Friday, August 27, 2010

From Pocket Full of Soul:


Head on down to Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on September 10, 2010 for the Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers game and join us as we attempt to break the Guinness Book World Record for Largest Harmonica Ensemble. How often will you get the chance to try and break a World Record. The record is currently held by Hong Kong. Hong Kong! What's that about?

10,000 fans will receive harmonicas and following the game the attempt at the record will commence. If you have your own harmonica, bring it as well, you will be counted.
The game starts at 7:05pm so get there early and get your blues on!

With special guests (Gary Allegretto, Sonny Boy Terry, and Ronnie Shellist), fireworks, baseball and a whole lotta harmonicas, the night promises to be unforgettable. Historical! A stadium full of soul.

Visit for more details and to purchase tickets.
Special thanks to the Houston Astros and our sponsor Wise Men Consultants as well as Hohner Harmonicas.

P.S. For all you music lovers throughout Houston, if you are not already a member of the Houston Blues Society, please join. Its a great organization and has been very supportive of our film.

Monday, August 23, 2010

From Texas Johnny Boy...

Hi.. I hope you are having a great summer!

This Friday, August 27th, 9:30pm. I will be bringing my band up to my other favorite big city in Texas, Dallas. We don't get to come up very often so, I hope you will come and enjoy the evening with us.

"Texas Johnny Boy & Milton Hopkins" will be at PEARL AT COMMERCE - 2038 Commerce Street - Dallas, Texas 75201

We will have special guest, Christian Dozzler, with us on piano. Christian is a very fine blues pianist, is from Vienna, Austria and has lived in Texas for 8 years. He is, now, a happily married man living in Fort Worth and he is a Texan. The young and fiesty Jordan Almes will be with us on drums and we have a fine new bass player named Bobby Bridges.

Milton Hopkins spent 10 years in BB King's band and has served time will all kinds of historical figures in American R&B such as, Little Willie John, Sam Cook, Johnny Ace & Big Momma Thornton, The Drifters and many others.

Y'all are the music, we're just the band. I hope you can make it.

Texas Johnny Boy for data and videos
for bookings: 713-444-4107

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guy Forsyth Tonight

Guy Forsyth is playing tonight at The Ranch in Las Colinas starting at 7:30! Be sure to check him out. A truly great musician.

Monday, August 2, 2010

From Texas Johnny Boy....

It's been a year since we got to do a show in Dallas.. I hope y'all can make it out to this one.. We're real excited about coming up to Big D to see family and friends! We have a new bass guitar player and our good friend Christian Dozzler (from Vienna, Austria and now living and happily married in Fort Worth) will be with us on piano. This 5 piece band will be bigger and better than ever!


Friday, August 27th, 9:30pm


2038 Commerce Street

Dallas, Texas 75201

Yours in these urbane rhythm n blues,


for bookings call 713-444-4107

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guy Forsyth this weekend...

This Saturday, July 24, the incredible Guy Forsyth will be performing in Deep Ellum. If you haven’t had an opportunity to see this guy before, now’s the time.

La Grange
2704 Elm Street
Dallas, TX 75226

10:45 PM

Monday, July 19, 2010

Harping On: Rick Estrin

You are quite the showman! You have fun introductions to songs, and have gags such as playing the harp while it stick out of your mouth like a cigar. What is it that makes you go that extra mile for the audience?
  I'm from the old school. I believe that when people come out of the house and pay money to be entertained, they deserve to be entertained! Plus, with no skills and no education, I gotta do whatever I can to stay out of the labor pool! 

You have an an instructional video out there, Rick Estrin – Rick Estrin Reveals! Secrets, Subtleties & Tricks of the Blues Harmonica. How did the idea to create this first come about?  I started out with no idea about the content. First, I only had the idea for the title. Next, I thought of the scene with the homeless guy squeaking on the harp in the alley. Then, I thought I should put some good-looking chicks in it, along with a great big plus-size woman and a cute little midget woman. And then I thought, "What can I teach somebody?"
  So I started writing down my opinions about some of the specific things that I believe can make blues harmonica effective, and I realized I had some very important things to communicate. And, they were things that had never been previously addressed in any instructional material that I know of. 
What do you feel makes this video stand out from the rest?
  One principal difference is that there's not one bit of information in my DVD about how to physically operate the harp!
  There's plenty of instructional material covering all that...David Barrett, Jerry Portnoy, Dennis Gruenling...their stuff is available and excellent.
  The things I address in the DVD are concept, timing, groove, phrasing, contrast...all the things that can help someone to play more effectively. It ain't about licks. It's about feel! 

In your eyes (or ears), what makes a good harp player?  The stuff I just mentioned: concept, groove, feeling and tone.
What is your harmonica of choice, and why?  I've always played Marine Bands. The last several years I've played custom harps by Joe Filisko, and before that by Richard Sleigh...Those guys really have me spoiled! I also play the Hohner 270 Super Chromonica, and the 64 chromatic.
  I get those worked on by Steve Malerbi. Dick Gardner used to work on my chromatics but he's always so backed up I started sending stuff to Steve. He actually learned some from Dick and he does great work. I have a vintage 64 that he reconditioned and it's so good, I can't even tell you...I start playing it and I have to watch myself because time ceases to exist...for me...not for the audience...

Do you only like to play blues, or do you enjoy other styles as well?  As a player, I'm strictly a bluesman. I listen to several kinds of music, Soul, Gospel, Honky Tonk Country, Sinatra-type Great American Songbook stuff...all kinds. I have messed around trying to play some jazzy type stuff on the chromatic, and even recorded a couple things like that, but really, I feel like I've still got plenty to learn within the blues. I'm still hearing new nuances in the playing of the great blues harp originators and trying to incorporate these things into my own playing.
What is the key to improvising on the harmonica without being repetetive?  Feel. Feel and an understanding of some of the mechanics that go into making the blues effective.
  Believe it or not, repetition is one of the most important aspects of playing blues harmonica.
It's about repetition and repetition with small variations, and then, departure from that repetition...surprise!
  It's like telling a story. You don't want to be've got use dynamics and imagination to your advantage. 

How did you first start playing the harmonica?My mom gave me one...I think I asked her to get me one, but then an older guy down the street, a guy who had a band gave me another one and told me I ought to learn to play it. I was about 15 and my father had just died. I needed to latch on to something and the harp was it.
There are many things that different players focus on, such as tone, accuracy, speed, etc.
What would you say is most important to learn?  I can only talk about blues harmonica playing. For playing blues the most important things are groove, timing, tone and an understanding of what it is that can make the blues be either moving and exciting, or boring and pedestrian. It ain't about licks, I can tell you that for sure. I almost had a chapter in the DVD called "F#*k A Lick". 
  That's one of my very favorite quotes from a late, great friend of mine named Sonny Lane. He was a blues guitar player who was born in the delta and lived in Oakland CA. As I get older and more experienced as a player, I understand more and more what he meant. It really is not about licks! Listen to Rice Miller, Cotton, Wolf, Sonny Boy, Big Walter, Junior Wells, Junior Parker...not a lot of licks. Really the only guy who had a lot of licks was Little Walter, but it was still his ability to convey deep emotion with his playing that made him so effective.  

Any last words for HOOT?
  Listen to the great traditional players. Study the old recordings. Listen very closely...there's a whole world to be discovered. When you're not!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hank Black Has a New Gig!

Tuesday 9:30 to 11:30
Blues Music.  Hank on harmonica, vocals, and slide guitar
Arcade Bar (beneath the Lakewood Theater)
1825 Abrams Parkway, Dallas, TX, 75214
(214) 821-7469
Come and show your support!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Harping On: Rupert Oysler

What is your background in harmonica?
I bought my first one when I was about 9 years old, in the 1950s, from a toy store, and learned the songs on the little piece of paper. After that I always had one with me, and eventually I discovered Blues, Folk Music, cross harp etc. and taught myself. Later I developed a group teaching method, trained myself to read music with chromatic, and took (long distance) lessons from Robert Bonfiglio and Stan Harper. Eventually I returned to total focus on the diatonic.

What first got you to start tinkering around with harps?
     Early on I began to take them apart when reeds would stick etc.Then when i was in college in the 1960s a guy upstairs knew how to tune chromatics with solder, and some other exotic things, and I learned some stuff from him. Later, when I got serious about the chromatic, it became necessary to really learn how to replace reeds etc. just to keep them going. Later when I re-focused on the diatonic I began to do things to make advanced techniques like overbending more possible.

You have some home-made tools in your kit. How did you make some of those?
     I just used crude methods with a hacksaw on piece of old reedplate, and then finished them with files and sandpaper etc.

Why is it necessary for players to learn some customization tehniques?
     I think it helps everyone's playing to be able to adjust the harmonica to their individual lips/breath/air column/attack etc. For advanced techniques like overbending it is almost essential to make some adjustments to the harp. Even just understanding HOW the harmonica works, what reeds are doing etc. seems to help anyone play better.

What gave you the idea to make your video?
     I was answering questions, and getting a lot of requests for visits etc. and I thought there has to be an efficient way to transmit this information, rather than hours of one-on-one, and some way that people could take the information with them to refer to as they went through the inevitable learning process of mistakes/practice etc. I really wanted to share this with other people because I thought it would improve their individual playing, and also raise the whole level of playing possible on the harmonica.

Can you give us any details about the production of the video?
     I wanted it to be more than just a home video, because i felt that it would be something that people would keep referring back to through many years (and that has turned out to be true) , and I wanted it to be entertaining, since the subject matter is pretty inherently boring. A local production company helped to put it together.

Are there any techniques that you've learned since the video was made that you prefer over the ones you demonstrated?
     The videos really show a lot of different experiments, and are meant to hopefully get people experimenting on their own to find out what they like and what they will use. I still do a lot of those things, and also have experimented with chamfering the edges of reeds, as described by Rick Epping on Harp-L. I've made some little additional tools too, like a little wooden piece that holds the base of the reed down, since my finger would wear out when doing many reedplates.

Which customization technique was the hardest to learn, and why?
     I think the hardest thing is probably just the patience to do anything to a whole harp. Because once you've refined one reed/slot combo, now you've got to go on and do that to 19 more...and many times redo and redo and redo....

What playing advice would you give to new harp players?
     I would say to have fun, and continue to revisit whatever sources/sounds inspired you to take this up in the first place, and to continue to delve deeper and really listen and realize the incredible depth that is available in this tiny instrument. And be as earnest and serious as you can (within your enjoyment) to reveal some of that depth in your playing.....

Any last words for HOOT?
     Congratulations on being there! Organizations that help promote the harmonica, and provide ways for interested players to interact and share and learn are a terrific benefit to everyone. And thank you for your interest in my work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cheryl Arena's YouTube Channel

Cheryl's YouTube channel finally has more videos. We have gone through a few older channels and consolidated them.

Go check out some of her playing at .

From Texas Johnny Boy...

This Saturday, July 17th, 7:30pm-9:30pm (duo with Hash Brown)
Alligator Cafe (great Cajun food in East Dallas and no cover!)
4416 Live Oak Street
Dallas, TX 75204-6719

Plus, don't forget that I get to bring my whole band up to Big D about once a year!
Friday, AUGUST 27th, 9:30pm-1:30am
5 PIECE BAND! with Milton Hopkins on guitar (9 years with BB King!) and Christian Dozzler (from Vienna, Austria) on PIANO!!
2038 Commerce Street
Dallas, TX 75201-4425

Thank you so much for supporting live music and I hope to have you with us,

Texas Johnny Boy
for bookings call 713-444-4107

Friday, July 9, 2010

Blues Harmonica Tips From Ronnie Shellist

To play or not to play

unsure of when to lay back when playing a solo?

Playing too much and stepping on everyone's toes? Well, even if you are you might not know it. Here are some easy to remember rules you can follow when playing with others:

1.) Never play over the vocals. It's always best to lay back and not play at all in my opinion. Sometimes a tasteful very quiet melody or long note is OK. In general, playing nothing while somebody is singing is my preference.

2.) It's also important to lay back significantly during other solos. Quiet and simple rhythm comps on the 123 draw chord are fine. I hear many players honking away at the same time as another solo is going on and it really detracts from the music. So, keep it simple and play softly if you do play outside of your solo.

3.) Less is more. If you start a solo off with everything ya got, where can you go from there? Exactly, nowhere. So, start simple and hold some long notes and play some tonal based sounds or rhythm lick to get into the groove. Take your time and enjoy the journey of your solo. Most players move around too much in my opinion, always trying to say something. Let the music play YOU. Don't try to play IT.

What's new at

lessons, packages, and harmonicas!

Yes, has been refreshed. From the home page, to the lessons and more! I have added the "Complete Package" for those of you who are looking to pick up every single lesson, jam track (50 tracks in all on the site), and my blues CD "Chicago Sessions". If you purchase the Complete Package, mention this newsletter and you will receive a complimentary 30 min lesson with Ronnie. Simply email him at to set up the lesson after your purchase. Want to purchase this package right now? Click here.

I have also added the "Ultimate Blues Jam Tracks" package to the website as well. This is a must buy for anybody who is working on their chops. The level of talent and quality of the tracks is superb on these full band electric backing downloads. There are 3 CD downloads in all: 30 tracks. This package can be found by clicking here and heading to the Jam Tracks Tab. If you're looking for more blues licks, the "Song Ending Blues Licks" lesson is a perfect download now available on the site. This lesson can be found by clicking here and heading to the Intermediate Tab.

Lastly, there is also now a Harmonica tab where very soon you will be able to purchase harmonicas. I plan on creating a one stop shop for every harmonica player out there. Please stop by and check it out:

Tongue Blocking vs Puckering

what's your approach?

First let me say this: I learned to play single notes by puckering, you know making the big kiss shape with your lips to create a pin hole in order to play just one note at a time. So, it wasn't until I was year and half into my playing that I really started messing with tongue blocking single notes. Here's the thing. If you're not putting your tongue on the harmonica at all, then you're really missing out.

Certain techniques,as you may already know, require that you do so: octaves, tongue flutters, tongue warbles etc. So, what about single notes? Well, there is a different tone and attack when playing single notes with tongue blocking. For example, I just love playing tongue slaps which requires tongue blocking. A tongue slap is when you play a chord just before or as you slap your tongue on the harmonica to play one note. It gives a very nice percussive effect to your playing.

For me it's a split deal. I play all of my bends with the pucker method. Aside from that, I tongue block and pucker about 50/50 mixing mid riff from a block to a pucker. So, I guess the message here is: Don't avoid tongue blocking all together! It truly is crucial for blues harmonica and other styles of music as well. To learn more about tongue blocking, book a SKYPE lesson with Ronnie by emailing him at

I have awesome things on the horizon coming your way soon. My 3 "Bite-Sized Instructional Videos": Amplified Harmonica, Mastering Nuances, and Putting It All Together will be released by the end of the month. To be notified when these videos are released, simply email me at and put "Bite-Sized" in the subject line. Thanks for tuning in!


Ronnie Shellist


Three Stooges Whammer Jammer

Vintage Hohner Adveristement

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Texas Johnny Boy...

Hey y'all...
This is a way in advance heads up..
I'll be at PEARL in downtown Dallas on Friday August 27th at 9:30pm...   will send out ads, again, later.
Milton Hopkins will be on guitar, we have a new fabulous bass player, and Christian Dozzler (from Vienna, Austria now a happily married Fort Worth man) will be with us on piano and accordion!   The band will jump and jive for all of your pleasure!
The way the music biz works is if we get a darn good turn out of friends and family then, we will get hired back!     Please mark your calendars and invite all your friends in your email list so we can show PEARL that we are worthy!
kindest, in these old school urbane blues/ R&B tunes!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harping On: Peter "Madcat" Ruth

     While putting this article together, and trying to think about how to best introduce Madcat, I came across this quote. I simply can’t put it any better.

     "Madcat has got to be one of the greatest jazz soloists in terms of getting an audience. He's got that magical quality. It doesn't matter if he's playing a hoe-down kind of thing that evolves into a blues and pretty
soon into jazz. Audiences here and overseas go with him all the way. He's into music without categories."
      - Dave Brubeck

What is your background in harmonica?
I started playing harmonica in 1964, when I was 15 years old. I was playing guitar at the time and taking guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I also was a big fan of the Midnight Special Radio show on WFMT in Chicago. It was on that radio show that I first heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I decided right then that I had to learn how to play harmonica! For the first few years I just tried to play Like Sonny Terry. Then in 1966 I started listening to Jr. Wells, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, Big Walter Horton, Slim Harpo, Sunnyboy Williamson, Jimmy reed... It was an amazing education. And then in 1967 and 1968 I took three lessons with Walter Horton ! ! !

Why the name Madcat?
The name Madcat was a nickname I had in high school. I had a few friends that were into blues and since all our blues heros had cool names (Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Magic Sam, Sunnyland Slim etc...) we made up “blues names” for each other. That was in 1966, but it was just a nickname back then used by a very small circle of friends. . Then In 1969 I joined the band New Heavenly Blue and moved from Chicago to Ann Arbor Michigan. The drummer in that band was named Peter, so I started using the name Madcat full time starting then.

You had an interesting solution to playing guitar and harmonica together. How'd you do that?
I never was really comfortable playing harp in a harp rack, so I developed a system where the harp and the microphone were supported by a microphone stand. It’s my own invention. If you go to you can see and hear the system in use.

You always seem to have a lot of fun when you're playing. What keeps performing so exciting for you?
Yes, I love music, and I love improvising, I guess what keeps it fresh for me is to always playing something new.

What harps do you play, and why?
I’ve played a lot of harps over the years, primarily Hohners, Huangs and now Herings. Hering has a new MADCAT signature model harmonica, and that is my favorite. It is the best harp I’ve ever played. There are many companies these days making great harmonicas, but I don’t believe anyone makes a harmonica better than the Hering Madcat.

I've come across new players who get very frustrated that the harmonica isn't as easy as they thought it would be. What advice would you give them?
Have fun with it and keep playing. The more you play the easier it gets and the more fun it becomes.

There are a great deal of resources for learning to play. What do you think are some of the better ones?
When I was starting out, there was very little out there for harp player, and now there is plenty. Homespun Tapes has some good lessons on DVD (including 2 by me). Jerry Portnoy’s Blues Harmonica Masterclass lessons are excellent. David Barrett’s Harmonica Masterclass lessons are excellent. Add there are a ton of lessons available on the internet these days. Harmonica clubs such as H.O.O.T are a great place to learn more about harmonica playing. And a trip to a SPAH Convention is guarenteed to inspire you and expand your horizons. The next SPAH Convention is in Minnesota in August 2010.

Is there a particular song that you enjoy playing more than any other?
I have hundreds of favorites... my favorite song changes a couple of times per day

What do you suggest a player should practice the most?
I think harp players gain a lot by playing new songs. Learn to play the melodies. Then try to play those same melodies in other positions. Always try new things. Don’t get in the rut of playing the same things over and over.

Any last words for HOOT?
Have fun!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Texas Tide Weekend Update

Live Tonight
Friday April 9th
Mi Casa Tamales and Cantina
This is a great place with extra large tamales made fresh daily cold beer and margaritas plus a play area for the kids.  Located at 25930 IH-10 West, on the access road between Ralph Fair Road and Fair Oaks Ranch. Check it out at 
Come join us for a great time
"We're Rollin In Again in 2010"
3901 Speedway / 78751
Austin, TX - ph: 512-459-6581
SUNDAY, APRIL 12TH -8:00p.m.
213 W. 5th Street
Austin, TX. 78701
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
 Austin Blues Society Blues Jam
“1st Down and Stassney Sports Bar”
8:00PM - 12:00AM
730 W Stassney LN, Suite 120
Austin, TX 78745

also.....from HOUSTON

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adam Gussow is Coming to TX!


On July 31, I'll be doing a harp clinic in Houston at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. 4-6 PM. $25.

From 8PM to 12:30 AM or so, the same venue will have the Down Home Texas Blues Harmonica Festival, featuring Sonny Boy Terry (and his band), Rob Roy Parnell, Dave Nevling, and yours truly. An open jam in the final hour.

For more information, please contact

ALSO: I'm interested in a clinic and/or gig on Friday, July 30 in Baton Rouge. And I'm interested in a gig on the evening of Friday July 30 in Dallas. Because I'll be traveling the whole way from Oxford on Friday, I won't be able to do a clinic in Dallas. But I'd welcome a one-set opener as a one-man band somewhere.

More details by SONNY BOY TERRY:

Tickets are now on sale at Also there will be a viewing that evening of Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary. Please check out the wonderful line up of great harp players and events for the day.

Down Home Texas Blues Harmonica Festival and Harmonica Clinic Saturday, July 31st, Houston, Texas
Doors open 3PM

Live Band - H-Town Jukes - 3PM - 3:45PM (flow)

Adam Gussow Modern Blues Harmonica Clinic 4PM - 6PM

Movie Time!: Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary 7:15PM - 8PM

Dinner Break - 6PM - 7PM - Grill Menu Available on site. (The Houston heights has some of the best Mexican food in the world just a few blocks away)

Dave Nevling and the Blues Kats 8PM - 8:45PM

Rob Roy Parnell's Roadhouse Blues 9PM - 9:45PM

Adam Gussow One Man Band 10PM - 10:45PM

Sonny Boy Terry Band - 11PM - 11:45PM

Finale – 11:45 - Midnight

After Midnight Open mic Texas Blues Jam hosted Steve "Fess" Schnieder - Midnight – Close. All blues performers welcome

Adam Gussow's Modern Blues Harmonica Clinic.

Admission: 25.00 - All ages accompanied by Adult.

Texas Blues Harmonica Showcase - 8PM - 12AM Admission: 12.00 ($10 for Houston Blues Society members. Must verify current membership)
Total Package Price: 35.00
Saturday, July 31st.
Dan Electro's Guitar Bar
1031 East 24th Street
Houston, Texas, 77009

Friday, April 2, 2010

B-Radical Review by Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey reviews the new B-Radical harmonica by Brad Harrison.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cheryl Arena at Catfish Blues

    Recently I photographed one of Cheryl's shows. Here are the photos. If you've never been to Catfish Blues, it's a great venue where you can hear some great live music, and have some great food from the deep south.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tousan Tool Case

    My brother-in-law Brad Tausan is one of the most creative people I've met. It seems like he can draw or build nything he sees or dreams up, and do a great job. His halloween costumes are always interesting because they always involve items that require a good amount of talent and construction to build.

    This is why when the tool case that came with my Lee Oskar toolset started to fall apart (due to a lot of use, carrying around, etc), I went to Brad to find a solution.

    I showed him Richard Sleigh's video, because his roll-up tool case (made by Cumberland Custom Cases) seemed like a great idea. I asked Brad to build his own take on such a case. This is what he came up with.

    The case can rolls up and has pockets for the tools. I rarely carry all of my tools with me though, so the case separates into two sections. If I only need my basic tools, I take only one section with me.

    When the case is in this smaller form, it can be folded in half from top to bottom, before getting rolled up, making it smaller and easier to carry. Thanks for doing a great job, Brad!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sjoeberg Comb Photos

In the last issue of the newsletter (available here, I reviewed a custom Golden Melody comb made by Dick Sjoeberg. You can see more photos of the comb here.

He also makes these combs for Marine Bands.

These combs are available at You can also e-mail Sjoeberg at

Thursday, March 25, 2010


In case you don't know, HOOT has a YouTube Channel! Here is our first ever video. Dallas Harmonica Trio's version of Granada. If you're a member of HOOT and have a performance you'd like to share, e-mail me and we'll set it up.

This channel is for HOOT members to show thier stuff, so be sure to take a video camera to your next show!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Harping On: Dick Sjoeberg

What is your background in harmonica? I started playing harmonica at the age of 14, after having been inspired by an uncle of mine who always played harmonicas when someone had a birthday. I remember that I always wanted to sit close to him when he played so I would not miss anything! I joined the merchant marine as a mess boy at the age of 15, and from that day on I always brought a few harmonicas with me. Later on, i joined the Swedish Royal Navy for a year. During that period of time, I heard Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) from an old juke box for the first time in my life. I fell in love with him immediately, I had never heard anything like it before. That harmonica sound, his voice and pure Blues... I was never the same again after that.

After the navy period, I went back to the merchant marine, still with my harps. I remember trying hard to get the sound and the music SBW played. At that time, during the 60's there we didn't have the same resources we see today. I had to learn to play the blues the hard way, listening to SBW records over and over, and trying to understand what he did. second position was totally strange to me at that time. When I bought my first SBW record I went to a large music store in New York. I stood by the blues records trying to find SBW, the only harmonica player I knew of at that time.

This was 1969, and suddenly an older record salesman came up by my side and asked if i wanted to buy something special. " Yes please, I would like to buy a couple of records with SBW" The man stared at me for a while then he said, "Are you aware that you are in one of the largest record stores in the world? We have over 1 million records here. I can offer you anything. One doesn't have to listen to that blues s**t! I said, "But I want to by SBW records, and I want to make that decision myself!"

That was how I bought my first SBW LP record ("electronically altered" as it says at the front cover). The record was "The Real Folk Blues". When I played the record , I heard "Trust My Baby" for the first time ever. I remember that I cried because the harmonica solo and his voice were so emotional. Still today, when I listen to that song, it's special to me. Since I have spent almost 26 years in the merchant marine as crew and later on as an Marine Engineer, I have had the time to practice TONE on my harmonicas thanks to SBW, and of course others I discovered later on. I have my own blues band , Queen Josephine & the Blues Trail. We celebrate our 12th year as a blues band. We play locally, and some blues festivals as well.

What do you feel is your strength as an instructor?
I have taught students, beginners, medium, and advanced players for more than 12 years now and I have heard all kinds of questions during my lessons . . . questions I wasn't prepared to hear. That got me thinking more about how students were thinking, and the way they experienced and understood my sentences. Why he or she might ask a specific question about something that I presumed was understandable from my teaching.

That made me think of of time I spent learning with my old SBW records. It all came back to me, and suddenly I understood. I learned a completely different way of teaching and thinking. I think i have developed some kind of a trained ear after 48 years of playing, and I have my personal examples as to what a full emotional tone should sound like. I listen to how the tone is built up in microscopic detail; attacks, whether or not the lips are a little bit pinched, the breathing, how consistent the bends are, whether or not the student is keeping consistent pressure, etc. I think that's the strength i have as a teacher.

I never take anything for granted. Instead, I open my ears and listen to the problems the student experiences in the learning process.

What went into the design of your comb?
Very interesting question. After having played leaky harmonicas for decades, I was really tired of not finding any harmonica, at that time, that could fulfill my personal idea of what a "Blues tone" should sound like. I could never reach the "TONE" I searched for and had in my head. I always thought if i ever got the time, I would create harmonicas myself that could fulfill my expectations.

In 2001, doctors found that I had a tonsil cancer. I went through a horrible period in my life, with radiation treatment, operations and so on. I was lucky. I am still alive after 8 years and everything points at the cancer staying away. I am cured. But it also meant that I got into a life crisis and was not able to go back to my work as a technical manager.

My personality is such that i have always been very interested in all kinds of technical matters. When I thought my life was over, I said to myself, "I can't sit here the rest of my life doing nothing." Then I suddenly remembered the promise I had made to myself making harmonicas and combs that fulfilled my expectations. The rest is history, the years have passed on and I have spent thousand of hours in my workshop developing my customization techniques, developing my combs, and creating harmonicas that play the way I want them to play. Some of them are common some are not.

What can you tell the readers about the big project you recently finished for Richard Sleigh and Bradley Harrison?
Actually, it was not a project for them from the beginning. I had searched for a solution for creating a harmonica tuning fixture. This is due to the fact that I have tried to teach several players how to tune their harmonicas. Many of them failed on their blowing and drawing techniques.

The hardest part, when tuning a harmonica, is maintaining a low, consistent air flow throughout the process. It has to be consistent as a straight line to get the proper pitch. I knew that such a harmonica tuner was not available to average harmonica players. It existed only in the harmonica factories.

A year ago, I happened to come across a photo of such a factory tuner, and then I understood how it worked, just not in detail. I decided to try to create a tuning fixture that would be available for the public. In the factories, they are really heavy and bellow operated. Its impossible for us harmonica players to have such a thing in our living rooms!

After 13 months of development, it is finally finished and works the way it's supposed to. I knew about Richard Sleigh since long ago and when I found out that he sold customization tools. I bought a complete set from him. Later on, he e-mailed me and asked how I found out about his tools. I replied, and happened to mention my work on the Pro-Tuner.

From there, we decided to work together. Richard Sleigh is responsible for the marketing and distribution in the U.S.. Richard Sleigh and I are the only people that will sell the Pro-Tuner. It will not be available anywhere else.

What would you say is the foundation of strong tone?
To me, a strong tone is a tone that is convincing. We are all individuals, and have different shaped mouths, lungs etc. We also have different ideas of what a strong tone is. I personally think that a strong and convincing tone can be achieved by everyone if he or she learns to understand, in detail, how to use their mouth cavity, lungs, diaphragm, relaxation and the interaction between these techniques, as well as how and when to use them.

What first got you into customization?
In 1969, I opened up a harmonica for the first time because the reed was sticking every time I blew into the harp. Funny, but I still remember how careful I was, trying to understand the reed action, and how I suddenly found my tongue hanging out from the side of my mouth when trying to solve the problem! Finally I thought there must exist a position of the reed where it responds well and doesn't choke. I fixed it.

Ever since, I have been able to fix gapping problems and alignment on my own harmonicas, but the real beginning was much later, at the same time i decided to make harmonicas and combs. It was suddenly clear to me that harmonicas are as interesting as 20,000 horsepower main engines! A new technical area consisting of well known elements with which I was familiar.

It was an easy choice for me, since I found that I got the same kick thinking of the mechanical design of the harmonica, and its problems, and improvement potential, as I did from "wrestling" with huge main engines and steam boilers at sea.

Your customization techniques are very unusual. Why is this?
Hard to say. Probably due to the fact that I have a long experience and understanding of mechanical elements. I see the harmonica not only as a musical instrument, but as a "mechanical piece" consisting of a comb, coverplates, a pair of reed plates with 20 free swinging brass reeds fastened by the oldest fastening technique available . . . riveting. For example, here is I how I see the reeds and rivets.

The riveting technique is a mechanical process with given problems. If not correctly carried out, it can cause problems such as material stress, loose connections etc. Knowing these issues get me into solving the known riveting problems that may affect the free swinging reed and its action. To be aware of the single mechanical component and its strengths, weaknesses, and how it may affect the possibilities and function of the harmonica as an instrument, is my foundation for developing my customization techniques.
Tell us about your new embossing tool.
There are many embossing techniques, with so many different tools, but what they all have in common is that they all fail in one point; the ability to emboss the entire length of a reed slot with the reed mounted.

It is not possible to emboss the entire length of a reed slot, as far as I know, with the help of commonly used tools without denting the reed. I stumbled onto a solution for that problem while trying to solve a completely different issue. I am still evaluating it, but with this new tool, it is possible to emboss the entire length of a reed slot still with the reeds assembled. It's made of feather steel, and comes with a special wooden handle. As of now (December 2009), it's being manufactured and will come up in my web shop further on when the evaluation period is over, and I feel I can gladly stand behind it.

Another tool I am working on is the reed base adjusting tool, a tool with which one can, with only a couple of strokes, perfectly set up the reed base gapping without any risk of destroying the reed. This is normally a process that requires great precision.

If someone were to learn just ONE customization technique, which should it be?
Forced to name just one technique, that would be reed gap set-up. This should be done by closing the reed action to where the reed responds to a very gentle breathing pressure, no more than a normal whispering breath.

Close the gap by working at the the last 1/3 of the reed near the rivet until the reed chokes. From there open it gently up again by working at the same 1/3 near the rivet, but this time from the opposite side. This gives you full control over the opening and closing action of the reed. When the reed starts to sounds at the "whispering pressure", then its time to increase the blow/draw pressure to find out if it chokes with higher pressure. If it does, open the reed slightly until it just starts to sound at the new pressure. Repeat the process until you can apply normal pressure at the reed.

Any last words for HOOT?
I feel honored for having been asked to do this interview by Alberto Robles, who is one the students that has really listened, and also been able to adapt the material into his own playing. Thanks Alberto!
If I feel that I have contributed into the harmonica community with anything, then it has been worth all the years of work. I have been around for a long time and I enjoy seeing all the great, incredible talented harmonica players around the world that bring the harmonica to new levels all the time, as well as the customization pioneers, such as Joe Filisko and Richard Sleigh among others, who have made it possible for harmonica players to reach such levels. If it wasn't for their having shown new directions and possibilities, and forcing the harmonica companies into further developing their products, then I am convinced that we would never have seen these incredible playing techniques, and development of this "mechanical piece" that we see today.
I am not an American, but a piece of my soul belongs to the country after spending so much time in the US, from the beginning of the 60's and over the years. Having seen the great country from North to South and East to West, having experienced Bourbon Street in New Orleans, seeing Fats Domino and Ray Charles live at clubs, and getting to know so many great people, and having a lot of fun!
Having been asked making this interview brings out a special feeling in me. I'm suddenly connected again globally. It's great!
I would encourage all harmonica players to become better at working on their own instruments, from tuning to more basic customization. Learning about our instruments in detail will, in the end, lead us to continuous and sustainable improvements of the great instrument that is called the harmonica, making it possible for future generations of players to take harmonica playing into levels we've never seen.

Finally, I want to thank Alberto Robles for making this great moment possible for me. To the readers, wherever you may be, keep on learning. Look at harmonica playing as a lifelong project that brings joy and makes you feel happy. Try to develop yourself to be as good a player as you can possibly be.
—Dick Sjoeberg

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't Forget!

This month's meeting will be held on March 16 and will be at IHOP on 635 and Ferguson. The Richland College campus will be closed for Spring Break.


Harmonica Man

A very touching story, submitted by Harry Rhodes. Thanks, Harry!


If you have videos you thing should be on this blog, please submit them to

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harping On: Charlie Musselwhite

How did you first start playing the harmonica?

What is your harp of choice and why?

What would you say are the most important techniques to practice?

What about the harmonica do you love most?

Are you often approached by fans?

Your control over the harmonica is legendary. How did you develop that?

Many of your fans are very fond of your Christo Redemptor. What can you tell us about that song?

In your musical career, what has been your proudest moment?

Which harmonica players do you admire most, living or dead?

Last words to members of HOOT?

Harping On: Winslow Yerxa

What is your background as a harmonica player? I started as a teenager after hearing blues harp on British rock records in the 1960s. That led me to Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Butterfield, and John Mayall, who led me back to the Sonny Boys, Little Walter, and all the great classic blues players. Meanwhile I was playing country music, pop tunes, and just about anything that came along. Along the way I started playing chromatic and discovered jazz and Toots Thielemans. In music school I started playing baroque sonatas on chromatic, while also writing for and playing with the school’s big band. Later I went through a period of arranging and playing keyboards in a Caribbean dance band, playing almost no harp at all. Then I started transcribing Toots Thielemans’ solos, which I may publish someday. Later I transcribed John Popper’s harmonica solos for the songbook to the Blues Traveler CD four. In the mid-1990s I started re-examining my roots in Canadian traditional music while also exploring Django Reinhardt and French musette. Lately I’ve been returning to jazz while nibbling at the edges of tango and Finnish music. What can I say – I’m terminally curious!

When I started playing the harmonica, I couldn’t find any useful information. I guess I’ve never gotten over that and still feel the need to produce clearly written, high-quality information and then get it out to anyone who’s interested. Besides, I like to write, and the harmonica is such a fascinating subject! Since the early 1990s, I’ve written about the harmonica for magazines, for harp-l, for other people’s books, and recently, for Now, Harmonica For Dummies has given me the best opportunity so far to share that fascination.

What made you decide to write the book?
The publisher approached me. I decided that getting to write Harmonica For Dummies was a good opportunity, as Dummies books are very well distributed and have a reputation for editorial integrity, clarity and – as their tag line says – making everything easier. Deciding to write a book on my favorite subject, to give it in-depth coverage, to get it in front of a wide public (and, hopefully, make some money) was not a hard decision.

Has the book done well?
So far so good. In its first six weeks of release – and before the Christmas season had started – the book had already sold over 4,000 copies. (I’ll get the next installment of the story in a couple of months.) Meanwhile, on, Harmonica For Dummies is always in the top ten among woodwind books. Oddly, it also places in the music theory and composition category, while in the overall top 20,000 (out of several million books) it seems to be holding its own. Recently the publisher has given the book a new vote of confidence – they’re going to bring out a French-language edition.

What kind of feedback have you received?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Knowledgeable reviewers and authors like Richard Hunter have given it a solid recommendation, but what I value most is that people new to the harmonica find the book to be a clear and helpful guide, while intermediate players find it gives them a whole new outlook on the instrument. I deliberately wrote it so that it would offer valuable information not just to beginners, but also to more advanced players, so it seems to be succeeding on that level.

How did you decide what would be included in the book?
The editors had topics they wanted to include, and of course so did I. Each needed to convince the other of the importance of their topic list, and the end, I think we arrived at a solid core of useful information. Early on I realized that focusing on the diatonic would allow me to give it deeper and broader coverage, even though I initially hoped to include chromatic harmonica. And while the first job was to get new players on a solid footing, I felt it was equally important to help intermediate players.

Anyone who plays an instrument needs to choose a good instrument and learn the basics. But a musician always deals with many additional topics, such as choosing good accessories like carrying cases, making simple repairs, finding good tunes to play, listening to great players, playing with other people, and even being in a band, performing for audiences, and dealing with amplification. I made sure to give good basic coverage to all these topics in Harmonica For Dummies.
Did you write very much that ended up not being in the book?
There wasn’t time to write more than what we ended up agreeing on. However, late in the editing process I had to do some slimming to keep the book within the agreed page count. Most of the cuts came from the chapters on players to know about and CDs to listen to. I regretted having to omit mention of so many fine players, many of whom I count as friends.

I also had to slim down the chapter on amplification. It would have been nice to go into more detail about how to get the distorted amplified blues sound. However, amplification is used in all kinds of music – pop, bluegrass, folk, you name it – so I had to convey the most essential and general information on amplification within the available space.

I did manage to include at least basic descriptions and photographs of chromatic and tremolo harmonicas, with demo tracks on the CD, but it would been nice to go into greater depth. I did have to cut out pictures and information about bass and chord harmonicas.

Will those sections ever be made available to the public?
Well, the information on players and CDs will come out in some form. I have another book in the works that may go into more about amplification, but it’s too early to say any more about that.

Was it very difficult to have the book published?
It wasn’t difficult to find a publisher – they came to me. Though I did have to convince them that I was the right author for them. Happily, they agreed. The writing and editing process were grueling, though. I had to produce a 360-page book in only four months, with heavy editorial input and the resulting rewrites, and then turn around and fully produce a 98-track CD in less than a month. But despite the time pressures, it turned out very well.

What did you take into consideration when deciding on how much should be explained, and how it should be explained?
If you’re casually browsing in a bookstore, and you randomly open a book on an unfamiliar subject, does it make sense? If it’s my book, I want the answer to be “Yes.” That ideal, along with space limitations (you have to be able to at least lift the book) influenced how much I included and how I explained it.

The question of “how to explain things” is a matter of putting yourself in the shoes of someone having a new experience. Most skills include several steps and processes that an experienced player doesn’t normally think about. When I explain something to a new player, I take it slow and break a skill down into all those steps. When I do that, I give the learner only as much information as they need at that point – why snow them under with pointless detail? Meanwhile, I try to anticipate the questions that would come up for the person who’s never done this before. The editors were very helpful in coming up with questions, because they’re not harmonica players. If an explanation made sense to them, then it would also make sense to the casual reader

Casual language and humor also play important parts in how I explain things. I feel that putting my readers at ease helps them digest new information.

Last words to members of HOOT?
Stay curious. Seek to understand the things you love, and dig deep. And, at every opportunity, make sweet music!

Harping On: Cheryl Arena

1. When and how did you first start playing harmonica?
1987...I wanted to learn how to play harmonica so I looked for a job that I would have downtime to practice...and I found it! I drove limosines for 4 years and while I was sitting in the car waiting for people I would was perfect.
2. Your singing is fantastic.

Were you trained professionally, or is it a natural talent?
No, I'm self-taught, but I wouldn't call it natural because I think of the voice as an instrument like any other, that hopefully gets better with lots of practice :)

3. What would you say are your strong points on the harp?
My tone...and the main reason I say that is because that's what people have always said to me since I first started playing.

As far as what I think..I know I play from my heart and deep down in my soul and I think that shows.
4. Are there any techinques you'd like to improve on?
Yeah, just about everything! There's always more to learn and you can always get better that's what I love about playing music!
5. You are a regular instructor at John Gindick's Harmonica Jam Camp.Can you tell us a bit about that?
Sure,I could go on and on...I LOVE teaching at Jon's camps. I learn so much myself and it's so rewarding to see people's progress in just 5 days.

It's pretty intense...we start at 3pm the first day and go till 5pm the 5th day with barely any time to sleep in between.

Jam Camp is the perfect name for them because the campers do get to jam ALOT! Whether it's group classes, one on ones, jamming with an in house band or just a guitar player or going out on the town to a local's a pretty hands on experience for everyone.

And it's all ages...teenagers to over 65 retirees...for some reason folks hear the word "camp" and think its just for kids.

We usually have at least 7 seasoned instructors with their own unique talents to share...each camp has a different flavor. In 2008 we did our first camp in Clarksdale Mississippi and it went over so well that we do 2 a year there now..September and March. It's the perfect setting for learning harmonica..being in the Delta...where the Blues began. There's so much history can feel it!

6. As a female harmonica player, do you get different reactions from audiences, or from other harp players?

Yes...the standard comment is "wow I've never heard a woman play harmonica like that" and my standard answer is usually "wow, nobody's ever said that to me before"...then we both laugh.
7. What harps do you prefer, and why?
I play Marine Bands right out of the box. I prefer the wood combs. I would prefer customized harps (if I could afford them). Several years ago, I use to get my harps customized by Richard Sleigh until he got too busy. It was hard to go back to harps right out of the box...

This past July when my good friend, Jason Ricci, was in Dallas he reworked, (with Richard's permission), a few of my old Sleigh harps and he was telling me about his new B-Radical harp that he's been working on with Brad Harrison. I know what a pefectionist Jason is and how meticulous he is about working on harps so I'm really looking forward to his new

B-Radical and I have no doubt they'll be my new favorite harmonicas!
8. What are some of your likes/dislikes about the harmonica community?
I like that there IS a harmonica community! Anybody that gets together to celebrate and/or promote the coolest instrument on the planet is ok with me!
9.What advice would you give to someone who is learning, or hoping to improve on the harmonica?
Listening is key! Listen to whatever you're trying to learn and really absorb it before you even put the harp in your mouth.

And when you play consider all the elements of your playing... your timing, your tone, your attack, and have patience with yourself to learn it I didn't say don't have to copy someone else's licks note for note..just make every note YOU play,count.

Absorb yourself in listening to music and listen to all the instruments not just harmonica..then play what you feel,feel what you play and above all enjoy the journey of making music!

10. Any last words for HOOT?
So glad y'all give a HOOT!

Harping On: Pat Missin

1. What is your background in harmonica?
I wanted to be a pop star when I was in my teens. I was never much of a singer, so I tried to compensate by becoming a multi-instrumentalist. Guitar was my first instrument, then keyboards, saxophone, trumpet, various ethnic instruments, etc., but harmonica just seemed to take over. I really don't have the time to keep in practice on all of them, but somehow I can never bring myself to give them all up in favour of the harmonica.
My first harmonica was a Hohner American Ace that I bought mostly because it was a very cheap way to add another instrument to my arsenal, rather than because I really wanted to play the harmonica.

However, I recall listening to the John Peel radio show one night at 11.45 and he played Little Walter's "Quarter to Twelve" and I thought it sounded pretty cool. I remember thinking "Well, there are only ten holes on this thing - how hard can it be to learn to do that??" It turns out that it wasn't quite so easy as I first thought...

As well as the usual blues harp influences, I was also trying to make my harp sound like Junior Walker's sax, Ernie Isley's guitar, Clifton Chenier's accordion, Booker T.'s Hammond organ and so on. I later added a bunch of more eclectic influences such as Eddie Harris, Basil Kirchin, Brian Eno, Adrian Belew and the entire contents of my local library's "World Music" section.

I was also fortunate enough to get to know a bunch of musicians who didn't have too many preconceived notions of how the harmonica should sound, so they would routinely expect me to play material that most people would not immediately associate with the harmonica.
2. Your website is a wealth of information. How did you decide to get that started?
I originally started the site so I could give my customers ideas of how various tuning options actually sounded. Then people would find my site, figure out that I probably knew a thing or two about the harmonica and email me their questions. I soon noticed that certain questions were very common, so I started putting the answers up on my site to save me from having to type them over and over again. It just kind of grew from there.

When I first started with the harmonica, I was amazed at how hard it was to find useful information about it. Things are a lot better these days, but there's still a lot of misinformation about. Especially when it comes to writing about the instrument's history, it seems like most people simply repeat what they've read elsewhere else, mistakes and all. I hope my website goes some way to fixing that situation.

3. How important is maintenance and customization to you?
Very important indeed. When I was living the life of the typical penniless musician, I simply couldn't have afforded to keep buying new harps when my old ones went out of tune, so learning to tune was extremely empowering. Then as well as maintenance and repairs, I got into alternative tunings and all sorts of other modifications which enabled me to do things that are simply not possible on standard harps.
4. What is the most important modification technique one should learn?
Learning how to adjust the reeds to suit your own personal playing style is probably the most useful skill. Harmonica players are often complaining about how many harps they have to buy just to find one that really suits their style. It's much better, not to mention much cheaper, to learn the basics of reed adjustment and make them play the way you want them to. Any decent guitarist knows how to adjust the action of their instrument - a harmonica player should be able to do the same. It's probably worth pointing out that I prefer to use the term "reed adjustment", as I feel that the term "gapping" tends to lead people to focus on just the tip of the reed, rather than its full length.

A very close second to reed adjustment is tuning - it makes your harps last longer and sound better. Both reed adjustment and tuning put the

player in control of the harp, rather than the other way around.

5. What common bad habits would you have harmonica students avoid?

Playing too hard. There's only so much volume you can get out of a harmonica by simply blowing and drawing harder. It's better to learn how to project and use your hands and vocal tract to support your tone - if nothing else, your reeds will stay in tune for longer. If you still can't be heard, it's time to get a bigger amplifier, or find quieter accompanists. My main diatonics are Lee Oskars that I bought in the mid-80s that are still going strong after more than 20 years and racking up thousands of playing hours on stage and on the street.

That's partly due to the legendary longevity of Lee Oskars, but it's also got a lot to do with learning how to play without placing undue tress on the reeds.
Then there are the related faults of playing too much and not listening enough. These are common problems with many musicians, but harmonica players often seem to be some of the worst offenders. If you're playing with a band, you really need to be aware of what the others are doing and you need to make sure that what you are doing is adding to the overall performance, not detracting from it. Even if you are playing completely solo, you still need to be listening closely to yourself and your surroundings - and not just listening with "harp player's ears".

All too often I hear harmonica players allow themselves to play something badly, just because it is difficult to play it on the harmonica. Of course it's true that the harmonica presents some unique technical challenges, but every instrument has things that are easy and things that are not so easy. Out of tune is out of tune, out of time is out of time and badly phrased is badly phrased - the fact that something may be difficult on a harmonica does not excuse you from having to make everything you play sound as musical as possible.

6. What is the best advice you can give about getting better tone?

Again, listening to yourself, I mean REALLY listening to yourself is key. However, you also have to know what it is that you are trying to hear. A lot of people talk about tone, but many of them don't really seem to know what it is. Without getting too technical here, sounds have a fundamental plus various overtones. Learning to hear these overtones is the first step towards learning to control them and shape your own sound. I talk a little about this topic on my website.

I also feel that there is no such thing as "good tone" or "bad tone". It's more a case of whether a tone is appropriate or not in context. A tone which is suitable for playing a Chicago blues tune is probably not one that would be suitable for a bluegrass tune or a classical piece. Rather than trying to develop one single tone, I think it's important to be able to coax a wide range of tones from your instrument.

7. How important is it to learn proper breathing when playing harmonica?
To be honest, I'm not really sure. In my teens I did a lot of martial arts training and I later got into yoga and meditation. Perhaps this has lead me to take my breathing skills for granted, I don't know. Compared with saxophone or trumpet, harmonica playing requires very little lung power, so if you are routinely finding yourself running out of breath as you play, it's likely that you are simply pushing too much air through the instrument.

You actually design harmonicas. How much do you have to take into consideration?

I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that most harmonica players do not want to learn a new instrument. The patent archives are full of highly innovative harmonicas with wonderful possibilities that were either commercial failures, or were never even produced in the first place.

Really, I think the vast majority of harmonica players just want a better 10-hole diatonic or a better solo tuned slide chromatic. Even things like Suzuki's valved diatonics or their Overdrive harp, or Hohner's XB-40 have not made huge inroads into the market, even though blues harp players don't have to do very much relearning at all in order to get the most from these instruments.
9. Which of your own designs is your favorite?Actually, my favorite is one that completely ignores the previous point! I have no idea if this will ever be commercially available, but I have a design for a harmonica that is fully chromatic, but doesn't require a slide or buttons or anything. I can't say too much about it, but it's based around a pattern that makes for easy transposition through all keys.

Every draw note can be bent just like a blues harp and each note of the chromatic scale is available as a blow note, a draw note and a bent draw note. It does require the player to learn a new interface with the instrument, although the basics of tone production are the same as on a standard harmonica.There are a few teething troubles with the prototype, but I think it's a really cool idea, if I say so myself!

10. Any last words to members of HOOT?
Yeah - stop by my website and say hi!