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…)

Blues Harp From Scratch (ISBN 0-7119-4706-6)

Can you recommend a good book for learning blues harp?

I am often asked this question and the answer is yes. One I often prescribe is Blues Harp from Scratch by Mick Kinsella, published by Wise Publications. I remember its first incarnation, Play Blues Harp In 60 Minutes, which I picked up at a Johnny Mars master class in Brighton a few years ago. It was a pocket size manual and CD which, although brief and not error free, was actually very easy to get along with. It was well structured, concise and free from inaccuracy. Of course you could never really learn blues harp in one hour, that takes years rather than minutes, however this was a great little entry guide.

The revised and extended A4 version is great. As you would expect, it introduces you to the C major scale and breathing exercises straight away, before tackling Oh Susanna and Amazing Grace in first position. With the basics familiarised, Mr Kinsella moves into cross harp using the basic, bend-free, blues scale 2D 3D 4B 4D 5D 6B with more exercises. Two lovely blues tunes follow, Easy Street and Trouble Free Blues, both of which educate the newcomer in the art of chord changes and promote technique building such as glottal stops, short runs and repeated blues licks across holes 1 and 2. The tunes can be challenging at first, but they help to build important foundation skills. (more…)