Re: beginning blues chrom questions

- --- In harp-l-archives@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "Jason Paul Stolaruk" 
<stolaruk@xxxx> wrote:

Hi everyone,
It's been years since I posted to Harp-L (although I haven't 
necessarily been
lurking the whole time).  Anyway your past advice and hints and tips 
really helped me to improve and advance my playing in the past 
I've been playing blues on the diatonic in 2nd position for about 8 
years now.
I recently bought a CX-12 chrom with the intention of playing blues, 
but I'm a
little bit baffled as to how to approach this beast.  I have a few 
(and I apologize for the fact that most of them are rather basic):
First, I happened to read in a book that it is essential to cover 4 
holes with
your mouth and tongue block the left 3 holes.  This is REALLY awkward 
for me.
I can never seem to tell if I'm covering all 3 holes with my tongue.  
I've gotten quite good at using a tongue block on the diatonic for 
the purpose
playing octaves (your mouth covers 4 holes and your tongue blocks the 
2).  Perhaps for this reason, it feels quite natural for me to play 
the chrom
as follows: cover only 3 holes with my mouth and block the left 2 
with my
tongue.  I can feel my way around the chrom quite easily this way, 
but since
the book I read was adamant about tongue blocking 3 holes, I wonder 
if my
technique will somehow create problems for me down the line.  What do 


A lot of open-chord blues chromatic is chordal. If you're just 
getting single notes, then it doesn't matter how many holes you cover 
with your tongue. But if you listen to people playing the usual blues 
chromatic style - Little Walter, George Smith, Piazza, Clarke, Kim 
WIlson, Mark Hummel, etc. - you'll hear they do a lot with chords. 
Not just open chords, but split chords, where they play notes one 
both sides of the tongue.

If you cover 3 holes and play out of both sides, blocking the hole in 
the middle, you can play decent sounding stuff. But covering two 
holes for a spread of four gives a richer sound. This is what Little 
Walter mostly did. It seems that most players, however, followed 
George Smith's leads and played full octaves - a five holes spread, 
blociking three holes in the middle.

Not only do players play clean split intervals, they also lift the 
tongue and put it down again in arious ways. AGain, this works with 
four and five holes spreads but will lkely sound a little dinky with 

I have to admit, when I started I had no trouble with a three or four 
holes spread, but it took me a long time to work up to five. Get 
comfortable with three, then try stretching it to fourt, then . . . 

My other questions relate to how a C chrom is typically played in 
blues.  Based
on the music that has reached my ears, it seems to me that a lot of 
players only pick up the chrom to play in D and focus on the draw 
notes (which
together sound like a D pentatonic scale to my ears but I don't 
know).  Or
maybe it's not the key of D but Dmin (could someone please clarify 
this?)  I
don't have enough knowledge of theory to break this down myself.  



Pentatonic just means :five notes" -that is. a five-note scale. There 
are several different kinds of those. What you're hearing is a Dorian 
scale. This is a minor-sounding scale that is based on step up from 
the home note of a major scale - if we're looking at a C harp, this 
will be D. And, of course, D on a C-harp is third position.

(You can also
hear Rod Piazza playing chrom on Diamonds At Her Feet from the "Live 
at BB
King's" album, but he's playing it in Eb and I assume he's just 
holding the
button in the whole time.)  



Yup. You can just hold the button and play like third, or you can 
start dipping the slide out and back in again for some cool effects. 
If we relate this key to the C base key of the harp, it works out to 
10th position.

Next question: what position is this called
(meaning key of D [or Dmin??] on a C chrom)?  

And why not just pick up a C
diatonic and play it in virtually the same way?  Is it because the 
tuning of
the diatonic in the lower register is a little different than the 



Not only the bottom register but the top, too. All three octaves on a 
diatonic are tuned differently. On a chromatic they're all the same, 
allowing you to sweep up and down the harp and play the same lick the 
same way in all three octaves. That bottom-octave D minor chord 
(instead of G) really opens up the chordal aspect of playing in third 
on chromatic.


Are there any other positions that blues players use when they play 


Sure. In addition to D and Eb on a C-harp (you do hear these 
positions on other keys of chromatic as well), you can hear G (Paul 
Oscher, Paul deLay, Stevie Wonder), Ab (deLay), F (Dennis Gruenling) 
and C (George Smith, Mark Hummel, deLay, Larry Adler, Stevie Wonder). 
Stevie plays a single-note style quite different from the usual blues 
approach, and plays in all these keys plus E, Bb, A, C#, and maybe 
some others.


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