Play What Works, Practice What Doesn’t

What do I mean by play what works, practice what doesn’t? I said I was practicing with a friend, working on a few songs for a battle of the bands. I really enjoyed the time.It was a failure though. We got frustrated with each other because our timing was off. It was a simple song I have performed live probably upwards of 30 times, both at blues jams with a live band and at karaoke. I was singing and playing my harp and he was on guitar. The issue in the end was not that we didn’t know what we were doing, It’s that he was attempting to play past his skill level. I don’t blame him, basic rhythm for 12 bar isn’t the most fun.

I thought about all the ways I could tell him that sticking to the basics was necessary but since we were doing it for fun, in the end I just let him run with it. It wouldn’t have worked if I had downloaded the karaoke version of the song to show him I knew my timings. It would have just made him mad, well more mad.

I learned that It’s important to practice things that don’t work. Scales for instance, they are boring as hell but practicing them will make it easier to move around the instrument better later. Second, when you are playing with other people, play what you can do well, even if it isn’t the most exciting thing to do. It’s the combined sound that makes us all sound good. For the sake of the Battle of the bands, I wish he had just worked on chord changes and timing and not fancy flourishes he found in the online tabs. It’s not that he shouldn’t play them, he should practice the mas much as possible. He should practice them. Just like scales could have helped immensely.

I think he spent so much time on getting all the notes on the flourishes that the other stuff, the basic stuff, the stuff we needed to do well, got left by the wayside. I do the same things though. I love to do Texas Flood with my harp. I can jam all the guitar parts and sing the verses but when I listen to Sonny Terry he has all these great backup sound that I don’t know the first thing about and I have run into the term “harmonica Comping” a few times now. usually in reference to country music. I don’t even know what that is but I guess it’s like using the harp as a rhythm and backup instrument.

I’ve decided to start working on my scales. I think I might try actually learning which notes each hole plays. At least on my main harps. I’m also going to work on that whole rhythm thing. It may be boring but scales will help me switch keys better and backup and rhythm will be good for backing up other people. The whole sounds way better than each individual. Besides, I can’t sing and play harp and not be missing something. I need someone else so why shouldn’t I try to make them sound as good as they make me sound.

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