Re: beginning blues chrom questions
- Subject: Re: beginning blues chrom questions
- From: "Winslow Yerxa" <winslowyerxa@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2003 22:24:55 -0000
- --- In harp-l-archives@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "Jason Paul Stolaruk"
It's been years since I posted to Harp-L (although I haven't
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
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
your mouth and tongue block the left 3 holes. This is REALLY awkward
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
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
as follows: cover only 3 holes with my mouth and block the left 2
tongue. I can feel my way around the chrom quite easily this way,
the book I read was adamant about tongue blocking 3 holes, I wonder
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
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
together sound like a D pentatonic scale to my ears but I don't
maybe it's not the key of D but Dmin (could someone please clarify
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
King's" album, but he's playing it in Eb and I assume he's just
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
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
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
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
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