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"Breaking a Rut"

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Civet Cat
Jan 25, 2009 9:16 PM GMT
This is a question "art Boy" posted on the great bushman forum that came up in the chat today again...So I thought I would post his question here again and my answer as well in case anyone found it interesting...
jason

QUESTION:

Topic: How do I start sounding better?
Posted: 23 December 2008 at 8:22pm
And don't say practice, I know this. I've been playing (trying to) seriously for about a year and a half. Sometimes I'll record myself and listen to it. While I'm playing it sounds good, but when I listen to it from the recording.... well it don't sound too purty.

When I practice, I work on making sure I hit the notes head on, vibrato, as well as practicing the riff or tune I'm learning, all that stuff. But is there some tricks with the way I hold my mouth or some other pointers you pros could gimme and others who might be wondering the same thing?

ANSWER:

Posted: 24 December 2008 at 2:24am
Hi Art. Branford Marsalis said : "Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate".
Few people REALLY make it to the last stage and I assure you those who do/will or did practiced a lot.
I learned this way...First by rewinding Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Cotton, Jnr Wells George Smith etc. over and over for nearly six to eight hours a day literally for maybe five years maybe eight...till it kind of died off...Then I would just sort place a Butterfield lick here...follow it with a Walter lick, then a cotton one...That went on for a few years maybe more...
The real progress came when I learned and started practicing scales...Then I had the basis for everything I had already been playing and the language and vocabulary (LICKS/RIFFS/SONGS) that I had learned from those records were just phrases, paragraphs and short stories composed of those scales!
Much like a child learns the basics of speech first and learns to communicate at rudimentary level then goes to school and learns the alphabet and how to read write etc(SCALES/CHORDS ETC) ...
When I started exploring scales and chord structure a whole world opened up to me and a whole lot of it is VERY SOULFUL!
On an emotional level: It made it easier for me to play confidently WITHOUT HAVING TO THINK because I was no longer nervous or naive of what the music was asking...I could now understand the other instruments around me intrinsically and by ear, suddenly I was able to pick out their notes, sometimes EXACTLY by the simple process of elimination that would happen almost instantly as a result of training my ear to recognize note groupings (scales). That's when my progression really started.


Label: www.eclectogroove.com
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Comments (15)

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Jan 26, 2009 1:29 AM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

I must admit I'm real bad about practicing and I have stagnated so what I am doing now is taking things that come natural on other instruments and transfering it. For instance, taking the walking bass line I use on bass and learning it for the Trumpet, then some of the licks that work well on trumpet, try to imitate them on harp. Sure hope it works because I'm gettin' real frustrated.


Jan 26, 2009 4:00 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

listen to something different, out of your comfort zone. see if you can do a harp part to say rock, country, jazz, gospel, world, or other music. challenge yourself!
any open mics or jams you can attend and be part of? that's how i really began stretching out. in fact open mics are where i really made a lot of breakthroughs, playing live with people i barely knew or didn't know at all, no net, just a band and me and a mic. it's an excellent way to learn to improvise.

do you use the depth of your torso, your air column, when you play? do you sing? the air column is vital to good deep tone. once i began doing vocals, it opened up my torso and harp tone came easier.

what are you recording on and playing back with? believe me, we're usually our worst critics. sometimes better gear can give us a more accurate sonic picture. i also rely on my peers and audience a lot.
do you play strictly acoustic? the usual belief- which i agree with- is that acoustic chops should come first, badass amp and mic later.

of course jason is spot on about scales, something i need to pay more attention to! and applying what you know in a different way.

and by the way- is that jawbone of the great white north?? howdy partner!


Jan 26, 2009 4:45 AM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

Oh man - we gonna confuse 'em now - my brother from a different mother - good to see you Jawbone (south)


Jan 26, 2009 4:57 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Oh Crap! Now you've gone and convinced me! I'm gonna have to work on the damn scales!

Grumble. . . probly have me doin arpeggios next. . .grumble...crap.


Jan 26, 2009 6:08 AM GMT
Zhin Replied:

Harps are quite arpeggio friendly I think. :)


Jan 26, 2009 10:11 AM GMT
Christelle Replied:

HOW CAN I BE SO BLIND :

"Hi Art. Branford Marsalis said : "Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate".
Few people REALLY make it to the last stage and I assure you those who do/will or did practiced a lot.
I learned this way...First by rewinding Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Cotton, Jnr Wells George Smith etc. over and over for nearly six to eight hours a day literally for maybe five years maybe eight...till it kind of died off...Then I would just sort place a Butterfield lick here...follow it with a Walter lick, then a cotton one...That went on for a few years maybe more...
The real progress came when I learned and started practicing scales...Then I had the basis for everything I had already been playing and the language and vocabulary (LICKS/RIFFS/SONGS) that I had learned from those records were just phrases, paragraphs and short stories composed of those scales!
Much like a child learns the basics of speech first and learns to communicate at rudimentary level then goes to school and learns the alphabet and how to read write etc(SCALES/CHORDS ETC) ...
When I started exploring scales and chord structure a whole world opened up to me and a whole lot of it is VERY SOULFUL!
On an emotional level: It made it easier for me to play confidently WITHOUT HAVING TO THINK because I was no longer nervous or naive of what the music was asking...I could now understand the other instruments around me intrinsically and by ear, suddenly I was able to pick out their notes, sometimes EXACTLY by the simple process of elimination that would happen almost instantly as a result of training my ear to recognize note groupings (scales). That's when my progression really started. "

EVERYTHING IS IN THERE I'M SAVING IT


Jan 26, 2009 10:49 AM GMT
DutchBones Replied:

Fancy seeing the jbone brothers here. Hows life guys?
btw Good piece of advice up there, actually I'm doing some scales too lately, hoping to "see the light"


Jan 26, 2009 6:23 PM GMT
Diggs Replied:

I like to vary my practice. I don't play country but I have every
book and video tape by Chalie McCoy. I bring his stuff into my practice on rotating basis. I don't play jazz on the diatonic but
I practice stuff from out of the box on a rotating basis.

Diggs


Jan 26, 2009 7:24 PM GMT
Preston M Replied:

I had NO improvizational skills until I started practicing scales. I practice up, down, starting in the middle, and my favorite is climbing/descending the scale by triplets like Jason's videos on playing fast. That stuff will get you harpin, and comfortable with just spitting something out off of the top of your head. If your in the right key, anything from the scale will more often than not sound pretty good. Scales rock!


Nov 24, 2009 11:43 PM GMT
HarpMan Freeman Replied:

There is so much great advice on this thread. For years I rested on my ability to improve while playing along with othermusicians. I wasn't striving for greatness and I wasn't even trying to improved. I reached a plateau where I thought I was "Good Enough".

Then, came along and Harp-L,YouTube,MBH Forum and now Harmonica Space. This all lead to me going to my first SPAH. But most importantly, it all encouraged me out of my rut.

But before I committed to truly work at my harp playing, I had to get over the fact of how much I didn't know about this instrument. At first I was discouraged, but then all this great advice came along and showed several ways to get out of the rut and develop my playing ability.

Thanks everyone for sharing

Shawn Freeman


Nov 25, 2009 3:47 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

diggs made a good point there too. listen to stuff out of your comfort zone and see how much you can do with it. junior wells anbd litle walter both studied horn lines out live and emulated them. early on i had not a lot of chjoice but to imitate guitar licks. if you're around a keyboard guy it's good to work close with them.

for me, just keeping going forward, maybe in different or weird directions sometimes, and even just taking a week or 2 break from playing, really made a difference. sometimes our unconscious mind has a way of sorting things out while we're otherwise occupied, and then we have a-HA moments later when we do get back to practice.

harpman, once i accepted that i will likely never know all i want to about harp and playing, and then took a long view- the rest of my days- i got to relax and use a new perspective about the whole thing. i got to be much more ok with being a student and then actually learning some things! my learning style is much more the grasshopper than the ant but seems to work ok for me.

the internet has been a total plus for me re learning about the instrument, innovations, basics, resources etc etc.


Nov 25, 2009 3:13 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I truely believe (and this attitude has kept me going on several instruments for many many years) that theRUTIS the time of greatest learning.

Everything is just going along swimmingly and them 'BAM' the same riffs/songs/tone whatever start sounding stale to you. How is this? I believe what we think of as the rut is the time that our perception and understanding of music has taken a huge jump up, and if we are not aware we mistake this great oppurtunity for failure.

Thats right the RUT or Flat Patch is just a trick of perception in my eyes!

Also that leap of awareness can be triggered by many differnt things from critisism to a lost memory to a new experence. The ways of the head, heart, and bodyare way more mysterious and wonderful than our feeble perception. Keep them open and active and start beleiving in the process. If you are drawn towrards scales during this time then do scales. If you are drawn towrards long note tone development then do long notes. If your drawn to mongolian throat singing then check it out. If your drawn to 60's German Eroticia.... well you get the picture.

Thanks for listerning to my tripe again!


Nov 26, 2009 6:44 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

For me, it is all about the "without having to think" aspect that Jason mentions


Nov 26, 2009 1:01 PM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

"For me, it is all about the "without having to think" aspect that Jason mentions"

that aspect is where we hit "the Zone". it's a somewhat hypnotic state not unlike doing chants while meditating except you are with a group of people, playing music. for me the repeated rythm of a particular harp part in a given song, done time and again, can induce a sort of trance state for a minute or 2 or longer. it's ina a way like the runner's high that marathon runners experience but maybe less work.


Nov 26, 2009 9:00 PM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

I totally agree with you, Jawbone. Hypnotic and meditative states are either the same thing or very similar. I get it running as well.



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