Re: boring harp-long
The title says it all, and Jimmy explores a few options he's tried to break
up the sound of the harp, which can get a little monotonous after a while.
Some things I use are 1. listen to other musicians, ESPECIALLY non harp
players. I've been a fan of John Coltrane and Miles Davis for eons, and for
different reasons. Coltrane was anything but simple. He played a lot of
very tasty fast stuff, and got a lot of "feeling" out of faster tempos with
very complex licks.
But Miles - he was a totally different study. He'd play just one note -
nothing fancy - no embellishments - just a note. But the WAY he played it,
placed it, timed it, and expressed it was nothing short of amazing -
astounding - unbelievable. and sometimes it was the way he DIDN'T play. He
used rests masterfully. Yes, it's sometimes OK to not play *anything*.
Jimmy Vaughan does a lot of stuff like this - tasty licks, tasteful use of
rests, and such - and yet his sound is anything but "Miles" like. Jimmy
once said something along the line of "I just play what makes the song sound
better. If I can't make it better, then I don't play". Oh, how I wish I
could force this mindset into some jammers.
One musician I really like a lot for licks easily adapted to my style of
harp is David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Yes, another sparing player - and yet
his solos are quite powerful and emotional.
Hank Crawford is a mainstream jazz sax player. Again, he won't dazzle you
with speed and such. You just find yourself suddenly infected by his music.
You're tapping your foot and enjoying the tune. And you do that throughout
his entire performance (or album).
I'm not saying these guys are right for you. They're right for ME, though.
Find a group of musicians you REALLY enjoy - NOT for the pyrotechnics, but
because you find them very LISTENABLE. Listen to their music, and try to
envision something along these lines coming out of YOUR harmonica. It
doesn't have to be exact - in fact, it's much better if you just try to
capture the overall FEELING rather than the actual playing itself. We want
to come up with something unique, and we're looking for general guidelines.
It is well known that Little Walter copped licks from horn players of his
era, and yet he doesn't cop them *exactly* - he captures the FEELING, the
ESSENCE of these musicians.
Some of the most innovative musicians have been those who are not "good
enough" to copy others. Because of this, they can't be in good cover bands,
and have to come up with something they can handle. This is usually a
The bottom line is, if YOU think your harmonica playing is getting boring,
you're probably right. But there is a LOT you can do to get yourself out of
How about you trying to play your guitarists solo as close as possible, and
let him try to play yours note for note?
Jimmy touches on different positions. There are twelve possible positions,
so just based on this, there are twelve different possible sounds for any
given solo. Most of us use 1st and 2nd; and a few 3rd, but there is a LOT
of very usable (and EASY) harp in 4th, 5th, and 6th positions, as well as
12th. Those who attended the LARHA jam a couple weeks ago heard myself and
Jon Gindick jamming with two C harps in B minor 6th position (and if Jon's
coming to the next one on 2/23, I think we might try it again).
I'm also very much into effects. Reverbs, echoes, delays, and such can all
add a lot to your variety. So can modulation effects like chorus, phasing,
vibrato, and even flanging. One of my favorites is pitch shifting, which I
use to get an octave for more of a "horn sound" from my harp. But I use it
only a couple of times a night max. It gets old fast. Like Jimmy Vaughan
says, "If it makes the song sound better, I use it".
I have some tunes where I don't use harmonica. And likewise, I have a few
where I don't play guitar, either. Sometimes just bass and drums are the
"right" instruments for what I want to say.
- -IronMan Mike Curtis Band http://www.ironmancurtis.com *Southland Blues
Magazine http://www.SouthlandBlues.com TU 8pm Starboard Attitude/Redondo
Santa Monica 3rd St Promenade, various times - email my cellphone (2 lines
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