a little flat, or is it a scale note which really needs to be more accurate?
I've been supporting these events of Dennis partly because I am a fan and his stated interests and approach sits very neatly with my own view of what I'm aiming for. Also because he hosts then at a time which allows me to be wide awake and not disturb the household. I can do 9am much more easily than 2am
I really think though, that there is only so much one can expect to get from a "one to many" class with such a broad topic
Of yes the other hazard with tech powered learning is techno failure. We had some of that and it really was something of a distraction.
I did put a playlist of I chord jam tracks together afterwards. Also found I only had a couple so bought a set of tracks from Dennis, and he threw in an extra set of tracks into the deal, so I now have a pretty good bundle of single chord tracks plus some others covering grooves in various keys I didn't really have before.
Ha! Then I tried jamming the way DG suggested, except I went at it the wrong way and tried putting my third position and first position licks into second position.
Immediately found I couldn't really do it that way. Oh well, at least it was practice and I learned something about how not to practice.
I'll try again tomorrow. Today I contented myself with playing some 1st position boogie rhythm on the low F harp and was happy with that, though I probably should play second position on the low F and 1st on a C. Then 3rd on a Bb I suppose. That could work.
Aug 24, 2020
@SuperBee, great post.thanks for posting so much helpful stuff. Keep up the good work!
Aug 25, 2020
Thank YOU, schaef! I appreciate your comment so much.
Dennis is running these webinar events every weekend. This weekend it’s with Adam Gussow. I feel I know quite a bit about Adam and his approach and background already but then I saw Adam marketing it also and saying he was going to talk to Dennis about what Dennis did in the 90s which took him from a solid intermediate player to a much higher level.
I think the answer is likely contained somewhat in my 1st post above, but maybe there will be some interesting details expanding that.
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