[Harp-L] Looking for Guidance

Mick Zaklan mzaklan@xxxxx
Wed Jun 13 12:45:43 EDT 2018

   I've been playing since '69 and have ignored 1st position for most of
those years.  A couple of years ago I decided to try to learn the position
for blues.  I first sat down and moved my cross harp licks over to 1st.
Very useful.  I think most guys would tell you to listen to Jimmy Reed
records.   I think Kim Fields once told me a great starting point would be
Big Walter Horton's "Hard Hearted Woman".  Not bad advice, especially for
the high end bends.  Most 1st position players tend to spend a lot of time
on the last 3 or 4 holes of the harmonica, then swing down to the first 4
holes for dramatic effect.  I make a point of trying to incorporate the
middle holes.  If I learn something, I always attempt to duplicate it up
and down the harp.  Helps me play my way out of jams if I get stuck for
ideas.  I try to listen to bands like Tuba Skinny on YouTube, who are
coming at the blues from a New Orleans Dixieland jazz direction.  Which
works well with jug band stuff.  I particularly like the turnaround phrases
those folks use, so different from Chicago blues.  And the very melodic
song "heads" they play.
   I mean, if you're looking for hip phrases, try listening to trumpet
players and replicating their stuff on the high end.  Or highly
sophisticated first position players like Rhythm Willie, Joe Filisko and
Don Les.
   First is still a pretty wide-open position with plenty of work to be
done.  And once you get comfortable in it; 12th position (another very
melodic position) is a natural transition.  Because you've already been
dabbling in it by playing the blues in 1st.
   Good luck and kudos for pursuing a neglected area of American roots


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