Sonny Terry Style

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Sonny Terry Style

Postby Joe Henry » Sat Sep 30, 2006 2:09 am

How do that *chucka chucka chucka* real choppy sounding thing he does alot? Bob Dylan does it on the intro to Gospel Plow on his first album. Songs like Long John and such. Its usually like chucka chucka followed by a real long bend or a whooo! Im sure you guys know what I am talking about. Any advice? THANKS!
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Re: Sonny Terry Style

Postby watertore » Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:13 am

Joe Henry wrote:How do that *chucka chucka chucka* real choppy sounding thing he does alot? Bob Dylan does it on the intro to Gospel Plow on his first album. Songs like Long John and such. Its usually like chucka chucka followed by a real long bend or a whooo! Im sure you guys know what I am talking about. Any advice? THANKS!


hi Joe Henry: I was lucky enough to get to know sonny. Being blind, he needed help at the gigs. He and Brownie pretty much hated each other at that time(the end of their careers). I got to sit next to him in dressing rooms, as he blew that harp. First off, all I can, anyone who tries to imitate him, will always fall embarrasingly short. That man had the most unique harp sound I ever heard. There are some aclaimed copy cats of his style out there, but it will never touch what he did.

With that said, he did a lot of fast, short, in and out breathes, mixed with talking and whooping, to get that unique sound. I recorded some songs today, and the one- why do people shoot fireworks-they freak dogs, has some sonny infuence, especially at the end. You can hear it at the link below. I never felt comfortable trying to touch his sound, but I sure did try to copy it for awhile! He inspired me! He encouraged me to find my own sound, which IMO, I have. he would often say, when you want to hear sonny terry, there is only 1 sonny terry.

I mean no disrespect on your quest. Ut is important to try to emulate the greats, on the journey to finding your own sound. If I can be of any more technical help, let me know. Walter
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Postby Joe Henry » Sat Sep 30, 2006 6:03 pm

While I really dig his sound, Im definatly not trying to straight up copy his style. I just like that choppy in-out thing he does. Im much more interested in developing a style of my own and I would like to learn this technique. Honestly Im not that huge of a Sonny Terry fan, I love his music and style but, I mean, I didnt even know he was blind. So any help you could give me on that technique would be appreciated.
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Postby jeffl » Sat Sep 30, 2006 6:18 pm

Joe Henry, if you click on the "Support our Sponsor,Coast to Coast Music!" link at the top of the forum page,you will go to the home page of CtoC Music. Type in "Sonny Terry licks" on the search space in the upper right hand corner and it will take you to an instruction book with CD entitled, "Sonny Terry Licks". I have this book and it is decent. If you can't spend the $20 bucks, google on Sonny Terry Licks and I think you will find that an online book seller could have it used for less money,but then you take your chance on whether or not the CD is still with it, or whether it's in good shape.
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Postby watertore » Sat Sep 30, 2006 8:49 pm

Joe Henry wrote:While I really dig his sound, Im definatly not trying to straight up copy his style. I just like that choppy in-out thing he does. Im much more interested in developing a style of my own and I would like to learn this technique. Honestly Im not that huge of a Sonny Terry fan, I love his music and style but, I mean, I didnt even know he was blind. So any help you could give me on that technique would be appreciated.


I am sorry if I came on too strong. I have run across countless players that are straight out copy cats of other styles. I let my baggage drift to your legitimate question. I think it is important to try and copy the greats, that turn you on. It will help you find your own way, which it sounds like you are already on. Like I said, try some in and out breathes as fast as you can do it. That is the basis of his chop-fast, short, breaths. You got to also have that chug amug rhythm in you working. His was rolling all the time, and the spaces he left carried that beat right forward. Walter
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Postby bosco » Sun Oct 01, 2006 12:38 pm

I would like to learn this technique.

Peter Madcat Ruth has an instructional VHS/DVD titled "The Ins and Outs of Rhythym Harp." There is an entire segment devoted to Sonny Terry's style. Madcat breaks it down in slow motion to a sytem of spoken syllables and counting and then speeds it back up. The whoops and hollers take the place of expelling extra air.

Having said that, it is still extremely difficult and like Walter said, very few if any have been able to duplicate Sonny's sound. I've played for a long time and pretty much gave up on it. I play mainly electric blues with a band and would have limited use for the technique anyway.

JP Allen's Train Time is a unique website with daily lessons. It's not quite the same as Terry but will get you on track to play some chugging-

JP Allen- Train Time
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Postby jeffl » Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:19 am

Thanks for those references,Bosco. I hope yer doin' well.
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Postby MOJOE » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:12 pm

Unfortunately there is no shortcut to learning the things you want to learn. You learn these things by playing, playing, playing!!!!! It will come naturally, but you have to pay your dues. The thing your talking about involves breathing and tongue technique, which like I said comes through time and years of playing, there are no shortcuts. 8)
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Postby jeffl » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:59 pm

MOJOE wrote:Unfortunately there is no shortcut to learning the things you want to learn. You learn these things by playing, playing, playing!!!!! It will come naturally, but you have to pay your dues. The thing your talking about involves breathing and tongue technique, which like I said comes through time and years of playing, there are no shortcuts. 8)
A simple,obvious,but really pertinent point,MOJOE. Conditioning is a big factor with any instrument,but especially with certain styles of playing. Many of the whoops and grunts found their way into harp styles because of the need to get some air before you pass out,lol, and expel remaining air to get fresh breath. I can tell I'm not in as good physical condition as I was earlier in the year when I was gigging and playing more.
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Postby steel1953 » Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:16 am

I've got MadCat's video and like every one says, it ain't easy! But it's a really neat way of playing rhythm that's worth the time and trouble to put it in your arsenal of playing..............
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