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…)

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.

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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…)

Raw Blues – Will Wilde

Raw Blues album coverI just wanna be your play thing

Will Wilde’s latest album is out now and he’s touring it in Germany next month. Brits can catch the full band at The Hayling Island Blues Weekend in January 2014.  Should you go see him? Should you buy the album? Should you buy the t-shirt?

Yes if you want to witness a young blues artist in his prime, delivering his music with every last ounce of passion. Yes if you’re looking for blues as dirty as engine oil on your jeans. And yes if you’re looking for something to go with your jeans. (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.

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‘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!

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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…)