[Harp-L] Overblows - 12 keys

Laurent Vigouroux laurent.vigouroux@xxxxx
Tue Feb 12 13:16:53 EST 2019

Hello all

As I've just made the exercise again (playing in 12 keys), I've had a look at harp-l regarding this subject and I've just discovered this post by Richard I did not see in November. 
I'd like to reply to it. I'm not objecting what he says, it's just that we could see the other face of the coin.

Of course playing in 12 keys is just an exercise. 
Of course we can change harp and use alternate tunings at will and this is pretty useful.
Of course we don’t have chords and can't play counterpoints with overblows.

But if master overblows we can:
-Handle a modulation in the tune, which does happen.
-Play "out"?
-Use the notes (any of them) we want to fit the specific context.
-Get the best of both worlds: for example playing in Gm (say the song Roxanne) on a C harp is so powerful as we can use all the 2nd position tricks. But we need the Eb (4°) and the Bb (6°) (see a far from perfect impro of mine at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlgRlKKh23A).

To do that, we've got to work intensively on the overblows and the 12 keys exercise is perfect for that. Another one is to try and play in known tunes/solos in a foreign key. For example Stevie's solo on Isn't she lovely in the real key (C#m) on a C harp.

In my point of view, overblowing is actually the technique that unlocks the harp players and encourage them to learn and play music as any other musician.
It is sticking to the positions and alternate tunings which looks "limited" to me. But I totally respect the players who do that (and I actually really enjoyed Richard's album!).

Just a question of point of view __

Happy harpin'

    On Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 10:45 AM Richard Hunter <rhunter377 at xxxxx>
    > I meet very few professional harmonica players nowadays who don't use
    > overnotes (nice word).  They're too useful to ignore.
    > I don't meet many professional harmonica players who use overnotes to play
    > a single diatonic instrument in 12 keys, for the simple reason that it's a
    > lot easier to use overnotes within the context of traditional 1st/2nd/3rd
    > etc. than it is to take a C harmonica into the key of F#.  For any but the
    > most practiced overnote masters, it's also a hell of a lot more musical.
    > Howard Levy is an acknowledged master of the technique, and if you read the
    > notes on his website, he does NOT generally play everything on a single
    > harmonica.  He switches harps when he changes keys.  Why?  because it's
    > easier and more musical.
    > When I interviewed Toots Thielemans for "Jazz Harp," he said that there was
    > a lot of "look Ma, no hands!" stuff in the harmonica world.  Playing in 12
    > keys on a diatonic is a nice trick, but what does it do for you that using
    > a few overnotes in 1st/2nd/3rd or (gasp!) playing the music a on a
    > chromatic harp doesn't do more easily and more musically (for most
    > people)?  That's not even taking into account that there is NO known (or at
    > this point imaginable)  technique for playing harmonies in 12 keys on a
    > single diatonic (or a single chromatic, for that matter).  If you want a
    > wider range of chords on the instrument, non-standard tunings like natural
    > Minor/Dorian Minor/Melody Maker, etc. work a whole lot better than
    > overnotes (granted, not a high bar, given that overnotes don't work at all
    > for anything but single notes).  If you want to play realtime counterpoint,
    > which is one of the things I routinely do on diatonic harmonicas and
    > something that chromatic players were doing before I came on the scene,
    > overnotes are useless.
    > Summary: overnotes are a valuable but limited technique, and they're far
    > from the answer to every musical problem that a harmonica player faces.
    > Every pro should know how to perform them, but I wouldn't advise every pro
    > to aspire to play everything on a single diatonic instrument in a single
    > key, the outstanding contributions of Levy/Peyrelavade/etc.
    > notwithstanding.
    > Regards, Richard Hunter
    > --
    > Help fund Richard Hunter's "Blue Future" killer blues record!
    > https://igg.me/at/bluefuture/x/18098212
    > Check out Richard Hunter's 21st Century rock harmonica masterpiece "The
    > Lucky One" at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/richardhunter
    > Author, "Jazz Harp" (Oak Publications, NYC)
    > Latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://hunterharp.com
    > Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick
    > Twitter: @lightninrick­­­‪­‪­­­‪‪­­‪­‪­‪­­­­‪­­‪‪‪­‪‪­­­‪­‪­­­­‪‪­­‪­‪­­­­

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