[Harp-L] video review requested--randy singer and grammy winner MICKI FREE perform...

Randy said,

 "THIS  WAS THE VERY FIRST TIME I HEARD THIS SONG!!!!! This was total improv
as I  was hearing the song for the FIRST time."

"Not  looking for handicap points, but we harmonica players have to
sometimes sit in  and never know the key or vibe of the song before we
"This is a real art, the art of sitting in."

Randy, you just stated a very significant fact:

"This is a real art, the art of sitting in."

Playing a set of songs regularly with a band has its benefits in really
getting an arrangement down, but you have to use a different skill set when
you are sitting in.

Sitting in is not just an exercise in which you show off your ability to
navigate the harp, though you do need to be able to navigate the harp.  When
you play a song cold, never heard, never before played, you have to open
yourself up, get big ears, and ease into the material.

It helps to know the key of the song, and it helps having a harp that it
lays on well (unless you are skilled at using just one key of chromatic or
diatonic and you play fluently with total chromaticism on the one
instrument).  I use multiple harps, and from the video I am assuming that
you use multiple harps as well, despite being an amazing chromatic player.

If you are sitting in you need to be prepared to play in whatever key is
being played, and that includes having the instrument to do the job, and
choosing the harp and position that you think will let you make the best
music with the song.  If you are sitting in at another musician's gig, you
want to enhance the music.  The challenge isn't to show you can do it all on
one instrument.  if you can, that's wonderful!  The challenge is to make
good music.

Am I correct that Micki Free was tuned down a half step and playing the
fingering for Em, thus putting him in concert Ebm?  It seems from the video
that you are using a Db diatonic in 3rd?  I know you could have used a
chromatic with the button in, but some of the bends sound like diatonic
bends.  If it was a different harp/position than Db diatonic in 3rd, please
post what you were using!

Your video illustrates how when you are sitting in and learning a song in
the moment you gradually get your feet wet.  You still take risks and make
yourself vulnerable to stepping on it, but you start out more cautiously.
Then, as the song structure becomes clear, you let yourself sink fully into
improvisation, and hang it all out there.

There is a moment during the first break he has you solo on (starting at
1:28) when at 1:39 he suddenly jumps into a chorus with an unexpected chord
change.  You immediately adjust and respond to his having resumed vocals,
and follow this change, immediately echoing his vocal melody.  Really nice!

You did a good job, and your solo at the end when you cut loose is

I don't know how the art of sitting in can be taught other than by just
doing it.  I have heard many diatonic players get locked into blues
progressions and play the same progressions and riffs when sitting in, even
when the chord changes do not support that approach.

If you have any ideas on how sitting in on non blues songs could be taught,
it might make a good intermediate/advanced workshop topic at SPAH, or at
some other gathering of harmonica musicians.

Thank you for posting this great and instructive video.

Doug S.

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