Re: The Rift (was: Conventions)

Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2003 19:01:10 -0800
From: "Scorcher" <s_c_o_r_c_h_e_r@xxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: The Rift (was: Conventions )

We Diatonic players get a little...wild, don't we? We bend, over-blow,
growl, chug, yip, bark at the moon...and many of us (most?) don't read
music, let alone play nice with others or color inside the lines!

Chromatics are like Dinner Jackets; Diatonics are like Leathers
(XB-40s don't fit in my little universe, yet!).

I still don't have a
- - -Scorcher

I wouldn't deny theres a rift there.
But where I live there are only a small few serious pro harp players.  One
local player Neil Billington started as a Blues player strictly on diatonic,
made the move to 3rd position blues on chromatic, then realised he wanted to
stretch out beyond the blues into Jazz standards.
After a couple of years I get a phone call with him playing Giant Steps by
ear and asking what it sounds like... pretty damn good.
He is still exploring and I offer my opinions and suggestions based on what
I've read and heard, which he argues strongly against, then 6 or 12 months
later he gives it a try, goes nuts on it, incorporates what he likes from
it, and then goes through another stage.

Usually he treats the two instruments very seperately, the blues harp as a
mean nasty boy from the wrong side of the tracks, the chromatic as a
sophistacated lady.   Other days I'll hear him tearing into the chromatic
over the blues or some funk through his Green Bullet, and the next month
playing Ornithology on his blues harps... he's going down a road of
discovery that I understand a few players have been down before already and
he prefers to learn by experience rather than by my words.

People by nature love their clans, they love their own groups they can
identify with.   There are some very incompatible groups of people in the
harmonica community, and there are some very broad minded spirits who enjoy
many aspects of the different harmonicas and use what means they can to get
the results they desire.

Mike Stevens is a speed demon on the blues harp playing blues grass.
Brendan Power has a strong Celtic flavour in his eclectic approach on his
diatonically tuned chromatics and altered tuned blues harps.
On the chromatic there are a number of European Players who play very
melodic note orientated Jazz, and a few classical players who tear around in
dazzling speed or mellow out in beauty.  On blues harps we've got hard core
traditional icons like Kim Wilson, and soulful Steve Guyger.
We've got Mike Turk who started as a blues man and like what Neil Billington
is doing now, made the transition to chromatic and Jazz - although I haven't
heard Mike play steeply entrenched trad blues the way I've heard Neil or Kim
or Steve play and sing.  But there are simularities.
I think Mitch Weiss is really stretching out the boundries with his Power
CX10 slide harmonica mixing his blues/rock & Jazz rhythms.

Whilst we haven't got the extensive range and number of role models for the
harmonica that guitar or piano can boast, we do have a diverse range - and
yes there are some people who feel deeply divided about their approach and
which instrument they play - that is their born right, but they are a
portion of the community, not the entire community.  Its easy to quickly
build up all encompassing views of the world between a few people on an
email group.  But the truth is something else.

What about Asia???   Theres a HUGE world of harmonica music in the East.
The harmonica is ubiquitous and popular in Malaysia as the guitar is in
USA - there are music teachers employed between two or three schools
teaching up to 300 students how to play chromatic harmonica, or tremelo
harmonica, or bass and chord ... and blues harmonica.  I have a couple of
VCDs here of a Malaysian school's performance with a hundred or so children
playing various pop and classical tunes as a complete orchestra with
everything from a pair of tremelos, to chromatic, to melodicas with bass and
chord players standing at the back beside the drummer and a pianoist off to
the side.
Then pairs and trios of students who'd prepared music for the concert
performed their own choices.  Some of these students can play amazing stuff
with just a pair of tremelos.   One chap bravely got up with a pair of blues
harps and played an excellent train song whilst switching between harps for
some of the chord changes and solos.

The divide is not global and all encompassing, it is a feature found between
two schools of western musicians which I think you will find is not limited
to harmonica players.   What about electric rock guitarists and Flaminco
acoustic guitarists?   Ask some hardcore blues guitarists what they think of
classical guitarists, or better yet watch their faces as you ask them about
their Jazz playing brothers.  :)

Its a huge world with around 6 trillion people, some of those people love
playing harmonica.  Of those people some of them prefer blues harp, some
prefer chromatic harmonica.
Of that small diverse group, some like playing both, some can't see the
point.... and on it goes until you're focussing on this minute segment of
two groups arbitarily pitted against each other which gets blown out of
proportion on an email group with a membership of over 1000 players, and a
vocal minority of about 100 players... so their opinions come to the fore.

It pays to put these things in perspective.

Best regards,

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