Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rock Harmonica Lesson 2 - Mixolydian Mode Continued

Right now, the point is to not over think the theory part, which is why I continually say I am "oversimplifying" things in the videos.

Hopefully a few blues players are able to start adding in a few extra notes in the lower two octaves and can now start exploring some jamming in the top octave.

I do move to more intermediate-type advice in the next couple videos. Basically, I am just shooting from the hip besides knowing I am going to talk about the high end of the harp at this point.

I am going to load some top octave Mixolydian playing in the next week as an example of how it sounds over a blues.

After getting threw some action patterns in the next set of vids, I'll get into some third position stuff and then start talking more basic theory of how the scales work and why - including following blues harmony. 

After that will be Major playing and the overlap between Mixolydian and minor playing...that will require some theory as well.

I want to do some "song studies" between lessons, but I am running into two problems.

1.) I am not sure how fair use really works with copyrighted music like jam tracks.

2.) The only way I know how to record to a jam track is through a DAW into Audacity, so no video.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lesson Update

I am not around this week to post a new vid, BUT I will be back at the end of the next week to discuss the Mixolydian mode.  We'll look at how it fits holes 1-10 on the harmonica and how compare and contrast with the blues scale.  This week, your mission is to just keep jamming on the blues and try to get yourself to stretch a little bit by adding the notes of Mixolydian mode to what you're already doing.

Most notably, go ahead and throw the Major third (3 draw, 7 draw, or the 10' blow bend) and the sixth (2 blow, 5 blow, and 8 blow) into your playing!

Here are some great notes from Wikipedia on the Mixolydian mode.  Basically, it is the scale that almost all blues chords are based off of.  Take any generic 12 bar blues with a I IV V pattern...the notes of this scale  all "fit" (that's an oversimplification of the IV and V chord tones, but good enough for now).

Note that the flat third and flat fifth ARE NOT a part of the Dominant chords that make up the blues scale.  While they sound good and create bluesy phrases, this illustrates that the Major third and sixth of the scale are just as appropriate to play.  This will give you less of a blues vibe and sound more rock-ish.

Modern Mixolydian[edit]

Modern Mixolydian scale on G About this sound Play .
This modern scale has the same series of tones and semitones as the major scale, except the seventh degree is a semitone lower.[1] The Mixolydian mode is sometimes called the dominant scale,[7] because it is the mode built on the fifth degree (the dominant) of the major scale. The flattened seventh of the scale is a tritone away from the mediant (major-third degree) of the key.
It is common in non-classical harmony, such as jazzfunkblues and rock music.
The order of tones and semitones in a Mixolydian scale is TTSTTST (T = tone; S = semitone), while the major scale is TTSTTTS. The key signature varies accordingly (it will be the same as that of the major key a fifth below).[1]
Some examples:
  • The G Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of C major – on a piano it is all the white keys from one G to the next. GABCDEFG)[1]
  • The C Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of F major – CDEFGABC)[1]
  • The D Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of G major – DEFGABCD)[1]
  • The E Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of A major – EFGABCDE)[1

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rock Harmonica Lesson 1: Rock for the Blues Harmonica Player

What is Rock Harmonica?

          At its most basic, rock harmonica can be described as an aggressive style of blues harmonica over chord progressions or rhythms generally not associated with blues harmonica.  It tends to expand the scales and note choices of a harmonica player relative to blues harmonica, and can either sound dark and minor or bright and major (or in between like blues music!). 

Phrasing is also different due to differences in the rhythm of the music – blues swings, and rock is generally played straight.  Rock harmonica players also tend to phrase more like a guitar, vocalist, keyboard player, or horn player. 

While both blues and rock harmonica can rely on “riffs”, their application can be different.  For example, blues players often combine riffs to create solos over a 12 bar blues progression.  In rock playing, riffs are frequently used as tags or hooks to a song, just like what a guitar player does, and soloing relies more on improvised melodies with embellishments.  These embellishments often create phrases that use more notes than blues phrasing.  They are also considered to be flashier and/or faster than blues playing.

The lesson material presented assume a few things.  

1.) You can already play and improvise in 2nd position over common blues progression, even if it is poorly.
2.) You can navigate the blues scale in 2nd position from at least holes 1-6.
3.) You understand the differences between Major, minor, and Dominant 7 chords to some extent.
4.) You have at least heard of modes and how they relate to harmonica - even if you don't really get it.

The first concept we will look at is simply note choice.  Coming from the world of harmonica blues, you should be familiar with a few basic concepts of harmonica and music theory.  Namely, the blues scale.

The blues scale in 2nd position, most commonly described as 2 3' 4+ 4' 4 5 6+, will work over most major and minor rock songs just as well as it does over the Dominant 7 chords that generally make up a standard I IV V blues progression.  Without belaboring theory right now, let's simply look at additions to that scale that are commonly played over rock that would immediately work over BLUES songs you already can play.  This will add a rock flavor to blues arrangements similar in style to guys like Charlie Musselwhite, Kim Wilson, Jason Ricci, Pat Ramsey, Paul Butterfield, Magic Dick, etc.

Instead of thinking in terms of the blues scale, try the Mixolydian mode, which looks like this:

2 3" 3 4+ 4 5+ 5 6+

While this won't sound real "bluesy", it will give you a different sound that will work great over the D7 chords commonly found in blues.  It is also the bread and butter scale for learning to rock out!