Tuesday, July 16, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 576 #622)

Shh. Don't tell Joe what we were up to while he was away this week at Augusta Heritage Festival!

Well, truth is, we behaved. Performance class performed and workshopped songs; other classes worked on call and response and the Rhythm & Chording class even did a little jam circle practice to prep people for SPAH this August.

Class Notes

  • Joe's back next week and all classes and privates run as normal.
  • The next Harlem Harp Party is July 30 - mark your calendars!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 575 #621)

Too many players don't know where the bluesiest stuff is on the harp - our call and response exercises point right at the bullseye of maximum blues horsepower!

Fun fact - the full bend on the 4 draw is beyond the flat fifth. It is equivalent to a slightly sharp 4 blow.

We did a slow blues accompaniment review last night based on Blue Midnight. Your best options for a tune like this are a sustained chordal effect or sustained chords that align with the chord changes.

Class Notes

  • Joe's away next week, but Grant will be covering all the group classes as usual. If you have a private lesson with Joe on Monday, that falls out this week.
  • The next Harlem Harp Party is July 30 - mark your calendars!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 574 #620)

Chordal Effect Review

As we work on breathing through call and response, we're also sharpening our techniques. Last night Joe gave a quick review of the four main Chordal Effects:

  • head or hand shake (you'll hear this a lot from Little Walter)
  • tongue shake
  • rapid vamping
  • dirty tremolo - 4 draw with a little bit of 5 (this is a classic Big Walter sound)

Practice these over a play-along track - you should be able to play one of these inhale techniques for 4 bars.

Class Notes

  • The next Harlem Harp Party is July 30 - mark your calendars!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 573 #619)

Call and response observation this week: the phrases Joe is playing for us to replay are harp-friendly blues scale. Learning these is the fast track to the deepest, darkest, spookiest, greasiest blues.

If that's what you want, be in B1 on Mondays!

Class Notes

  • The new Old Town session started this week - there's still time to get yourself registered.
  • The next Harlem Harp Party is July 30 - mark your calendars!


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 572 #618)

Breathing practice and call and response continues. Are you working on it at home? Keep it up and time yourself - can you hit that 9 second mark regularly? You should be able to play an inhale chordal effect for 9 seconds (about 4 bars of a mid-tempo tune).

Class Notes

  • This Old Town session ends this week - get yourself registered now for the next session. Can't make it? Send your neighbor who's been admiring your playing and growth!
  • The next Harlem Harp Party is July 30 - mark your calendars!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 571 #671)

It was another good night of breathing practice...plus a bunch of guest performances from Mr. Oh Yeah visiting from Japan!

He's got a new CD out, Blues From the Juke Joint with harp on it from Joe Filisko, Kotez and Martin Chemes. Congrats Mr. Oh Yeah and thanks for stopping by.

Class Notes

  • This Old Town session ends next week - get yourself registered now for the next session. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 570 #616)

Breathing and call and response work this week had more phrases with the three draw in them. How does that work when we try to avoid that generally? First off, they did not fall on the downbeat so they have more of a passing tone character. And secondly, they are helped by the dominance of the four draw played before/after it - the dissonance of the four draw on the downbeat overshadows that bit of three draw.

Fun to have our friend Giulio from Italy stop by this week!

Class Notes

  • It's Blues Fest weekend, which always means a lot of fun impromptu guests in B1 next Monday - wonder who will show?
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 569 #615)

Practice Technique with Highway RickEy
Are you an aspiring harp player? Then as Joe says, you should be listening to the greatest players (especially Little Walter!) with precision. Listen carefully to them; transcribe what you hear; imitate them as best you can.

And to help you do this better, Joe introduced Highway RickEy this week to let him speak about his careful, controlled practice techniques using digital slow down tools. Gone are the days when you needed to hack a Sony Walkman with a potentiometer to get a tune slowed down so you could study it. Now you have Amazing Slowdowner and to a lesser degree, Audio Stretch, that can help you slow down, loop, change pitch and more.

Using the tech tools as just what they are, tools, RickEy walked us through how he uses them for masterful practice.

First step, slow it down. Take the piece you want to own and slow it down. Then, very important, cut it into small pieces. Do not attempt to work on the whole song at once. Isolate the pieces you can't play and listen and work on just those one at a time, a bar or two at a time. Stumbling? Choose an even smaller segment to attack. Work this way until you truly own it, but if your skills aren't equal to the player you're studying, remember that it's better to do something simple well, rather than something complicated sloppy. Simplify the piece to align with your ability or choose a simpler piece altogether.

RickEy demo'd various practice techniques that Amazing Slow Downer allows, including looping, rapid recall, backchaining (playing last fragments of a song first), breaking up by chord changes and more. Dig into the settings and improve your practice time to be more efficient and targeted at the things you most need to learn.

Class Notes

  • No class (and no newsletter) next week due to the Memorial Day holiday.
  • Private lesson registration is now open for returning students. Lock in your private lesson slots now.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 568 #614)


Joe's still thinking about breathing, as you can see by his fancy medical device known as an incentive spirometer. Be like Joe for not a lot of money on Amazon and test your breath capacity at home!


When playing, Joe noted there are two temptations you need to resist - 1) that you truly push enough air out before you start and 2) that you don't partially inhale just before you start playing. Take some time to observe your fellow harp players and you'll see how common both are. Maybe seeing it in others will help you also see it in yourself.

Digging Deep - Better Practice Technique with Highway RickEy
Joe has great respect for the diligence RickEy puts into his practice and he's asked him to spend some time in the Performance Class next week talking about how he does it. Everyone is welcome to stick around for this valuable lesson:

Want to know what it takes to dig deeper to master melodies, tones and effects created by the masters? Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boys, your favorites and anyone in between. Organization and proven study techniques are the key.

Next Monday evening 5/20, Highway RickEy will be teaching a class on using audio slow down programs to organize your approach at mastering anything more thoroughly and faster than you ever have tried before. Learn how to discover and own any material. Learn how to use Section, Fragment and Phrase loops to master pieces.

Bonus IV chord study including class play along!

The two programs covered are Amazing Slow Downer and AudioStretch. There are free versions available for your mobile device.

Class Notes

  • You did NOT miss the YMM newsletter last week - the editor was gone fishin'! (Weather was good; fishing was so-so. Thanks for asking!)

Dennis Gruenling - Blues Music Award Winner!
Congrats to our buddy Dennis Gruenling for winning the Best Instrumentalist - Harmonica award at the Blues Music Awards this year!

photo: Laura Carbone


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 567 #613)

Thanks again to the amazing Curtis Salgado for joining us in B1 last week!

Performances filled most of our time this week, but Joe did get the call and response practice pointed at 4 bar sustained chordal phrases. This makes for great accompaniment AND stretches your breathing chops. Work at this playing splits, rapid vamps, trills, dirty 4 draws.

Class Notes

  • New classes started this week but there's still time to register for classes! 
  • Come out next week to the Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party - May 7.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 566 #612)

Curtis Salgado!

Curtis Salgado came to B1 this week and it was an awesome evening with a packed house! It was fun to see everyone, including producer Dick Shurman!

Hailing from Eugene, OR, Curtis played in the Robert Cray band for 6 years, fronted Roomful of Blues for 3 years, played with Carlos Santana and has numerous blues music awards. He's an amazing vocalist but was hit with a cold this week, so he had to lay back on the singing. He did do a beautiful laid back version of Hoochie Coochie Man though!

Curtis started right off with the declaration that "There are no rules" when playing this "magical instrument", which tells you a lot about how he thinks and how much he loves the harp. He played a lot to demonstrate things, including periods that showed more about how he practices. He has a humble way about what he knows, eager to learn more from anyone and everyone around him. He even coaxed Joe up at one point to demonstrate a fast throat tremolo that he aspires to.

Asked who his favorite five harp players are, he chipped away at the list through the evening, but eventually named Paul deLay, clearly a close friend and mentor, Joe Filisko, James Cotton, George Smith, both Sonny Boys, Stevie Wonder...and maybe not official answers in his list, but it's clear he studies and learns from Little Walter and Walter Horton too.

When talking about "tone" he immediately equated tone with soul. Being locked in with a band and the groove is part of that; and dynamics is part of that for him too as he lamented monotone playing when he hears it.

Though he couldn't sing in his usual voice for us, talk did of course turn to the role of singing and he stressed that singing is super important. It's where the blues is for him because it's the human voice that moves you, that is emotional for the listener. And, well, as he also wryly noted, "the harp isn't going to pay the rent by itself."

It was a great evening in B1 - thanks to Curtis and everyone else who turned out. Check out his website and be sure to get out to the Otis Rush tribute show he's doing at SPACE Wednesday night.

Thanks, Curtis!

Class Notes

  • Time to register for classes! 
  • Mark your calendar for the next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party - May 7.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 565 #611)

Don't miss next Monday! 

Curtis Salgado visits B1 next week, April 22, and you'd better be there. It's ok if you're not registered for classes - if you're a friend of B1 and live in Chicagoland, come on out. Curtis played in the Robert Cray band, fronted the Roomful of Blues band and is a killer harp player and vocalist. Be there!

And for your practice inspiration this week, keep targeting that lucky number 9!


Class Notes

  • Time to register for classes! Next week is the last week of the session, so get yourself registered now.
  • Mark your calendar for the next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party - May 7.

Blues Music Awards Nominees

Hohner is pleased to announce that they are now the sponsor for the Blues Music Awards' Instrumentalist - Harmonica Category.

Congrats to harp players Kim Wilson, Dennis Gruenling and Bob Corritore on their nomination!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 564 #610)

It was time for a little accompaniment review last night. Joe outlined his five accompaniment techniques:

  • (train whistle) sustain - higher range of the chord; ok to be dissonant
  • organ sustain - no dissonance and the chords you play should match the chord changes of the song
  • hard shuffle chording (incl ghost chording) - the idea here is to blend in and be consistent with the drummer
  • chord bombs - played louder and with attitude like a horn section on beat 2
  • repeating riff - watch your volume on this and be sure you know it cold. 

Breathing conversation this week was back to the long exhale, inhale exercise, but with two refinements - when you reach empty, or full, pause and "hold" your breath there a short count. You should be comfortable at both points and not in a hurry to start the other direction. Get used to this! And secondly, be very careful that "holding" your breath does NOT mean closing off your throat. Keep open and relaxed!

Class Notes

  • Mark your calendar! B1 welcomes Curtis Salgado as a guest on April 22.

Mike Ledbetter Tribute Shows
The Nick Moss Band is organizing two benefit shows in Chicagoland for Mike Ledbetter. Mark your calendars and don't miss them - they promise to have some heavy-hitter harp players on them (ahem, Rick Estrin, Jason Ricci)

April 14 at Buddy Guy's Legends
April 15 Danny's On Douglas, Elgin

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 563 #609)

We got back to some call and response this week to put our new understanding of the 9 second breathing goal into action!

Class Notes

  • Mark your calendar! B1 welcomes Curtis Salgado as a guest on April 22.

Mike Ledbetter Tribute Shows

The Nick Moss Band is organizing two benefit shows in Chicagoland for Mike Ledbetter. Mark your calendars and don't miss them - they promise to have some heavy-hitter harp players on them (ahem, Rick Estrin, Jason Ricci)

April 14 at Buddy Guy's Legends
April 15 Danny's On Douglas, Elgin

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 562 #608)

More breathing.

Joe timed people inhaling and exhaling this week and urges everyone to practice! Watch a second hand and exhale a chordal effect like a split 4 or shake or trill for 10 seconds, then flip and do the same inhaling. Repeat over and over and do this every day.

The call and response showed people full of air after a 3+ second phrase so there is breathing control work to do. People are obviously not planning for what's coming. You should always start phrases with capacity for 9 seconds, even if that phrase turns out to be shorter.

Class Notes

  • Mark your calendar! B1 welcomes Curtis Salgado as a guest on April 22.

Mike Ledbetter Tribute Shows

The Nick Moss Band is organizing two benefit shows in Chicagoland for Mike Ledbetter. Mark your calendars and don't miss them - they promise to have some heavy-hitter harp players on them (ahem, Rick Estrin, Jason Ricci)

April 14 at Buddy Guy's Legends
April 15 Danny's On Douglas, Elgin

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Wee 561 #607)

Nine.

Joe timed peoples' exhale capability last week and observes that just about everyone can exhale for at least nine seconds. This means, we should all be equally capable of nine seconds of inhale...which is where blues horsepower resides. Nine seconds will get you through two bars of modest tempo tunes and you should be able to play phrases that long with strength, not wimping out and trailing off at the end. You should not be FULL of air and desperate at the end of a two-bar phrase. So if you are, you're not


  • efficiently dumping air, or...
  • you're not efficiently using the air you have because you're allowing air to come in through your nose, or
  • you're breathing in some even before you start your phrase. 

Probably all three! So practice breathe control; do some long inhale/exhale exercises to find your bottom and become more controlled in the flow of air. Play Taps and stretch the hold notes out as long as you can.

You need to be proactively working on and thinking about your breathing. Joe suggests this is analagous to a chess player needing to think ahead. Your playing needs this too.

Class Notes

  • Thanks to all who've registered for this session!

Mike Ledbetter Tribute Shows
The Nick Moss Band is organizing two benefit shows in Chicagoland for Mike Ledbetter. Mark your calendars and don't miss them - they promise to have some heavy-hitter harp players on them (ahem, Rick Estrin, Jason Ricci)

April 14 at Buddy Guy's Legends
April 15 Danny's On Douglas, Elgin

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 560 #606)

Breathing

Joe took time out from the call and response we've been doing to work on a problem he's seeing in players as they do this exercise - breath control.

You won't have that blues horsepower without having control of your breathing. Long, swooping blues phrases need to be legato and connected and can't end in a fizzle because you've run out of air. Deep, resonant tone on your chordal effects playing can't be pinched off and cut short because you don't have breath to carry them. And yes, second position blues playing, the core of what we do, is inhale playing, so you have to learn to start truly empty...and chances are very high you are not.

To prove it and help us connect better to full and empty, Joe timed us on a long exhale note. His reasoning is, most everyone could exhale for at least 8 seconds. And that's enough to do the inhale required for the two bar call and response work we've been doing. BUT you have to start empty.

Learn to find empty and be more comfortable there!

Class Notes

  • Thanks to all who've registered for this session!

Buddy Guy Is Keeping the Blues Alive

He's not a harp player, but he's a blues elder and this is a great dive into one of the last remaining greats. Thanks to Leo for tipping us off to this story.

Buddy Guy Is Keeping the Blues Alive, The New Yorker Magazine

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 559 #605)

Welcome to the new session at Old Town. Joe shared his BHP (Blues Horsepower) handout this week that ties to the call and response exercises we've been doing together. As he listens to players, he wants to emphasize that people need to focus on better throat tremolo across the board.

Joe also repeated that the deep bend on the four draw is in fact a slightly sharp version of the note you get on the four blow. It is extremely flat and gets close to that note so if you're watching your bend with a digital tool, you'll see it approaching the four blow.

Class Notes

  • New classes started this week. There's still time to register! And here's a discount code to save $15: LOVEOTS19
  • James Conway will be a special guest teaching Irish tunes in the Rhythm & Chording class Monday, March 11 at 2:30pm.

SPAH Registration Now Open
Registration is now open for the 2019 SPAH Convention to be held at the Tulsa Hyatt Regency in Tulsa, Oklahoma from August 13-17, 2019.

You can expect to enjoy all of your favorite events, including world class nightly performances, daily seminars, afternoon concerts, the Filisko Teach-in, and an exciting array of vendors demonstrating and selling harmonicas and other related products! The electric Blues Jam will be back again on Wednesday night, and there will be nightly acoustic jams for your favorite music genre! That should leave you a little time to sleep, if you are not playing music in the hallways with your old and new-found friends!

Details on the local tours, Saturday breakfast gatherings, and the like will be made available in May, as usual. For those of you who have not attended or have missed a few years, you can read more about a typical SPAH Convention experience here.

The Entertainment Committee has been working hard to bring you a diverse group of performers, from jazz and blues to Celtic, from diatonic and chromatic to harmonica trios!

Register now for the best price, and remember that current members receive a discount on the convention price!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 558 #604)

Call and response moved to a box shuffle this week to help everyone find the downbeat of one better. Remember that mimicking Joe involves notes, tone, and technique but also timing.

Joe also announced that B1 will now have two amps with bullet mics every week. This is designed partly to make RickEy happy (he was not fond of the existing amp!) but also to allow for two harp players playing amplified. You should have an accompaniment and soloist plan when you play.
Class Notes

  • New classes start next week. Register now! And here's a discount code to save $15: LOVEOTS19
  • Thanks to everyone who came out to the Hoedown - it was a great show and Harmonicology has a lot to be proud of!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 557 #603)

The Performance Class took a week off from call and response practice, but Joe did a recap:

  • This exercise highlights technique weaknesses.
  • It also makes clear any blues breathing weaknesses you may have. (Everybody struggles with this!)
  • And Joe announced there is a guidelines handout page coming soon!


Class Notes

  • TONIGHT: Harmonica Hoedown featuring Joe Filisko's Harmonicology, James Conway, Bob Kessler, Graham Nelson. Tuesday, February 19. Tickets.
  • Time to register for classes and here's a discount code to save $15: LOVEOTS19
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 556 #602)

B1 was rockin' with a lot of Walter Horton this week - versions of Walter's Boogie/Shakey's Boogie were on tap for a bunch of people and we also heard Honeydripper. We love us some Horton!

Class Notes

  • The Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is TONIGHT! See you there for your chance onstage plus a full set from Joe's Harmonicology group who are prepping for next week's....
  • ...Harmonica Hoedown featuring Joe Filisko's Harmonicology, James Conway, Bob Kessler, Graham Nelson. Tuesday, February 19. Tickets.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 555 #601)

Julie's performance of Who's Been Talking took us to a short conversation about how that song does (or does not) fit into the blues. It is minor. On the other hand, it's a rumba, not a shuffle. No firm conclusion reached, but it was a good discussion.

Related, pop quiz! How many recorded Muddy Waters tunes are there that are minor blues?

(Heads up: we don't have the answer - it's meant to make you think.)

Class Notes

  • The Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is Tuesday, February 12. 
  • Get your tickets NOW to the next Harmonica Hoedown featuring Joe Filisko's Harmonicology, James Conway, Bob Kessler, Graham Nelson. Tuesday, February 19. Tickets.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 554 #600)

Call and response learning continues and those who braved the cold got extra playing time last night. Stay warm, Chicago!

Class Notes

  • The next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is Tuesday, February 12. 
  • Get your tickets NOW to the next Harmonica Hoedown featuring Joe Filisko's Harmonicology, James Conway, Bob Kessler, Graham Nelson. Tuesday, February 19. Tickets.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 553 #599)

Joe worked with the class again on the practice of hearing him play a phrase and repeating it after him. He played in a rack this week to clear away any idea that tonal things you're hearing are coming from his one hand.

That said, we also segued to a hand-mic technique discussion and the light bulb went off for some. We'll be hearing better tone in class soon!

Class Notes

  • Mark your calendar - the next Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is Tuesday, February 12. 
  • Get your tickets NOW to the next Harmonica Hoedown featuring Joe Filisko's Harmonicology, James Conway, Bob Kessler, Graham Nelson. Tuesday, February 19. Tickets.


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 552 #598)

Fun class this week with Rie "Lee" Kanehira in from Japan playing keys with us. Always great to have you join us, Lee!

And cool to see Patrick drop in and play too. Remember, B1 LOVES guests, so come by anytime.

Class Notes

  • No news - practice, grasshopper!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 551 #597)

Happy New Year!

Thinking about a Liban tune people in B1 have been doing lately Joe pointed out it is basically James Cotton in action. And Cotton's playing is pure blues scale and sound.

To get people focused on blues scale and the heavy sounds blues harp players want to be playing, Joe kicked off the year with some live "rapid recall" exercises. He played a phrase repeatedly then went around the room letting each person duplicate what they heard.  A key learning is that better breathing is your foundation and folks coming up short on the phrase repetition were usually suffering breathing trouble. Joe also stressed the importance of avoiding the unbent three draw.

Watch for more of this live rapid recall in all classes in the coming weeks.

Class Notes

  • Register now! There's still time (and room) to get registered for this session at Old Town. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew