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..

Listen to

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…)

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…)

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…)

Modes

Blues Remedy..The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: “—that begins with an M.. (Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll)

Why is it the slightest hint of the M word triggers narcolepsy in harmonica players? We smile wistfully, we nod politely, then we glaze over and let everything entering one ear pass straight out of the other. In fact the quicker, the better – we’ve enough trouble in our day already. Basically, talk of modes never, ever, makes sense and a visit to the dentist for a double root canal filling would be infinitely more pleasurable. Aren’t modes what jazzers do? We play blues, and blues comes from the heart right? Well, listen up and listen good – WRONG! Here’s how it all works.. (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.

(more…)

Yolonda’s Genius by Carol Fenner

Yolanda's Genius 2Yolonda’s Genius – Carol Fenner

The Doc discovered this excellent read while researching harmonica stories for the 12-15 year olds he teaches around the County. It would make an excellent Christmas or birthday present for girls or boys in this age bracket. It’s also a fun read for adults!

Yolonda is smart, tough, and big for her age. Back in Chicago where she used to live, everyone knew better than to mess with her or her little brother, Andrew. Andrew doesn’t talk very much and he can’t read, but he can create unbelievable music on the old harmonica his father left him.

Carol Fenner paints a great picture of US School life, building her story on modern Afro-American culture, including Double-Dutch rope jumping and the annual Chicago Blues Festival. There’s even a cameo featuring  BB King. Fenner also addresses issues of family life, bullying, drugs and special needs learning, with the magic of harmonica music providing the all-important central thread. True genius rearranges old material in a way never seen before. Find out where Andrew’s genius takes him.

Yolonda’s Genius is published by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-689-82172-7). Buy at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Au Clair De La Douzième Position (Shedding Light On 12th Position)

365 Tunes For The Four Hole Harmonica Au Clair de la Lune, mon ami Pierrot

Today Otis the Harp Surgery’s postman dropped off a delivery from those lovely people at Amazon.co.uk; Pat Missin’s handsome new manual, The Ultimate Miniature Harmonica Tunebook. And as he trudged round the duck pond, amidst the late snow and expectant quacks, Otis was whistling a familiar French folk tune.

Listen to

‘Pour l’amour de Dieu’, the Good Doctor sympathised as he gingerly opened the Surgery’s front door, ‘come inside and warm yourself before you freeze your assets’. ‘Don’t mind if I do’, replied Otis pausing from his musical méandre, ‘Get that kettle on. Mine’s a Julie Andrews’.  (more…)

Doublecrossed and Blue

Steve Baker 1I’m gonna pack my bag

A third annual day of Harpin’ By The Sea completed, and another bucket load of memories collected!

Listen to

This year we had the very great honour of welcoming Steve Baker to his UK homeland, fresh from his tour of India. During a full programme of harmonica workshops,  Steve offered his wisdom and expertise to a select group of advanced harmonica players, many of whom had travelled across the country to meet him. Meanwhile over forty newcomers attended the workshop for complete beginners with the Harp Surgery’s Good Doctor. (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…)

Why Is 2 Draw So Difficult?

ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES: Problems with draw 2 came up in a Harp Surgery lesson today, so we thought a revisit was overdue. Here’s our original post from five years ago with some important updates.

________________________________________________________________

Help, my harmonica is broken!

When learning to play individual notes for the first time, 2 draw is often the hardest reed to master. ‘Is it me or is there something wrong with my harmonica?‘ is normally the question that arises. The short answer is, it ain’t the harp!

2 draw is a long old reed moving through a big old slot. And with a choice of one clean and two bent draw notes (as well as an adjacent blow reed that facilitates the bends), the draw reed itself is pretty sensitive. As a beginner, we get the feeling that 2 draw refuses to co-operate. It also seems to empty our lungs much faster than all the other reeds.

Fear not. Let’s look into this together and overcome an important hurdle in every harmonica player’s development. It’s a short process and we promise you it’s all quite painless. (more…)