Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 549, #595)

Listening Skills.

Joe talked some last night about how to improve your listening skills in order to improve as a player.

Number 1, record yourself. Then of course, listen to those recordings very carefully. You need to know what your musical challenges are and recordings give you a more objective way to face them. Doubt the importance of recording yourself? Jim Liban told us when he visited that he recorded himself obsessively in the early days and listened back to the recordings as a growth tool. Jim Liban advising you should be convincing!

Number 2 on your path to better listening skills is transcribing. There is so much to be learned by careful listening to the masters and working to write down what you hear. Over time it gets easier and you will also learn to discern more nuances that you missed earlier. When Joe started teaching at Old Town he sought out the blues masters and transcribed their work, both to help students but also to improve his own ear and playing. You should do the same.

Class Notes

  • See you onstage next week - Joe's Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 548 #594)

Speaking of Jazz.

We've had an increase in jazz tunes in B1 recently and Joe had some words of caution. It's critical to know the melody. Above all else, be sure you know the melody. Did we mention that you need to know the melody stone-cold? Yeah, do that.

Then work at singing and playing it correctly. Know that if you aspire to be a jazz player, you have to command all 12 chromatic pitches, whether you're playing on a diatonic, a chromatic or a valved harp.

And as for playing jazz in B1, if the band can handle the charts, that's ok by Joe...but know that his ability to steer you and help you is very limited. Remember there are a lot of jazzy blues tunes - it might be wise to start there.

Class Notes

  • Hold the date - Joe's next Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 547 #593)

Blues Horsepower.

Joe heard some things in peoples' playing that opened up a review of a couple things that players should focus on to improve their blues horsepower.

First off, "clean" notes are just not as bluesy as "dirty" notes. Letting just a little bit of the hole above the note you're playing come through is a "dirty" note and it's just a fatter, richer, bluesier sound. Learn to have control and mastery of this technique so that you can turn it on and off to control the intensity of the moment.

Similarly, things like vamping also add bluesy quality to your sound. Yet another reason to tongue block - it opens up vamping possibilities and you want this happening for more blues horsepower in your playing.

Class Notes

  • Hold the date - Joe's next Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 546 #592)

Joe's Back.

After weeks gallivanting around Europe with Eric, Joe is back in B1! He's got a transcription copy of the Old Town song of the session, The Storms Are On the Ocean. Check in with him to get one in class.

Performances were great last night, including two chromatic pieces - one in first position and one in third, and we heard versions of Don't Get Around Much Anymore in every imaginable key!

And our friend Graham Nelson paid a visit and did a great take of John the Revelator for us. Catch his band Bowmanville at Andy's Jazz Club December 7 and 8.

Speaking of gigs - David Kachalon's band Frozen Ground is at Silvie's Lounge this Saturday, November 24 at 8pm.

Class Notes

  • Hold the date - Joe's next Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 545 #591)

Chromatic.

We talked a little bit about chromatic playing this week and RickEy shared:

"Here is a chart showing the layout of the chromatic harmonica. Some observations worth pointing out here. Notice each four hole block is laid out exactly the same - the complete C major scale. This layout causes two C blow notes to be adjacent. Pushing the slide in always raises the note a half step. Since there are two notes in the major scale a half note apart, with the slide button in there is an extra C draw note and F blow note.

Playing the chromatic in the key of D or Eb are very common in blues, a third position application. Playing in the key of C first position also has some unique advantages that use the slide. Pushing the slide button in yields four solid blues notes, 1 b3 b5 and b7, the bluesiest of the blues scale. Listen to George Smith's Boogie'n with George for a great example. And, try playing Big Walter Horton's Skip It. A great tune to experiment with getting around your C chromatic. No slide button use required and a lively number to boot! Walter actually used a Marine Band 364 Solo Tuned harp which is the same note layout as the chromatic but no slide.

There was also a brief talk about ear training. Ear Training One Note Complete Method by Bruce Arnold was recommended, which includes a cd. The main idea behind his method is to practice listening to one note against a key center and quickly identifying it even if you have to guess. You must give your best answer as quickly as possible. Over time you will improve your ability to hear the entire chromatic palette of sounds, similar to your ability to recognize colors instantly. A very valuable skill!"

Class Notes

  • Joe's back next week!
  • Hold the date - Joe's next Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 544 #590)

Audio Stretch
Highway RickEy gave us a terrific overview of an app-based alternative to Amazing Slow Downer called Audio Stretch.

As you'll see on his handout, it has some distinct advantages, including visual looping, scrubbing, pitch holding, and pitch and harmonic identification. All very helpful tools that ASD does not offer.

Don't miss page two of RickEy's handout that digs in to play and practice theory and advice.

We didn't get to our intro to chromatic playing but will do so next week.

Class Notes

  • Joe's away but Grant is teaching the Level III and Performance classes for one more week. Privates and Rhythm & Chording are not meeting.
  • Hold the date - Joe's next Harlem Harp Party is December 18. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 543 #589)

Welcome back to a new session! Nice performances last night and here's a heads up for next week - Highway RickEy has an alternative to Amazing Slow Downer to demo for us called Audio Stretch. Come by for a tutorial of its features.

At Richard's request too, we may dig into the chromatic some. How does Count Chromatic get that sound?! Can mere mortals do that?

Class Notes

  • Joe's away but Grant is teaching the Level III and Performance classes for one more week. Privates and Rhythm & Chording are not meeting.
  • There's still time to re-register! The session ended last week, but you can still sign up. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 542 #588)

Don't Get Around Much Anymore dominated class performances again this week.  But don't feel afraid to come back to class if you don't know this one - playing other things IS ALLOWED! :-)

Class Notes

  • Joe's away but Grant is teaching the Level III and Performance classes. Privates and Rhythm & Chording are not meeting.
  • Time to re-register! The session ended this week, so be sure to sign up for the next one now. 
  • If you've noticed trouble with the YouMissedMonday website, we are aware and working on it. In the meantime, it seems to work better on mobile.

Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story

Reader Michael Zaklan shares this news:

The Gene Siskel Film Center lists the new Paul Butterfield documentary as playing eight times next month; three of them with the film's director present to answer questions and discuss the film. Apparently there are "special guests TBA". I assume Sam Lay will be one of them.

Schedule and tickets here.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 541 #586)

Joe's away touring Europe, so we workshopped Don't Get Around Much Anymore in class since a few people are working on it.

Thanks to Walter Horton for giving harp players entree to this Duke Ellington classic!

Class Notes

  • Joe's away but Grant is teaching the Level III and Performance classes. Privates and Rhythm & Chording are not meeting.
  • Time to re-register! This session ends next week, so be sure to sign up for the next one soon. 

Logan Center Bluesfest
Matthew Skoller stopped by last night to hip us to this harp-friendly blues fest this weekend which ends with a Chicago Blues Harmonic Summit featuring Charlie Musselwhite, Billy Branch and Skoller.

* * *

The second annual Logan Center Bluesfest, October 19-21, 2018, honors the South Side roots of the blues tradition with concerts, workshops, film, food, and conversation. The Bluesfest will feature local and national musicians and artists in spaces throughout the Logan Center. The Logan Center Bluesfest features a series of performances by musicians that reflect the diverse history of the blues tradition, along with workshops and educational programming to inspire the next generation of blues musicians and aficionados.

View the full schedule.

Many of the events during the Logan Center Bluesfest are free. Tickets are available now.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 540 #585)

With a checklist on the board, Joe is assessing performances via this distillation:

  • Posture and hands
  • Embouchure
  • Blues breathing
  • Appropriate repertoire

Keep these in mind and be ready for him to call you on them!

Class Notes

  • Joe's next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harmonica Party is October 2 so mark your calendars.
  • Grant's away the next two or three weeks so if you have specific accompaniment needs, share them with Joe.
  • Speaking of, that also means no newsletter the next few weeks. Sorry gang!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 539 #584)

Not a lot to report but we were excited to be back in B1 after the long break, some of us pretty jazzed by time at SPAH.

Conversation turned to a chording review for Help Me which Julie is working on. While she sings and plays harp, she needs an accompanist and Joe took the opportunity to demonstrate the chording which is so key to this song.

Class Notes

  • Joe's next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harmonica Party is October 2 so mark your calendars.
  • Room left in group classes so if you haven't registered yet, do it now.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 538 #583)

You missed great performances! Including from special guest Philharmonica, who dropped by to entertain us with story and song. Thanks Phil!

Class Notes

  • Joe's Harlem Avenue Lounge Harmonica Party was a blast last night - and Grant's missing a C Marine Band, so if you have one that isn't yours, check in with him.
  •  It's the last class of the session next week, so be sure to get registered for fall now! Classes resume September 10.
  • No YMM newsletter next week - editor's gone fishing!

Destination Unknown

The Roots Duo of Joe Filisko & Eric Noden have released their new CD, Destination Unknown. Read more and get your copy here.

And h/t to B1 friend and harp player Andy Willis on the terrific cover art!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 537 #581)

Joe's time away at Augusta has him thinking about fundamentals and he shared two lists this week.

Remember to focus on his Four Foundational Pillars:

  • Blues breathing
  • Embouchure
  • Repertoire
  • Body (holding the harp correctly and good posture)

Secondly Joe stressed that "making music" is the higher purpose; as opposed to "jamming". Yes, Little Walter and Big Walter played all the time in songs, but that is hard to do well. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make this musical situation better?" Be a team player, an accompanist. Have the discipline to be a repetitive part of the rhythm section with these options:

  • Organ sustaining - follow the chord changes
  • Train whistle sustaining - play softly and with bluesy effect
  • Shuffle chording - see Walter Horton for great examples of this and note that you "force" this over all the chord changes
  • Chord bombs - these are stacatto and rhythmic; check out Horton on Feznecky
  • Sequenced riff - the most advanced accompaniment technique

Class Notes

  • Joe's Harlem Avenue Lounge Harmonica Party is back next week, August 7. 

Destination Unknown
The Roots Duo of Joe Filisko & Eric Noden have released their new CD, Destination Unknown. Read more and get your copy here.

And h/t to B1 friend and harp player Andy Willis on the terrific cover art!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 536 #580)

With Joe away this week we focused on allowing time for multiple performances - everyone sounded great!

Class Notes

  • Joe's back next week - all classes run as normal.
  • Harp player Lamont Harris will be appearing in The Blues Man at the Black Ensemble Theater, July 14-August 26.


7th Annual Cal-Sag Graveyard Blues Tour

This from reader Mick Zaklan:

"The 7th Annual Cal-Sag Graveyard Blues Tour is a bike tour of noted blues graves.  It benefits a good cause - the Cal-Sag bike trail.  As I recall, we went to three cemeteries and saw a dozen or so graves.  A host with a harmonica rack and guitar played a tune associated with each artist.  I think Big Walter, Willie Dixon, Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmy Reed, Otis Spann, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters and Dinah Washington were among the graves I recall seeing.  The tour finishes up in old Blue Island, an interesting little area with a good Cajun restaurant, a couple of decent Mexican joints, a boutique brewery, and maybe a farmers market still going on.  I can't say the tour guide is a great harmonica player or the information anything you might not already know, but it's a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and good exercise."

Saturday, September 8

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 536 #580)

Great performances, some work on endings, and a little more talk about amps and improv this week. Richard brought in his Blues Junior III and Joe helped him some with settings...but it was too loud to play in class, so we left it at education, not playing.

Class Notes

  • REGISTER! A new Old Town session started this week and there's still time to register.
  • It's summer and your YMM editor is going to be on vacation the next two Mondays, so no newsletters in that time. Sorry, but, gone fishin'...and paddlin'...and beachin'...
  • HOT TIP: James Conway is in residence at Corrib Pub on Elston every Thursday this month. Performances include guests Matthew Skoller, Josh Johnson, Graham Nelson and Bob Kessler, followed by open mic time. 
  • Happy Fourth!
Filisko and Noden Preview Party
Joe and Eric will play all the songs from their upcoming release "Destination Unknown" and announce how dedicated fans can get a pre-release download of the recording before it's official release in August. It's happening on Concert Window July 12 - more details here.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 535 #578)

There were great performances this week and a light class, so people were able to take a second pass at their tunes as they're working on them. Conversation turned to improvisation as it's something a couple people are thinking about, so Joe talked a little about first steps toward improv facility. You first need to know the blues vocabulary as well as the scale degrees of what you're playing. Start there and then begin small modifications of tunes you already know well. More as this conversation develops!

Ken brought in his amp for people to play. If you're wondering what it was and want to learn more, it is this one from Windy City Amps.

Class Notes

  • REGISTER! A new Old Town session started this week and there's still time to register.
  • HOT TIP: The Black Ensemble Theater has a blues show running right now: Rick Stone: The Blues Man.


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 534 #577)

Guest turnout continues and we had a good time last night with a lot of super strong performances, both from the class as well as from guests. Visiting all the way from Western Australia, Moondog J sang and played for us and sounded great. Catch him at gigs around town this week and hit his website to learn more and get your hands on his discs.

Class Notes

  • Don't miss Joe's Harmonica Party tonight at the Harlem Avenue Lounge, 8pm start. This is a great chance to get some stage time, so come on out.
  • REGISTER! A new Old Town session starts next week, so be sure to register early.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 533 #577)

Post-Blues Fest Mondays are always a blast because so many special guests turn up. This week was no exception - in addition to having the incredible Rie Kanehira here from Japan and playing keys with the B1 band, we had folks from Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Chile and Brazil in the house too. It was great to see and hear so many guest harp players.

And to top it all off, our own birthday boy Buzz Krantz paid a visit. Thanks for coming around and playing, Buzz!

Class Notes

  • Don't miss Joe's next Harmonica Party at the Harlem Avenue Lounge, next Tuesday, June 19, 8pm start. This is a great chance to get some stage time, so come on out.


Bob Corritore CD Release
Bob Corritore releases his new CD next week, Don't Let the Devil Ride! It's packed with special guests, including Chicago's own Oscar Wilson, Willie Buck, Tail Dragger, Mojo Mark and more.

YMM got our hands on an advance copy and it's terrific.

Pre-order your copy now.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 532 #576)

Joe was away this week, but we filled the time with great music! It was a fun night in B1 with a lot of terrific performances.

Class Notes

  • Joe's back next week - all classes run as usual.
  • Blues Fest - go catch all the great live music this week!

RIP Eddy Clearwater

Guests in B1 are typically harp players, but we had the honor in 2014 of welcoming Eddy Clearwater thanks to his friend and bandmate Shoji Naito. Eddy was wonderful in class - a gentleman and fabulous guest who entertained with stories and song. It was an honor to have him join us and we're sorry to see him pass away this week. Thank you, Eddy.


sketch: Andy Willis

Read our 2014 wrap up of Eddy's B1 visit.

Tribune retrospective

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 531 #575)

Great performances! It was a full couple of hours in B1 last night, so learning and discussion was tailored to each person's playing. Big kudos to Ginny for taking a second pass at her tune and knocking it out of the park!

Class Notes

  • No class next week - Memorial Day holiday.
  • The private lesson renewal period is open now.
  • No Joe on June 4 - Grant will cover Level III classes and the Performance class in his absence. Be ready to tell him what you're most focused on.

Eddie Shaw Tribute

Brass In the Blues

Fri, May 25, 8pm
Logan Center, Performance Penthouse
915 E 60th St / FREE events


Join Rodney Brown, Michael Peavy, Bill McFarland, and Hank Ford of the Chicago Horns in a tribute to the great Chicago blues saxophonist, Eddie Shaw, who passed away in January 2018. The tribute will include members of Howlin’ Wolf’s legendary Wolf Gang, of which Shaw was bandleader and a long-time member. Guitarist and Wolf Gang member Eddie “Vann” Shaw Jr. will also be in attendance to celebrate the life and legacy of his father.

It will be a night of music and conversation in honor of Shaw’s unique style and illustrious career, and in recognition of the role brass played in the rich history of the blues.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 530 #574)

Joe took some time last night to remind folks to keep instruction to the band to the bare minimum. Going into elaborate arrangement details with a band is just not likely to stick. Give them key, groove, tempo, starting point (top or from the V)...then state the key a second time and count it off. Arrangement points you should be able to navigate through signals, or, if the song's extremely complicated, make sure the band has a chart well ahead of time.

Joe suggests you have that minimum information printed on a note card when you come up, so you don't forget what to say. Are you unsure how little to communicate for the band? Ask the B1 band to help you learn that.

Naturally this led also to a little discussion of how to successfully kick off a song. Learn to communicate tempo with some simple body motion as well as a firm, regular count off and you'll be well on your way to success. It is also good to consider starting from the V in many cases, so the band has a little time to gel and you get a feel for it and the key before you start singing.

Class Notes

  • No news this week! 


Misc.

EXHIBIT:
Amplified blues is being celebrated at the Chicago History Museum through August of 2019. Here's a great Reader article about the exhibit - When the blues electrified Chicago.

BOOK:
Always  Been a Rambler
G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter were two of the most influential artists in the early days of country music. Songs they popularized--"Tom Dooley," "Little Maggie," "Handsome Molly," and "Nine Pound Hammer"--are still staples of traditional music. Although the duo sold tens of thousands of records during the 1920s, the details of their lives remain largely unknown.

Featuring never before published photographs and interviews with friends and relatives, this book chronicles for the first time the romantic intrigues and tragic deaths that marked their lives and explores the Southern Appalachian culture that shaped their music.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Monday, May 7, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 529 #573)

Lots of time for performances tonight and even a few repeats so people could tweak things.

Here's a question for you - how do you start a slow blues improv, from the V or from the top? There's no right answer, but we played with that question some tonight after an in-class performance didn't launch so smoothly from the I. Take Two got us there, but Joe's a fan of starting from the V so everyone knows where they are in the form.

Something for you to experiment with...

Class Notes

  • New session - there's still time to sign up! 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 528 #572)

Dov Hammer!

We had a terrific impromptu guest in B1 last night, Israeli bluesman Dov Hammer! Dov laid down some killer blues, blowing tasty harp and singing soulfully.

He talked a little about his history and the blues scene in Israel. When prodded for advice, he was clear that you need to have a solid groove. As he put it wryly, no one's gonna tap their toes to a tune that is so complicated for you that you're not pulling it off well. Keep it simple and groove!

Great advice, Dov, and thanks for stopping by!

Class Notes

  • New session - there's still time to sign up! 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 527, #571)

We did one last pass at Blues With a Feeling for people who missed last week and then talked a little about tunes like Highway RickEy played that can add variety to a set list. RickEy did Junior Wells' Cha Cha Cha In Blues, which brings up straight eighth songs like Walkin' Thru the Park and others. Having something like that in your repertoire will spice up a set list and wake up an audience.

Class Notes

  • New session - sign up NOW! 
  • Audition now for the next Black Ensemble Theater show, Rick Stone The Blues Man. Details here. 


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 526 #570)

Blues With A Feeling

Joe circled back to Blues With a Feeling, this time sharing his transcription which led to talking about the strength of the solo. It is killer and worth your time. It starts on a slightly unusual head shake over the 5/6 draw, which is a jazzy choice as it's the flat 7 and 9th scale degrees. Note that his four chord shake then is a split four shake to fatten up his sound on that D harp. The remainder of the solo is straight ahead blues scale with some impeccable phrasing.

We've talked about how to use the hook as a sideman. Note from the transcription that it originates in his repetition of it in the intro verse, which curiously starts on bar 2. If you're playing this with an unrehearsed band, be prepared to add a bar 1 and straighten this thing out to avoid any trouble.

This tune is a blues standard that should be in any harp player's repertoire.

Class Notes

  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party was better than ever last week - thanks to all who came out. 
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit running now. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan and Billy Branch is playing there this week, so be sure to check it out. 


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 525 #569)

You missed great performances! And people running tunes a second time to learn and improve, which is what our Performance Class is all about.

Remember if you're in Joe's other classes or just want to catch some great blues, the "bleacher seats" in the back of B1 are always open for you to come by for the 8pm class and catch one of the best shows in town.

Class Notes

  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is tonight! See you there at 8pm - bring your harps and play a tune. 
  • Interested in playing harp as a paid actor in a theater piece? If you have evenings free for rehearsals and shows in May/June and have the skills to play with a band and build repertoire for a show, From the Mississippi Delta is looking for you. Shoot us a note and we'll connect you.
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit opening April 7. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan, so be sure to check it out.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 524 #568)

More Blues With A Feeling!!!

An impromptu performance of Little Walter's classic Blues With A Feeling last week led to exploring how to use that recurring hook if you're a sideman harp player.  Joe encouraged players to emphasize a hook if there is one and in this tune, it's possible to play it over the I and IV chords. Go for that repetition and establish the hook as a way of being a sophisticated player who knows the song.

In describing the hook itself, Joe noted it is best started from the 3 blow and then is a slightly flat head shake. It does also work to play other chordal effects there - tongue shake, rapid vamping and even a dirty tremelo can all substitute for the head shake. Just be sure to remember that as a general rule you want to avoid the tonic over the V chord. This means you have to leave the hook over that chord.

Playing a hook correctly relies on timing. You need to "own" the rhythm of the hook; hitting the wrong notes is far more acceptable than misplacing it rhythmically. Learn it cold and own it!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.
  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party next Tuesday, April 10. 
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit opening April 7. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan, so be sure to check it out. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 523 #567)

Blues With A Feeling!!!

An impromptu performance of Little Walter's classic Blues With A Feeling last night in B1 led to an interesting second take exploring how to use that recurring hook if you're a sideman harp player. Walter was the vocalist on the original so he could only play his own fills, but being an accompanist on this song opens up the possibility of driving that hook home with more repetition of it. Our second take still didn't quite nail Joe's idea, so we'll revisit it next week. And needless to say, the song's playing now as we write this to get a little refresher on it. Check it out yourself and we'll workshop it more next week. And be sure to also listen to the alternate take where the guitar player keeps that hook going much more than in the released take.

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 522 #566)

Bending Review!!!
Joe took some time last night to talk about bending. There are two critical steps to bending - One, you have to hear it to play it; and TWO, you need to master the technique. The emphasis here is on the point that you can't bend if you don't hear the target pitch in your head. Train your ear to know what you're after.

Which leads to the point that bending is an advanced skill. If you can't do musical things without bending notes, you are not ready for bending. Related is the point that bending does not equal blues.

Ready to work on bending though? Start by learning to play melodies. Your ear will know the target pitch to melodies you know well (Joe favors Christmas tunes) and won't let you cheat or miss a bent pitch. Remember also that bending is not achieved by force. Watch yourself play in a mirror and if you see grimaces, contortions or even exaggerated jaw movements, you are not on the right path. Bending is controlling the embouchure to achieve the tone you're after.

And as you're working on it, remember that playing the three draw half step bend (flat third) a little dirty will make a poor bend sound better and dirty is always a good blues choice. And generally speaking, Joe advises to play slightly sharp rather than too flat - though ideally, neither and hit it right!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 521 #565)

Madcat Ruth!!!
Peter Madcat Ruth is in town for tonight's Harmonica Hoedown (see below for tickets) and he spent Monday night in B1, playing his ukelele along with us and offering coaching and constructive critique of performances.

He spoke about head and mouth tone which is critical for him as a rack player. If you spend time playing in a rack you quickly learn what it means not to have your hands for shaping sound, so you explore head and mouth tone options. He argues that learning that can only improve your playing with out of the rack.

Speaking of non-rack playing, he let us in on his little tone secret when you have your hands free - the toilet paper tube! Cup it like a can or a mic and check out that tone. And, it's free!

Madcat played a few killer tunes for us also, including Dave Brubeck's Take Five, which was an amazing treat! Thanks for stopping by, Madcat!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.

Harmonica Hoedown
Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown TONIGHT at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 520 #564)

 How to set that amp!!!

Joe took time last night to talk about the controls on amps, how they interact and what is most harp-friendly.

Working from the small class amp, he demonstrated how volume, gain and tone knobs each work and how changing them relative to each other yields different sounds.

Put simply, turning gain all the way up and volume all the way down gives you an extremely distorted sound. Turning them each the other way gets you a clean sound. Then of course there are various points in between for more or less distortion.

Regarding the disadvantages of heavy distortion, Joe points out that you are much more prone to feedback with a distorted setting...and feeding back on stage is a clear "amateur" label, so you want to avoid that.

A distorted sound also has no dynamic range. Your palette of tonal choices, volume choices and use of changes made through hand technique will be extremely limited. It is also a sound that does not allow you to "cut" in a busy, noisy band setting.

The tone knob allows you to turn to a brighter sound, which cuts more, but notice too that a brighter tone setting also gives you more perceived volume.

Get your amp out and run through these knob changes and see what you hear. Remember too that playing with an extremely wide range of sound and tone qualities (think Walter Horton) is possible when you work at your head tone, work at your hand technique and then set your amp clean to allow all that to shine through!

Class Notes

  • There's still time to register for the new Old Town session.
  • Psst! Madcat Ruth is going to be stopping by B1 next week. 

Harmonica Hoedown
Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown March 13 at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 519 #563)

What Did You Miss This Week? Final Take!!!

B1 wrapped up another great 8 week session in the Performance class with our multi-track Final Take recording session. Students polished beginnings, endings and arrangements with the B1 Band over course of the session and put their best foot forward for a final recording last night.



Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session, starting next Monday.


Harmonica Hoedown

Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown March 13 at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 518 #562)

Final Take rehearsal!

We record on February 26. Remember that Grant's away for our last rehearsal on the 19th. Joe will lean in but if you have any special requests of Grant, be sure to let him know ahead of time.

Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session.


Wynton Marsalis at Harvard: The Meaning of Swing

This is a terrific video on the nature of ensemble playing we can all learn from:

The Meaning of Swing

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 517 #561)

Final Take for this session is coming up soon on February 26. This means there are only two remaining practice weeks, so come to class next Monday ready to firmly declare your recording tune and to iron out trouble spots with the band.

Note that Grant will miss rehearsal on the 19th. Joe will play guitar that evening, but keep in touch with Grant on your recording needs next week as that's the last time you'll see him before the 26th.

Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 516 #560)

What Did You Miss This Week?

It's a performance class! Joe reminded us of that this week while urging people to take that seriously by recording themselves in class, perhaps even video so you can analyze your stage presence as well as your sound. And pick a spotter in the room to give you feedback too.

Old Town's song of the session is Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin', written and recorded in 1951 and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. Here's a tidbit from Wikipedia:

"The Hank Williams song was inspired by another song by the same title, which was written by Cole Porter in 1942. The lyrics for the Williams version begin as a come on using double entendres related to food preparation ("How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?")." (read more)

Class Notes

  • Final Take - we'll record again February 26.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 515 #559)

Joe's back from Australia! And with a little prodding from his friend DG, he even played in B1 last night. Welcome back, Joe!

And yes, you read that right, Count Chromatic was in the house, though come to think of it, he didn't play his chromatic last night. Well, still killer stuff on diatonic from Dennis Gruenling who's in town playing with Nick Moss. Being part of Nick's band these days means he's on the road a lot, so watch his calendar for gigs near you and check him out...or go here and sign up for his email list. We hear people on this list get special merch offers from time to time, so you may want to sign up!

Class Notes

  • Final Take updates - Al's mixing things now so you should be getting your December recording soon. And if you're in the Performance Class, we record this session on February 26. Choose your song and begin workshopping it in class soon.

The Harp Wah

"Until now, the only way to get resonator “cup mute” effects was to raid the kitchen cabinets for cups, mugs or used tin cans. I wanted something better."

Check it out and get yourself a Harp Wah on the website.








- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 514 #558)

What Did You Miss This Week?

Welcome to the new year! Registration for this session has been great and there's good energy in B1 from new harp players - it's going to be a great session.

Joe was away last night but the Performance Class was rocking. 

We're checking on another Final Take recording at the end of this session - confirmation coming soon. Meantime, Al's hard at work mixing things from December - stay tuned for those if you recorded.

Class Notes

  • No classes on January 15. Joe will be back January 22 and all classes run as usual that day.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew