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Long Train Running

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Broke Leg J
Jan 14, 2010 9:53 PM GMT

I'm learning to play the harmonica and am working on Long Train Running by the Doobie Brothers. I found a good instructional video on You Tube for the tabs to the song. What I'm struggling with right now is the song contains a 24 second harmonica solo which is composed of almost all draw notes.I'm getting too full of air to continue playing the solo uninterupted. What tips do you have on playing that song / maintaining a series of draw notes?

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Comments (14)

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Jan 15, 2010 4:02 PM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

you likely need work on a sort of circular breathing trick where you are letting as much air OUT your nose at the short pauses in the space between notes as you take in on the draw notes. it's about timing as much as anything.

the other thing that comes to mind is just practice. and also, can you make the harp sound on those draws using less intake of air? a lot of times i have let the amp or p.a. do the heavy lifting as far as getting the sound out, i have worked more on technique and dynamics with my diaphragm, throat, tongue, etc.

do you do any chugging exercises? these teach your muscles in your throat etc to not just inhale but to EXhale also, and to properly chug you need to do both well. that will translate to the ability to let air out without running it across the reeds in the harp when you learn to switch from mouth exhalations to nose exhalations with the right frequency.

try this just for kicks: put the harp to your mouth and make it sound without breathing in or out. just use your mouth and throat. i "discovered" i could make some interesting sounds that way, sometimes much like a buzzing bee, etc etc. this served to strengthen my mouth and throat to where i could do other stuff better.

one last question: where do you breathe from in your torso? the deeper and more relaxed the better. most folks use about 30-40% of their chest volume, and for harp or vocals either one, that's not enough. a voice coach or a yoga instructor can give you exercises to both breathe deeper and also relax your muscles all the way from your diaphragm up, which gives you much better control of your air flow. this will result in more focus of your air and less volume or force of air to get the particular job done.

first and foremost, just keep working with what you're aiming for, in this case that particular song. with practice come great lessons and great results!

Jan 16, 2010 12:27 PM GMT
Broke Leg J Replied:

First, thanks for the help and encouragement. I've been working on playing notes with the minimal amount of air I can in order to be able to play more consecuive draw notes. What seems to be defeating me is air still comes in through my nose while playing draw notes. Is there a way to limit the intake of air through the nose while playing draw notes?

I'm also working on better diaphragmactic breathing. With practice I'm getting better slowly.

I've been listening to find pasues in the harmonica solo so I can exhale through my nose, but to my untrained ear, the solo souunds like a continuous onslaught of notes.

Any more advice you'd have would be appreceiated.

Jan 16, 2010 2:31 PM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

somewhere in the back of your mouth, at the end of your palate, is a sort of trap door that will close off your nose from your mouth. you have to find those muscles and learn to use them on demand. that muslce is vital. on a draw note, a big long one, you have to have your nose shut off from inhaling and keep the intake strictly through your mouth. then when the opportunity presents, you have to let air out of your lungs in fairly quick bursts, through your nose. another trick is toi exhale on blow notes, through the mouth and harp but also through the nose, to bleed off that excess air.

there are some long runs of draw notes in that solo but if you start that solo in a prepared state- ie empty more or less of air in your lungs- and find those small opportunities to exhale, it'll work out.

Jan 17, 2010 6:38 PM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

Broken Leg J , good luck you have some good advice from Jawbone K.

I am lucky to have great lungs. A second plus ( if you want to call it that. After my two surgeries the hospital gave me this inhaling plastic toy, it seems after surgery ones lungs go flat and this toy helps. I would have to take a real long very control intake of air closing off my noise. This help my intake breath reach the bottom of my lungs.

I also notice the same thing with a water snorkel. since you cant breath through your nose ( or drown ) this can also teach you to close off that flap that Jawbone K was talking about..

any good luck and all ways have fun.

Jan 18, 2010 8:05 PM GMT
AirMojo (Ken H) Replied:

Good strong lungs AND diaphram (tummy) always help...

Remember that the 2 draw/inhale and 3 BLOW/Exhale are the same note (on a regular richter-tuned harp), so you can let air out using the 3 Blow, and it makes for a nice percussive effect, if desired.

Jan 19, 2010 4:17 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Who is the Doobie Bros harp player? Anyone well known? Do you recommend DB as a harp influence. All I know is my mom went to see them in concert in the 60s haha ;) I'll check out Long Train right now, see if I can come up with playing tips...

Jan 19, 2010 4:23 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Oh... duh... I totally know this song. Well right off the bat it's in G. You shouldn't have trouble jamming along to it in cross. Maybe just use the good ole pentatonic scale in cross but throw in a flat 3rd.

Jan 19, 2010 4:26 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:


it depends on what direction you want to take harp. harp is such a versatile instrument. a lot of divergent styles can be played and in several different positions. stuff like that song above and lots of others are played in a blues style, in cross or 2nd position, where the draw notes are minors to the root key of the song. if i'm not mistaken- and i may be- long train running is in G, so for 2nd position you'd use a C harp and primarily draw notes. the draws on a C are minors in G so it works.

i'm a mostly blues player, yet there are some songs i do in 1st position, like the jimmy reed style, on the upper end of the harp. i also play 2nd a lot and have for years. my latest adventure started a few years back with 3rd, or slant, position. it's a good position for jazz and some country, and swing type blues.

if you're just starting out and not sure where you want to go with harp, just try anything that hits you. there is a ton of good lessons for free on youtube, notably by kudzurunner and jason ricci, the owner of this forum here.

whatever else you do, keep playing!

Jan 19, 2010 4:27 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Wait... where is the harp solo? I've listended through the song a couple imes and I'm not finding it. Is there an alternate recording of the song? It's a cool song! Thanks for bringing it up. But I'm not hearing harmonica on the original recording or on a live bbc version of it I watched on youtube. The guitar is cool to jam along with though...

Jan 19, 2010 4:31 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Thanks Jawbone!

1st position can be wicked fun. Especially when you start getting the middle octave down. I picked up on that from Gussow's vids as a matter of fact and practiced the heck out of it. Quite challenging but there is a great deal you can do with it. I've been practicing 3rd pos (or "slant harp") a lot lately. You can get variations on minor stuff that way and play along with more singer-songwriter jive and Rock in 3rd. Anyway there's always more to learn and practice. There are at least TWELVE positions so happy practicing to us both haha

Jan 25, 2010 12:00 PM GMT
Broke Leg J Replied:

Here's a link to an instructional video on how to play the solo

Jan 25, 2010 12:45 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Long Train Running is in a natural minor key. The harmonica solo is in Third Position. There are short rests in the solo where you can quickly exhale.

Playing natural minor in third requires avoiding the major sixth (Draw 7 and Draw 3--unless you bend draw 3 an accurate half step every time). So the peculiar breath pattern to a certain extent results from the player avoiding the major sixths. This tune can be played in Fifth Position with somewhat different phrasing which i think is not as awkward.

Jan 25, 2010 3:59 PM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

That was a nice solo, very fast and clear. The guy teaching it was also some what clear ; ) it seems like this is not for the young at heart, or the newbie to get right. with practice and lots of it any thing can happen. Thank you for giving us the hints at trying something new.

abner (BluEyes, singing in the rain )

Jan 25, 2010 9:42 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

Take a note on one pause in the middle of the solo. You can make a short exhale.

DON'T INHALE WITH YOUR NOSE! but exhale with your nose.

24 is not too much. Practice long notes chords from first 3 holes when short exhale and inhale again.

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