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Anyone learned to play harmonica?

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Dang, I sure do need to play harmonica for breaks in songs. Anyone learned and if so, how? Did you take lessons? I would tend to think hardly anyone has ever taken lessons. But I bought one years ago and still have not learned to play it, even after trying a few times. My buddy is outstanding, has all the keys, I think he plays cross harp. Whatever key the song is in, I think he plays the 4th, such as G harp for key of D. I just want to be able to do Dylanish fills. I even bought a neck rack.

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I've managed to teach myself thanks to the limited notes available and only really work on texture and tone since melodies are fairly simple. If you are trying to play 'Dylanesque' fill-ins I'd suggest you select the wrong harp ( key of D for D ) and move immediately to the treble side. Then inhale and exhale randomly, aiming for the the most piercing part of your harps register. Voila!

 

 

Though I've been fooling around with the harp for years ( sometimes it takes the attention off my average guitar skills ), I only recently found out that they make 'low-tuned' harmonicas. DUUUH! I was always envious and baffled when I heard growly low blues harp playing. Finally figured it out.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/7-Harmonica-Set-Seydel-Blues-Session-w-Case-Low-Tuned-/350330188921?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item51914e7479

How dopey am I?

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Harmonica is pretty easy, at least if we're talking diatonic harmonica. Pretty difficult to blow a wrong note so long as you're in the right key, all the notes will fit....just some will fit better than others. Chords are also real easy. I'm not talking about being a harmonica virtuoso. Just talking about playing some blues and enhancing your songs as you play guitar. Playing harmonica like Dylan does and how Cash used to is pretty-darn easy and straight-forward. Even Cash's rendition of "Orange Blossom Special" is pretty easy stuff. Blues are easy too. Kind of like straight harp, but you reverse the technique. You can learn everything you need from a book (at least for my kind of harp playing). Cowboy songs, folk songs, Rock & Roll, Gospel, Blues...it's all easy to pick-up on. Well worth the time and effort. I suspect you'll be able to play along with some of your songs within a day or two. [thumbup]

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Been playing harp for years on Neil Young songs. Just takes a little practice, learn how to bend a note or two. Low keys are great - I tune my HD 28 down a full step, so Low F (G) Low C (D) and a G (A) harp are my go tos when I want to blow a song. These guys are good http://www.harmonicastore.com/

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I use to play harp around my neck -- I was never happy with the crossharp attack you could get doing that. At this point, I play either guitar or harp -- not hard to do both straight, but the guitar is a great lead instrument too, so if you are holding one you might as well play it.

 

Here a jam with harp, a '36 AJ and a '56 D-18.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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So, you guys are playing the same key harp as the key of the song? As I mentioned, my buddy is awesome (pro level) and I think he calls it 'cross harp.' G harp for key of D, for instance. Beats me, I just know he is incredible. (By the way, he does not play Dylanish and actually looks down upon it. But he quits playing his guitar to play his harp, doesn't own a rack. I am playing rhythm guitar with him when he does this. He can play a mean solo on harp.)

 

The 'low tuning' harp mentioned above, what is that about? All the notes are lower or just what is this?

 

Seydel, as in a link above is that a good brand?

 

Geez, Johnny Cash played harp? I barely remember that. Gotta look for a youtube.

 

WOW, look at this harp-lock thing... cool! Looks awesome.

 

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Clever way to get an advertisement in for your friend. The device is clever too, but he probably wouldn't want to sell one to someone who plays in a style he frowns upon. But, I'll survive and I suspect Dylan will too.

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Clever way to get an advertisement in for your friend. The device is clever too, but he probably wouldn't want to sell one to someone who plays in a style he frowns upon. But, I'll survive and I suspect Dylan will too.

 

Huh? What are you talking about? My harp playing friend has nothing to do with that link. I just posted something I just now came across. Sheesh. No need to get your panties in a wad. I said *I* want to play like Dylan. What my friend thinks of it is of no concern to me.

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I don't know -- volume modulation is always an issue when you are using a single stage mic for both harmonica and voice. If you freeze the location of the harp, seems like that makes it even worse.

 

The example I showed above was cross harp. Here is a straight harp example from the same show -- just the intro.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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I don't know -- volume modulation is always an issue when you are using a single stage mic for both harmonica and voice. If you freeze the location of the harp, seems like that makes it even worse.

 

The example I showed above was cross harp. Here is a straight harp example from the same show -- just the intro.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

 

Tom, the talent you guys have, and the love of traditional music, just amazes me. After reading a bunch of Dylan interviews from Rolling Stone recently, I'm working my way back through Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" for the first time in many years. The way you and your wife perform could have been lifted straight off some of those early recordings.

 

(Not saying you're an old fogey here. Just saying you really know how to bring old-timey music to life.)

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Tom, the talent you guys have, and the love of traditional music, just amazes me. After reading a bunch of Dylan interviews from Rolling Stone recently, I'm working my way back through Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" for the first time in many years. The way you and your wife perform could have been lifted straight off some of those early recordings.

 

(Not saying you're an old fogey here. Just saying you really know how to bring old-timey music to life.)

 

some of those discs are hard going !

some gems amongst it though and something everyone should listen to at least once for a history lesson

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some of those discs are hard going !

some gems amongst it though and something everyone should listen to at least once for a history lesson

 

You are right on both counts. You really need a lyric sheet to listen to some of them, or you have no earthly idea what the song is about. That was one great thing about the John Jacob Niles book ("The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles") that cross-referenced many of these old ballads that descended and have mutated from their original English/Scottish forms.

 

I mostly listen to these for the playing and singing, rather than the words. Many of the lyrics and story lines are just too esoteric for normal comprehension.

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You are right on both counts. You really need a lyric sheet to listen to some of them, or you have no earthly idea what the song is about. That was one great thing about the John Jacob Niles book ("The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles") that cross-referenced many of these old ballads that descended and have mutated from their original English/Scottish forms.

 

I mostly listen to these for the playing and singing, rather than the words. Many of the lyrics and story lines are just too esoteric for normal comprehension.

 

We love all the old stuff. In addition to the Harry Smith stuff, all of the Carter Family stuff is available -- 11 CDs I think -- a lot of treasures there.

 

AP Carter was the first great songcatcher -- he wrote a lot of new stuff and "fixed up" a lot of old stuff. He traveled around with the one legged black blues guy named Leslie Riddle -- Riddle had an amazing ability to remember melodies. Ralph Peer returned enough money to motivate them, but most went to Peer. By any measure, this was exploitation, but it resulted in one of the greatest musical treasuries of all time. If you listen to them all, I expect you will be shocked (as we were) of all the stuff that is now common but came from them. We had about 20 Carter Family songs in our repertory that we did not know were Carter Family songs -- a much larger number were knew were.

 

Tom, the talent you guys have, and the love of traditional music, just amazes me

 

What a nice thing to say! Thanks.

 

My daughter now has a band in Houston called Dead Girls Songs. My daughter, who once toured with orange hair in a punk rock band, has two Doctorates and teaches at the University of Houston, once told me that her proudest accomplishment is being able to please rural traditional music audiences with her singing style. Her band mate, who also teaches at U of H and also has (distant) Appalachian roots is frail in every way but intellectually and vocally. They come much closer that we do.

 

Here they are on the edge -- TB Blues. Dead Girl Songs

 

As to starting harmonica, this book seems to have helped a lot of people. And I sure don't have any connection to the author, and as with any hillbilly, I would really be insulted if some implied I did -- just saying[biggrin].

 

9780930948184_p0_v1_s600.JPG

 

 

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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Tom, the harmonica intro to "Shenendoah" gives me the chills. Absolutely awesome. It sets the mood and tone of the song that follows. You literally tell a story without using words. So damn-well-done. And the info on The Carters is very interesting. I've often heard (sometimes respectfully, sometimes in snide remards) that The Carters played simple folk songs. No doubt they did, but they earned themselves a position near the top in music history.

 

BTW Tom, the videos in the links you provide are very, very easy-to-watch and listen-to. Real music. Love it. Definitely worth the time spent watching. I think there's a human warmth and closeness in those songs and the way your group performs them. Thanks for the info and the education. [thumbup]

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Yeah I play one quite often I don't use the same microphone I'm singing into though I always use a handheld microphone for my Harp my favorite is a MadCat and it's quite a few years old from when they still made them out of wood out of their house in Higley Arizona. Now there a black plastic or resin and there living in Florida or somewhere But it's still my favorite Harp Microphone and I love the volume knob right there so I can lace it between to fingers play then turn it off and hang the mic. On a typical setup i run my harp through a completely different amp and everything and I even run it through a Fender volume/Tone pedal just to get some extra flexibility. I have a ton of harp's but I still like the Hohner MeisterKlasse there small very well made and I can even replace the reeds if there damaged. There a ***** to bend on though so I have a XB-40 and a set of blues benders if I need that sound. I also like the 64 chromatic which most people think is weird it just gives me a lot of flexibility with one harp.

 

MADCAT_side_sm_copy_zpsb77fad93.jpg

 

 

IMG_0423.jpg

 

The XB-40 if I really want to bend and wail I love the blues riffs this harp can blow

DV016_Jpg_Large_421171_case_V_zps54a58e60.jpg

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So, you guys are playing the same key harp as the key of the song? As I mentioned, my buddy is awesome (pro level) and I think he calls it 'cross harp.' G harp for key of D, for instance. Beats me, I just know he is incredible. (By the way, he does not play Dylanish and actually looks down upon it. But he quits playing his guitar to play his harp, doesn't own a rack. I am playing rhythm guitar with him when he does this. He can play a mean solo on harp.)

 

The 'low tuning' harp mentioned above, what is that about? All the notes are lower or just what is this?

 

 

 

It's nice to be able to play both straight harp and cross harp. Some songs, like Hogy Carmichael's Old Rocking Chair's Got Me, seem easy to play using straight harp, as do folkier songs like More Pretty Girls Than One. Bluesier songs work better using cross harp. I learned cross harp by playing along with Sonny Terry records. I would rather play hand held harp, but have recently started using the rack a lot more. I use an old (I bought it in the early sixties after I first heard Jimmy Reed) Elton holder and the only modifications I've made are to bend the arms so the harp hits my mouth at a perpendicular angle, and added lock washers so it wouldn't slip while I was playing.

 

I used to play a lot of fiddle tunes with a fiddler friend and I was really excited to find a low D harp that ended up being in the same range as the fiddle for the tunes we were playing as twin fiddle tunes but substituting the low D harp for the second fiddle. It is a harp tuned an octave below the regular D harp. I also own a low E and a high G, an octave above a regular G harp.

 

The late Willie P. Bennett was a good friend and mentor to both of my sons and I own a few of his harps which I hope still have some of his mojo on 'em.

 

Here's a clip of Willie playing an old Hogy Carmichael song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F60DwKOZkU

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Back in another life I did a lot of driving. I would play all night and drive the next day. To stay awake I bought a harmonica rack and learnd to play while driving. It worked just fine and I still play.

 

I bought a 1958 Shure Green Bullet new. For those of you too young to remember the Green Bullet is the holy grail of harp mikes. Shure still makes them but the new ones are just not quite right. If anyone here would like to hear how harmonica should be played go to You-Tube and type in Harmonicats or Marcelo Batista.

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Yeah I play the harp in my rock band on several tunes. Learning how to bend notes is the key. Once you learn that, you're off to the races. For me, I just fiddled around with it enough to where one day, it just "clicked" and I've been playing ever since. It's a great way to add a little something extra to straight guitar playing.

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I hope there are 40,000 St. Louisians practicing harp right now.

 

Friday night at the Cardinal's baseball game they are giving out harmonicas in honor of the (late) great Stan "The Man" Musial, who passed away this past winter. He was an avid harmonica player.

 

At the 7th inning stretch rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", they are expecting to set a Guinness Book Of World Records record. I'm not sure I would want to actually hear this, but hey, it's always fun at the ballpark.

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Back in another life I did a lot of driving. I would play all night and drive the next day. To stay awake I bought a harmonica rack and learnd to play while driving. It worked just fine and I still play.

 

I bought a 1958 Shure Green Bullet new. For those of you too young to remember the Green Bullet is the holy grail of harp mikes. Shure still makes them but the new ones are just not quite right. If anyone here would like to hear how harmonica should be played go to You-Tube and type in Harmonicats or Marcelo Batista.

 

I often play rack harp while driving as well. I've often wondered about the legality of this. Hands-free cell phone use is still legal in Ontario and rack harp is a hands free device.

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I often play rack harp while driving as well. I've often wondered about the legality of this. Hands-free cell phone use is still legal in Ontario and rack harp is a hands free device.

 

just dont crash or you'll be talkin like larry adler for the rest of your days

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I learmed by playing along with songs while driving or sitting at home. Then got a rack and played along with my guitar and eventually with friends while jamming. Its a hoot! And not too hard- especially the way I play- chords, a few notes& fills.

 

What really helped was buying a Hohner set of 7 harps in a nice little box for 20 bucks. Plastic bodies with brass reeds. Still have 'em after 8 yrs.

I did give my Bb to my grand daughter to torment her parents (pay back :rolleyes: )

 

the set is now on sale at musiciansfriend for $28 well worth itif you're learning. Just find the right one and blow I, IV, V chords. As you gain confidence, you'll figure out other stuff.

 

Bought some nicer harps, but the "box" is always with me on long-distance trips. I drive one-handed anyway...

 

Get started! Have fun!

 

Willy

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