Rebuilding Everything

As you can tell, I’m working on getting the site updated. There’s some pretty old stuff here. I’m banging it with a rock. In other parts of my life. I have decided to move on from what I’ve been doing for the past 4 years. I love the people I’m working with but as I focus on more specialized work it’s less of a fit. In the past 4 years, I have honed my video and photography skills. No this isn’t becoming one of those sites. It does mean as I start producing content I have much higher quality tools and much more skill to produce work with. It should be like night and day from my previous work.

I think the timing is great to do another video series. Something about getting back to it after being away for a long time. It should be a fun trip. I’m going to try out some techniques I’ve been using in my current career. I’m looking forward to learning Harmonica All over again. I hope you enjoy the ride with me!

Building a better Life

Hi all. Yup, It’s me, Erik.

As you can tell, my activity has been “Irregular.” I am going to attempt to change that over the next several months. I have rebuilding to do on the site and rebuilding to do on my Harmonica skills. Please be patient with me. I have been sucked into the corporate world and relationships.

The good news is that work sucks and my love life is so messed up I’m living a blues song right now. Give me a bit of time and let’s see if my depression can turn into something truely magical.

Learn Harmonica Advice From Bill Johnston

BillJohnstonI met Bill Johnston On Sunday February 28th at the KNON blues Show at The Pearl in downtown Dallas. He was opening for Johnnie Red and The Roosters. It was a benefit to support KNON a nonprofit radio station in Dallas and the best place to hear blues on a regular basis. I’m working on a post about the benefit and I have an Interview with Johnnie Red on the way as well. If you want to hear what Bill Johnston sounds like, there is a link to his Myspace and his band “The Tu-Tones” at the bottom of the article.

Bill Played with Aarron Burton That Sunday Evening. They played some Old style southern blues. They amplified but didn’t distort much if at all. Aarron played some side, did some finger picking and played an acoustic and a Resonator. (I’m thinking about picking up a Resonator). I’m starting to call it restoration blues because it really digs into the roots of Delta blues. It was a great show.

Bill took a few minutes out to talk to me about playing Blues Harmonica. Enjoy the video.


Learn Harmonica By Practicing With a Friend

Creative Commons License photo credit: PjotrP

As I continue to learn harmonica, the old saying we all know rings true, practice makes perfect. I practiced with my buddy Big Tiny (I just gave him that for his blues name, if you play blues, you gotta have one) from 4 to 9 yesterday afternoon. If you have a friend who plays another instrument or wants to, having a practice partner is amazing. It’s something I never though of. He’s been teaching himself guitar for the past couple of years and while he has picked up a few things, I think he’d agree that he hasn’t really done much with it. I understand it too.

I don’t really practice alone. I don’t focus well and have no structure to it. Me practicing is kind of a mess. It’s the time when I feel I have the least talent or skill. I listen to experts talk about how to do things on video or listen to the classic great harmonica players and get discouraged. It’s counter productive. I get most of my practice at karaoke, open mic nights or blues jams.

My favorite dive is doing a battle of the bands Saturdays in October. Big Tiny and I have been talking about putting a band together since I started playing harmonica. We just never had focus. The battle of the bands gave us focus. We need 4 songs. The first is Hoochie Coochie Man. We spent 5 hours playing that yesterday evening. We even amplified my harp playing with a cheap Samson mic and a Fender starter amp.

It is the most productive practice time I have ever spent. When you do Karaoke, It’s one song at a time with no do-overs. An open mic is limited to what you can play with someone else or just jamming. Blues jams are the same way. All your skills improve evenly because they all get the same amount of attention. You may get deficits because you avoid stuff you are bad at for the sake of live performance. Practice by yourself, unless you are REALLY disciplined, isn’t very effective and you get discouraged when you have trouble working through problems.

Imagine spending 5 hours working on getting Hoochie Coochie Man down. I can pull out my harp and blast that riff without even thinking about it now. Big Tiny has gone a long way too. You get positive reinforcement when you do well and help with areas where you are deficient. It’s that perfect center between practicing alone and a performance like karaoke.

We are going to be practicing with each other over the next few weeks. so we can play in the Battle of the Bands but after that, I would like to get together with him once a week for practice. It is really productive.

Harmonica Set Ideas

I have been thinking about my harmonica set. I was thinking about going with a Marine Band Harmonica when I first started looking, but Blues Harps are easier to maintain so I picked up a Bb and later an A. Now that I am looking at filling out my harmonica set I am trying to decide what I need. (hint to loved ones, this is my Christmas wish list ;P)

I’m working on learning blues harmonica so that is the definer on what will round out the harmonica set. When you look into what to pick up the first thing everyone says is you don’t need every harmonica key. So what keys would the budding blues smith need?

Hohner 532/20 Blues Harp Harmonica Pack with Case and Belt

You can’t go wrong with just a natural set A, B, C, D, E, F, G. After the basics are out of the way, the next thing is to figure out which of the others to get. Elwood plays the Bb, and Adam Gussow starts his training videos with a Bb. Eb is a good harp for playing with a horn section. Gussow also recommends low G and Db as well. The Db is right in the middle of the scale.

So what I need to finnish out my set is low G, B, C, D, E, Eb, F, and high G. Some of the major keys I won’t use much with the blues but you never know when they will come in handy. My carrying set will probably be G, A, Bb, C, D, Db, F, and high G. I don’t plan on playing with a horn section so I won’t be carrying the Eb.

So what I need to get to round out the carrying set is, low G, C, D, Db, F and high G. Or maybe I will just pick up the Major scale set and then scrape together the Db and low G later. Yeah, I like that. and I can give the extra A to my son for his Birthday in January.

Harmonica Tabs, What Are They?

What is a harmonica tab? Harmonica tabs or tabulature, is a way to write out a songs harmonica notes based on the harmonicas design instead of using standard musical notation. While My on going series on the harmonica notes in different keys explains the basics for standard notation, harmonica tabs tell you which hole to blow through. draw through and bend.

There are a few ways to write harmonica tabs. The one you will see on this site is as follows: The holes are numbered 1 through 10, blows are denoted with as the number as in 2 for blowing through the 2 hole, the draws are – as in as in 2- or -2 for drawing through the 2 hole. Bends are marked with a ‘ so a bent 2 hole draw is marked as -2′ or 2′- and the 10 hole bent blow 10’. In some instances there are multiple bends for a hole such as the 3 hole draw which has 3 bends that can be played. This will be noted with more than one ‘, so the 3 hole draw bent 3 times looks like -3”’.

You may also see bends shown as a b but I find that confusing so I will try not to use it on this site. one of the other formats looks like this:

You won’t see much of that on this site. It takes too much work In illustrator and which would you rather see, a pretty illustrator image or a harmonica tab you can use easily?

ets take a look at the blues scale on a c harmonica Played cross harp. The key would be G and the scale is:

G, Bb, C, Db, D, F, G

Now, while you can say that and anyone with an instrument who knows standard musical notation will be able to play. Where tabs come in is when you just want to know what holes to blow and draw through. You don’t need to know the names of the notes.

standard blues tab:

2- 3′- 4+ 4′- 4- 5- 6+

With the standard notation, I have told you how to play the G blues scale for any instrument but with the standard blues tab, I have told you how to play the blues scale on every standard blues harmonica, regardless of key.

Whats cool about tabs is it allows you to play the same song in any key reasonably well. There will be audible differences from key to key but if a blues song is in the key of g, you know you can pick up a C harmonica, play the standard notes from the tab and be bluesy in the key of G.

Here’s a sample of basic 12 bar blues tabs, play on any 10 hole diatonic and you got the blues.

3,4,-3′,3 (play 4 times)

4,4,-3,4(play 2 times)

3,4,-3′,3 (play 2 times)

3,-3′,4,-4” (play once)

4,4,-3,4  (play once)

3,4,-3′,3 (play twice)

Try It out on any key Blues Harp.

Pretty basic right? Harmonica songs are noted with the tab over the word in ths song where it is supposed to be played. I don’t really need to go to much into that do I? How about i leave you with one of the classics of blues harmonica, Saint James Infirmary:

Play this mournful and slow
4-4 5 5 -4 5 4 b-3 b-3 -3 4 2 b-3 4 5 -4 4 b-3 5

5  5    5   5   -4    -4    5  4 -3
I went down to Saint James Infirm`ry
4   4  -4  -5   5
to see my baby there
5   5   5  5  5  5  -4   5    4 -3′
She was laying on a long white table
-3′ 4    4  -3′  4  -3′
so sweet so cool so fair
5   5  5  -4  5   4 -3′  5     5 5   -6  -5  5
Went up to see the doctor”She`s very low” he said
5    5   5  -4  5  4-3  -3′   -3  4   -3′
Went back to see my baby great god she was
5-4    4   -3′
lying there dead
5  5    5   -4  -4  5    4  -3′  4   4   4  4
I went down to old Joe`s barroom on the corner
-6 -5    5
by the square
5    5    5  5   5   -4    5  4 -3′ -3′  3
They were servin`the drinks as usual and the
4 -3′   5-4   4   -3′
usual crowd was there
5  5   5     5    -4  5 4 -3′  5    5
On my left stood Joe McKennedy his eyes
-6     -5   5
blood shot red
5    5    5   5   -4    5  4  -3′ -3′ -3 4
He turned to the crowd around him these are
4 -3′ 5-4  4   -3
the words he said
5   5  5  -3′  5  -4  5    4   -3′ 5  5 -3′
Let her go let her go God bless her wherever
-6  -5  5
she may be

5   5  5  -3′ 4 5    -4    5   4  -3′
She may search this wide world over
b-3 -3 4b-3   4  -3′ 5 -4  4  -3′
she`ll never find a man like me
5   5  -3′ -4   5    4 4  -3′  4 4  4 -3′ 4  5
Oh when I die please bury me in my high   top
-6  -3′  -5
Stetson hat
5  5  5    5    -4 5   4     -3′
Put a gold piece on my watch chain
-3′ -3 4    4   4  -3′ 5 -4 4   -3′
so they`ll know I died standin` pat
5    5  5 -3′ 5   5  -4 5  5   4 -3  5    5  -3′
Get six gamblers to carry my coffin,six chorus
4    5   -6  -5  5
girls to sing my song
5  5 5 -3′ 4 5   -4 5   -3′  -3′ -3 4 -3′   4
Put a jazz  band on my tailgate to raise hell
-3′ 5 4  4  -3′
as we go along
5  5  -3′  5 -3′ -45 5  5  4 -3′  4    4 -3′
Now that`s the end of my story let`s have
4 5 -6   -3′  -5  5
another round of booze
5  5  5 -3′ 5  -3′   -4   -4  5    4    -3′
And if any-one should ask you just tell them
-3′  -3′ -3   4     4    -3′ 5-4 4   -3′
I`ve got the Saint James Infirmary Blues

Learn Harmonica Chords, C Major

Our Harmonica notes series continues. C Harmonica Notes is already up but we can”t forget about C harmonica chords. I’m starting to notice a pattern here but I am going to have to do some research to make sure. While the blow chords are all in the key of the harmonica, the draw chords start with the 2 hole draw, the second chord is the 5 hole draw and the last 2 repeat the first 2. Which is fine for the fourth chord because the it starts with the note that the chord is. What’s messing with me is the 3rd chord. The key of the third chord does not have its note in it.

I guess I’ll figure it out. At any rate, here’s the C harmonica chords.

C Harmonica Chords
C Harmonica Chords

I’m going to look around for some good songs in the Key of C to post up so we can practice. Let me know what you think and if you have any songs or information about the good old basic C harmonica, feel free to let me know. Oh, and if you don’t have one, a Blues Harp in the Key of C is a nice harp to practice those chords on.