Tongue Blocking Again

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Shankar writes:

   >Is there an inherent limitation to the amount of control you
   >can get with tongue-blocking or is it just a matter of

I don't know of a limit. It seems that all the doctrinaire tongue
blockers do pretty much everything that other players do. I
notice, too, that Junior Wells and Kim Wilson, two highly
respected players in the stylistic territory claimed by tongue
blocking blues players, both claim to do whatever feels right -
pucker, tongue block - without any preconception of when one
or the other should be used.

Some things are definitely harder. I think you'll find ways to do
staccato and other articulations - I know Robert Bonfiglio does
(look to the "K" sounds) - but you'll probably have some
difficulty with high blow bends - Mark Hummel, one of the more
doctrinaire tongue blockers, switches to a pucker for this - and
only a very few people can overblow through a tongue block (I'm
working on it, but am a ways from getting it). However, I'd say
most of the common vocabulary is quite accessible.

Tongue blocking does open up quite a few possibilities beyond
octaves and tongue lifts. Try getting sixths and fifths with a
narrower block, and making harmonized lines with them. Try
tongue-switching for some wide melodic leaps back and forth.
There's lots to explore that even the staunchest tongue blockers
(who are often rather tradition-bound) don't seem to have tried.

The bending-out-of-both-sides-of-the-mouth trick (and the
bending-out-of-one-side-and-not-the-other) are quite difficult,
but people are claiming success. I've been trying the latter
trick, bending Draw 3 down from B down to A while playing A in
Draw 6. The draw 6 sounds kind of sickly, but it's there. I'm
also working on bending draw 2 from G down to F while playing F
in Hole 5. This is actually starting to come - the draw 5, being
more resistant to bending, makes a nice crutch against which to
bend draw 2. I find both of these easier than trying to bend down
both D's in Draw 1 and 4. Easier to get a result, at least. None
of it sounds much good, yet.

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