Using Your Head (Or Your Hands)

hPut your hands on your head, Simple Simon says

It was the end of another busy week in the village. There’d been so much rain, the duck pond had swamped the High Street and a family of widgeon was floating past the Surgery’s kitchen window. Our Monica had finished mopping up the puddle by the kitchen door and it looked like there would be no way home for a while, short of borrowing the Good Doctor’s waders.

Time for a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea!’ the Good Doctor said cheerily, placing a couple of logs in the AGA and setting the kettle on the hob. ‘Now here’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while,’ he continued, ‘head or hands?’.  Our Monica looked worried. ‘Do you mean heads or tails?‘ she replied cautiously. ‘No, no, when one plays a trill on one’s gob iron, should one move one’s head or one’s hands?’, the Doctor asked in earnest. ‘Doctor, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,’ giggled Monica. ‘Hmmm, I’ve been weighing it all up..’, the Doctor replied, ‘here’s what I think..’ (more…)

Mark Feltham – The Old Market Theatre, Sat 8.Nov 2014

Ain’t that a pity, I declare it’s a cryin’ shame

Sparklers i sepiaIt was Guy Fawkes’ night down at the Surgery. Beside the wood burner, Greasy Rob and Shagpile Jim were playing light sabres with their indoor sparklers. From the galley, the Doc was dispensing glögg and spiced ale. As Otis queued up Homework on the Sonos system, from the foggiest fathoms of his sub-conscience, he quietly muttered, ‘Poor old pigeons.’ The Doc set down his sepiamulling poker and turned from the ARGA. ‘Since when did pigeons and The J. Geils Band have anything in common?’ he asked. Otis resurfaced. ‘I was thinking of the fireworks; it’s coming down in stair-rods outside. The Rear Admiral said there’ll be a few damp squibs this year.’

Well you know it’s nine below zero
‘That’d be wet squab mate.’ Greasy Rob was chairman of the surgery’s pub quiz team and an authority on trivia. ‘Young pigeons are squab. A squib’s a small stick of dynamite; an out-sized banger to you and me. And we’re not talking Cumberland. And don’t you get me started on squid either, sick or otherwise. They’ve set up a marquee by the pond – they’ll be fine.’ Otis was back in the building. ‘Alright! Alright!’ he growled, ‘no need for the third degree.’

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At that moment JJ, the local internet radio presenter, poked his be-spectacled bonce round the parlour door. ‘You should be on Egg-Heads Rob you saucy git. Here, any of you lively lot heard who’s playing The Old Market Theatre tonight?’ He flourished a wad of tickets. ‘Only Nine Below flamin’ Zero! It’s gonna be a proper R&B shindig.’ Otis sat freeze-Old NBZ Ticketframed, still pointing his finger at the guitarist on his album cover. ‘Sup up gentleman, we have some unfinished business!‘ The Doc pulled out his press pass and slipped it into his hatband.

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Johnny Ace Harp Mics

hThe Harmonica Microphone SeriesJohnny Ace Harp Microphones

It’s been a while since we posted anything technical from the Harp Surgery, so pull on your overalls and let’s hit the grease pit. We’ve been busy refreshing our harp rig and look forward to reporting on all the fantastic hardware we’ve assembled. Customised harp mics, harp effects pedals and tuning equipment; they’re all here. So let’s start with some real harp mic cheesecake.
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The Little Walter Diaries – Introduction

LogoIn search of the inner Walter.

I am officially a liberated blues harmonica player. I woke up this morning and admitted to myself that I just don’t get Little Walter. I never have. I’ve been denying the fact for years, cowering in the deepest recesses of the blues closet, fearful of public ridicule. But now I’m out. O U T, out.

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Everyone knows mastery of Little Walter’s diatonic blues dialect is an essential step in any half-decent harmonica apprentice’s development. If you can’t recite Juke note for note, name all his hits and tongue block them, you’re nobody. Well, I can play the intro to Juke from draw two or blow three, with or without octaving blow six, I can tongue-block or purse it at will, but I’ve never stopped to learn the whole piece. The reason for which is two-fold. Firstly, there was a timing issue I just couldn’t unravel, whether or not it was a mistake on Walter’s part. Secondly, for love nor money, I simply couldn’t copy Little Walter’s phrasing, nor did I feel the urge to do so. Oh, and there was another reason. Big Walter.

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Guitar Licks For Harmonica – You Don’t Love Me

Allman BrothersYou don’t love me, pretty baby

The Good Doctor, Greasy Rob from the garage and Barry the Landlord were enjoying some time out on the patio, shelling a mountain of fresh prawns and sipping ice-cold pilsner. Amidst occasional quacks from the village duck pond and the chirrup of sparrows in the privet hedge, they could detect the approaching whistle of Otis the postman, who was steadily making his rounds.

Shrimps and BeerHow do all!‘ Otis leaned over the Surgery gate, tugging the peak of his hat and holding out a letter for the DocThanks Otis old boy, have you time for some of our splendid seafood?’ the Doc enquired. ‘Sorry’, Otis replied, ‘I’m in a bit of a rush right now – an Otis rush you could say’. Otis was visibly pleased with his impromptu blues pun.

‘Aaah!‘ said the Doc, ‘You Don’t Love Me!‘ Otis looked a little surprised. I wouldn’t go that far‘, he replied, straightening his cap. ‘No, no, no…the letter old boy! It’s from Tom Esposito. He wants to know how to play the riff for You Don’t Love Me by The Allman Brothers’. ‘Now we’re talking!‘ whooped Otis, as he pulled a Special 20 from his pocket, ‘I likes a drop of the AB’s.’

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Hohner Rocket

Rocket Box iiiLet me introduce my new Rocket 88

There’s a right old rumpus down at the Harp Surgery! The Doc has taken delivery of his new Hohner Rocket and he’s been putting it through its paces. The verdict? It’s everything Hohner claims it to be – comfortable, responsive and loud. If you’re considering investing in a Rocket, we say go for it, you’ll love it! It’s great for blues, rock and pretty much every contemporary style. And just to get us in the mood, here’s some Pocket Rocket from the Fab T-Birds..

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For those of you looking for more information before you dive in and buy a Rocket, it’s time to grab your beverage of choice, turn the phone to silent, draw the blinds and enjoy a good graze through our analysis below. But just before we get going..

At the start of the 2014 when we had the pleasure and good fortune of seeing Kim Wilson in San Jose, there was rumour he would be playing new Rocket harps for the show, in advance of their official release date. Contrary to speculation however, he didn’t. Nevertheless, here’s a short video of Kim trialling the Rocket at the 2014 NAMM exhibition. (more…)

I Keep It To Myself

Steve Weston 2iDoctor Who?

Otis the postman dropped by this morning Wilko guitar iito deliver a letter from brother Neil Callaghan, who writes, ‘As a complete novice harmonica player I am trying to find out the harmonica key that Steve Weston is using whilst playing on the song I Keep It To Myself, which also has Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey performing. I hope you can help’.

Well, before you ask, yes that’s Roger ‘M-my g-g-g-generation’ Daltrey of The Who. And for anyone not in the know, I Keep It To Myself is on Wilko Johnson’s new album Going Back Home, which features Roger Daltrey (vox), Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Dylan Howe (drums), Mick Talbot (keyboard) and Steve Weston (harmonica). The occasion has also been marked by a bespoke resurrection of the iconic Chess record label.

Now, in response to the original email, I could slide into a friendly discourse about how to identify song keys and pick the right harp for yourself, but I’ll save that pleasure for a rainy day. In any case, divulging the secret could quite possibly make me redundant. So instead, let’s cut to the chase and call West Weston for the answer. You can listen to our chat and find the answer to Neil’s question on SoundCloud the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s some background.. (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.

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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…)

Why is third position a minor key?

Flying Saucer 4Close encounters of the third kind
This question was asked by a student in our Harpin’ By The Sea beginners’ workshop; we had touched on positional playing as a way to extend the scope of the diatonic harmonica. And to be honest, it’s a fair question. Perhaps we accept the fact too easily, without asking or fully understanding the reason why. But we were a group of beginners. So we decided to explain the finer details after the workshop for those who were interested, rather than risk putting the majority off music for life. Here’s the result.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of modes and positions, then I recommend you first check out the post entitled Modes (or visit Modes via the Theory menu at the top of the screen) and come back when you’re comfortable with everything. It’s quick and it won’t hurt! (more…)

JJ’s Blues Show – Spiral Wave Radio

Blues Radio IconJJ’s Blues Show

If you want to know where the Good Doctor and his pals go on a Tuesday night between the hours of 7pm and 9pm (UK time), we’ve usually finished our dinner and dropped round to Spiral Wave Radio to visit Jonjo Hall and his fabulous internet blues show. Then it’s down the Tickled Trout for a few light ales and fruit juices.

The Good Doctor and JJ iJonjo, or JJ as we like to call him, is a superbly gifted muso and a great friend of everyone at the Harp Surgery. He spins a blistering line in blues of every possible description, often with a healthy dose of harp, and gives lovely natter with his bezzy mates and special guests. Spiral Wave itself is a cracking good venture – it’s a live radio station run by folks with learning disabilities for the listening pleasure of everyone out there in the community.

Spiral Wave Logo iHere are the Doc and JJ enjoying a bit of what does them good in the Spiral Wave studio. If you’d like to join JJ and his pals on a Thursday night, you’ll find them at www.spiralwaveradio.com or you can click the Spiral Wave logo.