Beginning Blues Harp (Harmonica) Don Baker ^HOT^
How did you discover the bluesharp ? I discovered Blues through listening to my father CDs collection.That's how I found out about The Rolling Stone, Jean-Jacques Milteau, Sugar Blue and Sonny Boy Williamson. After this initial introduction with blues harp when I was just 7, I started to learn harmonica techniques with "Beginning Blues Harp", by Don Baker. It's not until high school that I switched to the chromatic harmonica and jazz.
Beginning Blues Harp (Harmonica) Don Baker
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session? If I had to choose only one, I would trade choruses with Little Walter!
What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why? I usually like to play diatonic harps made by Hohner, Suzuki and Easttop but I don't have a favorite model. They all make great quality instruments.
What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp? Make sure to have the harmonica deep in your mouth so that your blowing is not wasted. Try to relax and breath in gently especially in the first three hole.
Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy. Jean-Jacques Milteau Explorer, 1995Sonny Terry, Live at Penelope Café 1967Little Walter, The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection,
Don Baker was born in Whitehall, Dublin in 1950, into a dysfunctional family. Essentially abandoned and left to fend for himself, largely due to an alcoholic father, the desperate conditions of his early childhood resulted in TB and hospitalisation at age 7. While in hospital Don came upon a harmonica player and was quickly charmed by the instrument. He then acquired a harmonica of his own and drove the matron crazy. Not surprisingly, the young Don Baker drifted into petty crime, landing up in a remand home for a month at the age of 11. Frequently in trouble with the police, Baker was in and out of prison until the age of 19. While in prison, he took up the guitar and according to Don "never looked back". After prison, Don lived in the Corporation Buildings in run down inner city Dublin. He was soon introduced to blues music. Leaving Ireland for the continent of Europe aged 22, he traveled throughout Germany, Austria, Holland and France, playing all the while. He moved on to jazz and blues clubs and the odd support slot at a major concert, with the help of a newly acquired agent.Ten years was spent on the road, going from country to country. During this time he mostly lived on trains, and on people's floors. He began drinking excessively, probably using alcohol to dull repressed emotions dating from childhood. The drinking continued for many years until he finally sought help and at last kicked the booze habit. In 1979 he was asked by one of Ireland's top TV shows, the Late Late Show, to write a song about inner city Dublin. Don wrote 'Dublin's Inner City' which became a huge hit for The Jolly Beggarmen, reaching No. 2 in the Irish charts.Baker has since built a wide reputation as a harmonica player. Mark Feltham (who has played with Oasis, Joe Cocker and Rory Gallagher) rates him as the greatest acoustic harmonica player in the world, as does Charlie McCoy and U2's Bono. He is the author of several instruction books on the harmonica, which are on sale in several languages and are distributed throughout the world, as well as five teaching videos. He also adjudicates bi-annually at the World Harmonica Championships in the blues category. Don Baker's harmonica (or harp) playing is influenced by blues players such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Sonny Terry. Don was also greatly influenced by Charlie McCoy, who has since become a friend and recorded the Don Baker composition, 'Jordanna'. Don recorded the Charlie McCoy composition "Funky Duck" on his latest album "Miss You". A fine guitar player, Don learned blues guitar by listening to the great country blues players - Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, and Scrapper Blackwell. Don's acclaimed acting debut was in the film In the Name of the Father (1993). He featured in the role of "Joe McAndrew", the head of the IRA in the prison where Gerry Conlon (Guildford Four) was detained. The movie, directed by Jim Sheridan, starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson and Pete Postlethwaite. Don has since had many successful roles including Mia, Liebe meines Lebens (1998), starring alongside Claudia Cardinale and On the Nose (2001), starring alongside Dan Ackryod and Robbie Coltrane. Jackie Hayden, a director of Hot Press Magazine and Music Industry Consultant, has documented Don's experiences in the recently published 'Best Sellers List' biography "The Winner in Me" published by Marino Books / Mercier Press.
Everything you need to start learning to play the harmonica in one box. An ideal gift for someone just starting to take up the harmonica, blues harp or pocket organ, unwrap the packaging and start playing immediately!
What's your story as far as playing the harmonica goes?I've been playing about 15 years. I've always loved the harmonica but I was a drummer for years. I played in show bands and rock bands and stuff and drums was my first instrument. The local barber in Tullow, County Carlow, sometimes when you went into the shop and he wasn't that busy he was playing, and I remember just listening. He was a traditional player like, and he vamped as well, he'd use tongue-blocking. And I'd like the sound of it, listening to him, but he'd stop when we came in. I always had one eye on the harmonica and the other on the haircut! I never heard him play outside the shop or at sessions, there were no sessions at that time. Traditional music was played at home I suppose, it wasn't as commercial at that time. (...)The first players that I would have heard would have been Don Baker, and Rick Epping. (...)Then I met Eddie Clarke, he's a brilliant player and really worth mentioning, a phenomenal player in his day, it's a pity that more recordings weren't made of him in his heyday. It's a pity that someone like the Hohner company didn't hear about him and didn't have someone come over and sus him out because he was such a good player, he should have had a constant supply of harmonicas. He's very hard on harmonicas, a very strong player. And he is one of the only one's I've heard, chromatic players, that has got almost like a vamp going when he's playing, and I don't know how he does it. I think it might have something to do with having the slide in when he plays. But he has this constant rhythm like an accordion going all the time on particular tunes. I would probably play a tune exactly three times in a row, same tune, very little variation. But Eddie, when he played the second time round he would vary the tune. A great listener. (...) What's your approach to playing Irish music? I don't actually play so much on the diatonic. Jigs I find better on the diatonic. Reels I think suffer a little from people having to triple-note a single note. It sounds quite poppy to me, you know, tiddle-a tiddle-a instead of rolling from a note to a note, be it a semitone or a tone above to a tone below. So I think that the feel is different on a diatonic playing reels. But there are definitely players like Brendan Power and Rick Epping who are exceptions and can make reels work on the diatonic. As far as reels are concerned, most would be played on a chromatic, with the slide reversed as I use. I use a B chromatic harmonica and I reverse the slide so when I roll it goes down a semitone instead of up a semitone. It's really a style that I picked up from Eddie Clarke, and he said that he picked it up from a guy called Paddy Bawn. (...) Tell me about the tour that came up with Brendan Power. It was through Brendan and Rick meeting in Trossingen where they played really well together. They both started communicating with each other and they came up with the idea of doing a tour, and Brendan rang me up and asked if I'd be interested in a 3 harmonica tour. He wanted to call it the 'Triple Harp Bypass'. I wanted to call it 'The Mouth Almighty Tour'. Then we exchanged tapes and ideas to see what we could come up with so that we weren't all playing in unison, that we would play bass notes, or an octave higher, or chords behind each other.What are you going to have on your new CD? Hopefully it will be an eclectic album. I'll have about 6 traditional tracks: A hornpipe, two sets of jigs - one is my own, a couple of sets of reels. I have a slow aire just done completely with harmonicas; intervals on the 64 and the melody played on blues harp, other intervals played higher up on the 64, so I blend them all together on different tracks and try and get an uillean pipes sound.Like Donald Black, the traditional player from Glasgow. - Is the album predominantly chromatic or diatonic? It's bits of everything. There would be one piece, it's called Canyon Moonrise, that I play on the 64, and it's just a slow, moody piece written by the guitar player that played on the 'Feast Of Fiddles' album with Kevin Burke. It's a really beautiful piece and it could be a beautiful piece on the chromatic if I play it right! I have a piece of my own, it's called 'Lip My Reeds'. I think it could be challenging on the blues harp, there's lots of overblowing in it, and it has quite a big head to the tune where it changes key three times. There's a really good accordion player from Dublin, Peter Brown, and he plays button accordion, it's push and pull like the harmonica, he's phenomenal! And I have banjo on it as well. Normal tenor banjo, but the guy is called Donald Siggins, a great cross picker. So that should be a good track if I can get it recorded properly. The swing is good on it so far with what we've put down. It just needs a bit of stitching here and there.Have you got a title for the album? I was going to call it 'One Eye On The Business' or 'One Eye On The Music', I don't know, I haven't thought about it seriously. (Mick lost his left eye in an accident)What about the state of harmonica playing in Ireland?Well there's a pretty good blues harmonica scene here.Most of the players I know of seem to have concentrated here in Dublin. There's a couple of good bands like 'Parchment Farm'. They have a harmonica player called Tony Poland who plays kind of Chicago style. There's a band called 'Fattening Frogs For Snakes' with a harmonica player that plays saxophone, great saxophone player that plays lovely harp called Eamon Murray. There's of course Don Baker who doesn't play harmonica all that much any more, he sings and plays guitar, he's kind of a ragtime picker. There's Brian Pan who plays with the Mary Stokes Band, he's an American player living over here. And there's myself, I do the odd blues gig up here myself as well. To learn harmonica in Dublin there's a school called Waltons, they're a big music shop enterprise over here. They have a school here I used to teach at myself. A teacher called Michael Mackinerney took over, he plays chromatic and blues harp. There are a few blues players around the country. Traditional harmonica is pretty lively here. They have a competition every year, the Fleadh Ceoil it's called, and you have 4 provinces; Leinster, Ulster, Connacht, and Munster. You have to win your county competition first, then move on to your province competition, then you go on to the All-Ireland. You can enter from anywhere, you can enter from New York, Australia, it doesn't matter as long as you're playing Irish music. Unfortunately they don't allow the chromatic into the harmonica section, it has to go into miscellaneous because they reckon it has an advantage over diatonics, octaves, and tremolos. It's mostly only ever tremolos played at these events.I wonder what they'd think of overblowing with the diatonic? It's funny because I have a hornpipe, 'The Wind In The Rhubarb' and I use overblows in it. But I'm wondering 'what would they think?' I've never gone into competitions like that. I've only gone to see the kids section and stuff, they're so professional putting vaseline on their harmonicas so their mouths don't stick, they're very competitive. Tremolo is probably the most popular instrument now with the Tombo ones. They've got a full scale from the top to the bottom of the harmonica. (...)But there's a few very good players. Both former All-Ireland champions Rory O'Leorachain, a young guy from Atlone, and his teacher Austin Berry, they both play tremolos, the Tombo tremolos, and they're very good and they do gigs in unison. They're really lovely players, very stylistic like the Murphy's.Another really good player called Noel Battle is a really great tremolo player as well, very good rhythm. The Murphy's of course from Wexford, Pip and John. John has a pub now and he has bands coming through all the time, and they have a festival every year called the Phil Murphy Memorial Weekend. It's for their father who used to play in the band with them. Almost everywhere you go you'll come across a tremolo player. Not always great players, not up to the standard of the Murphy's, Austin Berry, and those. Very few chromatic players playing traditional, I haven't come across a lot. The only important one really for me for years was Eddie Clarke who doesn't play any more. And for me his style, the reverse slide and stuff like that, opened up traditional music for me, and it's just a pity he isn't playing.There's Tom Clancy, he's about 80, but he writes lovely tunes. He's a tremolo player, and two of the tunes, one of them was called 'Tom Clancy's ' and was written for tremolo but is really nice to play on any instrument. Traditional music on the harmonica's pretty healthy here. If you got to the fleadh you'd see some of the best players in the country. Not a lot of people making albums on the harmonica but you'll hear the odd track with it on. 350c69d7ab