blues harp problems

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blues harp problems

Postby bluesbros1 » Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:21 pm

A big problem I have with playing blues harp is that I always sound the same. Is this something any of you struggle with?
How do you make blues harping sound fresh and new?
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Postby 601blues » Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:40 pm

:shock: Ive just takin 2 giant steps,in my harp playing
1. found Natural Minor Harps!! this has been a revalation, I just did a gig the 1st with minor harps, and blew my self away!!
2. Play my melodys and work off of that, melody is what seperates
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Postby jeffl » Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:53 pm

If you mean that all the licks you play sound the same, then the solution comes with time. If you play alone alot, you will stumble onto more and more licks all the time; I like to think of this as jamming with yourself. Listening to recordings of harpers will also introduce you to licks that you haven't previously played. If you listen to enough of these licks, enough times, you will just automatically figure out how to play them and they'll work their way into your playing. One of the best things about playing in a band is that you are forced to try to figure out how some of these licks are played on the tunes you're trying to cover. If you don't play in a band, jus' try to cop licks off of recordings and you'll broaden your repertoire. There are also instructional books that incorporate harp tablature or instruction on how to play certain licks. An inexpensive one that covers one of the most influential harpers is entitled "Sonny Terry Licks", and it comes with a CD as well. Learning to play blues is a long journey, unless you're extremely gifted, or grew up in a blues playin' family. 90% of blues licks are played by using varied combinations of the same 5-7 notes in the scale. The freshness of your music depends greatly on the ability to move these notes into interesting combinations with the assistance of varied rhythms, dynamics, and tones. It's somewhat like learning to race, whether it's racing cars,boats,bikes, or on downhill skis: If you do it enough, for long enough, everything begins to slow down around you and you get past a "speed bump". You begin to think like a blues man, and feel like a blues man, and that little world of 5-7 notes expands into a huge limitless universe.
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Postby 601blues » Mon Sep 17, 2007 5:01 pm

:shock: Whoa!! limitless universe!! how cool is that!! :lol:
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Postby mukluk » Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:35 pm

A couple more things you can try out is not playing harp licks, but try emulating other instruments. Listen to guitar and sax lines /riffs, then play your harp like that. Trust me.. it'll open up a whole new style of playing for you. I find doing that helps me avoid playing the same boxed off harp riffs over and over again, because your then playing a more ryhymic and melodic style. Another practice thing to do is get yourself a drum machine. They usually have loads of preset drums patterns in many styles of music ranging from rock, reggae, hip-hop, funk, blues , jazz, etc..... Playing along to all these different styles of music really expands your own style of playing. I play in blues jams, rock jams, country jams, and I feel totally at home in any genre because of the drum machine practice I do at home. ( I use a Boss DR-3 machine) Plus you've always got a rythym section (drums and bass)waiting to jam with whenever you feel like jamming.

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Postby dcblues » Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:45 pm

In addition to what everyone else has posted, learn to play in more than one position. Every harp player should know first and third position. A lot of blues players overlook first position, but there's some cool stuff you can do with it, especially on lower key harps.
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Postby jeffl » Mon Sep 17, 2007 7:30 pm

We have a guitar player/singer at our weekly jam who's spent parts of 40 years doin' a standup solo act with guitar and racked harp, mostly in 1st position, since he's a big Dylan, Neil Young fan. I encourage him to play straight harp on some of our tunes just so I can soak up his licks and style. Alas, I've been so glued to cross-harp that it does me alotta good to hear that straight harp playin'.
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Postby resoharp » Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:20 am

I sometimes concentrate on 3 or 4 holes at a time. You'll be surprized at how much music can come from just 3 holes. I also agree with the other guys that 1st position is neglected.
Also, put on some of your favorite cds and jam along. Just play and don't be too critical. If you can, record it with a cheap recorder and go back and pick out what licks you liked.
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Postby little leslie » Wed Sep 19, 2007 12:24 am

I learned that blues is much like a conversation.
That means you must leave room for others to speek or you'll get boring very soon. To keep my blues interesting while using the same riffs over and over again for over 15 years is to leave room between licks. I often start a solo by saying something (2, 3 or 4 notes) then stop and listen what is going on. (usually removing the harp from my mouth and looking straight at someone in the audience or another musician on stage). then one or two bars later, I repeat that same simple riff, trying to be as predictable as possible for everyone listening, hoping everybody knows exactly where i'm going. Then the tournaround pops up in my head waiting to be played. This works even if you are alone. Just imagine someone is answering your questions.

someone said that the Blues is more about wich notes you decide not to play...or when you decide to stop playing and listen. You don't have to fill all the space available like a heavy metal guitarist does (wich is very good too but far from blues...)... take your time, count the beats, leave empty spaces...breathe, smile, look around, listen, the blues will come, and when you're ready, a long, sustained 3 draw half bend with strong throat vibrato will do the job for you. It's all about taste, tone, and another T I don't remember of...
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Postby boogiechillun85 » Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:34 pm

little leslie wrote:It's all about taste, tone, and another T I don't remember of...


Tenacity. Thank you, Billy Gibbons.
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Re: blues harp problems

Postby Fate » Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:25 pm

How many harp players, especially harp/guitar players, have trouble with the harp wigglin' sideways, up, or down. You spend the whole dang tune tryin' to
position the harp, so you can really lay into it. All my life I had that problem. Set myself up on the guitar, and get ready to lay into the harp, and it's pushed
out away from me. Well, I finally figured it out. A way that is GUARENTEED to keep the harp in it's place, no matter what style harp you play. Neil Young,
to Kim Wilson.
First time I tried it out in public, my wife was there. I did my wicked version of "Wars" "Low Rider". Lotsa rhythm guitar, then I come in with total mind
bending harp!! I wore that tune out, and did'nt have to chase nothing nowhere!! The crowd WAY ate it up!! My wife was grinning SO BIG!! I'm tellin' you
I found the answer, and the way. I can really dig into my "Lee Oscars"and make 'em talk now. No more "sloppy, half-assed" playing .If you really want to
wail, on both guitar, and harp, I can help.
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Re: blues harp problems

Postby JakeyVimto » Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:06 pm

I'm throwing in with DC on the position thing, I just got myself a book which laid out 1st through to sixth position and its joining the dots really well for me, giving me more space to play.

Mimicing instruments is a good idea too, personally I always model my licks on the vocal I would put in the same space. Gindicks books always point out the method of asking and answering questions with with a repeated lick followed by a resolution lick. I haven't explained that well but any Gindick book explains it really well.
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Re: blues harp problems

Postby jeffl » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:14 pm

Jakey, it's what is sometimes referred to as "hook driven" I think. It's a derivative of the "call and response" nature of southern spirituals finding its way into the blues.
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Re: blues harp problems

Postby bosco » Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:18 pm

Well, I finally figured it out. A way that is GUARENTEED to keep the racked harp in it's place, no matter what style harp you play.

Well Fate, I'll bite. You gonna share what your discovery is or just tease us? :?

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Re: blues harp problems

Postby barbequebob » Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:13 pm

Learning different positions is something I definitely agree with, but in addition, constantly experiment, and don't be afraid to make mistakes because if you don't make them, you don't learn anything!!!! If you start to hear the same thing, try anything from different breath levels, go at a different area, etc., but constantly experiment so that you develop a musically exploratory nature because, again, if you're too locked up in one thing and are afraid to make mistakes along the way, you won't learn anything and you'll always be in a rut.
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