Need harp tips

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Need harp tips

Postby pungod » Thu Jul 06, 2006 4:59 am

On the Doobie Brothers LONG TRAIN RUNNING the harp player seems to effortlessly play a Bb, but when I try I get a B natural. Also, any tips on making my harp easier to bend? Thanks.
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Postby bosco » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:01 pm

I've played that song for years with my band. Not shure which note you are talking about in the solo. The band plays Long Train in E, which I believe is the original key and I play crossharp with an A.

I can hit all of the notes in the solo on a diatonic harp.

Give us a little more information.

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Postby jeffl » Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:52 pm

As far as makin' yer harp easier to bend: that's jus' a matter of practice,and playin'. Most draw bends are fairly easy,with experience,and if yer doin' a draw bend on the lower 2 thirds of the harp and it doesn't come easy after a while,you might be tryin' to do somethin' with a reed that it wasn't intended to do. How long have you been playin',and what have you used for educational aids? Do you play other instruments,and what is your level of expertise on those? If you're new to the instrument, jus' keep playin' it for a while,and things will get much easier. You'll break through some barriers and bubbles, and you'll see that the sun is up over the clouds.
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Postby pungod » Thu Jul 13, 2006 11:55 pm

Thanks, bosco. My band plays it in Gm, so I use a C harp. The note in question is in the 4th measure of the solo, and I'm inhaling with the 3rd hole from the bottom on a Hohner blues harp. I'm bending it to play a Bb (in your key a G natural). I can bend it to a Bb, but it seems difficult to hit it quickly the way it is in the original.

Maybe, as jeffl says, it's just a matter of experience. (Thanks, jeffl.) I've played piano professionally for 30 years, and play several other instruments, including the harp off and on.

In high school I had a science teacher who would bring his harp to school, blow the science lesson, and jam with me on guitar! He taught me how to soak the harp in water until the wood expanded, sand it down, and from then on soak it before playing to make the reeds more pliable. I never tried it, and I've since been told that's not a good idea. Any opinions?

By the way, is there a chromatic that bends as easily as a blues? How much for a descent one?
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Postby bosco » Fri Jul 14, 2006 3:15 am

soak it before playing to make the reeds more pliable.

Wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that incorrect statement. The reeds are made of brass and there ain't enough soaking in the world to make them more pliable. The thought process long ago was that soaking would swell the wood and make the instrument more airtight, which it did. An instrument that is airtight is also more efficient and therefore easier to bend notes on. Has nothing to do with the reeds.

Unfortunately the endless cycle of swelling and shrinking wood ruined harps fairly quickly. Plastic combed harps, introduced in the mid 80s offered a more airtight instrument right from the box. In fact, many wood combed harps of today come with sealed combs to prevent absorbtion of moisture. So; Soaking = Bad.

As for LONG TRAIN, it doesn't make any sense that your band has chosen Gm as a key for that song. All that accomplishes is making the harp solo unecessarily difficult, if not impossible. Minor keyed songs are not instrument friendly for soloing, especially for the diatonic harmonica. When we started my current band two years ago, the first thing we did was can all of the minor keys so harp could be included in more songs. If you need to move the song up or down a key to fit a vocal range, you're still in a major key which is compatible with a major key harp. Major keyed songs are also brighter, more melodic and easier to sing to.

My guess is that one of your guitar players learned the song in Gm and doesn't want to take the time to learn it in another key. Tell him that if they want an authentic version of the tune he's going to have to give in. If that doesn't work, send him to me, we'll straighten this out! :wink:

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Postby pungod » Fri Jul 14, 2006 7:39 am

Thanks, bosco. Actually, we do it in Gm because that's the key that the original is in (Doobie Brothers). I'm pretty sure the harp solo on the original is a C harp. Anyway, thanks for the tips. I won't be soaking my harps!
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Postby jeffl » Fri Jul 14, 2006 12:40 pm

Hey pungod..nice to have you here on the Road,btw.
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Postby ricochet » Fri Jul 14, 2006 6:55 pm

Yep. We like to have a little pun now and then.
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