Friday, March 30, 2012

From Ronnie Shellist:

Hello everyone. So, here is some more info. on what you can expect out of our time together at the Dallas. First, just as a reminder, here is the website with more details on the event, and also where you will need to sign up: There you'll find the date, location, time, etc. I really enjoy group settings and thrive on the exchange of ideas and dynamics that happen in a group. The most important part of the workshop is that everyone who attends gets something from it that they wanted.

Because this group will likely have varying levels of experience, I usually begin by taking a pulse on the class to see where the average of the group is. This will ensure that the topics are not way over everyone or way below for that matter.

Some of the things you can expect to get out of this workshop will be:

Learning some new blues licks (we'll do some call and response and break down some interesting riffs), discussion of techniques that are of concern or interest to the group (bending, tone, tongue blocking, octaves, vibrato etc). that portion of the workshop will be cater to specific questions that the group suggests. Lastly, I will have Holland K Smith, killer blues guitarist, with us that day. You will have plenty of time to jam with him, so that each of you can receive specific feedback from me in the moment. This portion of the workshop will prove to be extremely beneficial! Ultimately, the time is yours and we can modify the workshop to fit the needs and interests of the group as a whole. I look forward to meeting some of you in Dallas soon.

Here is my agenda while in Dallas...of most importance is the May 19th workshop and show at Pearl on Commerce. I listed the website where local harp players can read about and register for the harmonica workshop. Thanks for putting this out there! All of the shows below are going to feature me playing with the Holland K Smith Band.

May 17th: Key's Lounge 9:30pm

May 18th: Stumpys Blues Bar 9:30pm

May 19th: 12pm- 4pm Harmonica Workshop at Pearl on Commerce (sign up at followed by gig at Pearl at 9:30pm

May 20th: The Point 2pm, Keys Lounge 9:30pm

May 22nd The Goat 10pm



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Harping On: Gary Applegate

Gary Applegate is the inventor of HarpLock, a very innovative solution to hands-free harmonica playing. This a creative alternative to the cumbersome harmonica racks we are used to seeing, and in my experience, far more effective, as I have yet to find a rack that I find to be completely satisfying.

Gary took the time to answer some of my questions. It’s great to be able to find out how something like Harplock comes about!

Thanks, Gary!

First of all, what is your background and experience with playing harmonica?
    I use harmonica to accompany myself while I sing and play guitar. I am by no means a hot shot harmonica player and I've learned a ton about real harmonica players since I released HarpLock.

How/why did you decide to come up with HarpLock?
    I came up with HarpLock specifically to avoid wearing a rack while I was performing. (I've never had any luck with one.) In the beginning, I used a device that fit on a mic stand with one microphone for vocal and one microphone for harmonica. It looked like Medusa. In an effort to make things smaller. I chopped up a rack and a music stand, went to my neighbor Rodney Monroe's house and said: Can you weld this junk together on to a microphone to create a shelf for the harmonica? Wise man that he is, suggested we put brackets directly into the grill of the microphone using JB Weld, then bolt a shelf to the brackets. We did it. It worked. Harplock was born. HarpLock has changed significantly since that first version. Now, it mounts between the grill and the base of a microphone and has no brackets, bolts, or locking strips. But without that first version, HarpLock in it's current form never would've happened.

Did you have many ideas while designing it that didn’t work out?
    The original design actually didn't work out. It was fantastic for me, but it was clumsy and expensive to manufacture. So I created a single piece, stainless steel shelf mounted between the grill and the base of the microphone. I used the 3M locking strips from the original design to secure the harmonica to the shelf.

    Again, I thought I had it! I had some manufactured and began to promote. All were pleased with HarpLock's function, however many were not happy about putting an adhesive based locking strip on to their harmonica. Consequently, I began to pursue a version that would protect the musician's instrument and still provide the solid fit of the locking strips. The new magnetic version meets those criteria. I think HarpLock is probably in its 10th and final revision now. It's magnetic, I like the way it looks and I am getting a lot of positive feedback.

Aside from looks, I have two problems with the racks I’ve tried: embouchure and pressure. I have a difficult time getting a good embouchure on a racked harp. Also, if I tried to get a good seal, any pressure against the harp causes it to slide forward and away from my face. Will HarpLock help with these problems?
    Both versions of HarpLock place the harmonica securely at the grill of the microphone. If the microphone stays put, any potential problems with embouchure and pressure will certainly be minimized. You will need a sturdy tripod mic stand and you won't be able to use a gooseneck or shock mount on your mic. I recommend the DR pro with a standard Shure SM 58 mic clip. I've been using the HarpLock for about three years, and I can't imagine going back to a rack. I may have adjusted my playing style to use the unit, but if that's the case, it was easy to do and I like the way things work now.

Now you've introduced the magnetic Harplock. Can you tell us a bit about it? 
    HarpLock magnetic uses a rubber covered neodymium magnet to hold harmonicas in place. The magnetic version is the same size and functions the same way as the LS version, but the magnet takes the place of locking strips. The rubber on the magnet protects harmonicas and makes switching harps quieter. This version is so solid that I guarantee it for life.

How have customers responded to Harplock?
    The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few:

    Eddie in CA wrote: Gary, I'm telling you, your concept is so simple It’s GENIUS! It's one of those "why didn't anyone think of this before?" when I first saw your video. And then when the magnetic one came out it was the same thing... "Why didn't he think of this before?" And the holder itself is SOLID. No chance of bending it I'm sure.

    Jim at Bottle O Blues wrote: I got it and am loving it. The harmonica locks into it beautifully with no movement at all. The metal tabs on the bracket were a great idea to keep it from sliding forward into the mic. Mine has the rubber on the magnet and I'm not getting any side to side slipping at all. I tried it with every type of harmonica I have - Suzuki Harpmaster, Special 20, Marine Band, Bushman, Big River, Lee Oskar, and Sydel 1897. They all locked in solidly.

I've been getting a lot of wonderful feedback.

Can customers order replacement strips once they wear down?
    The locking strips in the LS version last a very long time but will eventually need replacing. I've got tons of em here. I will add a buy button to the website so when they eventually wear out you can get replacements. (You could also go to your hardware store and purchase some 3M locking strips then cut them to fit)

Anything coming up? Products, promotions, projects?
    I certainly do keep busy around here. One thing that might be of interest. I have a few HarpLock's out being powder coated. If anyone has some special colors they might be interested in please contact me.
    I'm also actively seeking contacts to help me take HarpLock to a much broader base. The product really is revolutionary and I hope to find a company with an interest in acquiring, or distributing HarpLock on a larger scale. If anybody out there can point me in the right direction. I'd love to hear from you!

Any last words for HOOT?
    A Thanks first of all to you Alberto for helping me spread the word about HarpLock. I'd also like to thank the members who took the time to try the LS version it at the last meeting. If you'd like to get the whole scoop, take a look at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Bruce Dunai:

Hey Dallas Hoot Members, 

I’ll be representing HOOT and promoting the harmonica next Monday evening June 20th performing a few classic harmonica pieces at Westlake Park (599 Gross Road) in Mesquite as a part of the Mesquite Symphonic Band’s 20th Anniversary “Music In The Park” concert series. The concert will begin at 7:15PM. 

Admission is free, but the event will be a fundraiser for the Mesquite Animal Shelter & Adoption Center, so bring a chew toy, blankets, or other similar donations if you so desire. 

Check out their web-site at Schedule > Concerts for more info. 

Best Regards, 

Bruce Dunai

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Check Out Hank Black!

Come check out the Bluebloods Saturday June 11, at Ray's Catfish in Mesquite.  6pm to 9 pm.  No Cover Charge
The Bluebloods feature the dynamic duo, Hank Black and Vic Javeri.  Guitars, singing, and harmonica .  
Ray's is a new venue featuring unique specialties for you food lovers. Good food, friendly atmosphere.
1704 Military Pkwy, Mesquite, TX 75149     
Telephone 972 285 7297 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Attention Harmonica Players!

I can see in analytics that there this blog has quite a lot of readers. I am curious about who you are. I'd love to hear from you! If you read the blog, please send me a quick note to let me know who you are, where you're from, and what kind of music you play. You can email me

Another thing...if you are in Texas, and not a member of HOOT...what's keeping you from joining? We'd love to have you!

Hope to hear from you, folks!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Just so you know...

There is a great harmonica positions document out there prepared for by "mr_so&so". The scales (blues and major) in this document are displayed in what I feel is the best way to demonstrate them.

The graph image that shows the major and blues scale in the current series on positions in our newsletter come from this document.

I'm a big fan of this document, so I want to make sure to give credit where it's due.

Monday, February 28, 2011

From TX Johnny Boy:


The band will be under a tent, outside in the parking lot.

When and where???


Alligator Cafe Tuesday, March 8th 6-10pm.

4416 Live Oak Street

Dallas, TX 75204-6719

(214) 821-6900

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Cheryl Arena

Ok this is only gig this week AND my only full band gig until APRIL...boy it was hard to write that...ok I'm going to stay positive and hope that some new clubs open up and people come out and support live music so that it stays A-LIVE. So I hope hope hope that ya'll come out to TUCKER'S BLUES (one of, if not the only still standing Blues clubs in Dallas). No pressure though..LOL.

Truly though I can guarantee you'll have a great time..I'm expecting a packed house..thanks to my friends Kathy and Jerry Warwick and all the dancers they're bringing down to support me and this cool those guys! And I've been promoting it now for a month..telling people, posting on facebook..doing all I can to try and get people out...SO...see ya this SATURDAY NITE FEBRUARY 26th at TUCKER'S BLUES 2617 COMMERCE STREET in DALLAS..(near the corner of Good Latimer) and (across the street from Adair's and behind The Twisted Root burger joint (which has excellent burgers by the way and you can bring food into the club since they don't serve food there..just LIVE MUSIC and cool drinks...

see ya Sat... :)

Peace & Love,


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harping On: Sugar Blue

Your solos show a lot of speed and accuracy. How have you brought your playing skill to the level where it is today?
I have listened to players of quality such as Big and Little Walter, Sonny Boy Rice Miller and John Lee, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and have tried to emulate them. I have found over the years that facility and precision are prerequisites in constructing solos, combined with a sense of melody and a dash of the spice called soul I do my best to make it lyrical. . Speed without purpose causes sonic tragedy on any instrument........ Practice with your ears as well as your axe!!

What is your harp of choice, and why?
I have used The Hohner Special 20(hand made!!) since it was marketed because it's a quality instrument and I can hit it as hard as I want and it doesn't choke up. I have also begun playing a very fine custom made by Harrison Harmonicas. I play a chromonica and chromatic on occasion too.

Why the name, "Sugar Blue"?
I was looking for a name that melded the beauty and passion that is the music of my progenitors and I found the title Sugar Blues on a 78rpm recorded by the original soprano sax master, Sidney Bechet. it was a eureka moment for me.
What has inspired you the most in your music?
The beauty of the sounds and the wisdom of the philosophy hidden within the 'simplistic' measures and verses by the genius that revivified the language, musically and lyrically. Genius like Robert Johnson, Eddie Jefferson,James Brown,  Wiillie Dixon, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and the people responsible for the creation of 'jive talk, rap, the high five, the fist bump, the slam dunk, shakin' your booty etc.!!!  

Do you memorize your solos or do you prefer  to improvise?
In my opinion, it's not a solo if you've memorized it!   
What advice would you give to someone who is learning harmonica?
Have fun and practice!!!!!

What bad harp habits would you recommend to avoid?
Don't play after a peanut butter sandwich or drinking sweet concoctions alcoholic or non alcoholic. Don't put it into your pocket after a day on the beach without its protective cover and do try to avoid sitting on them!!

How did you first start learning to play harmonica?
Started playing the steam locomotive blues and anything I heard on the radio, when, Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan hit the airwaves it gave me impetus to continue!

What do you think is the most effective way to practice?
The best way to practice is first to listen, second, to listen and third to emulate what you've interiorized by.... LISTENING!! Above all, try not to lose yourself in imitation and then wake up to the nightmare that allows you to confound imitation with creation. There's a lot of that going on out there and if you've done your listening well you'll recognize plagiarism when you hear it and avoid it like the plague it is!!!

Last words to members of HOOT?
Keep swinging and enjoy your life in all of its aspects and let's all keep it copascetic as Prez would have said!! The more you know about the history, the less the music will be to you a mystery!! Follow the progenitors and you can't go wrong!!!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Harping On: Carlos Del Junco

What is your background in harmonica?
    I was in grade 9 and a friend of mine played guitar and harmonica on a rack. The sound of him bending a note was what got me hooked and I picked one up shortly after that. I think the first harmonica riffs I tried to play were from the first Supertramp record... Can’t remember the name of the song, but it had these long waling notes in the intro of the song. Once I figured out how to bend notes I quickly started to try to imitate what I heard on records. My mother had an old half inch reel to reel tape recorder that had a half speed on it.  When you slow the music to half speed on the tape machine, it would be, well, half the speed, and an octave lower.
    It was the only way I could try to figure out the nuances and subtleties of what these harp players were up to. Of course now this is so much easier with computer software where you can slow the music down to half speed without dropping the pitch. I think the first blues solos I tried to figure out war from the very first Paul Butterfield record – still my favorite Paul Butterfield record to date.
   In the beginning, what I couldn’t figure out, I would then take some lessons with a few local players in Toronto. After about 10 years I started teaching myself basic music theory but never had the patience to really learn how to read music and to this day, although I understand chord charts, I am really a ‘play by ear’ player.  After 15 years of playing, I met Howard Levy which completely turned my head around regarding the ability to play fully chromatically on the 10 hole blues harp. He also opened my ears up to a jazzier way of playing, with plenty of jazz theory thrown in. At this time I started practicing scales in all 12 keys and learning some basic II-V-I changes over jazz chord progressions.
    All the while, I still loved blues and realized I never wanted to lose sight of this in my playing. So I have always been keenly aware of trying to marry a hard edge and gutbucket sound of blues harmonica playing with the sweeter and jazzier sound of saxophone players like Stan Getz or Paul Desmond – who are both very melodic players. There is also a certain tonal quality that both Paul and Stan have that I like to think I can emulate on the harmonica.
    To this day I get into all sorts of trouble, because I haven’t released a CD that is really consistent ina specific musical style. They generally tend to be 50% bluesy and 50%... other stuff, that might delve into jazz, roots pop sensibilities, ska, Latin or even world music.
What harps do you favor, and why?
    I am keenly awaiting arrival of a B-Radial harmonica from Harrison Harmonicas to try...Presently I use old stock Hohner Golden Melodies. To my ears, the tone of the harmonica is already so bright that I never really liked Marine Bands  which tends to be the blues purist harmonica of choice- Golden Melodies are definitely darker in timbre. I also like the way they feel in my hand. The reason for only using old stock harmonicas is that about 10 years ago Hohner changed the metal alloy that they used in the reeds. And this may be a very subjective thing, but to my ears the older ZA5 reeds sound warmer – more woody as opposed to metallic... If that makes any sense...
Your name comes up often in harp-l, and other message boards, usually given as an example of the best way to do whatever technique is being discussed. What do you emphasize in your playing that makes it so memorable?
    Geez, you should be asking that question to my fans... What, in my opinion, makes my harmonica playing so memorable...? Well, I have been told that my sound is quite distinguishable from other harmonica players. I am a combination pucker and tongue blocker, but primarily a pucker player that uses tongue blocking for emphasis and effect. Swing, phrasing, tone, vibrato, musicality are what make my playing unique (or any other player for that matter)...ask my fans...maybe some of this will be answered in the next questions.
Which harp players do you listen to and admire?
    These days I hardly listen to any harmonica players. As I said above my very first influence was Paul Butterfield, but then I quickly started buying and listening to as many different harmonica players as I could which of course for any blues player included Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson(II), but also players Like Lee Oskar who I really admire for his sweetness of tone and vibrato. I have to admit that I was never as much of a student of the old players from the 50s like Little Walter and Sonny Boy, but now as I get older I really appreciate what they are up to and occasionally listen to and study them. Kim Wilson is probably my favorite contemporary traditional blues harmonica player. I was also a big fan of Paul DeLay and a lesser-known harmonica player (that only ever released one solo record) - David Burgin. For someone who is primarily a pucker player, Burgin has this huge deep vibrato and tone – and attitude - to his playing. David, like Paul DeLay, also had his own very unique style as a blues player. Both had and an amazing unique  sense of time and phrasing. Is too bad that David’s only recording is not available on CD. It was released on Flying Fish records and was called Wild Child. Of course Howard Levy was also a very big influence on me as I spent quite a bit of time studying with him. The biggest thing that I got from playing with Howard was simply the ability to play different styles of music on harmonica as well as an introduction into jazz theory. ...not to mention that Howard could play just about any style of music you could think of on a diatonic harmonica and make it sound convincing.
When learning harmonica, what would you say is most important to learn? 
    That is a big subject... In the two things I always tell my students is first – less is more. By this, I don’t mean play less notes, I mean that as you are learning how to play something make sure you can play a simple idea very well before going on to something that’s more complicated. If you can do it slowly and execute well and with soul, then it shouldn’t be so difficult to gradually pick up the pace if you want to play it faster. But I think the main thing that I mean by less is more is the idea that at some point, you have to take he time learn one thing very well before you can go to the next level.  A lot of players get impatient when transcribing  something to memory and “sort of” learn the solo... It is easy to develop bad habits if you only ever “sort of” learn whatever it is that you are focusing on... You do this long enough and you will always be a “sort of” player. For instance when you’re trying to imitate something that you hear, there are so many levels of hearing and understanding. First you have to learn the notes that are being played (is your technique good, are you bending well, etc), and then get them into your muscle memory by repetition, and then hopefully and eventually learn how to play it with real soul and connection. All the great blues and jazz soloists spent hours and hours transcribing their favorite soloists. Eventually, once you've build up a vocabulary, you will start to play your own ideas and riffs and develop your own voice.
   Which leads to the second thing that I always tell my students which is about focus and  concentration. It is not always easy without a teacher to know how well you’re doing, but if you have the ability to be objective and honest with yourself you’re playing can advance that much faster. If you are “present” with what you are doing, you will advance that much faster. Easier said than done. You know how you have days where you just feel wishy-washy and you sit down for an hour and don’t feel that you accomplish much. Then other days you sit down and in 10 minutes you can absorb and learn something with a kind of laser focus. I find that meditating helps my focus. There are periods of weeks where I am too distracted and busy with the business of music to meditate – this really seems to affect my ability to concentrate when I practice.
    Once you have a handle on the basic techniques of the instrument and you feel that you are able to make music, start recording yourself often – the tape recorder and never lies! Then you can hear right away what sounds good and what doesn’t. Always practice to your weakness, meaning always practice what is the most difficult part of the riff or song that you are learning. This is what makes playing sound more effortless. On another note, there is a book called  “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner who was once asked by an interviewer: “if you want to have one more thing in you’re playing what would you want”. Kenny said “technique”. There are always new things to learn on any instrument. You never stop learning. And the harmonica has loads of different techniques to master. The soul and emotion comes from you as a person and your life experience. Having better technique only allows you to express what you feel more easily and freely – whether it is a simple ‘one note solo’ or a complicated jazzy run.
What are some of the more common mistakes a beginner might make?
    As above, developing “sloppiness” in one’s playing. What ever it is that you want to learn, if you always take a half-assed approach, you will always be a half-assed player. It is important to develop one’s embouchure in the beginning - whether you are a  pucker player or a tongue blocker - which translates to having good tone. Listen to the harmonica players that you enjoy, and if you like their tone, try to imitate it.
Your tone is fantastic. What are you putting into it?
    I am primarily a pucker player using tongue blocking techniques to create emphasis on a riff I might be playing.  Having a big open embouchure helps. It always amazes me how no two players sound alike tonally. I hardly listen to harmonica players anymore. I am always hearing guitar riffs and saxophone riffs in my head and trying to emulate that sound. Listen to David Burgin – he had a huge deep tone and for being primarily a pucker player. For the sweeter and jazzier tones, as I said above, the sax players Paul Desmond and Stan Getz who are both very melodic players. They both had this beautiful way of ending a note with a very light and lilting vibrato. I sometimes like to try to emulate this.  I also like to imitate what I call the “fwah fwah factor” of sax players like Paul and Stan. It’s what makes Stan’s sound so sexy...
Some players are able to play emotionally. How do you put a feeling into an instrument?
    As I said above, this usually has to do with what kind of a person you are. You can often pick up on parts of a person’s personality by the way they play their instrument. Maybe I’m a schizophrenic, because my CDs are so eclectic covering on the one side a raunchy gutbucket blues sound to a more sweet and sensitive jazzy ballad. I just tried to imitate what I hear around me, whether it’s the cry of a slide guitar, or the jump blues sound of a raunchy saxophone player... Hopefully it feels good and makes you want to listen again!
Anything new coming up?
    I was just in the studio in May (2010). It will be my usual eclectic choice of material  with 3 of the 10 songs being older tunes that have evolved from playing live so much that I wanted to re-record them to better represent how the band sounds live.
Any last words for HOOT?
    Long live the harmonica!