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Mennonite Harmonica stylings... [20 Feb 2011|12:03am]

Anyone still kicking around this community?

So I recently spent a week building homes for Hurricane Katrina victims with an organization called Mennonite Disaster Services. Among the other folks in the work camp that week were a bunch of Old Order Mennonite girls from Wisconsin. (Old Order is similar to Amish. Not the same thing, exactly, but these are horse and buggy folk.) It came up in conversation that both myself and one of the Old Order girls played the harmonica, or mouth organ as she called it. So one night after dinner we each brought out our harps and played a few songs. I mostly play cross-harp so I played a few blues licks and got a buddy to accompany me on the guitar. The Old Order girl played the harp like I've never seen it played.

For one thing she played it upside down, but I don't think that was crucial to her style, and I think that was just a personal eccentricity. But the music she made sounded like an accordion. It was sort of polka-ish, definitely an older, European sort of sound. Just a regular diatonic harp, a Lee Oskar to be specific, but she was tongue blocking to alternate bass notes with the melody, and doing it at a pretty good speed. No bending, played with one hand, just straight, clean notes but it was damned impressive. I've searched YouTube and Google the best I can to find something like this, but it doesn't seem to be out there. I was pretty blown away and I'd love to learn the technique. Has anyone else ever seen the harmonica played in such a way, or know where I could find out more about this style?
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Out of the box harp mods/customizing the instrument. [21 Feb 2008|01:38pm]

EDIT: I just noticed the previous entry was also about harp mods, but it's covering different info than I'm looking for.

The more I become seduced by these little mixed media musical devices, the more I start to ponder some hype:

How many of you (and perhaps pro vs. am is appropriate here) play your harmonicas as is, out of the box, and how many of you immediately set to monkeying with them to adjust for action or tone?

Do you think that it really only makes a difference as a pro, and/or gigging musician where your tone and tune must be able to match or meet other musicians for obvious ear appeal, or do you believe that the tinkering is too much work and that nobody's otherwise going to notice the differences, short of yourself if it changes the ease or difficulty of playing?

Pick a YouTube player these days - Gussow, Ricci, Gindick, etc. They all seem to have opinions or favored hacks to do to their harmonicas and I can appreciate their interest in it at their level.

My own personal findings are that whether they're out of the box, new or worn in, different models inherently play differently, but there are some that are automatically or more easily played and if I could learn what they've done in construction or style, I'd mod my other harps to match them. Learning whether to do that, or how to do it successfully means I may be in for a few mistakes that ruin a harp.

I have to say that out of the box or with short use, Weltmeister Blackbirds have been some of the easiest playing and bending (as an 'advanced beginner' level that I am) that I've used. Special 20's and Lee Oskars come in at a close second, but I also really like the Marine bands for tone and otherwise playability, short of their non-modular design, which scares me into leaving them less tampered with until I can afford to make a 20 dollar mistake.

Tell me, the player pool of wisdom and experience reading this, about harp mods. What do you do, and why do you, or don't you do them?

Which are your favorite harps for immediate playability? When you get to a certain level of experience, do they all just play the same for you, or can you compensate while breaking them in without mods?
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Help? [22 Oct 2007|03:32pm]

[ mood | very frustrated ]

I'm being really needy aren't I? I'm really sorry for that but I do need a spot of assistance if anybody has a minute. I found some lessons on youtube that I'm working through but there is one little lick I really want to learn and I just can't figure it out (possibly because I think my harmonica is in a different key). I was hoping somebody with a better ear than I have could help me out.

So here's the link to the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31uSB_Wk588) and the bit I'm trying to learn is at time 5:52, the "roll up onto the three and back down". A quick tab, or anything at all really, would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.

4 comments|post comment

[29 Sep 2007|01:51pm]

Hi, I'm new here and new to the harmonica. I have wanted to play blues harp for a couple of years and when I decided last week that I was going to learn I got myself a harmonica the next day.

So I know I've only been at this for just shy of a week and I'm probably really jumping the gun here but I've been spending a great deal of that week trying to bend notes with absolutely no success (although I have become quite successful at getting different tones). Any tips?
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[22 Sep 2007|08:33pm]

Oh my gosh! I can't believe it never occurred to me to look up lessons on YouTube!!
There's some fabulous stuff on there!
For example: take a look at some of these: Harmonica Lessons at Expert Village
Jim Luke's stuff is especially illuminating.
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[14 May 2007|11:08pm]

If anyone knows, or could figure out the notes/tabs to the harmonica parts in the following songs, that would be amazing.

Call Me On Your Way Back Home - Ryan Adams (2:24-3:05)
La La Lie - Jack's Mannequin (0:03-0:18) and (2:18-2:34)
Blood In Your Mouth - Colour Revolt (0:00-0:25)
More Adventurous - Rilo Kiley (1:49-2:08)
Two Headed Boy - The Mountain Goats

A few of the songs are here.
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Carey Bell, 1936-2007 [08 May 2007|03:24pm]

We've lost another great harmonica player: Chicago master Carey Bell, the "youngster" of the original Chicago blues harp pantheon, died Sunday of heart failure. A friend of both Big and Little Walter (Horton and Jacobs, respectively), Bell was a master singer and player who in recent years recorded with his son, guitarist Lurrie Bell. I saw him several times, in clubs in NYC and at festivals, and he never turned in less than a stellar show. Sadly, he was playing in Chicago the last time I was there but I didn't realize it until the next morning.
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Amplification [17 Apr 2007|10:57pm]

[ mood | curious ]

Y'know, I'm not ready for it yet, but that's exactly why I'm asking about it. I find that if I dive into a topic that's still a notch above me, I fumble with it in my own sweet time, and by the time I'm actually ready for it, it's already that much easier for me to grasp. Usually because it's been creeping around on the back burner while I try to master what I should be doing: Playing the harmonica.

I've begun to listen to more electric harmonica lately, in recent months discovering players like Charlie Musselwhite, and generally running across more YouTube wizards with electicity and whatnot.

And while I'm in no shape to be playing in front of anyone but myself this year, I am interested in discovering the amplified sound and personal, portable methods of making it.

There's the fabled green bullet. The crystal shaker, the blues blaster, and a zillion and one dynamic mics that aren't harmonica specific. There's the Radio Shack toy mics that may be quaint finds for chump change.

And then there's amps. Everybody makes a quickie portable for 5 lbs. with AC or battery use - Pignose, Danelectro, Marshall, Rockman, Roland, and even the 'cigarette box' speakers that are homemade.

And all I really need right now, is your firsthand experience with any various combinations - realizing that at best, it's for in-apartment learning, or outdoor use without actually attracting attention.

Is a green bullet too much mic (and investment) for a guy who simply wants to learn the nuances of playing with something else in his hand? Do those little crystal shaker mics suck? Does the 2 watt micro amp produce that nasty stanky overdrive better and at reasonable volumes than the 10 watt guitar practice amp? When you sneak an effects pedal inline, (or is that blasphemy?!) what do you use?

All this and more can be answered by you, if you have the experience and inspiration to relay what you know.

Thanks for reading this far. I tend to type small novels when I post.

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Huang Bac Pac [28 Mar 2007|08:29pm]

I'd like to have a complete set of diatonics, but cost is an issue for me. I've come across a complete set of harps for a relatively low price. The brand name is Huang, supposedly the product of two former Hohner employees and harmonica virtuosos. Anyways, I was wondering if anyone here has ever played a Huang and what they thought of the product.

EDIT: Well after two days, no-one's responded so I went ahead and ordered a set of twelve harps plus a "deluxe" carrying case for $79.99 USD plus S&H. If anyone's interested in how these low-cost harps turn out, I'll post a review when I get them.
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Paul deLay, 1952 - 2007 [09 Mar 2007|02:03pm]

One of my favorite modern harmonica players died this week, from leukemia at the age of 55. Paul deLay never made it big, although no harmonica player in the country worth his salt hasn't heard of him. Unlike so many tired recyclers of riffs and songs from the 1950s, deLay wrote his own songs, played in a distinctive style, and sang wonderfully in his own voice and accent.

And he had a lot of blues to sing about. He was a heavy drug user in the 1980s, spent some time in federal prison in the early 1990s, and after his release produced a brilliant series of redemptive albums, most notably Ocean Of Tears, released in 1996.

In the mid-1990s, when bobhowe was living in Eugene and I was making all-too-frequent business trips to Seattle, I took a weekend and drove down to Portland, deLay's hometown. I bought a huge pile of books at Powell's and then went out that night to see deLay. It was a small club and I sat by myself at the bar, and introduced myself in between sets. He showed me his extensive setup, built into a briefcase, and we talked harp for a little bit. He was pleasant and funny and welcoming to a complete stranger.

He sang about himself, about his love for his wife and how he wouldn't have gotten through his prison stint, about being free and clean and writing, about the daily struggle to make it. He was exuberant and honest and likeable and very open about the mistakes he'd made. His blues were his own and more importantly, so were his joys. He rarely came east, and I only saw him play twice, once at that club in Portland and once at a blues festival, at which I took these photos.

Paul deLay at the 1997 Pocono Blues FestivalCollapse )
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[09 Mar 2007|03:25pm]


As a part of my new years' resolution and whathaveyou,
I've decided I'm going to learn how to play the Harmonica.

I can play the piano and guitar already, how hard is the Harmonica to learn?
Books/sites that I can learn from on my own?
Best brand/where to buy/price?

How do I know where to get one from; do I just phone around?
I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, if  anyone wants to help.

EDIT: They come in different notes, what do I pick?!!!!!!!!!!!!


6 comments|post comment

[16 Jan 2007|10:48am]

hey, what's the best kind of harmonica for playing old-timey american folk kind of stuff? (think woodie guthrie, sonny terry, etc)

3 comments|post comment

[03 Dec 2006|12:28pm]

hi, folks

I've been playing harmonica for a little over a year now, practicing regularly. Got some basic background in music theory and training in voice. Playing the harp has been pretty intuitive so far, but there are some things I'm wondering about.

I have an interest in jazz and was thinking of picking up a chromatic harmonica. Make and model recommendations? How does using a chromatic compare to windsavers, and to overbending, as far as benefits and drawbacks?
2 comments|post comment

books [03 Dec 2006|09:05am]

Does anyone have recommendations for books that are good for learning the basics?
Preferably one that also has lots of songs.
7 comments|post comment

A little newbie help, please? [26 Nov 2006|12:38pm]

[ mood | hopeful ]

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I've been noodling on a diatonic for the better part of several months and have recently been trying to nail the intro to the song "Pink" by Aerosmith. Harmonica key C.

The trouble I'm having as a relative beginner who has sloppy lip blocking is the triplet part after the opening wailer notes.

The video is here for reference. It's only the first 45 seconds or so that you need to view if you're unfamiliar with the harmonica part in the song:


at 22 to 25 seconds when Tom Hamilton makes the appearance in the ruffle shirt and yellow glasses begins the section I need some advice about. Right up to the bend that closes the triplets.

I clearly hear a 3 draw as the beginning triplet note. It's the second one I'm puzzled about. Is that an articulation of the 3 draw, leading to the 4 draw (the third note) and then repeat a few times? The second note sounds higher than the first, and with some articulation (vowel sounds or ta, ka, etc.) I feel like I can get that note, but then cleanly slipping over to the 4 draw becomes either a noisy mess, or clean but too slow.

So I ask you, experienced players, am I onto the right method and just need to practice until my lips fall off to make that triplet smooth, or can you offer alternate/easier ways of getting that triplet passage down. I hear it a lot in harmonica music other than this song, so I've got to make it second nature.

The end notes with the bend on 2 draw and the last 4 will come later. I've got questions about that too, but right now, the hurdle is the passage in the middle.

Any advice you can provide that gets me closer will be much appreciated!

Alternately, a live version can be seen/heard here:

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[09 Nov 2006|04:58am]


I *just* started playing the harmonica, but I am really enjoying it so far. I have a chromatic harmonica but I want to get a diatonic. I ordered the Hohner special 20. Is this a decent harmonica? The reviews sounded good so I went with it, but I wish I had known about this community first.
3 comments|post comment

Aww [04 Nov 2006|11:07pm]

My Lee Oskar Major Diatonic Harmonica just kicked the bucket...
I need a new harp. I seen some at Wal-mart but I didn't stop to see what brand they were.
Anyone know?
Are they worth buying?
3 comments|post comment

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