Re: [Harp-L] Back to Phrasing...

Excellent way to bring things back to the core conversation.

By my humble experience it sounds like you already are doing all kinds of good things to get the phrasing going.

I think listening to the greats and playing in their footsteps is a great way to go for many. Jazz and blues are such "feel" genres and while it certainly doesn't hurt to to work on craft, I've learned that you just have let go and feel what they are saying.

There is the tough part. Letting go and getting out ouf your head. It is very much like sports. You train to the point that when you are on the field, you can just go with the flow of play and feel what has to happen next.

I think they call it "the zone".

As soon as I shut up that internal conversation, stop listening to myself and really listen to the other players, I get better results/ phrasing/dynamics. If the other players are doing the same thing, it gets magical. That's when the room lights up.

For the last couple of years , I've been doing side man work with singer songwriters . Most songs I play just a few notes or phases often with no solo opportunity. This forces me to spend most of my time listening. Then when the feeling is right, I insert a few notes or just one note if that is what works. I learned this by observing people like Dave McKelvy.

Someone previuosly wrote that it is like a conversation. Only add to it if it moves the subject along. Don't talk for the sake of talking.

When I work with singer song writers it almost feels like arranging flowers. It is all about balance and composition.

I have several heros who mastered this. Among them are Big Walter Horton, BB King, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, but my main man is Miles Davis.

For you blues lovers out there remember Miles was always playing' the blues. He just used Jazz to get to it. His album Kind of Blue says it all.

I think I'll shut up and listen now .

From Gary Popenoe

On Jan 26, 2008, at 10:32 AM, Mojo Red <harplicks@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Hi gang,

I just read through the recent thread on phrasing and very much enjoyed most of the comments.

...until the discussion veered off into a discussion about something somebody once said, out of context, barely relevant to the discussion at hand...

Anyway, I think the concept of phrasing is of HUGE importance to harp players and I know I would benefit form further input by some of the more advanced players on the list.

First of all, how does one cultivate his own phrasing? I know harp players who are not particularly fancy or technical with overblows or whatever, but who's playing I find incredibly powerful and/or poignant... why? Because of excellence in phrasing. This concept transcends musical genres and is of equal imporance throughout the musical spectrum.

I don't believe good phrasing comes neccessarily from being well studied in musical theory, but I may be wrong. I know a local blues player here in Denver who has the most remarkable phrasing, yet adimantly avoids theory. I listen to a lot of music other than harmonica and pick up ways to phrase things that I try to adopt their ideas in my own playing -- especially jazz players such as Coltrane, Mingus and those guys.

Someone's comment earlier about "playing the spaces" rings true, but doesn't explain much to me in terms of how to advance my own goals regarding phrasing.

For myself I try to work on my phrasing with slower numbers. Take Mingus' "Porkpie Hat" for example. I will play the head several times through (third position) and each time try to change aspects of my phrasing (timing, note emphasis, spaces, etc), not the actual notes played, in as many ways as I can, just to explore the many paths that are available. Getting the most out of a song like that can mean differnt things at different times and by phrasing it differently you can pull out different emotions, and give the song a completely different feel.

I find this fascinating and extremely helpful in my development as a musician.

I would appreciate further discussion in this area.

Chris Michalek, Michael Peloquin, are you guys out there? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic as I admire your phrasing a great deal.

Harpin' in Colorado,
--Ken M.


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