[Harp-L] Re:Positions playing
and if we are talking, as we are here, not jamming we need to use terms to describe what we do; descriptions of note patterns, scales, chords, rhythms etc.
>>> Steve Baker <steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> 13/03/2009 10:09 >>>
Geoff Atkins wrote:
<Re: Position playing (Robert Hale, John F. Potts, Winslow Yerxa)
I'm perplexed about the necessity to comprehend the details of the
Dorian, Aeolian, and Phrygian minor modes, when I'm not Greek!
The 12th position on a ten hole harp also is kinda hard:
I use a single position, "harp in mouth" and instinctually play whatever
the music requires, on a harp suited to the guitarists' key.
I've played as a session harpist, so it works for me.
JJ Cale was once asked: "Did you learn any music theory?"
His reply "Yes, but not enough to damage my playing".
Erudition is a wonderful thing, when Art teachers meet, they talk
but when artists meet, they talk about canvas and brushes.>
I imagine Cale had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he made the
above comment. Playing instinctually is without doubt also a
wonderful thing, but the term can cover a multitude of sins and I've
experienced many players claiming to do this who then proceeded to
trample all over the chord sequence while ignoring the modal
character of the song. Most of them didn't notice that they were
playing notes or phrases which clashed gratingly with the chords they
were supposed to be accompanying and which had little to do with the
melodic character of the song. I don't wish to imply that you do
this, Geoff, but it happens a lot and is one of the reasons why
"proper musicians" often hate harmonica players (forgive me for
repeating this pet rant, if it gets on peoples nerves then tell me to
The idea of learning the scales which correspond to the most commonly
used positions on the harp is to be able to play notes and phrases
which fit to the song you're playing, either because they share the
same modal basis as the melody, or because they're more likely to
harmonize with the chords of that tune than the notes of a different,
less appropriate mode, due to the fact that they they share more
notes in common.
For example, on a tune like "Nobody's Business If I Do" it sounds
better if you avoid typical blues scale licks, because the song is
much too major both in the melody and in the chording for the
basically minor blues scale mode to sound pleasing. On the other
hand, phrasing based on the major pentatonic mode, in any position
you enjoy playing in, will sound much better integrated into this
song. Another example recently and frequently quoted here in Harp-L
is Sonny Boy's "Help Me", where the major pentatonic scale cannot
help but sound wrong (to my ears at least) due to the fundamentally
minor nature of the song. Of course if your ear is reliable enough
that you automatically take these things into account and play
accordingly then there's no necessity to be able to explain them in a
theoretical sense, but not many intuitive players succeed in doing
this on more than a limited range of material.
Ear training is a significant part of the process of learning to
select the appropriate mode/position/special tuning for any given
tune, but the basic rule is very simple: the song comes first and
your job is to serve it, so it's best to learn how it goes before you
Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH, http://www.spah.org
This archive was generated by a fusion of
Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and