View Full Version : Blues mando & harp.

Sep-17-2004, 4:15pm
We've talked over the dreaded sterotype that if you play mando, you should do blue grass. Mando is great for blues!
And you know what? Banjo can work on blues too, but for me, it better be bare handed: frailed or claw hammered - no Scruggs style, no finger picks no flat picks.
And harps (harmonicas) are great for blues. I think there are quite a few harp players here in the blues section. I think another sterotype is that blues harmonica has to be cross harp style- the low end of the harp and note bending.
I am getting to be a decent harp player and I play STRAIGHT harp. I play mostly melody or blues up melody. I play the same key harp as the song is played in. (Cross harp players blow a C harp for a G song and an A harp for an E song).
Straight harp works for me. I like it for blues and Gospel. Lots of heart. And on that track, playing with a harp harness while playing mando or guitar is sure fun when you get it right.
Play those blues. Overcome those sterotypes with good songs done well. Jack http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Sep-18-2004, 10:30am

Glad to hear someone else is doing this. I too play "straight" harp...In my opinion it's easier than cross harp if you're playing another insturment. And it's fun to put in fills with harp or mando...kinda breaks up the monotony (especially if you play in a small ensemble...).
But you are correct when you say when people see the mando they think bluegrass...I like to see people react when I start playing "Stormy Monday"...it's like "I didn't think you could do that?"
Keep on keepin' on...

Sep-19-2004, 6:35pm
i play whatever sounds best for a song. straight or cross doesn't matter. sometimes you want the lows, sometimes the highs, sometimes the straight harp offers variations on octaves that sound great. i just blow away at whatever works. i often play one key below the major key for a song played on guitar or mando with the minor (e.g., song = Em harp=D) and sometimes just play the major key or a cross. its aaaaaaaaaaallllllllllll good!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/blues.gif

Sep-20-2004, 8:02am
Ira and BJC,
What kind of harps do you play? I have been playing cheapies, Huang Frontiers. I have a Hohner Special 20 ordered.
Ira, it's cool to do both straight and cross harp. I can do a little cross, but do better at straight harp. Maybe cross harp is a bit like singing harmony? I like it, but just can't do it well!

Sep-20-2004, 9:58am
i play hohner blues harps. i just love the feel and sound. the only prob. is the reeds blow out pretty easy.

Sep-20-2004, 1:30pm
I'm with Ira...I play the Horner Blues Harp...but the reeds do blow out quick...on some of them...I've got a g harp that still sounds great 2 years later and it get played a lot because of the mando and I play Dobro in opening G...but my A blew out after six months or so...My Bb which has a wood reed, has lasted for a while as well, but the tone isn't as nice...In my Opinion..

Sep-20-2004, 4:55pm
Hey All,

I'll chime in. I have 7 SP20s in the keys of G A Bb C D E and F that I play play in 1st and 2nd positions however I'm going to try an XB-40. I'm in a quandry about what key though as I have heard that with XB-40s in the key of C and higher it is very difficult to bend holes above 6 or 7. I'm interested in trying some straight Irish an the like. Any of you try an XB-40 yet?

My harp heros are mostly Brendan Power, Sonny Terry, Charlie McCoy, Mike Stevens and any cajun style harp players like Jane Gillman with the band Rue La La. I'm not big into Chicago blues or west coast blues - mostly I like prewar piedmont, delta and country blues although I never tire of listening to Sonnyboy II (Rice Williams) play harp.

I mentioned this in another thread which I suspect most of you never saw otherwise I'd a likely been flamed up one side and down the other. Could Chris Thile keep up with John Popper in a speed race? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Take Care! -Ed-

Sep-21-2004, 7:36am
I've been playing Marine Bands for the past five years or so and have found them to be really durable. Anyone else play Marine Bands? For the blues I usually play cross harp to get those "blue notes". However, like Ira said it's all good and whatever sounds good is the way to go!! It's good to see so many people who play both the mando and the harp. I thought I was the only one!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Sep-21-2004, 4:51pm
I got the new Special 20 yesterday and a Blues Harp that was part of the deal. Both are in G and the Blues Harp has a WOOD body. #These were 'new - old stock'. #They both sound nice. #I will see how they hold up. #
# I think the longevity problem is that I play some with a harp harness that puts the harp at such an angle that I slobber! # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif Jack

John Flynn
Sep-21-2004, 5:14pm
I have Hohner Special 20s in 8 different keys, a Blues Harp in C as well as a Chromonica. I play in either cross or straight depending on the tune and the sound I want. I have been known to play the harp in rack with a guitar. I play blues, rock, church music, Dylan tunes and Christmas music.

BTW, my new favorite CD is Clyde Curley and Oxymorons "Old-Time Mandolin Music." Just one of things I like about it is that some of the tunes have the best blend of mandolin and harmonica I have ever heard.

Sep-23-2004, 7:57pm
I play harp in a blues band and in a bluegrass band (shame!). I started years ago using a mix of Special 20's and Hohner Blues harps. Then I started buying Lee Oskar's, but recently migrated back to only Special 20's. I found that my Blue's harps started getting "quiet" on me with use? The Lee Oscar's just felt "big". The Special 20's are responsive, LOUD and they seem to stay loud through a lot of use.
For Bluegrass, I only do cross harp (2nd position). For the blues band, I do most 2nd position. I do 1st positoin on the slower, more melodic blues, and 3rd positon for the minor blues songs. #As an experiment, I bought a "Bm" Lee Oskar song for "The Thrill is gone". #I use it, but it kind of scrambles my brain when I play it due to the built in "bends" ...
The crowd at bluegrass shows seem to like the change that a harp brings to a show... but man those purists just cringe.

Sep-23-2004, 8:30pm
Hey All,

Quote "The crowd at bluegrass shows seem to like the change that a harp brings to a show... but man those purists just cringe."

Those purists in the crowds shouldn't cringe. Big Mon himself often had Deford Bailey with him and later on played with Mike Stevens. Big Mon knew the value of a harmonica - no doubt.

Take Care! -Ed-

Sep-24-2004, 1:10pm
And we would be stuck in HUGE ruts if people did not try different things. If someone told me 5 years ago I'd be playing blues mandolin with a harmonica instead of my Les Paul through a Marshall, I'd told them they were nuts...but I love it (haven't given up the LP though...tee hee).
Remember, the purist are afraid of change, but change is good...
Rock On

Sep-24-2004, 4:42pm
I only play the harp on two of our bluegrass songs. One in the middle of the set and one in our encore. People go nuts when they hear the harp. The rest of the time I play mandolin. Our stuff is fairly straight forward old bluegrass.
We have a joke in our band that we often tell onstage: "how can you tell on bluegrass song from another?" "easy, they have different names".
We play mostly to crowds that are not specifically bluegrass fans. People love the music, and we try to vary the sounds. We found when playing at the bluegrass-only coffee houses and festivals that most of our listeners are other bands waiting to play (and spouses/family). And you feel like your just being looked at through a magnifying glass to see if you are "playing it right!?".