Sounds like a good idea. Not that I'm complaining but every series that you and Rick do is so packed with great stuff - techniques, concepts, new positions... - it can get a bit overwhelming by chorus number ten! There's several lifetimes worth of blues harmonica to learn from this site. I am very appreciative to have it.
I also appreciate!
Really cool sound Dennis. Are there changes afoot in the format of lessons here? Only three choruses this time.
Well, I was asked to do a shorter format, which I believe will also make some of these study songs perhaps easier to tackle, while I can pinpoint a specific focus even more if I want to.
Actually, you didn't say, but that's really encouraging too. What's so frustrating is that I can only do it for about 5 seconds at a time and then my tongue just spazzes out. I guess there are some muscles that need to be built up. And of course you think you've got it going and then you need to dump some air. The world just doesn't appreciate how devilish this instrument is :)
I can identify. It's elusive. If you work on it daily, it will come - After that, it's good to continue working on it. There're days when my tongue feels pretty sluggish.
A while back I was bemoaning my inability to get the side to side tongue flutter and was feeling resigned to never getting it. You encouraged me not to give up. Well, I still can't do it clean enough or fast enough, but it's gotten to the point where it's beginning to happen and I'm believing I can get there. I heard an interview with Kim Wilson once where he said playing was a lot more fun once he learned that move. I recognize it now all the time listening to you, Dennis, and other players. Ray Norcia has a really sweet, clean tongue flutter. I'm a big believer that patience and persistence will get you where you want to go, but this one really felt out of reach. Thanks for the encouragement in my moment of despair :)
I probably told you this before, but some people can just naturally do that flutter, and some can't - I was a person who couldn't, and had to work on it a lot. I believe Kim was too.
Man, I feel like I could study this one piece for the rest of my life. It's so cool how every verse has something new and one or two things that repeat but with some little variation that makes it really different. The idea of shaping the notes really clicked for me. I think somehow in my twisted brain I have some kind of picture of what I'm playing that isn't just what holes or bends I'm on. In fact, I'm finding playing chromatic really hard because I only know where I am by the sound/picture and I never know what hole I'm on. There's so many more!
On the opening wah-wah, are you scooping up a little on each 2-hole draw in addition to the hand affect? On the crazy trill, would it be right to say you're going back and forth over more than just two holes? Maybe four?
Thanks so much Rick. I'm getting quite an education.
Hi Bill, you're correct - many notes are not only notes. In my mind, a more accurate description might be syllables - though even that isn't a perfect description. But yeah, when they're really pronounced, they're formed with slight bends working in conjunction with hand effects. PS. Playing chromatic too hard does work too well. You can shape notes in a similar way to how you shape on a diatonic, but you have to finnesse the shapes in a different, less forceful way - The range of the amount of air pressure that you can use and the way in which you use it, requires a different touch and feel.
I'm not so good with the technology. Honestly, though, I doubt there's that much to learn from my playing. I do think a lot of Rick's style is rubbing off on me. I listen a lot, over and over, and just keep trying to get that sound. Maybe I'll give it a try when I get a little more comfortable with this one and you can be the judge.
Hey Bill !! thanks for the answer and yeah ?!! why not try it ??. though it s not an easy one ... I didn t try it yet but ... I will , anyways is just that I read so many good comments of you around time , that I m curious about you and it s not to be judge ... it s you always there playing and I ackwoledge that fact ... It s hard to me to be discipline ... so that it s ... congratulation ... but I will get there ... it s too fun to do it !! there s so much with Rick !! so much !!
Oh yeah. I had a question. You mention at about 9:45 about getting an aggressive sound but how you don't want the harp to stick. Is it blowing or drawing too hard that makes the harp stick? What's going on with the harp when that happens?
Not that the previous verses were a breeze but I definitely find this kind of thing challenging. When a phrase stops and leaves a big silence hanging it really draws attention, especially to the last note in the phrase. If it's right, it stands out in a really cool way. If it's not, well, it still stands out :) Getting the ugly sound right ain't as easy as it sounds. All this practice with tongue blocked bends on the 2 and 3-draw, with and without slop, trying to get those brief subtle vibratos in there - it all makes for a great work out.
I am so bummed out to discover that you were right here in Boston and I missed it (I'm about 2 hours west in Northampton MA). I'm hoping to catch you in Maine this summer.
On the other hand, I was totally inspired to resaturate myself in James Cotton music. I've listened to about 100 cuts in the last two days and haven't exhausted all the stuff I have of him with Muddy and on compilations like Harp Attack and Superharps. What a performer.
When you said, "Playing clean, that ain't nothin"" I couldn't agree more. It's really hard to get those 3-hole draw half step bends with the right amount of the 4 hole to consistently sound "right."
One question I have: When you (and Cotton) are playing it sometimes sounds like you're sucking the reeds right out of the harmonica. Are you pulling that hard or is it just getting the right grip on the note? My tongue block on the 2-hole draw has gotten a lot better but it still sounds kind of anemic at times. More energy or more finesse? (or something else?!)
Definitely more finesse - a more focused "grip" on the trajectory of the air is one way I could try and describe it. I have heard that Cotton had a very fierce, physical attack, but I hear a lot of finesse at work creating that impression. That Cotton tribute show was at The Narrows, in Fall River - It was a lot of fun.
Wow! What a gift! Thanks for sharing this with us Rick. I hope you'll let us know when the documentary becomes available.
Hi Bill, I'm not sure when the documentary might be completed, but it's being made by a legit company called Northern Light Productions, out of Boston. They flew a bunch of us in for interviews and a tribute concert. It was a lot of fun just hangin out with everyone and reminiscing about Cotton.
Thanks Dennis and Larry,
I'm literally feeling my way forward with this idea. Sometimes you experiment with something that seems to work only to find out later that you're developing a bad habit. This guidance allows me to experiment knowing I'm on the right road.
What you say is very true...so many players develop bad habits on their own or from an "instructor" who deos now know any better and then you get years of bad habits and it becomes more difficult to undo them...Glad you're feeling this out and working on it!! Well done!
I think I see what you mean. Thanks.
You're welcome. The higher the note you are bending the shorter the reed, and also the closer to the front of your mouth that you need to use to bend it.
I'm glad you're doing this piece on the D harp in A. I definitely need work on bending on the higher pitched harps, especially the 3-hole bends. It seems like they need a lighter touch.
They need a different type of touch, not neccessarily lighter, but different. Higher pitched bends are done closer to the front of your embouchure, not back towards your throat.
That's what I want to hear. I'm a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kinda guy. So just to hone in on this technique, are you alternating between adjacent holes or what?
Thanks Dennis. This feedback is invaluable.
There are many ways you can vary up any technique, and a tongue trill is no different, but in this case most often I am doing 2-5 draw tongue trill. Tongue trills are usually NOT adjacent holes, which are usually done the "normal" trill way (shaking your head and/or hands), though they can be done with the tongue as well. But also keep in mind, they are also not "clean" tongue trills, so the notes 2 & 5 are not super clean and precise, meaning that I am bleeding in some of the adjacent notes to get more texture and a more chord-like sound.
Thanks. That tongue trill is gonna kill me :)
Haha...you'll be fine! Like any new technique, the trick is to start practicing it SLOWLY, and practice it often, in short practice sessions.
On the tongue trills, is it a rapid on and off or are you doing something else?
On rhythmic vamp at the end, is there any particular way you're articulating the 1-2 draw chord?
Thanks. I really love the groove. I'm looking forward to working on improvising over the backing track as well as learning what you're doing.
Hi - for clarification, a "trill" is a quick alternating of two different notes (such as the common 4-5 draw trill) so a tongue trill is not on & off (vamping a chord against a single note), a tongue trill is alternating two notes separated by your tongue...in other words, a tongue trill is a side-to-side movement, whereas a vamp would be on/off with the tongue.
Articulation of the chord is usually similar to a "tut" if you want it sharp and clear.
Thanks, I love working with this groove, and working with just a I-chord track is so important and can be LOTS of fun!!
Whoa!!! What a jam!!
Thanks for this series Rick. It's really given me some new tools for keeping the groove, especially playing solo. I'll be working on many parts of this going forward. And enjoying every minute.
Thank YOU, Bill. I'm real glad you enjoyed it!
Nasty lyrics! A female singer friend suggests keeping the number of songs involving snakes to one per performance 😉
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