Re: [Harp-L] Rhythm Harp

huck-a-ta puck-a-ta is a good nonsense sentence to play around with. Learned this from Madcat at Augusta Heritage Center Blues Week.

As to finding the holes in a rhythm track, I prefer to leave some holes (or silences) in the groove. If every available hole is filled with sound, the groove can start to sound too dense.

I learned a lot by listening to Siegel/Schwall Band. They left a lot of holes in their shuffle groove, playing the "silences together", which created an infectious groove rhythm that would get the crowd listening to rock back and forth as a unit.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Deifik <kenneth.d@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: Degregorio, Jeffery <jeffery.degregorio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: harp-l <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thu, Jul 12, 2012 9:11 pm
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Rhythm Harp

>Besides soloing at times, it's great to play some rhythm harp (such as 
>repeating a phrase being sung, or performing some "harp" percussion, 
>syncopation, accompliment, and basically adding more to the music.
>Does anyone know of great sources of information to become proficient at 
>this? (various YouTubes, training, books, DVDs, etc.)

Hi Jeffrey,
Rhythm harp is a great subject, not often treated here.  I don't know 
Madcat's instructional materials, but I have to believe they're 
great.  He's a fabulous musician.

I have found myself playing rhythm harp at least as much as leads and 
solos.  I learned alot from listening to rhythm guitarists, especially 
Steve Cropper on the Stax recordings.  Also by studying how the three 
guitarists split the rhythm chores on Motown records.

The real job is learning how to play a rhythm that helps drive the piece 
But Does Not Stick Out all the time.  That's a big deal.  Harp sticks out 
if you don't consciously make sure that you aren't in front 100% of the 
time.  You can just stop playing, but if you want to be part of the rhythm 
section you have to find other ways to not stick out.

I still make an exercise of studying a really good rhythm track and finding 
the holes, the places where nobody else in the rhythm section is 
playing.  I then try to find an engaging set of figures to play within 
those holes - that is I try to find which bits to leave out so that what 
stays in is musically valid on its own, but is really "locked" as part of 
the ensemble.

Always try to find ways to not stick out - harp sticks out without any 
trouble when you want it to, and even when you don't if you're not aware 
that much of the time you should be felt and not heard.

I'm always telling players to work with a metronome daily.  Among the many 
advantages this will give you is the ability to hear when to play ahead of 
the beat, when to play behind it, and when to sit right on top of it.  This 
goes for soloing too, but you can make a tremendous contribution to the 
excitement of a band performance by hearing when you should be in front of 
the beat.

Most blues players on most instruments learn how to play behind the 
beat.  When I used to see blues in the clubs I could always tell when the 
players weren't fully developed because nobody ever played ahead of the 
beat, at least not on purpose.
Playing ahead of the beat, when done right, is often the secret to 
excitement in performance.

I used to sit in with a good band, 40 years ago, that would start to lag 
about halfway through.  They would call me up and I would get everybody 
dancing just based on pushing the beat while everyone else was sitting 
comfortably behind.  I played both rhythm harp and solos when I sat 
in.  One morning after such a gig their manager called to offer to put a 
band together for me - he saw how I could excite an audience. I guarantee 
you it wasn't because of my looks. Aside from the fact that I was a good 
harmonica player I could really control an audience with that little secret 
of knowing when to push ahead of the beat.  (Idiot that I was I turned the 
guy down.  He went on to open the Bottom Line.)

The greatest exponent of playing ahead of the beat in American dance band 
music was King Curtis.  His bands were always full of studio cats who could 
play around a beat in their sleep.  And so often you hear Curtis, or the or 
the bass or the drums, or something, pushing the beat.  They're so good 
that it never sounds rushed, but the excitement on his records is 
wonderfully unbearable.

It's of course really important to learn the kinds of rhythm techniques 
that Madcat can show you, but learning how to use these techniques in the 
ensemble will make you a valuable band member.



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