MAGIC DICK INTERVIEW PART 2
MAGIC DICK INTERVIEW PART 2 by Dan Enright (c) 1995 by 2/3X-PERTS
(explanation of *Full Court Press* continues)...
"We put it together in a way that would feature these new harps in
a classic, Chicago style instrumental - ala Little Walter. The structure
is actually quite simple. It goes through two choruses and then modulates,
two choruses/modulates, two choruses/modulates. It starts out in Fmajor,
then it modulates to it's relative minor - which is Dminor. Then back to
two choruses in Fmajor, then two choruses in Dminor - back and forth, back
and forth, like that.
"We started out on a Marine Band in cross harp. Very straight ahead
Chicago style, for two choruses. When it goes to the first Dminor
modulation I play on the slide chromatic harmonica, again in very classic,
Little Walter style. Dminor is one of the positions that comes easily out
of the slide chromatic harp, similar to what's called third position on
the Marine Band - where the draw one note is the tonic note, D. In fact
the whole draw chord on the harmonica is a Dminor6 chord.
"So, the first four choruses use the two most common conventional
harmonicas. And I emphasis conventional harmonicas. Beginning with the
fifth chorus I switch to one of the new harps, the model closest - but
utilizing our concepts - to a conventional harmonica tuning, like a
Marine Band. The blow chord is an extended chord, a 7th rather than just a
triad. In the middle of the harp it's a 7th chord. That's the primary
difference. I feature that sound you get on the four chord, you'll hear it
"Anyway, after two choruses on that harp all the rest of the
instrumental is played on this harp I told you about called the *Big Band*,
which is the very same tuning layout as the *Swing Band* but with that
one semi-tone modification on the first hole blow. And it shows - where
that harp is playing through the major sections as well as the relative
minor sections - how well that harp can handle the major and it's relative
minor, without switching harps.
"Some people who listen to it from the top, wondering "Well, what's
new here? Where does the new thing start?" aren't going to pick up on it.
My intention was to make a very classic sounding instrumental that upon
further examination... upon deeper digging, people - harp players especially -
would go, "What's going on with this part? I can't get that!"
"I didn't want it to be something so radically different that it would
be obvious that these harps were really different. I wanted to impress the
fact that these are really useful to those that are into the tradition of the
harp. To counter people who take that attitude, "Well, this one's been good
enough for me and it was good enough for Little Walter..."
Dan: That's amazing that such subtle changes can be so radical.
Magic: "Part of the reason is because harmonica playing is a
combination of playing what's on the surface of the harp and playing where
you have to dig deeper by bending notes and blocking. Certain riffs, for
example certain swing jazz riffs, will plop out without having to bend
for pitches. Not that bending is all that hard or that difficult but bent
tones change the character of the sound. And sometimes not for the better.
There are certain executions which are better played straight. But anyway,
it's this combination of what you get by bending and playing straight that
makes harmonica this yin-yang thing.
"I say with confidence that I think the future of the harmonica is
in these so called *Magic Harps*. The idea is sound. It's been proven.
I've already demonstrated it works and I know it can be made. There's
nothing complicated about it at all. It's not like a new mechanism where
people have to learn a radically different way of playing. It's like
re-tuning a guitar with all the various advantages - and disadvantages - that
come from doing that.
"For the prototypes, we've taken conventional Marine Band harmonicas
and using the file and razor blades, we've changed the pitch of the reeds. The
one's that would be manufactured would not be fabricated in the way we
make the prototypes. We'd use the proper reed.
Dan: It sounds like the most difficult part was the conceptual leap.
Magic: "Yeah. There aren't too many things invented these days
that come out of the kitchen, that aren't developed in a lab. It was just
using pencil & paper and razor blades & a file. You use a razor blade to
remove material from the reed, down to where it's riveted. That'll make the
pitch go flat. If you remove material from the free tip of the reed, it'll go
sharp. When they manufacture harps, they do a little fine tuning that way to
get them more exactly in tune.
"What we've done is remove a lot of material, not to fine tune the
note, but to change it to a different note altogether - sometimes as much
as five or six semi-tones. Which is a real radical change. Most of them
don't involve that much change. We may be changing it by a semi-tone, a whole
tone, or a minor third.
"We've also, in a number of cases, extended the chords - meaning
it's beyond a triad. On a conventional harmonica, the blow chord is a
triad that repeats. We've extended the chord in a number of these models
to make it a four note chord, or sometimes even a five note chord. The
unifying concept behind all this is, all of the drawn reeds bend. There's
more to it than that in terms of legal aspects - as far as what defines it
more thoroughly - but one of the net results is all the draw reeds bend, which
is not the case with conventional harmonicas or any Lee Oskar harmonicas.
All the conventional harps and Lee Oskar's models have this crossover
point where the relationship between blowing and drawing and whether the
pitch goes up or down changes at the seventh hole.
Dan: So you've made an improvement...
Magic: "I'm not sure an improvement is the best word to use, but
it's an addition to the vocabulary in a big way. So that's the story with
This interview is for the personal use of Harp-L subscribers only. It may
not be reproduced (in print or electronically) without my written
permission. Permission is granted to publish it on the HarmoniGopher and
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