Blues harp for advanced learners
Progressing in blues harp playing,demands much practice, if that is not stating the obvious. Yet it also demands ‘learning from masters’ who can provide insights into technique that still can only be played through much practice. I have mentioned many times our hero teacher –Adam Gussow. What he provides are insights into playing that can be approached from any level and allow anyone to progress at their own pace, yet gives ‘short cuts’ to understanding the techniques without years of working it out. He is a teacher who does not come with his ego of ‘star player’ he is just a genuine and generous teacher.
First check out if you are moving towards an advanced learner
You’ve mastered all the basics and quite a bit more than that. You’re able to bend holes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 draw; you may even realize that Little Walter bends the 5 draw down a ¼-tone on “Juke.” You can probably bend holes 8 and 9 blow on the low harps (G, A) and may even be able to bend the 10 blow. You know how to warble; how to chug; how to glissando. You know how to tongue-block and have no trouble using that technique in your improvisations. Improvising over 12-bar changes seems natural to you, and you do pretty well when confronted with other related blues, country, and gospel progressions—songs such as “Key to the Highway,” “I Got a Woman,” “This Little Light of Mine.” You’ve almost surely played at jam sessions; you may even be playing in a band. Still, you know your repertoire is lacking in some areas and you’re looking to broaden it. As a player, you have real strengths but you’ve also got weaknesses. When soloing, you tend always to rely on the same two or three power-moves or comfort zones. And you tend to play too much; you’re not very good at leaving space. You’ve got a pretty good sense of which notes work over which chords—playing cross-harp, at least—but you know your playing would strengthen if you had a little more harmonic knowledge. (When jazz guys talk about “thirteenth chords,” you can’t instantly name the intervals that make up that chord.) You’ve heard of overblowing, you may even be able to overblow a note or two, but you haven’t worked this technique into your playing. You’re much more comfortable playing 2nd position (cross harp) than you are playing 1st and 3rd position. Above all, you know there are some tonal, harmonic, and rhythmic subtleties that distinguish the playing of truly advanced players from what you’re doing. And you want what they’ve got.
And here’s another great lesson:
and a blues song from the 20’s -MaRainey
Some new videos from Adam‘s website:
“Shuffling It Up”: a first-position shuffle blues played mostly in the middle octave with tongue-blocked chords and a couple of upper-octave blow bends thrown in. This is an original composition that finds inspiration in the playing of Deford Bailey, Freeman Stowers, and other recording artists of the 1920s and 1930s. Not the same old first-position blues! INTERMEDIATE / ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE.
and some more shuffling:
“Grooving Shuffle”: Every blues harmonica player needs a range of ways of “carrying” the 12-bar changes on the instrument. This song is specifically designed to produce a big sound in a solo context. It teaches you how to mingle single notes and chords in a call-and-response arrangement that takes you through the first 8 bars, then how to throw in some fancy footwork on the V/IV/I changes.
Adam says this is one of his favourite’s:
“Pack Fair and Square”: a two-chorus transcription/adaptation of Magic Dick’s fast & furious solo, from the J. Geils Band Live Full House album. This is a rock-blues groove, and lightning-fast. I’ve slowed it down to make it manageable. For INTERMEDIATE and ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE players.
and one last challenging song:
“Got My Mojo Working”: The holy grail for many harp players. A song that you absolutely, positively need to know. This is a two-part lesson organized around a two-page tab sheet. First page is my adaptation of the “head” or intro that always kicks the song off; second page is a transcription of the first 12 bars of Kim Wilson’s solo on Jimmy Rodgers’s LUDELLA album–a kick-ass harp throwdown, decoded and reassembled. The head is within reach for INTERMEDIATE as well as ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE players; the solo is extremely challenging at full speed.
And other teachers:
This is what you get from harmonica lessons UK (if you subscribe)
Learning is about playing…
Try Dan Gage -blowing over a jam track
Listen to yourself, listen to others (both recorded and live) and prepare to get honest feedback from other players, it is a lifetime’s pain and much pleasure!