How do I get started playing fill?

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How do I get started playing fill?

Postby jagarner70 » Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:28 pm

A friend of mine has a band and I would like to try playing some background fill while they practice. I dont even need to be on a mic but I would like to try to play something and keep the rhthym and beat. Any suggestions? Their practices sound great and Im getting a little bored practicing solo every night. I just need some help getting started. I have been working on solos and riffs up to this point but I would like to try some fill just to be able to play along. Thanks.
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Postby jeffl » Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:47 pm

I don't know what kinda music those guys are playin',but if you wanna hear good fills, I'd start by gettin' your hands on " The Best of Muddy Waters", a Chess compilation CD. Muddy Waters always had a great backup harper,in fact a decades long revolving door of great harpers, including James Cotton,Portnoy,and Butterfield,to name just a few. Since the harper didn't have to sing in Muddy's bands, they were free to comp (accompany) during the vocals (a dicey craft) and provide melody work behind the lyrics ,as well as providing standard fills. Listening alot is always the first step to learning.
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Postby bosco » Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:28 pm

I would like to try to play something and keep the rhthym and beat. Any suggestions?

That's where it gets pretty dicey for comping. Beat and rhythym are best kept by the drummer and bass player (That is their job after all and why they call it the rhythym section). Your best bet for harp accents or to help "fill" as you put it, is to play opposite of the backbeat where you have your own space. You'll still be helping keep time, just not on the downbeat.

BBQ Bob has well documented that caucasions tend to count on the one and the three, were as blacks are more groove oriented and tend to keep time by counting on the two and the four which allows them to sound as if they are playing slightly behind the beat.

The trick to comping is to play around and in between everything else. For my comps, I use a "kiss pop", which is just bringing the harp up to your lips and huffing slightly on two or three lower register soundholes. I do this on the one and three counts, opposite of the backbeat.

Fill licks are best put into the spaces after vocal phrases and at the turnaround or bridge. Be careful that the guitar player isn't hogging all of these (they usually do) and ask if they'll leave a few open for you. Second verse is a good spot with the guitar taking vocal fills on the first and third verse. Now you are bordering on an organized arrangement and communication is the key to this. Be very careful of playing while they are singing, the object is to add to the ensemble, not be a distraction. One of the few licks I play during any singing is a high, slightly muted soft warble in the background. This can be very cool.

These are suggestions, have fun with it and don't get caught up in a bunch of rules. The other players and your ears will tell you when you're stepping on toes or playing where you shouldn't be.

8)

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huffing slightly?

Postby jagarner70 » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:56 pm

Thanks for the tips. I would like to try the "kiss pop" but Im not sure what you are doing as you are huffing on the lower chords. Is this similar to chugging? When I said I would like to keep the rhthym I should have said I would like to attempt to keep up with the rhthym or stay in the groove. I would just like to be able to play along quitly and feel the music. I think this might be a good way to help me get started.
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Postby santo » Sat Jun 24, 2006 5:55 pm

I just heard a good suggestion about fills. Sometimes alternating between the the crossharp and the straight harp to get additional tonics in the key for variations. Also it seems like country tunings could add some dimension.
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Postby jeffl » Sat Jun 24, 2006 6:13 pm

You got the right idea though,Jagarner,'cuz learnin' to comp and fill is one thing that separates the kids from the grownups on harp; You have to be able to solo,but the ability to enhance the music from behind it is challenging and very rewarding. Many harpers play nothing but stereotypical breaks,and have no concept of comping,and bring nothing but boredom to the tune. You can help the bass and drums drive the rhythm as well,on certain tunes, by vamping single note accents or grace note slurs on the upbeats. And you don't have to comp on every verse,either. You can lay out on one verse,and then add comping on the next go round to help build the tune. One of the most common mistakes of harpers though,is to play too much,and not know when to do nothing.
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Postby dblues » Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:34 pm

A part of something Bosco said is not quite right (IMO anyway)

" blacks are more groove oriented and tend to keep time by counting on the two and the four which allows them to sound as if they are playing slightly behind the beat."

I may not be quite understanding what you meant?? I am pretty sure it was not what BBQ Bob meant because
Playing on the two and four is NOT the same thing as playing slightly behind the beat.
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Postby jeffl » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:21 pm

dblues wrote:A part of something Bosco said is not quite right (IMO anyway)

" blacks are more groove oriented and tend to keep time by counting on the two and the four which allows them to sound as if they are playing slightly behind the beat."

I may not be quite understanding what you meant?? I am pretty sure it was not what BBQ Bob meant because
Playing on the two and four is NOT the same thing as playing slightly behind the beat.
DB, I took Bosco's comment to mean that accenting the 2nd and 4th beat makes it easier to play behind the beat,as opposed to rock type accent patterns,which are not conducive to playin' behind the beat. It's an interesting observation for me at this time,'cuz while practicing last week, I took a boogie blues jam on piano and switched the beat to a rock beat without changing any of the notes. Funk is the hybrid,I think, in that it's downbeat music where you CAN get behind the beat,especially on the phrase ends.
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Postby dblues » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:27 pm

Thanks, that makes more sense.
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Postby bosco » Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:50 pm

Man, what a difference one word makes-

I said COUNT on the two and the four, not play there. When you COUNT on the two and the four it makes it easier to play behind the beat. This tends to drag the tempo a little instead of pushing it. That is a time honored method, not just BBQ's opinion.

I actually recommended that he comp on the one and the three.

Sheesh.
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Postby bosco » Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:58 pm

JAG-

Here is classic lesson on how not to do it-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiUIEVIl ... 0harmonica

This bozo doesn't have a freakin' clue as he stomps all over a good version of this song by a very tight pro outfit at a classy wedding. It is literally painful to listen to as he plays through the stops and over the vocals. I can vaguely hear him trying to mimic the horn parts so he has a remote idea, but he never stops playing.

Some people shouldn't be allowed to buy harmonicas and guys like this clown give all harpers a bad name among professional musicians. I hope to hell he was the bride's father or had some other lame excuse.

:oops:
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Postby dcblues » Thu Jun 29, 2006 3:27 am

Sometimes I think that bands who play "Sweet Home Chicago" deserve to have a guy like that sit in. :)
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Postby dblues » Thu Jun 29, 2006 1:56 pm

Hahahahahaha, good one Bosco. Over the years at various jams and such I have heard guys like this and for reasons that I have never figured out, received the most applause and kudos :P :P . Well actually I know why. They had the most friends and family there who were non musicians and usually drunk! But on a positve note, they were all having fun, player included, so I guess it's a good thing (non musically speaking of course hahahahaha) :wink:
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Postby t bone bruce » Thu Jun 29, 2006 5:18 pm

Some wise guy once said that harmonicas should cost $200 for the first one, but be regular price after that. It might have prevented this guy from playing... but then it would have stopped me and many others from playing too.
Man that guy sucked....and blew.... and sucked again- badly.
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