[Harp-L] Harp playing by musicians not considered harmonica players

Ronnie Schreiber autothreads@xxxxx
Tue Jun 2 13:10:40 EDT 2020

I deliberately didn't mention Dylan because so many harp enthusiasts 
don't like his "sloppy" first position playing and I didn't want to get 
into that particular debate. Since you brought Bob up, though, I'll say 
that his "two note solos" on the electric guitar also get criticized, 
but after more than 60 years of playing guitar himself, along with 
having played with many great guitarists like Mike Bloomfield, he's 
actually a pretty competent finger picking guitar player as can be heard 
on the album of folk standards he released a while back. Can he pick 
like Jorma Kaukonen, no, but then Jorma will tell you how much he 
respects Dylan as a musician.

The same is true of Dylan's harmonica playing. People mistakenly think 
he can't play very well just because he doesn't do typical cross harp. 
I've seen the guy play 2nd position blues with a cupped mic live, and 
there's no doubt he knows his way around the harmonica. He just decided 
years ago to play idiosyncratically, most of the time in first position, 
and created his own sound on the instrument that fits and serves his 
music well. It's popular enough that a bunch of great musicians from 
Neil Young to Tom Petty have imitated that style whether harp purists 
like it or not.

I think a story about the Highway 61 Revisited album's recording sheds 
some perspective. When Bloomfield showed up at the session, Dylan told 
him that he didn't want him to play "any of that B.B. King" stuff 
because he was going after the sound he wanted, not some curated and 
archived blues.

On 6/2/2020 11:29 AM, Michael Rubin wrote:
> Harp players often conceptualize good harmonica playing by control of 
> the technical aspects of the harp.  I prefer musicality, which can be 
> defined by
> 1. a control of the contrasts of music.  Loud, quiet.  Long short.  
> Legato, staccato.  High low.  single notes, chords, double stops.
> 2.  More ethereal ideas such as feeling, soul, emotion. They are 
> harder to pin down.
> 3.  A sense of timing.
> Bob Dylan gives me more pleasure than most of the harmonica players in 
> the world.
> On Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 10:01 AM Ronnie Schreiber 
> <autothreads at xxxxx <mailto:autothreads at xxxxx>> wrote:
>     I was listening to Those Were The Days, the boxed set of all of
>     Cream's
>     official releases. Their first album in particular has a lot of Jack
>     Bruce's harmonica and Bruce's playing isn't half bad. Sure, he may
>     not
>     have some of the technical chops of full time harp players but his
>     tasteful playing still reflects the fact that he was a world-class
>     musician.
>     It seems to me that some harmonica enthusiasts tend to diminish the
>     harmonica playing of musicians like Bruce, Robert Plant, or Mick
>     Jagger,
>     as not serious harmonica players, but it should be pointed out
>     that they
>     were good enough players to blow harp with Cream, Led Zeppelin and
>     the
>     Rolling Stones.
>     Ronnie Schreiber
>     The Electric Harmonica Co.
>     http://www.harmonicaster.com

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