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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Learning "Off The Wall": resources
Learning "Off The Wall": resources
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6836 posts
Oct 05, 2020
4:54 AM
Maybe someone would find it useful to have a list of available resources for learning some of the classic harp tunes.
I'm listening a lot to Off The Wall and working through it with whatever i can when i need some help.

It is transposed in the David McKelvy book "Blues harmonica Collection" (published by Hal Leonard)

There is also a very detailed transcription in David Barrett's Harmonica Masterclass newsletter from March 2011, which also has some brief discussion notes for each chorus. Some of those notes are along the lines of "take your time and play it right" but still worth having.
David's transcription includes all the tongue block details and covers some very subtle parts which i did not really notice until he pointed them out.

Of course, tools like the Amazing Slow Downer and one's ears are great.

I believe there is a chorus by chorus video lesson series on Jerry Portnoy's Sonic Junction site. Maybe an expensive way to learn, but you know Jerry will steer you right.

Liam Ward (LearnTheHarmonica.com) has a couple of free YouTube lessons on Chorus 1, and a lesson on the complete song which is 60 minute video plus tab for $9. I have found Liam's lessons to be quite well put together.

For song-specific backing tracks, there is a Shoblues backing track called Off The Walter, if you can find it. You wont find it, unless you know someone who will share it or if you contact Shoji Naito, who made it. I obtained it long ago direct from Mr Shoji. You may not (will not) be able to obtain a single track though, unless perhaps you have considerably more charm than me. I feel good about the deal I made.

Devil's Tale Music (Mark Mumea) also has a specific backing track, which is a $2 download.

I think thats all i can think of for now, so i'll get back to trying to learn some more of it.
6843 posts
Oct 20, 2020
1:58 AM
I attended Dennis Gruenling's webinar on "chops and improvising" on Sunday. Coincidentally, he used a lick from Off The Wall to demonstrate a lot of the principles he was advocating.
Funny for me, because I'd been focused on that part of the song for a good part of the last week.
But that's not it.
One thing he said about studying recordings was about how intensely to focus. Dennis talked about trying to really listen and capture every nuance to the best of your ability. He also mentioned that some of these songs he has returned to several times over his career and heard aspects he hadn't really noticed before.
He also said that he sometimes had students who took the approach that once they had the gist of a song, they were happy with that, because they wanted to have their own sound.
His response to that was something like, sure, we all want to have our own sound,there's nothing wrong with that, but how good do you want your sounds to be? The point being that it can be a cop out.

This is quite similar to what Mark Hummel said to me when he was teaching me a couple songs.

Dennis went on though, and showed us what he means about taking links from songs you've been studying, and then playing them in different contexts,like on a different key harp, or with a different type of groove or the same groove with a different feel, or playing them in a different position, so that you really start to get inside the thing and understand it on a kind of gut level, and break the reliance of needing it to be in the original context to be able to recall it.
This is a really pertinent concept for me. I've learned so many great licks in all these songs I've been studying, and they are all in my memory, but there's not so many I can just roll out and use to create my own music with a good creative flow, because I have not practiced in this way.

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