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 glazed brown pot of Rington’s Tea steamed away beside Otis who was the banker and custodian of the premium biscuit assortment. Otis had hotels on his home straight green collection, Rob had all four stations and the Doc had a strong collection of reds and pinks. Stu, meanwhile, was thumbing his Water Works and keeping an eye on the orange properties. (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…)

I Feel Good (I Got You)…[with tab]

Funkin’ it up on the blues harmonica

What shall we play now? Well, as the late great James Brown put it, whatever we play, it’s got to be funky! Wise words from a guy who learned harmonica as a kid; as well as the guitar, drums, piano, and of course, some hefty vocals.

Harp players are – or should be – conscious of their scope for providing not only a horn line, but a whole horn section on the humble tin sandwich. By this I mean everything from a melody which might otherwise be delivered by a single brass instrument, to a fanfare or complete horn-style fill. It’s all there waiting to be mined. So let’s dig deeper… (more…)

Amazing Grate – First Steps On Those High End Holes

How strange the sound

Young Malcolm called into the Harp Surgery today, hot on the heels of our Harpin’ By The Sea event. Having witnessed Will Greener’s performance of Amazing Grace, he was keen to revisit the tune from scratch.

Using a C major 10 hole diatonic, we knew that the tune can be played using 7B as the root. But while this avoids any nasty bends, it does sound rather shrill. Also, as a beginner, it demands a strong embouchure and some dexterity around a specific triplet of notes. (more…)

Harp The Herald Angels Sing!

Christmas VoucherChristmas Carols on the diatonic harmonica

In thanks to everyone who has tuned in to the Harp Surgery this year, we would like to share some seasonal music with you. So grab your harps (and maybe a friend with a harp) and let’s look at Silent Night, Jingle Bells and Angels From The Realms Of Glory.
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Harping in Havana – a bluesman’s introduction to Latin diatonic

Latin American diatonic for the uninitiated

To witness Cuba’s musical pulse first hand and sip Mojitos in the sweat of Havana’s Bar Montserrate is privilege enough, but to sit in with the house band Sabor de Cuba, play the diatonic harmonica and get out alive? Ay Caramba! That’s the stuff of dreams.

The Montserrate is a tourist magnet for genuinely good reason. Kitsch-free, under a blanket of humidity and aromatic cigar smoke, the throb of its acoustic Latin music is quite simply mesmerising. Add a splash of Ron Cubano, a serpentine twist of Salsa dancing and you have all the ingredients of an impromptu Latin fiesta. Next time you’re in town, drop in and join the party.

Listen to

During a break in the music, house vocalist Luis Franklin presented the band’s bongo drums to guests sitting at the bar. Stepping up, the Good Doctor patted a rhythm across the skins which drew a nod of approval from Luis. Followed by an offer of sale. Sadly a shortfall in funds and luggage space forestalled business and in broken Spanish the Doc explained he too was a poor musician. What do you play? Luis asked. The Doc produced a lone Lee Oskar diatonic from his bag.

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