Christian here, this is the first time I had taken part in a forum in my life and not real sure how all of this works.
I’m one of the ole timers, nearly 70, I can get by on a computer, but I not a guru by any stretch of the imagination.
I saw someone else on here from Tennessee, so am I but from the Knoxville area.
I HAVE A PROBLEM—and I’m not sure now to deal with it. Right now I’m pretty frustrated.
I have JP’s complete set of disc. I get by with single hole, I can bend, and I can do just about anything one thing in the course independent of the rest of the course.
Somewhere in the disc JP made the statement that he saw harmonica playing like a soup with it all mixed together. My problem is that I have all the ingredients of the soup except the water or binder that brings it all together into a cohesive mix.
My greatest problem is Improv I just can’t seem to bring it together.
I love the blue and can do the exercises in second position, including bending.
I became so frustrated, that I sorta dropped, the blues and went to single note, trying country and bluegrass. I can read music well enough to write tab for different songs.
But who wants to play Mary had a little lamb for the rest of their life.
I can’t find an instructor in this area who might help me, I really don’t know what to expect from myself. I can watch the pro’s on line but they are in a whole another league, I can’t expect to do as well as them. But I am not happy with where I am and can’t seem to get out of the rut and its not from a lack of practice. I have several hours a day to devote to it if necessary.
Please excuse the rambling, but does anyone have any suggestions?
Well…to start off with: Welcome! This forum ain’t hard to use…but if something should trip you up, let us know how we can help you!
Now to the deeper issues!
It sounds like you are kinda in a bind…and I think I can relate! I guess I would call myself an intermediate player, and that sounds like where you are. I am trying to move to more ‘advanced’…but I am finding the gap between intermediate and advanced quite a bit larger than the gap between beginner and intermediate!
Honestly, I can only speak from what I am going through, and what has worked for me.
I practice for a few hours a day…and I can bend and do all that stuff. I can kinda do improv, but not exceptionally.
I am finding (again, this is what is working for me… I don’t know if it will help you) that practice is not neccesarily the issue, as much as time is. I don’t know how long you have been playing…but it has been about 3 years for me. I have been trying to focus less on getting better, and more on just enjoying the ride. And honestly, if nothing else, I am getting better at the things I know how to do!
I take a set of different keys, and try to play what I hear on the radio! I try to find some old hymns…and see if I can make it sound traditional, and then a bit bluesy, and then with some twang.
A note about improv-
When I started doing improv, (and I am by no means good at it) I just took little riffs and licks that I heard, and did little variations. Instead of ending a riff on the same note I started on, I took it up a hole! I tried to do a little trill every once in a while, and just kinda varied it until you couldn’t tell it was the same thing!
now I"M the one rambleing!
So anywho, I have absolutely no idea if that helps, but its my take o the situation! No miracles!
I wish you the very best of luck on your harpin’ journey!
P.S. And I am sure that SPD or somebody will be able to help you more than me!
Thanks Burning Thunder, I appreciate your taking the time to respond. I’m sorry for any problems you have had with similar issues, but I guess there in some consolation in knowing that others have been where I am
Christian, Welcome to the forum!
(CAUTION this is a long one!)
Well Christian and BT, Y’all good buddies scoot over and let me have a seat in that boat!
I have been blowing on a harp off and on for almost 20 yrs with very little instruction to help me. As a result it never advanced any farther than playing a couple straight harp campfire songs.
About 3 yrs ago I hurt my back and was laid up in the house with nothing to do (I refuse to watch Springer and Soap Opera’s) so I picked up that harp I always wanted to learn to play and have made some progress but I am where y’all are now.
I think (I may be wrong) I have had an AH-HA Moment the past couple of days and would like to share. I hope the Advanced players will correct me if I am headed the wrong direction.
I am going to compare learning the blues to learning to dance!
Dance moves are taught in patterns, Waltz for instance starts with a box step or pattern, from there you have the option to step into another pattern, say an under arm turn, or a twinkle, or sashay, or just another box step. You have to learn the patterns/riffs before you can put them together and dance/play. Riffs are like dance patterns.
Next is timing and chords. Let’s take the 12 bar blues since it is the only one I have figured out. It is broken into 3 patterns. The first pattern is four bars of the I chord, which is any or all of the draw holes #1-4. Second pattern is 2 bars of the IV chord, which is any or all of the blow holes #1-4 and another 2 bars of the I chord. The third pattern is 1 bar of the V chord, which is any or all of the draw holes#4-6, 1 bar of the IV chord, and 2 bars of the I chord.
I-I-I-I Pattern 1
IV-IV-I-I Pattern 2
V-IV-I-I Pattern 3
Total of 12 bars. Any of the I chord or V chord notes sound OK when played during the IV chord slot but the IV chord notes sound good Only in their assigned place in the pattern.
I have noticed that there seems to be two parts to playing the blues, one is to play the 12 bar blues pattern as the rhythm or baseline to come back to and the like an Airline runway, to taxi out and get into the airstream. Improve is the plane taking off and doing flips, rolls, barrels, etc. and returning to the runway to refuel and think or new tricks.
I haven’t been playing (playing with) a harmonica long enough to have enough knowledge to even start to be dangerous, but I have been playing guitar for a long time. Improv takes a leap of faith, and just hanging it out and doing it. One of the hardest things I had to learn is you don’t have to be playing constantly. Fill the empty spots in music, enhance what the singer, or other soloist is doing without covering them up. As long as you stay in the diatonic key, most of it will blend if you keep some semblance of the melody. Get a simple phrase and use it over and over with a little variation…and, if you don’t stop and say, “I messed up”, most people are not going to know it. You are usually among friends, and they will forgive you. Good luck! Joe Mann
Thanks Joe for the encouragement, it helps
Paul Bunyn,thank you also for the encouragement, like I said I new at this and I want you all to know that I appreciate the words of encouragement, and they do help. It helps to know that other people have faced similar problems
Howdy Christian, and welcome.
One thing to add to the good advice you’re receiving here is to find a buddy to jam with. I bet in Tennessee you’ll be able to find some country, blue grass, blues, or rock weekly or monthly open community jams.
Good harping to you,
My greatest problem is Improv...I just can't seem to bring it together. I love the blues and can do the exercises in second position, including bending. I became so frustrated, that I sorta dropped, the blues and went to single note, trying country and bluegrass. I can read music well enough to write tab for different songs. But who wants to play Mary Had a Little Lamb for the rest of their life?
So what’s wrong with playing Mary Had a Little Lamb for the rest of their life if it sounds good?!
Meaning, yeah okay, seems one of the biggest questions/comments new players make after which harp should I get and how do I bend is: What is this improvisation thing all about?!
For me, the best I can give you is: What music do you hear in your head, your heart, your soul that you wish to/can express?! Once you find that, you can play it and do it!
And that’s Improvisation!
If you have JP’s bundle, in the best selling, world’s most favorite home harmonica course will be his backing tracks DVD.
Sure, you may not be a big fan of funk, pop or rock harmonica – But listen to a couple of tracks you do like, and then let the beats and rhythms inspire you and just play along with them.
Throw caution to the wind! Don’t think or concern yourself whether you’re doing these notes right or those changing chords correctly – Just play!
Somewhere along the way your body and all the stuff you learned about this and that will automatically take over and music will start coming out.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or anything like that. A lot of times less is more. And you’ll get better with it as you go along. So for now and ever more, the only thing necessary is that you feel it and make it yours! Get yourself out of the way and just let it happen!
Now as far as playing the same song over and over again. It’s okay. And it’s good if you can put your own spin and taste on it. Why?
Because people may have heard others play, like their uncles, grandpas, dads and so forth – But when you play it live for them, in your own way, it takes on a whole new meaning and whole new sound. Know what I mean?!
I can go on and on about improv – But if you have various key harps in your collection, well each one can help you play something different, as was posted here:
**Please note: Harrison is going through some changes, like out of business changes…hehehe!..so the link in this post no longer works. Oh well, so it goes. But the story is still a good one anyways! Mwuahahaha!
Hope all this helps you!
Thanks for reading!
“Have Harp, Will Travel!”