That’s All Folks!

Looney Tunes outro on harmonica

Otis has been talking about a Surf Guitarist he heard busking in the underground walkway under London’s Science Museum. Apparently he was so good, everyone jumped in the soup for a slide.

A detail that caught Otis’s ear was the lick the guitarist added to the end of Secret Agent Man by The Ventures. It was the familiar outro to Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons. He played it as a group of children were passing by and it turned every single head.

Sufferin’ succotash!
We’ve tried it on the harmonica and it’s all there! You might like to add it to your repertoire. Grab a C major 10 hole diatonic and make out in first position (straight harp).

5B   4D..4B   4D   5B..4D..5B  
4B   4D..4D..4D..4D
4D   2D   3D   4D
5B   4B-5B-6B  (….gliss to 10B)

Listen to

Now show all your friends. Unless of course they’re hunting Wabbits. In which case, be vewwy, vewwy quiet.

Country Harping With The Rolling Stones – Sweet Virginia [..with tab]

Wadin’ through the waste stormy winter

Fifty years on, old big lips and the gang are back on stage delivering their special brand of rock’n’roll. And we still like it!

Coincidentally, we got a call from our good friend Gordon Russell, asking if Harp Surgery had a student who could add the harp line to a song one of his own protégés would be performing locally. ‘What’s the song?’ the Harp Surgery’s Good Doctor asked. ‘Sweet Virginia in A, by the Stones’, replied the ex-Doctor Feelgood axemeister.

Listen to

‘No sweat me old mucker, we’ve got just the person.’ Cue Harp Surgery’s junior player of the year 2011 and 2012, Josh Cooper, age 10. Josh and the Doc duly put their heads together and this is what they came up with.. (more…)

Irish Harmonica – Garryowen

Eireann go Brach.. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Virtually forgotten in the post-war revival of traditional Irish music, Celtic and folk harmonica has recently enjoyed a massive rise in popularity. This is largely down to the work of Brendan Power and Mick Kinsella, both of whom joined us at the UK Harmonica Festival in Bristol 2010. To celebrate St Patrick’s day, let’s investigate the Irish harmonica style a little further and learn a great tune called Garryowen.

Listen to

Brendan’s 1993 recording New Irish Harmonica ultimately led to his tenure in the Riverdance show, bringing him to the forefront of the Irish harmonica style. Meanwhile, native Irishman Mick Kinsella drew on compatriot Eddie Clarke as the major inspiration for his Celtic harping. Both are active on the Irish folk music scene today, as well as TV, Radio and Film. Did we recently hear Brendan on the soundtrack of the Leap Year movie? (more…)

The Harmonica At War – Lili Marlene [..with tab]

LILI MARLENE [..with tab]

Underneath the lantern, by the barrack gate

Had we been shovelled onto a grimy conveyor belt and pitched alongside millions of innocents into the inferno of the Great War (1914-18), there is a strong chance we would have had a musical companion. An emollient for the mental and physical agonies of front line duty.

Portability, cost and availability predetermined the choice of instrument. And while a variety found their way to the front, it was the humble harmonica that became the proprietary antedote to the sting of industrialised warfare. And it’s probably the reason why so many Europeans still relate stories of a family elder who played the mouth organ.

This Remembrance Day is no different to any other – they are equally important.  As Santayana famously wrote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It’s just that this year we have the novelty of an extra number 11. At the eleventh hour (GMT), on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month –  of the eleventh year – we remember the fallen.

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Get Out Of Jail Free

Norton & BonnieDo not pass GO

Greasy Rob the car mechanic, Otis the mailman, Stomping Stu from the village allotments and the Doc were busy playing a game of Friday night Monopoly on the kitchen table. A large brown pot of Taylor’s Yorkshire Tea steamed away next to Otis who was also banker for the weekend biscuit assortment. Otis had hotels on the home straight, Rob had all four stations and the Doc had a strong collection of reds and yellows. Meanwhile Stu was casually thumbing his Water Works and keeping one eye on Bow Street. (more…)

Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach [..with tab]

Switched On BachHark, what peaceful music rings!

[To the Memory of the great Herbert Harris, Choirmaster and Organist of All Saints Church, Harpenden, UK].

Welcome to the Harp Surgery, where one minute we’re honking the blues and next minute we’re power harping on a tangent. Time now to turn the clocks back three hundred years to the ornamentation and etiquette of the Baroque.

Whether or not you’ve studied classical music, it’s a certainty you’ve encountered its superstars. In absentia, these dudes have colonised elevators, call centres hold messages and even TV theme tunes (check out The Antiques Roadshow ) for decades. Our house favourite is Johann Sebastian Bach. Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, composed in the early 1700’s, was regular fayre for the Good Doctor as a junior.  And somehow, Bach was hip. (more…)

I Feel Good (I Got You)…[with tab]

Funkin’ it up on the blues harmonica

What shall we play now? Well, as the late great James Brown put it, whatever we play, it’s got to be funky! Wise words from a guy who learned harmonica as a kid; as well as the guitar, drums, piano, and of course, some hefty vocals.

Harp players are – or should be – conscious of their scope for providing not only a horn line, but a whole horn section on the humble tin sandwich. By this I mean everything from a melody which might otherwise be delivered by a single brass instrument, to a fanfare or complete horn-style fill. It’s all there waiting to be mined. So let’s dig deeper… (more…)

Amazing Grate – First Steps On Those High End Holes

How strange the sound

Young Malcolm called into the Harp Surgery today, hot on the heels of our Harpin’ By The Sea event. Having witnessed Will Greener’s performance of Amazing Grace, he was keen to revisit the tune from scratch.

Using a C major 10 hole diatonic, we knew that the tune can be played using 7B as the root. But while this avoids any nasty bends, it does sound rather shrill. Also, as a beginner, it demands a strong embouchure and some dexterity around a specific triplet of notes. (more…)

Harp The Herald Angels Sing!

Christmas VoucherChristmas Carols on the diatonic harmonica

In thanks to everyone who has tuned in to the Harp Surgery this year, we would like to share some seasonal music with you. So grab your harps (and maybe a friend with a harp) and let’s look at Silent Night, Jingle Bells and Angels From The Realms Of Glory.
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The Addams Family Theme [..with tab]


They’re creepy and they’re kooky

Get with it gang – it’s Halloween! As we can see, the Doc has been busy working on his ghoulish face painting skills. Meanwhile Elwood has been imitating a two-stroke chainsaw engine on a low F harp, while sporting a hockey mask and leather apron. Otis the postman has been demonstrating his Thriller routine to the Harp Surgery’s new cleaning lady, our Monica from up north, and showing us how he can swap his eyeballs over. For her part, Monica is dressed as Lily Munster. The Riverboat Captain rang to say he is counting his Cape Fear chest tattoos and watching Dead Of Night. Meanwhile…It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark.. (more…)