Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 395 #440)

Song of the Session - Crosscut Saw!!!

As Shoji and Joe predicted, the ongoing study of Crosscut Saw is a great harmonica learning opportunity. Shoji led an interactive discussion about how to solo with a harmonica over this song, as well as other rhumba grooves.

What kind of solo works? A few tips…
  1. Stick to the blues scale and get in touch with the rhythm.
  2. Learn the guitar melody on Crosscut Saw (at least parts of it, its pretty tough)
  3. Use all or part of a melody you already know from another song.
The third point above led to someone asking for a demonstration and RickEy wowed the class with a totally hip rendition of Juke, played with a rhumba feel. RickEy added that many “shuffle groove” songs would be much easier to convert to the straight-eighth rhumba groove than Juke. However he was able to make it work by emphasizing the downbeat in the first half of a measure, followed by emphasizing the upbeat in the second half to get the Latin feel. Yes, you have to be good at “counting” to make this happen, but it’s a great reason to spend more time working on your counting skills.

Turning to another blues favorite, Joe handed out the tabs for Baby Scratch My Back while Shoji cited both the genius of the author, Slim Harpo, and the wonderful fit of the harmonica solos with a rhumba groove, like Crosscut Saw.

In an impressive impromptu performance, Joe pulled from the Scratch My Back melodies, while the B1 Blues Band dug into the rhumba groove. It really sounded great!

Shoji noted that both songs have a straight-eighth groove, which led to a short listening exercise – playing various blues songs to determine if you can hear the difference between a straight eighth and a triplet groove. In other words, first listen for the quarter notes (4/4 timing common to most blues songs) and then ask yourself if they are divided into 2… or 3… eighth notes.

Joe strongly suggested that everyone add Scratch My Back to his or her repertoire.

Practice Advice
Throughout the evening both Shoji and Joe complimented the musical quality of all of the Slim Harpo tunes. So, ask yourself how much of your total music listening is consumed by your own practice. Unfortunately most harmonica students spend more time listening to their own playing… and not nearly enough time actively listening to the nuances of the many great blues standards.

Joe’s advice:
  1. Listen to A LOT of good music.
  2. Record yourself and compare.
  3. Do more of what you hear is musical… and less of what is not.
Class Notes
  • Joe is touring with Eric in Australia and 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.
  • Level 3 students should be sure to come to class with copies of their transcription and be ready to be clear with Zoe and Grant about what kind of help they need.
  • 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.
Ronnie Shellist Wrap-up

Joe described last weeks' visit as “excellent in every way possible,” calling Ronnie a one-of-a-kind harp player.   “Ronnie is not only talented and passionate, he is intelligent, insightful and well spoken,” Joe said.

He added that the “say it and then play it” advice was excellent for players that aspire to improvise.

- Al Taylor, Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew