Posted by Dr Harmonica on November 15, 2000 at 13:35:18:
In Reply to: which chromatic harp would give me a stevie wonder sound? posted by Morten Roed on November 15, 2000 at 09:29:39:
: I want to buy a chromatic harmonica that would give me a typical stevie wonder type of sound, but I don't know which to chose. Can anyone help me.
If you really want to sound exactly like Stevie Wonder, play his CD and pretend you play the harp. Sounds a bit strange perhaps, but that is the only way to sound exactly like him.
There is no harmonica that will make you sound like Stevie. You see, basically a harmonica does not make any sound. It determines the pitch and molds or colors the sound a bit, but that is about all it does. To prove this, take of the cover plates of any harmonica and gently twang a reed with your fingernail. What you hear is the pitch, but not even remotely at the volume level and sound you are used to.
The most important part for the sound of the instrument is your body. The shape of your oral cavity and the entire tract behind it determine the actual sound and the intonation, so unless you are an exact carbon copy of Stevie Wonder you can do no more than just emulate his sound and come somewhere near. It will never be spot-on. And even if you are that exact carbon copy of Stevie, you miss his years and years of experience, his little twitches of tongue and mouth to emphasize this note, gently bend that one and so on.
Since you can only approach the sound, it doesn't really matter what harmonica you buy. Stevie himself endorses Huang harmonicas and he plays a custom built chromatic designed by Cham Ber Huang himself, who also supervised the production of the first prototype. The harmonica is micro-adjusted to the slightest of Stevie's whims. Even if you are able to get a hold of one of those instruments, I am afraid you might find the price a bit discouraging. Think in four-digit numbers there. For that money you can buy a case full of different stock chromatics, all premium quality, and have money to spare to have a couple customized by Bill Romel or another harmonica wizard.
Generally for a beginning player Hering makes the best chromatics. Their entry model, the 5148 is an excellent 12-holer that is exceptionally airtight. It is responsive and as a bonus it has the bright tone that is so characteristic for Stevie's play. For info on prices check here: http://coast2coast.safeshopper.com/33/cat33.htm?160
But now a question: Why do you want to sound like Stevie Wonder? I can imagine you like his music and/or style of playing, but the world already has one Stevie Wonder and most certainly it isn't waiting for another one. Copycats usually aren't welcomed too warmly. That doesn't mean you can't have a role model and steal as much from that role model as you can get away with. Most important however is to blend that stolen lick in your own play, and pour your own sauce over it to make it your sound. That is what I do all the time. I too steal licks from players I admire. People recognising a lick blended in my own stuff suddenly don't call it 'stealing' anymore. They speak of being 'artistically influenced and inspired'. :-)
Try to sound like yourself. You will see that playing becomes more pleasurable that way and gives you more satisfaction and less frustration if you don't copy every note your idol plays. Start right away, start searching for your own sound from day one. You will never regret that, I promise.
One last piece of free advice I once got from Jens Bunge, a professional German jazz musician on the chromatic harmonica. He said: "My biggest mistake when learning to play was that I got irritated so much over those few notes I played wrong that I couldn't enjoy all those notes I played well anymore." Keep that in mind. If you can play just a little, you play far more notes correctly than you play notes wrongly. Enjoy each and every correct note. You'll see you will be less frustrated and have less trouble getting those last errors out.
Good luck and happy harpin'
- featuring Thirsty, the groggy froggy
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