[Harp-L] Jazz Fusion on a Diatonic

It's very possible to play jazz fusion and other types of what i call "R&B style jazz" on diatonic. I've been sitting in with a couple of electric jazz bands and doing quite a bit of tis sort of material over the last couple of years. Sometimes i play straight into my amp with no effects except a delay set to slap back in the effects loop, but i also use a Micro POG and a RotoSim (singly and in combination) between the mic (Shure 545 Ultimate) and the amp which more than allows me to keep up with the electronic effects of the guitar, and fits well with this style of music. One has to think out the box somewhat, and be able to play over chord changes other than the standard I-IV-V blues stuff, and be able to catch grooves that are a little different than the usual blues or rock grooves, but it's not all that hard to do. I'm often playing natural minor (fifth position) and Dorian minor (third position) and i have to use straight harp occasionally (without bends), but a lot of the time second position works just fine and I can actually get quite a bit of mileage out of the blues scale, or some variation thereof.

I don't overblow, but i can get around fairly proficiently in 5 positions (1 through 5) and passably in 12th. The trick is to pick a position that gives you a mode that works for the particular tune, then bend when necessary for the other notes you need and know when to lay out completely. Also, it really helps that the other musicians in these bands are not only knowledgeable, but also really supportive and sympathetic and select material i can handle, even though some of it it may challenge me the first time through. Occasionally, i need to use 2 harps on different passages of the same tune. But there's all kinds of interesting stuff you can easily do on a diatonic like playing chord extensions in a Dorian minor tune on the high end in third position, for example, if you know what notes are extensions of which chords (i don't have the best ear for precisely identifying chords on the spot, so this is something of a work in progress for me, but it's very doable).

I know enough basic music theory to understand what the jazz guys are telling me when they talk about chords, scales and modes, and I ask questions and listen carefully when they take the time to explain stuff. I have a pretty good sense of groove, I can play lines at the same speed as a sax when necessary, and i can use mic gripping/ handling technique to get some pretty interesting electric sounding effects even when I'm not using the pedals, so all of this technique really helps me keep up with the band on material that's not ordinarily played on harmonica. However, I don't have the best melodic sense and my technique is more consistent and better developed than my note selection, so I'm still somewhere on the early arc of the learning curve. But the other musicians are helping me along and the audience seems to really like it when I play. I've never really played the harmonica like a harmonica anyway, so this stuff is really interesting and fun. And using the pedals is almost like playing a different instrument, so I change my technique and phrasing when i use them which is very stimulating and a lot of fun to do.

Now, if a harp player is into bullet mics and tube amps and aspires to playing "Juke" note for note, this sort of music would require a radical change in approach since it's not something that closely resembles what has been been played by the ODBGs we all admire. BUT, yes, IMHO it's very doable on a diatonic.



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