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New starts - New Beginnings
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114 posts
May 26, 2021
9:07 AM
Across “lockdown” 2020, I haven’t been furloughed but I’ve changed some of my habits.

I rarely slump in front of the TV now. I’ve been playing a lot more harp, a lot less guitar and watching and learning a lot of new techniques.

I rarely play blues exclusively. Often it’s melodies or my own compositions, rock and pop tunes etc. This means that I’ve settled on Paddy Richter as my tuning of choice and have converted most of my harps to this
Across 2020, I’ve really improved my overblow technique to the point where I’m 90% sure I can hit them dead on. I tell you it’s a great feeling when you are able to do something that you initially thought impossible. Ditto vibrato. I’d always used my hands but now I can do the throat vibrato albeit not to the smoothness I’d like, but I’m getting there.

However, the big change (and it pains me to say this) is, I’m falling out of love with Seydel. I really thought the Session Steel was my harp of choice but I’ve had a couple of issues.

One is the combs cracking at the mouthpiece and the plates seeming overly tight in them. I’ve noticed this problem only on the “translucent” combs and not the plain ones. (I don’t know if it’s a different sort of plastic that shrinks over time?

The second is mixed response of reedplates and new harps. Some bright and lively, others dull and lifeless. I got a superb Bb and two horrible A’s. An F that had a badly seated or twisted blow plate. And 2 C’s, one was great, the other just okay.

So I’ve decided I’m going back to Hohner. My easiest playing harp is a 360 clear comb, 1.05 plates and old MS Special 20 coverplates.

I Paddy tuned two Blues Harps and love them. They seem to suit me. Not as wider a tone as my Marine Band Deluxe but they have a nice smoother midrange that I enjoy. I’ve just ordered a D and 1.05 plates. I know the MS range takes some flak, but I think they are going to be my harps of choice. I’ve used them and Pro Harps over the years and I’ve never blown a reed out. Plus, they have always seemed consistent which my Seydels weren’t. I’m not here to bash, some of my Session Steels will still get regular use, particularly my walking/ camping one.

My plan for the autumn is to explore mics.

What's your journey been?
6956 posts
May 29, 2021
12:12 AM
Lots of slumping in front of TV
Lots of "soul searching".
I know exactly what I need to do, but not doing much of it.
Instead, working on other things which also need attention, but could be done in conjunction with some more game changing practice.
So, the lazy practice is all about just playing well, making a good sound with the instrument. Remembering to play as quietly as possible every time I pick it up, pay attention to making every note count, not just rolling out the memorised progression of notes and timings.
But really I'm trying to get to a place where I can improvise more solos without them sounding out of place with the stuff I've quoted. That's only gonna happen with appropriate practice.
115 posts
May 29, 2021
6:28 AM
I've got a lot of mileage out of playing melodies. As an example, I'm currently working on "Eleanor Rigby" which contains a "5 draw, 6 blow, 6 draw, 6 overblow, 6 draw" phrase that at speed, is really rewarding to accomplish.

I have to say to anyone that's struggling with a particular technique. First, you need a really good understanding of what you are trying to do. I'd struggled with vibrato for months, but it was only watching a YT video when someone said "backwards machine-gun" that the penny dropped. Then I had about an hour a night for two weeks before I had this really "square wave robotic" noise but I knew what I was doing was correct and it just needed refining.
6957 posts
May 29, 2021
9:50 PM
Thanks for the Eleanor Rigby mention; that was fun. i picked up the d harp on which i achieved my first overblow and gave that a try. I think id always played that part of ER in the lower octave.

i think i played "Ahh look at all the lonely people" as +5 5OB +6 6 +6 5OB 5 3 2. That is not in the same key though; i think you are in F (say) to my G.

Years ago Jimi Lee tried to get me started with overblows and i couldnt get it. At one point he said the 6OB was a lot like the 8 blow bend. I told him i couldn't do that either, so he suggested i start there. This led me to discover the joy of 1st position blues which is a gift which continues to bring joy in multiple ways. I mean, once you can blow the top, then you have to play the low end in 1st as well, which will develop draw bend chops and that is a big deal overall.

i do not use ob much but this has been fun and quite amazing to discover how my ability has developed without even specific practice, but just from general development. i guess JL was right about the blow bends
116 posts
May 30, 2021
3:49 AM
I took it from the Hal Leonard Beatles tab book. It's in third position with "Aah look at.." starting on 8 draw.

As far as overblows what I discovered is you're correct about the blow bend comparison but your reed gapping is also crucial to getting the clearest tone.

My current "practice routine" is built around one or two melodies, 5 mins each on specific techniques, some riffs and patterns, and a bit of freeform writing riffs etc. I can fit it into half an hour or stretch it out over an hour.
383 posts
May 30, 2021
4:43 AM
For myself the lockdown was like a whole year to work on playing harp. Though I don't necessarily feel like I've made a years worth of progress.
I started playing some valved diatonics, so all the blow notes bend down a half step as do the draw notes on the upper register. (I think a 7 draw bend is as high as I've needed so far).

I also like the paddy tuning but on the C harp I am surprised how much I'm wanting the Ab. So the blow bend on the 3 hole paddy tuned has been a challenge.
There are a couple of tunes that require that esp when doing the half steps on the 3 hole.

Mostly though I want to work on playing some of the horn sections like on the swing/jive tunes. I don't want to copy their solos note for note but I do want to know what they are doing and what makes a swing...swing and what makes a jive... jive. things like that.

Howard Levy has a great video "How to Keep Time with your Body" that I am liking a lot. How to stay in a grove of a song mostly. He mentions.. now listen to the horns they come in on such and such a beat, the drummer is hitting the high hats on this beat so and so is tapping his foot and this beat.
That's the stuff I'm trying to get a better handle on these days. I'm happy enough with getting my notes, but phrasing and timing is where I'm always trying to improve.

I usually practice in 20 min sections and try for an hr a day, but that's not carved in stone.

Last Edited by Spderyak on May 30, 2021 4:49 AM
399 posts
Jun 02, 2021
8:07 PM
What a screwed up year 2020 was! The finale of four screwed up years. I get the sense that loads of people felt it was a lost year in their lives. Especially working musicians. And the elderly. But reading this post it sounds like some of us were able to use the extra time to practice & improve at our harping. I sure feel that way, but I was immensely fortunate to get with David Barrett beginning in April 2020.

I’ve read that the keys to improvement at anything are “deliberate” practice, and feedback. Working with David provides both, whereas learning songs from YouTube videos or purchased lessons, which was my learning method pre-David, doesn’t really provide either. That said, I concur with Syperyak that the videos Howard Levy has been posting lately are very informative and fun. Damn he’s musical.

Last Edited by Sundancer on Jun 02, 2021 8:12 PM

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