Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Harping On: Todd Slobin

Todd Slobin is the producer of the upcoming documentary, “Pocket Full of Soul”. This movie looks amazing. You can check out the movie trailer on the HOOT blog later this month. Todd was kind enough to give HOOT some of his time, as well as a great interview.


1.What aspect of the harmonica is the focus of your documentary?

The documentary focuses on every aspect of the harmonica.We discuss the history of the harmonica, types of harmonicas, styles of playing, performers, brands, etc.

2. What made you want to make a documentary about the harmonica?

Marc Lempert and I are childhood friends and we were working on a screenplay that had a large harmonica component. We started to do some research about the harmonica and stumbled on the SPAH convention in Dallas. Since we are both originally from Houston, and I still live here, we thought we would go to the convention, take some cameras, and see what we could discover about the harmonica. Within a couple of hours, we realized that we had stumbled onto something truly amazing - the harmonica culture. We quickly focused our energy on making a harmonica documentary, and the rest is history.

3. Is this something anyone can enjoy, or harp enthusiasts only?

The film is for everyone. Harmonica enthusiast will naturally be drawn to the film, but we believe it is very interesting and most people that have seen the film that are not musicians or even fans of the harmonica, have really enjoyed the learning experience. We want people to walk out of this film craving harmonicas.

4. What is your background in harmonica?

Marc and I are both very creative people and novice musicians. Mark is a guitar player and I am a drummer. Obviosuly since starting the documentary our harmonica collections have grown, but I cannot say that our harmonica skills equal our collections.

5. What kind of support have you received from fans and harp players?

The harmonica world has welcomed us with open arms, from SPAH, to musicians, to fans, to collectors, etc. We have really made true friends from this experience.

6. Have there been any interesting occurrences during the production?

Yes, too many to count. Traveling and touring with Rob Paparozzi and the Original Blues Brothers' band in Italy was amazing. All the adventures with Jason Ricci have been unique and memorable. Every person that we have met that truly opened their hearts, harps, and minds, to let us explore their love of the instrumenthas benefitted us and the project.

7. What has been your greatest challenge while putting this show together?

Everything. It has been a truly amazing experience and I would not change it for anything, but it has been difficult. From finding the right interviews, to getting certain harmonica celebrities, understanding and conveying the breath (no pun intended) of the instrument. And, basically trying to make a film that we can be proud of that will appease harmonica fans and non-harmonica fans alike.

8. Any word on the premiere or release yet?

We are working with an agent to obtain a distribution deal. Our fingers are crossed as we really want to get this film out so that everyone can start enjoying it. More details to come when we have them. Also, we are working on some type of premier musical event in Houston in Spring 2009. If it happens, we will want every harmonica player in the State of Texas to be there.

9. Who are some of the players we can expect to see in the film?

The film includes, but is not limited to, the following: Clint Black, Robert Bonfiglio, James Cotton, Magic Dick, Rick Estrin, Joe Filisko, Dennis Gruenling, Taylor Hicks, Mark Hummel, Robert Klein, Charles Leighton, Howard Levy, Huey Lewis, Delbert McClinton, L.D. Miller, Tommy Morgan, Charlie Musslewhite, Jerry Murad, Sam Myers. Lee Oskar, Rob Papparozi, Rod Piazza, John Popper, Jerry Portnoy, Gary Primich, Annie Raines, Mickey Raphael, Jason Ricci, Peter Madcat Ruth, Captain Walter Schirra, Corky Seigle, Sugar Blue, Survivorman Les Stroud, Kim Wilson.

10. Any last words for members of HOOT?

Thank you for your support. This film is for you.




Friday, November 28, 2008

Purple Haze

Chris Michalek says we should break out of predictable harp playing by playing the harmonica as if it were anotherr intstrument. This video is a perfect illustration of that. Here, Michalek plays Purple Haze in second position using an A harmonica.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harping On: Adam Gussow

  Adam Gussow is one of my greatest inspirations when it comes to playing harmonica. His playing style combines blues and funk. I also admire his willingess to teach others. Adam has over 100 free lessons up on YouTube and many longer, more in-depth lessons for any level on his own website, Modern Blue Harmonica.
http://www.modernbluesharmonica.com      http://www.youtube.com/user/KudzuRunner                                                           E-Mail: asgussow@aol.com
  1. What first interested you in learning to play the harmonica?      I heard Magic Dick of the J. Geils Band playing "Whammer Jammer." That was the song--and the band--that everybody in my high school was listening to in the early to mid 70s. So I decided that I was going to surprise everybody and learn the song. Then I surprised myself and got hooked on the harmonica.   2. In your early days of learning, what techniques were the hardest to learn. Would you get frustrated and think, "I'll never get this"?
     The only instructional materials we had back then were the occasional Hal Leonard book filled with insipid campfire tunes like "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," and Tony "Little Son" Glover's book, BLUES HARP. I didn't think in terms of technique. Bending was pretty easy for me. I invented tongue blocking. Nobody showed me how to do the basics--which for me were the 45 draw and 36 blow "octaves" that Butterfield does on "Too Many Drivers." I figured that out for myself.   3. You wrote a book a while back. Do you plan on writing any more?      I've written three books, all told. I'm just starting work on a fourth. All I can say is that it's about the devil figure in blues song and blues culture.
 4. Your grip technique is an interesting one. What advantage does it have over a standard grip?
     A guy in my HS showed me this grip after I'd been playing for only a few months, and it immediately felt right to me. It has two advantages. First, it's a CENTERED grip: you're supporting the harp equally with both hands. Second, because it's centered, it makes the high notes in particular much easier to play.
  5. Your playing sounds very unique. What do you mostly attribute your sound to?      Well, obviously I studied the masters, but I'd say that the 12 years I spent working with a unique blues/soul/funkman, Sterling Magee, a.k.a., "Mr. Satan," impacted my style in a major way. He swung hard on his shuffles, he had a jazzy harmonic sense, he had some fast "Mojo" grooves. I'd say that my style is unusual because it emphasizes the following: --high notes --overblows --a powerful sense of swing --a tone, especially vibrato, that owes more to sax players like Houston Person and Hank Crawford than to harmonica players like Little Walter and Sonny Terry, although harp players were of course essential to my learning curve. I think Junior Wells is an underestimated player! His approach to blue notes was very important to me.   6. You stand firm in your preference to Hohner Marine Bands. Have you tried a great number of harps, or have you always stuck with your guns?      I've tried a few other harps over the years--Special 20s, Golden Melodies, Blues Harps. None of them felt right. I'm about to headline at a Seydel event, though, so I plan on trying a few more of those! Seriously, I love the low-note bend sound on Marine Bands. They're fairly cheap and readily available. One in Europe I had to buy a Pro Harp--in Paris--and I just didn't like it.   7. In your lessons, you've spoken about the harmonica players that inspired you to become a better player. Does it feel strange now to have others look up to you in the same way?      Well, I'm happy to have been a positive influence. I was lucky enough to have a great and gifted teacher, Nat Riddles, show me the way after I'd been busting my head for about ten years. I wanted to return the favor. In certain ways I'm as doctrinaire as the next guy; I have my own ideas about what's important on the instrument--not really technically, but philosophically. Blues is always about a constructive tension between tradition and modernity, tradition and innovation. The way it's been done by the great players of the past versus the way it MIGHT be done. I think that blues harmonica, in the present moment, is still stuck in a time warp to some extent. In particular, many players are overly beholden, in a starry-eyed way, to the African American greats of the past. This is a mistake, and it's not the best way of honoring those greats and the music they helped create. I'm not really interested, except as a teacher, in how the harmonica was played in 1958, or 1908. I'm interested in what sort of new/old sounds we can create in 2008--sounds that SOUND like 2008. My heroes, as a result, are people like Sugar Blue, Jason Ricci, Carlos del Junco, the sort of stuff Dennis Gruenling played on his first album, Jump Time, where he put a 12th position blues out there, low-harp stuff. I think overblows are important, which is why Jason and Carlos are guys to watch. Of course I'd like to feel that I added something to the mix.   8. You also spoke about two things that matter when playing slow blues. One was the ability to keep a steady beat. Is this something difficult to accomplish?      It takes a long time to be able to keep that slow steady groove. At first it tends to surge and lag.   9. The other factor you mentioned was to "feel it". How important is the emotion behind the song versus the technique used in playing it?      Technique is relatively unimportant. Sound is important. It's much more important, as far as I'm concerned, to have an original sound--one that I can recognize on the radio after a few seconds--than to execute perfectly. But of course, as Ralph Ellison, John Coltrane, and many others have pointed out, you DO have to practice for many, many hours in order to be able, in a moment of powerful feeling, to blow freely, to play great, hot, fast, feelingful stuff. My best solos were almost all played from what I'd call a "hot heart." When I'm teaching, I rarely have this, but when I'm performing, I always hope to have it. That's where the best blues are played from.   10. Anything else you'd like to say to members of HOOT? Tips, advice, etc.?      Just one thing: Please remember that it's OK to have heroes on the instrument--guys (and gals) whose music really turns you on; players whose solos and styles you spend hours copying. But also remember that if you truly want to create music on the instrument, at a certain point you have to let all that go. You have to figure out what YOUR sound is, not what your version of Paul Butterfield's sound or your version of Little Walter's sound or your version of John Popper's sound is. What's your sound? The answer should not be a list of the great harmonica players who have influenced you! That's the wrong answer. --Adam

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Harping On: Dave Gage

When someone asks me where they should start learning to play harmonica, there is a website that is always my first recommendation. Dave Gage has built an amazing database of harp instruction for players who are starting out, or intermediate players who wish to get better. It’s accessible, and easy to understand. The website also features a forum where anyone can participate. It does have a Members Only area, though, where people can post their own tunes and get personal feedback from Dave. The website can be found at www.harmonicalessons.com.


How did you first start playing harmonica?

When I was 17, I had friends that got together occasionally and jammed in one guy's living room. I wasn't much for sitting and watching, so I decided I wanted to play something and jam with them. I walked into a music store to pick an instrument and realized the only instrument I could afford was a harmonica. I didn't get serious with the harmonica until I went to college. I figured playing a musical instrument was a good excuse not to study, so I started playing a lot. The first 2 years of harmonica playing I probably averaged 6-8 hours a day. At that point in time, harmonica instruction basically didn't exist, so whenever I found someone who played, I became friends and hung out with them until I learned everything that they knew. When I got to the point where I couldn't get any more from local players, I decided to study music so I could figure out what I didn't know the old fashioned way. After about a year of serious practicing and playing, I transferred to UC Davis, CA—majored in philosophy and music, began teaching a beginners class through the UCD Extension program, and joined my first band (kind of a country-folk-pop-bluegrass band).

What first gave you the idea for harmonicalessons.com?

Although I've taught from very early in my playing career, I considered myself a player first. Our guitar player in the last incarnation of the "Dave Gage Band" suggested we put together a website to announce our gigs, set up an emailing list, and sell our CDs. I was intrigued by this fairly new "Internet-website" thing, so in 1997, I bought the domain DaveGage.com (just in case this web thang actually went somewhere). I figured since I'd been teaching for about 20 years, I could throw some free harmonica instruction on at DaveGage.com and entice some visitors to stop by and hopefully buy our CDs. The free instruction soon became the largest and the most popular part of the website. Since I had always taught "harmonica lessons", I thought a website called HarmonicaLessons.com would make sense and would give me 2 websites to interest visitors in my playing and CDs. It took off fairly quickly. Any big changes coming up for HarmonicaLessons.com? We've just completed a substantial re-do for the Free Area of the website and we are now in the midst of re-doing the Members Area (better navigation. cleaner design, and printer-friendly pages). The text-based instruction has grown to the size of a massive coffee table instruction book, but we are now in the process of blanketing the website with audio and video. Also, since the beginners content is fairly complete, I'm planning on adding more instruction for intermediate and advanced players including more in-depth blues improv (turnarounds, triplets, using the Blues Scale, intros and outros of riffs, incorporating techniques into your playing, etc.), more country and bluegrass, more Target Notes and then Target Scales, Ha-Dah, Hey-Heys (a chugging type technique), more on using Positions, playing fast, and others. Basically, I'm far from done with the website.

So there's now a book...and I understand that there are some on the way. What can you tell us about these?

Although the content was essentially already written (i.e. taken from the website), the first book, "HarmonicaLessons.com Presents Vol.1: Beginners Start Here", was more time consuming to complete than I had anticipated. Now that we know what we're doing (sort of), the other books should go much, much quicker. We hope to have the whole five Volume Beginner Series done this year. We not only published a standard hard copy book, but also created a downloadable e-book version as well. It's been surprising how many people have chosen the downloadable version. Both versions are about 95 pages and offer free audio examples and additional content for book buyers at our website. The first book is available at: http://www.harmonicalessons.com/books.html Which harmonica players do you admire the most? All good musicians on all instruments have two things in common, good tone and good timing—this is essentially good technique and feel. For me, what separates the great players from the good ones though, is the great ones not only have the technique, tone, and timing, but are also original. Nobody sounded like them or did what they did until they came along. I have a ton of respect for innovators. It is admittedly difficult to become a good Elvis impersonator, and although they put on a good show, the real respect has to go to the original. The harmonica players I have admired because of their great musical ability and innovation include (not in any particular order): Paul Butterfield, Toots Thielemans, Norton Buffalo, Little Walter, Sonny Terry, Stevie Wonder, James Cotton, Lee Oskar, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Larry Adler, Charlie McCoy, Magic Dick, John Mayall, and Bill Barrett. I'm sure I forgot a few, but these are some of the guys I came up listening to (except for Bill Barrett who's a friend and great current player). To be honest though, I don't listen to anyone anymore except myself. I got to the point where I can play what I like to hear a harmonica player do (so I suppose I'm adding myself to the list).

What would be your best advice for getting a strong, solid tone?

Drop your jaw to expand your oral cavity, get the harmonica further into your mouth, and relax (details at HarmonicaLessons.com).

What is your favorite thing about the harmonica?

It's like asking "what's your favorite thing about sleeping?" The harmonica is so much a part of who I am, I don't really know how to answer that. I'm a harmonica player, I make my living from it, and harmonica is what I do. I suppose I could say, "it's easy to carry in your pocket", but somehow that doesn't seem to cut it. Bending is cool.

Do you do anything differently when playing a sad, somber song than when you're playing a bright, happy one?

Thinking is what you do when practicing and doing is what happens when you're playing. My technique and musical sense is so second nature, that when I play, playing just happens—I adapt to whatever I'm playing to. So yes, I do different stuff depending upon the song and feel, but I couldn't tell you what it is until I hear the song and start playing. I know that's not a very specific answer, but it's what comes to mind with your question. I can tell you that I'm a big fan of long-held notes regardless of tempo, chord changes, or feel. Dynamics are always good, but especially good on slow stuff. What are you currently practicing, playing, or working on with the harmonica? I got to the point about 10-12 years where I was satisfied with what I was doing on the diatonic harmonica in terms of tongue-switching, speed, tone, note selection, alternate tunings, and so forth. These days I mostly work on the chromatic. I've incorporated the tongue-switching on the chromatic as well as other techniques that I regularly do on a diatonic. I think I'm doing some very interesting things harmonically on the chromatic with the "Major Double 7th" scale (which is essentially a complete major scale with a flatted 7th thrown in—thus, the double sevenths). I use that scale modally and mix it in with blues scales so it doesn't get too outside (weird). For instance, for a song in the key of "C", depending upon the sound or "flavor" I want, I might use a Major Double 7th scale in "C", "F", "G", "Bb" or "Db". The cool thing about this scale is that you learn 12 different keys of it and then you can apply them in different ways over any key to create different harmonic feels. You'd probably have to hear it though for any of this to make sense.

Last words to the members of HOOT?

The secret to getting good at anything is just doing it a lot (quality instruction may save you some time, but it won't make you good). If you play a lot, you will get good. Wanting to get good won't help, you have to play. Most people find that the better they get at something the more enjoyable it is. There is some truth to that, but if you enjoy what you do while you're doing it, you will keep doing it, improve, and possibly enjoy it even more (it's a vicious circle that works to your benefit). So basically, keep playing and have fun with it.   Hear and see Dave play: http://www.harmonicalessons.com/site_credits.html Video at bottom of homepage- http://www.harmonicalessons.com/index.html ===============================================================  Thanks again, Dave!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


As Jerl suggested, we should do a Christmas play-along since we're not having a meeting in December. 
I'll let you all decide if you still want to learn "All My Loving" in addition to silent night, or scrap it entirely. 
Here is the tab for Silent Night, as posted by DJlactose on www.harptabs.com .
6 -6 6         5      6 -6 6      5  Si -lent night, Ho -ly night,  -8  -8  -7    7   7   6  All is calm, All is bright   -6   -6   7 -7-6    6  -6   6    5  Round yon Vir -gin Moth -er and Child,  -6 -6  7  -7  -6  6 -6   6   5  Ho-ly in-fant so tender and mild   -8   -8   -9      -8 -7  7  8  Sleep in heaven-en-ly peace,  7  6   5  6   -5 -4   4  Sleep in heav-en-ly peace

Friday, October 24, 2008

November Play-Along

Since no play-along was assigned for November, I’m putting this one up. “All My Loving” by The Beatles.
This tab from HarpTabs.com was posted by Malotte. It can be found here. 
If you need to freshen up on what the song sounds like, here is the video.
Happy harping!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Harping On: Texas Johnny Boy

Former HOOT member Texas Johnny Boy played a great set at Pearls in Dallas recently. A few of us were there to see it. His harmonica playing was strong, steady, and had a rich tone. I emailed him the next morning to ask if he would do an interview.

He replied instantly.. .and I do mean instantly...saying, "Yes, an interview is fine. Got home at 7 and I am up at 11. Too much adrenaline!" 

Thanks to Texas Johnny Boy for the taking the time to answer some questions for us. 
Here is the interview...enjoy!
1. What made you want to start playing harmonica?
I can, barely, remember this... but, i was about 5 or 6 and i got a harmonica for a Christmas present.  For most of my life, that occurence was forgotten.  A family member put together a collage of some old film footage.  The collage had a small segment that had my siblings, and myself, opening our Christmas presents.  In this segment, I was sitting amongst all of the toys, opened boxes and strewn Christmas wrapping papers bouncing on my little butt playing the harmonica with both hands.    My more conscious recollection  of my desire to play harmonica was when I was 16.  At this time (1970), I lived in Northern California and it seemed that every little rock and roll hippy wanna be had a harmonica in their pocket.  This particular culture of youngsters were musically influenced by a band called "Canned Heat".  In turn, Canned Heat was influenced by a blues artist named John Lee Hooker. 

2. During the show you did a horn solo...using only your mouth and a microphone. How on earth did you figure out that you could do that?

That was what is called a mouth trombone. It is a facsimile.  It is an imitation of a trombone that is only in the heart and soul.  One time, I had a REAL trombone player get very upset with me and he stormed out of the club as he was swinging his fist through the air.  I learned it from one of my favorite blues singers, New Orleans'  "Johnny Adams".  Way back when, I saw Leon Redbone do it on TV.  Through the years, as my confidence has developed in certain areas, you start believing that you can.  Believing is a huge thing because believing is where it all starts.  If you believe it, and you're willing to earn it, then you are on your way.   You have to build the house one brick at a time.   My house is far from finished.

3. How did you end up playing with Milton Hopkins?

The band you saw, at Pearl, is my band.  Milton is a driving musical force in my band.  Twenty two years ago, I played in Milton's band.  Sadly, I don't even remember how Milton and I met.. but, i think it must have been some thing of fate.   He is a very special musician.  Milton is the real deal and is a walking slice of American Rhythm & Blues musical history.  His credentials, of practical experience, are far too many to mention.

4. You have a powerful singing voice. Is it something learned and developed, or have you always been able to sing?

Thank you for the compliment.  My singing voice is my primary instrument.  It is what I do best.  Harmonica, flute and saxophone come after my voice (and in that order).   When I was 15 years old, I was a singer in a backyard garage rock and roll band.  I think music and singing is something I was born with.  They are, most likely, a God given gift.  

There are some things, in life, that just can't be explained but, I feel them in my heart.   If the instrument is going to be real, it has to be earned.   I have had to earn my voice but, when I was a boy, my Italian father, and my mother, always had Mario Lanza records playing. Mario was, probably, the greatest opera singer of all time.   Also, my father's father was a guitarist, and he played the mandolin extremely well, and  he had this beautiful Italian voice and he sang these beautiful Italian songs.  

I can remember my mother had a very pretty voice too.   They were not people who did this for a living, though.   I do think that having family, that came before me, had a musical influence on me. So, I was a singer that got his hands on a harmonica.... mmmmm, now I had a little bit of icing for the cake.

5. What harmonica do you prefer, and why?

I have been using the Marine Band Deluxe.  They have been holding up quite well.  They have an open back that allows them to project better. I like the tone of the wooden comb.  The comb has rounded edges which allow for better lip action.  Also, the reed cover plates are made out of a better quality metal that makes them harder to damage.    

The down side of the harp is the gaps are not set worth a darn which causes inconsistant playing action and they aren't tuned worth a darn either.  I am learning how to do these things but, the time to do it is hard to come by (too many irons in the fire!).    So, I would prefer to play some of the well known customized harps but, I can't financially afford them.  So, I do the best I can with what I have.

6. What has been your best experience on stage?

The audience that came to hear music.  I can't put it in words.   It even makes my eyes water.  The audience that came to hear the music, well... they ARE THE MUSIC.   The honor runs very deep.  If I put my heart and soul into the music, and I'm earning my way, and an audicence claps... we are gifted together.

7. And the weirdest experience on stage?

Again, this was in the audience.. and believe me when I tell you this, you don't want to know!  I have been on that bandstand for a while, now, and the blues nightclub business can bring forth way too much information. 

8. What helps you play fast without losing track of rhythm and melody?  Over 30 years ago, I learned this from Professor Thom Mason at SMU:  "Music starts with rhythm, it does not start with musical notes and don't you ever forget it".   I took about 15 private flute lessons from him (the only lessons i have ever had).  He was the co-founder of the Dallas Jazz Orchestra.  

 I was not in the high school band, I never went to college to study music.  Basically, I am a street musician.  Different types of music have different feels.  That could also mean, different types of music have different types of rhythm.  Regardless of what style, the groove is the most essential element of the musical piece.  I guess, my real answer to your question is: CONFIDENCE.

9. Was it fun to play the show at Pearl?

Yes!  We made lots of new friends. Pearl is a, literally, fabulous place.  It is owned and operated by Tracy and Rick Yost... and let me tell you.. they have a serious vision and they LOVE music as much as anybody out there.  They DO have a business to run but, they are doing what they are doing because it is what is in their hearts.  

They have a very astute audience too.   Let's face it, I have lived in Dallas, and Houston, for the last 36 years... you can't fool the musical audience of North Texas.   The North Texas audience has witnessed the greatest music in the world and much of it was born right there in North Texas and I am very proud of it!  When Texas makes a musical mark on the world, the world never forgets it.

10. Last words to members of HOOT?

HOOT starts with the letter "H", the same letter that HEART starts with.  It's all about the HEART.   The heart runs deep....just like the blues and just like HOOT.   

Bonus Questions:

I have to ask, just out of curiosity....what about the fake trombone is offensive to trombone players? or at least to that particular trombone player? 
 In this case, I would just address it as THIS PARTICULAR TROMBONE PLAYER.  I don't know if other tombone players would be offended or not.   This particular guy is a very well known jazz musician in the Austin area.. he is a VERY good musician and plays upright bass and trombone.  My answer to your question is: I DON'T KNOW.   But, i suspect that he was one of those very egotistical musicians.. and he was, most likely an immature person that may have been full of himself.  I had never met the guy, before, in my life but, i had seen him play before.  

He was not much of a blues player at all but, is a good jazz man.   Allot of people won't understand that statement but, it's true.    Being a good blues player is a matter of being able to speak the DIALECT of the blues.  You don't even have to know allot of notes and this is easily proven by listening to SonnyBoy Williamson.  

I know the folks at HOOT will want to know....what mic and amp were you using for your harp?
The mic I use is a Hohner Blues Blaster.   It is blue in color.  I have had it for about 16 years.   It is, sort of, a modern day version of the Astatic Company's JT-30.    I think that Astatic may, even, be the manufacturer of the Hohner mic.   The amp I use is a first year "Fender Bassman" reproduction.  

It has four 10 inch speakers in it.  The reason I specify "first year" is because it was the only year Fender made them worth a darn.  After the first year, they progressively went down hill.  These amps were, originally, made in the 1950's.   Through harmonica players, a huge demand had developed for the original Fender Bassman's of the 1950's. 

The prices skyrocketed and the demand became hard to fill.   With that in mind, Fender decided to build them again and I think they first came out around 1990 or 1991.    Since mine is a first year reproduction, it's starting to become, sort of, vintage itself.



Wednesday, October 15, 2008


            As I’ve learned more and more about diatonic harmonicas on the internet, I keep coming across a modification called, “embossing”. This narrows your reed slots, making the reeds more responsive.

After practicing on (and ruining) a couple of cheap harps, I finally decided to give it a try on one of my Lee Oskars. It took a lot of time and patience, but I finally got it done. The tone is a bit warmer, and it takes less force to activate the reed. The final result is that without extra effort, I can play a bit louder, more clearly, and have an overall better tone.

Here are some links with information about embossing. Make sure you try it on old harps first…it takes some practice to get it right!

If any of you have some knowledge on the subject, or any tips to add, click on “Respond” below.

Here are the links:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Here is the next play-along, Streets of Laredo, also known as "The Cowboys Lament". The song is about a dying cowboy giving advice to a living one. 

6  6 -5    5   -5   
As I walked out  

 6 -5     5    -4  4 -3  3 
in the streets of La-re-do,   

3 4   4    -4   5 -5  5 -4  4  -4 
As I walked out in La-re-do one day, 

6   6  -5   5   -5   6 
I spied a young cow-boy    

-5     5 -4   4   -3  3 
wrapped up in white lin-en,     

3     4  4   4   -4  5 
Wrapped up in white lin-en 

-5   5  -3 -4    4 
As cold as the clay. 

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