Re: [Harp-L] Music First, Harmonica Second
I address it when I can. This is something I am exploring and the
chromatic player I want to be is a vamper. I mean, playing straight
melodies is good an all, but it makes me want to fall asleep and the fact I have narcolepsy probably doesn't help.
The old timers, back in The Day, by that I mean the 1930s, didn't have solo tuned chromatics as a rule. When the mass produced chromatics became available in the late 1920s, they were Richter note placement chromatics, chords and double stop chords out the wazoo. I hear a lot of RIchter with Minnevitch and it seems you don't really start hearing solo tuned as the mainstay chrom until Murad's generation took the helm.
I first got turned on to Richter Chromatics when I became a Seydel dealer. Seydel had one and I got it, thinking it would be an easy adjustment for a guy who'd played diatonic since he was five. But it wasn't. Trying to play cross harp on the damn thing was an absolute horror. The lightning bolt hit me one day when I was checking out this solo Minnevitch recording (http://www.patmissin.com/78rpm/HayseedRag.mp3 ) and it hit me what he was doing. First position Richter chromatic. I started trying out vamping in first position right away. This is also, Pat says, the first known recording of a chromatic harmonica (dates to 1924).
The bluesiness is in first position. You've got the five chord as your 1234 draw chord, the I as your blow chord. But, you also have a V# and a I# chord you can throw in. Plus a bazillion double stops. Vamping on a RIchter Chromatic just feels right.
I've also been working on vamping on the solo tuned chromatic. This started with playing Bill Monroe's "Last Days on Earth" where Bill does a bunch of double stops on the mandolin. They are also possible on a chromatic harmonica.
It would be nice if folks with more talent and time than I would explore this. I think this type of playing would be a great vehicle for the chromatic to breakout of its pidgeonholed niche. I'm confident that at some point, somebody is going to do something on chromatic that's the equivalent of Howard Levy and the diatonic that will blow us all away. I don't think the chromatic has seen its full potential.
Also never addressed "chord" vamping that all the old-time chromatic
players did. Either to gloss over a passage too difficult to play or to cover up
the fact that there is only one major chord on a chrome. A chromatic player
pointed out to me during SPAH that the diatonic only has two chords (for
vamping in tongue block). What he didn't mention is that the chrome only has ONE
chord -- the blow chord and just about any combination on the draw except
octaves is discordant, does not go together, work, fit or whatever with the
note(s) --- because it is not even wrong."
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