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…)

Harmonica Links: The Best And The Worst

Talk about the blind leading the blind! Elwood the Apprentice has a rant about amateur hour out there on the Internet

It’s not in the Harp Surgery’s nature to be negative. The reason for that is the Good Doctor: he’s a relentlessly positive guy who’s always looking for the best in people. It’s kind of rubbing off on me. We try to dole out the best advice possible to users, but when it comes to reviewing the goods and services in the rest of the harmonica world, we often go by the “Elwood’s Mom” Policy: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. If someone isn’t worth our time, we’re more likely to hold our tongue and look the other way than strip ’em naked and throw them into the flood lights, if you catch my meaning. (more…)

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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Hohner MS Replacement Reed Plates

Playing harmonica with thick specs

Heap O' HarpsOtis, the Harp Surgery postman, stopped in this morning for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. He delivered a lovely letter from Mr Clive Langhorn who was the Harp Surgery’s very first student many years ago. Clive is now a great blues harp specialist who performs around the South of England. He writes..

I have recently fitted the thicker reed plates (normal .9mm / thicker 1.09mm) to a MS Blues Harp, and it sounds good. Can you tell me why anyone wouldn’t use them, and if different keys may be affected differently using the thicker plates. Best regards,
Clive

It’s wonderful to hear from you Clive. I trust you are still entertaining the masses with your masterful command of the blues. Your question is most welcome and I hope you won’t mind me publishing my analysis, both for your benefit and for the benefit of our reader. (more…)

Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Led Zeppelin […with tab]

If I leave my love behind, nobody’s fault but mine

Led Zeppelin - PresenceAnd so to the wonderful world of heavy metal harmonica. Use of the humble harp in big time rock’n’roll should not really be a surprise. It’s no secret the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and their peers drew inspiration directly from the great blues masters. So a splash of harp is quite fitting.

On this note Otis, the Harp Surgery’s postman, delivered this lovely letter this morning. It brought a big smile to the Good Doctor’s dear old pre-breakfast visage (him being a life long dirty Leeds fan).

I was wondering if you can answer my question?? What key harp is Robert Plant playing on the Led Zeppelin track ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’???? I’ve been learning the harmonica for a few months now and I find your website very inspiring!

Thanks, Johnny. From Leeds.

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What Does ‘Cupped Harp’ Mean?

‘Work your hands from day to day, The winds will blow the profit.’ Louis MacNiece

Introduction

It all boils down to what you do with your hands. When playing acoustically, there are two principal hand positions – open and closed. Harp players also call the closed position ‘cupped’. The term ‘cupped’ probably derives from the way we would naturally use our hands to scoop and hold drinking water.

When playing amplified harmonica there are three further scenarios that need consideration; the way we use our hands changes in each case. The first scenario is playing semi-acoustically through a vocal microphone (mic). The second is playing with an open hand position through a hand held mic. The third is playing with cupped hands through a hand held mic. (The hand held mic can be either the vocal mic or a separate harp mic). Let’s look at all the options in greater depth. (more…)

Perfecting that 2 draw bend – Low Rider (War) [..with tab]

Lee OskarFew students ever arrive at the Harp Surgery knowing exactly how many bends there are or where they’re all located. Some think they do, but on closer inspection find there are gaps in their knowledge or ability. Some can draw bend but not blow bend. Some are unable to bend at all. This is a skill area that almost always needs attention. I firmly believe players of any ability should spend time working on the accuracy of their direct bends. No matter how good you are, those 3 hole draw bends can never be taken for granted.

When you start bending, it always pays to remember the Harp Surgery’s golden rule – it’s ok to make mistakes. That’s why they put erasers on the end of pencils. Perfecting your bends will involve an amount of trial and error. You will learn from your mistakes. And remember this is one of the most significant points of any harp player’s development. Be patient and persevere. You’re breaking into the big time!

In another article, we spoke about monitoring the accuracy of bends – How do I know I’m bending in tune? My conclusion was that all the electronic paraphernalia in the world is no substitute for using your own ears. Furthermore, instead of learning each individual bend in isolation with an electronic tuning device to determine your accuracy, far better to pick a fun tune and learn to play the bends in context. You’re a musician after all. If the bends ain’t right, the tune don’t work! (more…)