Beefing Up Those Bends – 2 Draw

Batman & Robin XmasHoly Diatonic Batman!

Elwood The Apprentice had just finished wrapping his last set of replacement reed plates for Christmas when from somewhere downstairs… Zap! Wh@ck, Whåp, B#ff,  Biƒf, P*w, Zôwie, Spl@tt, Tºot.. He ran to the Good Doctor’s study.. Holy Diatonic Batman! What in the world is this? Revolving walls, hidden rooms, disguises? What is the Good Doctor’s wild secret? Has he ventured into the night to engage in mortal combat with modal meddlers, chromatic criminals, or some overblown oddballs intent on jamming his reeds for good? Is that him caterwauling in the Harp Surgery’s outhouse with Cat Woman? Or has he stepped out incognito to practice his two draw bends? Quick Otis, to the Harp Mobile.

Relax dear reader, the Doc is simply preparing a seasonal stocking filler for you to rehearse between your Christmas pudding and the Queen’s speech. You remember the old Batman & Robin TV series? All handbag fights and satin knickers. Well bizarrely enough the theme tune is actually a great resource for honing those two draw bends. Grab a C major harp from your bat utility belt and join us for some caped crusading.
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Win a Voucher for Seydel Söhne Harmonicas

Seydel Söhne 1847 Classic[Note: competition now closed.]

Harps down, heads up! Our lovely friends at Seydel Söhne are offering you the chance to win an e-voucher to the tune of €30.00 (US residents $40.00). If you submit three correct answers to our quiz before midnight (GMT) Jan.10 2010 and are one of three lucky names drawn at random from the Harp Surgery’s ugly hat, an e-voucher will be winging its way to your inbox.

All you have to do is study our competition questions, find the correct answers on the Seydel Söhne website and drop us an e-mail, stating your country of residence and your three competition answers (you can also access the Seydel Söhne site by clicking the yellow logo in our Partners menu to the right). (more…)

Happy Birthday Junior Wells

Happy Birthday Junior WellsThe Hoodoo Man would be 75 today.

Harmonica great Junior Wells was born December 9th 1934. It’s remarkable to think that someone who played with Muddy Waters in the early days would have been so young today (he was 19 in 1952 when he joined Muddy’s band, and died in 1998, aged 63).

I like Junior a great deal, so I’m celebrating him today. His harmonica style strikes me as being deceptively simple: he knew when not to play. And when he decided to play, he could make that thing wail like a cat being set on fire.

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Harmonica Warm-Ups and Workout

Simple practice routines to improve your tone, tempo and breathing.

Welcome to the Harp Surgery’s Physiotherapy Department. The Good Doctor is often asked about ways to warm up, develop breathing and keep all those important harping muscles in trim. Well ultimately everyone has their own regime. The Doc himself oscillates between a good glass of New World Merlot and Marathon runs. And we all suffer from poverty of time when it comes to practising, but no pump, no jump. On which note, we are proud to announce the addition of our Warm-ups and Workout page to the Harp Skills menu. We like to think of it as our harmonica gym.

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Gussow Calls It Quits?

Adam GussowSo long and thanks for all the chops. Elwood the Apprentice pays tribute to the end of an era.

All good things come to an end. That’s what Adam Gussow said when he finally, officially called it quits on his YouTube tutelage last week (Jason Ricci retires with him, but in this case even JR’s teaching is dwarfed by the sheer volume of Gussow’s output since he decided, February 22 2007, to “give it all away“).

As a blues pup, having suckled at the digital teat of Gussow’s YouTube channel for a good 18 months, I couldn’t help but feel wistful to see Gussow move on — like I was losing a little piece of myself. (more…)

Pencil Full Of Lead – Paolo Nutini

Sunny Side UpI got food in my belly, a license for my telly and nothing’s gonna bring me down!

We’ve only just caught on to this track, but you should have seen the shenanigans around the breakfast table down at the Harp Surgery this morning. The Good Doctor was blowing bass on an empty scrumpy jar, Elwood was harping his little head off, Otis the postman was tapping his teaspoon on the side of his cup and the Riverboat Captain was dancing a maniacal hornpipe around the hazardous waste container. We’ve not had so much fun since last Sunday’s matinée showing of Jungle Book.

We hold our hands up and confess we know next to nothing about Paolo Nutini or his band The Vipers, except they’re from north of the border. Clearly Paolo has been a rising star for some time. For obvious reasons however, one player from amongst The Vipers caught our collective eye. He’s Fraser Speirs, the coolest Laird o’ the Moothie. This man has been a beacon for the diatonic for decades. You can see him in action here with Tam White.

Anyway, we just had to share it with you. So turn up your sound system, grab your G major diatonic (2nd position) and get with the groove! Happy Harping.

And by the way… in case you were wondering, it’s here. And yes he does the Bear Necessities too! For more information on this track and the harmonica content, see our follow up post Pencil Full Of Lead – Which Harmonica?

The Good Doctor’s Patent Blues Remedy

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

with Gordon RussellThe Harp Surgery has been live for many months now, crammed with advice about how to do it, who else did it, when they did it, why they did it, where to hear it and what’s good about it. A lot of words for a music site. Well, we think it’s about time the Good Doctor opened his harp case and shared the medicine round. At some point you have to cut the chat and let the music do the talking. People, the Patent Blues Remedy is now live. Close all the doors, slide the phone off the hook, click here and get your fix.

You will hear edited highlights of tracks from both albums by The BlackjacksWhat’s The Deal? and High Roller, samples from the Doc’s contribution to The Blue Hearts, The Elevators, Boy Cried Wolf and a secret snippet from a recent commercial music library blues CD.

We look forward to adding further tracks in the months to come and also embellishing the Surgery’s instructional pages with sound bites. Oh, and keep it strictly between yourselves, but there is rumour of the Doc making his inaugural podcast on YouTube. All coming to a PC near you. Stay tuned.

Happy harping!

Introducing Elwood The Apprentice

I’ll have to prescribe the strongest medicine I’ve got

JT30We have some important news dear reader. In recent weeks, the popularity of the Harp Surgery has been growing faster than a wheat field on eco-friendly fertilizer. ‘Great stuff’ we hear you say – and we don’t mean the cow poo.

Unfortunately for the Good Doctor, this has resulted in long hours of chain-gang labour which, at his time in life, is really not good for the health. For a moment we were worried he had contracted the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu. Which is a grave situation for harp players. When tooting the blues burger, there is nothing more ornery than cold sores, snot and breathlessness – apart perhaps from a wah-wah hand that has recently been chopping onions. Either way, it’s hard to sustain your throat vibrato. (more…)

Messin’ With The Kid

What’s this I hear going all around town?

It was a great honour for the Harp Surgery to receive an email from Junior Wells’ daughter yesterday, confirming the legend that the great Junior Wells was indeed buried alongside a tray of Lee Oskar harmonicas. In a recent interview with Lee Oskar, the maestro couldn’t recall the full facts from that sad day, however it is now clear the friendship he had with Junior was a very special one. Then most unexpectedly the Harp Surgery received the following astonishing e-mail..

This is to verify that Jr Wells was buried with Lee Oskar harmonicas. I know this to be a fact because I was there at the funeral. Mr Oskar also played the most beautiful song (solo). I have never heard a harp played that way before. I would like to thank him for being his friend and honoring us with his presence. The reason I know all of this is because Jr was my dad. I miss him everyday but his fans and friends help keep him alive for our family. May God bless and keep all of you. Thanks Jr’s Family

Martin May 1957-2009

Martin May 1957-2009

It is with deep sorrow that I have to report the passing of Martin May, a pillar of the live music scene in Brighton & Hove. Those of you who knew Martin will remember him for his blistering guitar work, his huge personality and the relentless energy he put into live music. He was central not only to gigs and charity events around the City, but also in supporting and welcoming the efforts of budding newcomers to the circuit. I am sure you will join me in saluting this amazing man. Our thoughts are with his partner Sue and his immediate family. He will be deeply missed and we thank him for the magic he gave us all.