B1 was honored to welcome Ronnie Shellist and Gerry Hundt last night! Ronnie, based in Colorado, is in town recording with Gerry so we had the chance to invite him in for lots of great traditional blues playing and great conversation about his background and thoughts on playing.
It's clear Ronnie teaches and thinks a lot about how to explain things to others learning harp. He started with his own personal mantra which is "Feel it. Hear it. See it." By this he means that you should feel moved by music and blues to want to get into it in the first place; that you should put your instrument down and really listen when you want to learn a song; and that in his case anyway, he sees patterns as he plays.
Emphasizing that second point about hearing, he even recommended going for walks listening to the song you are studying and walk in time to the song - really get it in your head and feel it rhythmically.
When asked what tone means to him, Ronnie described that tone for him is "everything", meaning it is the driving force, the thing he uses to carve out ideas when improvising. As he put it, he is not so worried about what's being said, so much as how it's being said.
He says Gerry named him a "progressive traditionalist" and likes the moniker having been influenced heavily by a later generation of harp players like Gary Primich, William Clarke, Mitch Kashmar and Paul DeLay. We certainly heard him lay down nothing but solid traditional blues harp.
Ronnie aligns perfectly with our friend Jim Liban too when he says, "The melody is the message." As he put it, the melody is always safe to play AND, it's what people want to hear.
Check out Ronnie's website, harmonica123 for online lessons and to purchase or learn more about the Memphis Minnie amp he played in class.
- Joe will miss sessions in April on the 6th, 13th and 20th. Private lessons will not take place but all Level III and Performance classes will proceed as normal with sub help from Zoe, Grant and Shoji.
- Grant and Al Taylor will host a drop in playing opportunity on April 6th from 3:30-5:00pm in B1. Come woodshed your tune, ask questions or maybe even back up someone else. All are welcome.