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David's Tip of the Day: Vocabulary - Tips from Observations at the Harmonica Masterclass Workshop

David Barrett Admin's picture

Today starts a series of observations from working with students at last weekend's Harmonica Masterclass Workshop.

At a workshop where us instructors were giving comments to each student after playing their original instrumentals for us (they worked three days on this), Gary Primich said something to one student that I remember very vividly. Gary said, "I like what you played... it was musical, the rhythm was good, your technique was solid and you had good dynamics. What I hear in your playing is a lack of influence though. I want to hear the type of licks that define what the blues harmonica is. These licks and movements come from studying our great masters."

I thought this was very well stated. Though the music the student played was not bad, it didn't sound like anything a harmonica player would play in the blues... the phrasing was vague and the licks poorly formulated... wondering. This was not any fault of the student except that they forgot that the blues is a language... a vernacular that must be learned in order to speak the blues.

I heard this as well last weekend. Though what was played was not bad, I didn't commonly hear something that was inspired by any of our masters... it was wondering and not well formulated. This is something common in our world, but is luckily easily fixed by making sure to study great songs... our study songs on the website and then eventually when your technique is good enough, the songs of our great masters.

ALWAYS be working on studying licks, solos and complete instrumentals... they contain the technique, movement, licks and phrasing the create the vocabulary of our style.

A student this weekend shared with me a very cool quote, "Stealing one idea is plagiarism, stealing many ideas is research." Research as many ideas as you can and the end result is that you'll be a well-rounded player with many influences that will combine with your personality into a unique and exciting original style.