Use the whole harp! Don't fear venturing into the high notes!

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Posted by Jimmy on April 12, 2001 at 10:07:38:

I just wanted to say to all those old school, traditional blues guys: There are notes past the 6 blow, so use them! I get sick and tired of hearing the same old 12-bar crap played on the bottom register of the harmonica by every mediocre player that sits in on a mediocre blues jam. The same old "Hoochie Coochie" licks just get old after a while, and I am anxious to hear some originality. Mimicking licks is of Sonny Boy and Little Walter is ok, but at best that's just going to make you sound like everyone else. Enough w/ Sonny Boy and Little Walter. Sure, they were great players, very innovative for their time. I have full respect for them and the sound that they made become so standard in blues harp playing. Key word : INNOVATIVE. There's nothing innovative about trying to mimick note for note every lick they play. It is just plain boring and unoriginal.

I believe to learn you shgould listen to ALL KINDS of players who are innovative, not just blues guys, mimick all of theire styles a little, then blend them all to create yuour own. Here are a few guys I strongly recommend, who are all very creative and original, and do not sound like every other 12 bar blues guy: Paul DeLay (this guy is amazing, smooth and creative, w/ great songs and sick chromatic and diatonic playing, One of the best players alive in my opinion), Howard Levy (he plays the same harp in all 12 keys for crying out loud!), Brendan Powers (amazing Irish player), Sugar Blue (blues guy who does things no other blues guys and ferocious playing, lots of high end)

And by god learn to carry at least the 2nd postition blues scale up a little higher! It will make you a much more interesting player. Here is a simplified high end blues scale in 2nd position that requires no bends and will make you a much better player if used well:
6b 6d 7d 8d 8 b 9b

Ok old scool blues purists, I have to admit, I am sick and tired of your boring chops, although I can play them all and have for years. I am part of a new age of harp playing, and we are taking the instrument to new levels, playing in new positions, playing music other than blues, and using the whole harp. I admit it, I think John Popper is a badass, innovative harp player, one of the best in the world, whether you admit it or not. He has seriously studied his instrument and knows how to make sounds come out of it that no one else in the world can. I dont even like his music personally, but I appreciate the fact that he is INNOVATIVE, for crying out loud, it is something FRESH. Another guy I love for his high speed, high energy playing is Sugar Blue, although "purists" will make their cracks at him to. You think these guys cant play those old Sonny Boy and Little Walter licks, nail them perfectly w/ perfect tone...THE HELL THEY CANT! That is like playing 3 Blind Mice, or a major scale for them! So anyone who cracks on these guys and does not at least give them credit for their talent (regardless of whether you like the music), is just jealous! They could never begin to mimick some of the licks these guys play, so they fear them and write them off as "flashy" or "arrogant" or say things like that they just run up and down the scale w/ no direction. I'm sorry, that is simply not true. These guys have amazing technique, they play in many positions, nail those overblows and overdraws, write their own songs, and masterfully orchestrate their solos w/ speed, style and, most importantly: ORIGINALITY. So love 'em or hate 'em, lets begin to give credit where credit is due. And, lets learn from these guys that there is life after the 6 blow, so it is time to stop fearing it and venture into that high end, get crazy on the harp and do something unique and original.

Yesterday I was at a harmonica club meeting in Austin and there was a girl there that played amazing bluegrass and Irish harp, mostly in 1st position, some in third. She used a channeling technique to get those fast and specific notes, and almost does not bend at all! That was something unique and original, a breath of fresh air. She taught me to play a cool, fast Irish jig called Swallowtail, I would be happy to show to anyone who is interested.

I don't mean to rave or anything, I just thought the message board has been kind of boring lately, and we all need some food for thought and debate.


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