Re: [Harp-L] SPAH and me

Hear, Hear.

I agree completely that the role of the harmonica can be so much more than what it is often relegated to, esp in band situations. I also agree that conscious efforts should be made to expand the harmonicaâs role, lest that role shrink and/or stagnate. The harmonica has so much to offer in terms of range and tone... and it is both chordal and melodic. It can most certainly be as integral to songs as the ubiquitous guitars, basses and keys. 

I would be very excited to attend a Rosco seminar on the topic at SPAH!

Or maybe a panel?

There are people doing this kind of work, maybe more now than ever, and Michaelâs point about being proactive in presenting this at SPAH is spot on.

If you still havenât heard Roscoâs album, you owe it to yourself to check it out; itâs fantastic!

And if you want to hear a very different, integral use of harmonicaâs check out my recent song âWrongâ which uses harmonicas throughout (double bass, XB-40 and chromatic) and as the basis for the composition (the song was written around the bass harp part). Be forewarned, however: the song is heavy metal.

(itâs ok to promote your work now and then, esp when itâs related to a larger topicâ)


- John

Dr. John Shirley, Chairman
Department of Music
The University of Massachusetts Lowell

> On Aug 19, 2015, at 10:13 AM, Michael Rubin <michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Rosco,
> I am with you and am interested in the same ideas.  I have found the amount
> of work in a variety of genres increased dramatically by putting your ideas
> into effect.  Perhaps you should run a seminar next year?
> Michael Rubin
> On Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 9:03 AM, rosco <roscoharp@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> I'm a bad Harp-l citizen! Seems I'm one of those people who only post to
>> Harp-l when I'm trying to promote something I did or something I'm going to
>> do. In my defense, the biggest reason for that is that almost EVERYONE on
>> this list knows more about how harps work, the history of harmonica, and
>> how to play the thing than I do. I usually have nothing to add to the
>> discussions. But I am a regular reader and I think Harp-l is a fantastic
>> resource for our community. So...this post is both a promotional one and, I
>> hope, the springboard for discussion.
>> My thoughts on my SPAH experience:
>> SPAH is awesome, and anyone who is interested in harmonica and hasn't
>> attended a SPAH should go! I tell everyone that, and I believe it! When I
>> was first learning to play harp, SPAH was incredibly inspiring. In those
>> days I was playing mainly blues, and for a blues guy, SPAH is heaven. As I
>> expanded the styles of music I wanted to play, there wasn't as much to gain
>> musically from SPAH. SPAH is maybe 50% blues oriented? And the rest is
>> split up into Jazz Chro, country, a little folk, and some miscellaneous
>> personality driven music (classical, Celtic, etc.). For me,SPAH has became
>> less and less about the performances and seminars, and more about the close
>> friendships I've made and that I'm still making in the harp community. This
>> is not necessarily an indictment of SPAH - the convention seems to please
>> most of the attendees...but it MIGHT be an indictment of our harmonica
>> community in general. There is a huge range of music where our instrument
>> is very under-represented. These days I'm involved with singer/songwriters
>> and bands that play original Americana,  pop, and rock. These genres are
>> what I mostly listen to, as do millions of other music fans, and they are
>> what I want to play! And would I love to hear more of on 'our' instrument
>> played by others in this larger universe of music. It seems there isn't
>> much instruction or discussion oriented towards making harp a legitimate
>> 'band' instrument outside of blues...maybe there isn't much interest, but
>> the A in SPAH stands for ADVANCEMENT.
>> Here are some of the things I'm interested in that I've learned through
>> years of trial and error: trying to make  harp fit without always
>> shoehorning a solo in; playing 'parts' with bandmates; playing the melody;
>> laying out for a verse or two while the song builds (or just LAYING OUT
>> ALTOGETHER!); playing long tones with varied vibrato; finding a part that
>> makes a chorus 'pop' - that kind of stuff. (I think of my harp as playing
>> violin-like lines when I'm comping behind a singer.) There is not much of
>> this at SPAH. Even the best performances are usually so harp-centric that
>> they wear out my ears...and I LOVE harp! I'm sure someone somewhere at SPAH
>> sang a song with harmony vocals and sweet harp fills, but I missed it. I
>> miss it every time I go. There is an emphasis on blues and jazz that is
>> understandable - most players fall somewhere along that continuum.  I don't
>> hear harp used much to accompany a singer or to fit into the song as a
>> 'real' band instrument and not just to solo. I hear some, sure,  but not a
>> lot. Maybe there isn't much interest in this kind of playing? Or maybe we
>> slot ourselves too easily into what we are expected to play? I love Blues,
>> but I think there is a lot of untapped potential for harmonica in other
>> forms of music.
>> Anyway, I just put this on Facebook:
>> 'I just got back from a large gathering of harmonica players from all over
>> the world. There were some truly great performances by harmonica
>> wizards....but I missed hearing actual songs! Harmonica can be used as much
>> more than just a blues instrument or for a flashy solo break! I've been
>> trying to make harp work in 'songs' for a long time, and now I've written
>> and recorded an album with that philosophy.'
>> You can listen to 4 of my songs here:
>> --
>> Later,
>> Ron 'Rosco' Selley
>> <>

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