Culture Club Harmonica I – Church Of The Poison Mind [..with tab]

Culture Club - Colour By NumbersThe Harp Surgery has had a number of enquiries regarding the harp riffs used in Culture Club’s hits and who was responsible for them. The culprit was Judd Lander, a harp player from Liverpool who managed to ingratiate himself with Sonny Boy II before moving to London as a session musician and co-founding the Charisma record label. You can find more about Judd in our Harp Trivia pages and on his website.

In the heady days of post-punk Britain, the Sex Pistols‘ erstwhile manager Malcolm McLaren branched into the New Wave pop market with his new creation for the 1980s, Bow Wow Wow. We could look into how and where he found the lead singer Annabella Lwin, his promises to side step the Lolita and Svengali traps, how old Lwin wasn’t, that scandalous album cover, the Vivienne Westwood effect, and how utterly brilliant the music actually was. But we won’t. (more…)

The Sailor’s Hornpipe [..with tab]

Marine BandAll the nice girls love a sailor

As an island nation, a good deal of Britain’s military, economic and cultural tradition is drawn from its seafaring experience. So what better way to mark the romance of our heritage than a good old sea shanty?

A few years ago the Doc was chaperoning the West Sussex Youth Orchestra on their tour of Germany and Austria. As a finale to each concert, the orchestra chose to perform Sir Henry Wood’s wonderful Fantasia Of British Sea Songs, a fulcrum of the annual last night of the Proms. The prize number from the fantasia is the Sailor’s Hornpipe. ‘Tis music to stir the heart of any a true Brit; and as the revellers display the glorious eccentricities of their patriotic pride, you just can’t wait for that Mr.Toad car horn and a frenzied climax which, with every tin of spinach on the planet, even Popeye could not sustain. (more…)

Beefing Up Those Bends – 3 Draw Bends

‘Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are’ Macbeth (Shakespeare)

Blow Your Harmonica, Son!Brace yourself and take a deep breath. It’s time to face everyone’s worst harmonica nightmare – the three witches. They’re the three hole draws to you and me. As you are no doubt aware, if we exclude the overdraws in hole 10, this is the hole that carries the most bends. And they’re the ones we secretly dread. They never sound as strong as other notes or bends across the harp (even in the hands of the masters) and they never quite do what you want them to. I’ve heard many players camouflaging the reed’s inherent imprecision with vibrato or else they just don’t go there. Like the inconvenient pattern swap across holes 6 and 7, subconsciously we wonder who designed such a frustrating tuning system in the first place.

The message from the Good Doctor is deal with it. Embrace the challenge and don’t shy away. OK, our ears can detect the tonal imperfections, but so what? No cracked eggs, no omelette. It may be the weak spot on the harp, but it’s also part of it’s character and charm. Make it yours. So let’s feel the fear and do it anyway. Follow me.. (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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Groovin’ With Mr Bloe – Part 1 [..with tab]

Groovin' With Mr Bloe LPGroovy baby – yeah!

Otis stopped by this morning for a nice cup of tea and a sit down and brought us a lovely letter from Stuart Willowgate.

Been blowin’ since Christmas ’08 – or trying to, and loving it! I heard the song Groovin’ with Mr Bloe as the out music to Oz and James’ beer tour of Britain and have now found it on your site. I remember it the first time round! I think its on a C harp based in or around the 5 or 6 hole draw. Any tips to playing it, or a tab perhaps?

Thanks for your comments Stuart. You’d be referring to the entry about Groovin’ With Mr Bloe on our Harp Trivia Who Played That page. It’s not the first time Mr Bloe has come into conversation, so we ought to investigate the song and nail that tab for you right away. (more…)

Horn Concerto No.4 in Eb Major (Rondo Allegro Vivace) – W A Mozart [..with tab]

I once had a whim and I had to obey it

Welcome to part two of our Baroque Blues Harp trilogy. The headline might look rather daunting, but don’t be put off. This is a piece we have all heard at one time or another and, once you’ve heard it again, I am sure it will bring a reassured smile to your face. Written in 1786, it is the final movement from the last of Mozart’s four horn concertos. The concertos were composed for his close friend Joseph Leutgeb a master horn player of the period. This finale is written in 6/8 time as a chasse or hunting tune. Consequently there is frequent use of triads in the melody to give a hunting horn flavour and triplet phrasing for a galop effect.

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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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Soul Limbo – Split Rivitt […with tab]

Howzat!

[We respectfully dedicate this page to the friends and family of Barney Jeffrey 1958-2008]

Split Rivitt - Soul LimboThe Good Doctor found himself in San Francisco, the morning after England had pulled off their 2009 Ashes victory against Australia at The Oval. For those unfamiliar with this particular competition, we will go no further than to say it is a bi-annual cricket tournament played exclusively between two great Commonwealth rivals. Poms versus Ozzies. On a world scale, the patriotic fervour runs disproportionately high. On a local level however, thousands of cricket fans tune their radios in and will every ball to swing their way. To partake is a birth right. To draw is acceptable. To win is sublime.

From his hotel bathroom, the Good Doctor could be heard preparing for the day ahead, humming Soul Limbo by Booker T. & The MGs. For years it had been the iconic theme music to the BBC’s evening Test Match Special programme. All summer long, across the nation mothers were subconsciously swaying their hips to its tropical rhythm from behind their ironing boards, while fathers took to their sofas armed with pipes, slippers, bottles of pale aleand an instinct for the complex rules of play. (more…)

Pack Fair And Square – Mark Feltham […with tab]

Life is like a card game, you always take a chance

And so to the final installment in our 9 Below Zero trilogy. So far we have covered Riding On The L&N and Swing Job. We’ve looked at the key musical influences in each case and considered some of the history involved. We’ve also tried tabbing out the harp parts. Pack Fair And Square holds no secrets. It’s drawn directly from The J.Geils Band’s live Full House album. Simple.

With 80s contemporaries such as The Cheaters from Manchester, 9 Below Zero were inspired by the high voltage delivery of the J.Geils Band’s live performance and they set about reproducing it British Pub-Rock style. (more…)