So You Wanna Be a Harp Player?

October 22, 2016

BACKGROUND

From that classic intro lick to the now-iconic and cliched followup, “So you wanna be a harp player?” Scott “Harpo” McCloskey’s “Harpin’ It Easy” taught many of us to suck and blow our way to some semblance of musicality on the harp.  I remember asking the Guy Behind the Counter at my LMS about learning the harp as a preteen.  Without hesitation, he took out the package, ripped it open, threw down the cassette tape and booklet, held up the included plastic “toy” harmonica, and said, “this is crap” then threw it in the waste basket with a clang.  Then he pushed the tape and booklet over to me with a C Marine Band and continued, “But I wish I had this little instruction course when I was learning to play.”  He charged me for the harmonica, which was the more expensive of the two items.  So he basically gave me the tape and booklet for free.

PURPOSE

This package has disappeared from the face of the earth.  But it’s a good tutorial for a beginner or even intermediate harp player to brush up on.  So in the interest of historic preservation, I am providing:

  1. The original booklet, scanned and processed for both print and computer display
  2. Both sides A and B of the cassette, conveniently broken into short subject-oriented tracks

PROCESS

Equipment: I recorded in stereo mp3 at 192kpbs on a small handheld Sony ICD-PX312, played through an old but fantastic handheld Panasonic Stereo Radio Cassette Player RQ-V164, with EQ set to middle on treble, mid and bass, and XBS set to “off” and volume on full.  No additional processing, except renaming the files on the recorder after splitting them into tracks, which is honestly where I sank most of my time and work in this project.

The tape broke on my first attempt to record.  I had to take the cassette apart and reattach the magnetic tape to the mylar tape with tiny little strips of scotch tape. Fortunately, it held up through recording both sides.

I did the scan work on ElementaryOS Luna (based on Ubuntu 14.04) using open source software Simple Scan at 600dpi from lossless copies using GIMP and LibreOffice Draw.

Get it here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BwEbnp8jewZdbm5LczRwQ1I0bTg?usp=sharing

C harp not included.

MORE

If you want your mind blown with the potential of the “diatonic” harmonica, look up Howard Levy (“Bela Fleck and the Flecktones”).  He plays the diatonic harp like a chromatic instrument for all musical styles and idioms.  For great blues and extra instruction, look up Adam Gussow (“Kick and Stomp,” Satan and Adam, and his Youtube channel “Modern Blues Harmonica,” full of helpful information for beginner and intermediate players).  Adam Gussow pays homage to his mentors, such as the great early black players his personal mentor, amazing street musician Nat Riddles.

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Derring Don’t (album)

September 24, 2016

Three rough, single and first takes from the front lines. Equipment: Tascam DR-40, CAD22a, and instruments. Where any polish exists, I can guarantee it’s just spit. When you spend your days hiding and running from fellow flesh-eating cannibals and soul-sucking spirits from the sister dimension, you tend to do what you can, when you can, where you can. I tell production polish the same thing I tell the coming zombie apocalypse: get in line.

Consider this a first blush bridge over the gaping chasm between the not-so-random clash of sound we call music and other forms of linguistic storytelling that have, up to this point, left my output heavily segregated and schizoid.

By way of comfort, expect more of this sort until I, like everyone, eventually become food for someone else.

Everfear heavily references a popular anthem of disaffected youth and teenage angst from the roaring 90s, and punts it squarely like a burning sack of shit into the pristine courtyard of normalized exploitation, where it belongs.

Ziggy Dies Hungry arrived in a dream early one morning as a tribute to the recent passing of You Know Who. It translates the remnant ruminations of an ancient vampire while he decays after being bitten by the Love Bug in all the wrong ways and in all the wrong places.

LGM captures a pivotal moment of lonely sadness where I thought horizontal violence would win the battle of the week, if not the war. I swear someday Kermit the Frog will sing it again. He stood there with me while I wrote it for him.

Visit the links for lyrics.


Prelude for Strings

January 11, 2015

description

This was a class assignment in college, with specific harmonic and song structure parameters:  We needed to include specific progressions and cadences, needed to transition to the relative major or minor, and transition back to the original key, etc.  Given the numerous parameters already imposed on us, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to compose something meaningful to me within the those limits.  However, I started and finished this piece easily (minus the tedious notation) within the space of an hour.  The limitations actually made it easier for me to focus on what was important.  I was also pleasantly surprised to hear how diverse the entire class’s compositions were.  It was a fun lesson in how important voice is to musical expression.  I originally composed it in Eb minor by ear (because that’s the tonal center I heard), and my instructor made me change it to E minor on account of it being “an ugly key for strings.”  I think it sounds better in Eb minor.

sheet music

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Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/


Adventures in Lyricism: Study in E minor

January 9, 2015

https://ayoungethan.bandcamp.com/track/study-in-e-minor (note: no audio yet.  Contact me if you wish to submit a performance!)

description

After playing what I felt were more than my fair share of “studies in E-minor” that many consider classic, beginner classical guitarists’ repertoire, I thought I could do a better job illustrating the right hand techniques in a more emotionally compelling harmonic progression. While not technically part of the Adventures in Lyricism Suite and unrecorded, it came shortly thereafter, while I was visiting CalArts as a prospective music student. I consider it a “bonus composition” and will like to record it someday.

sheet music

View this document on Scribd

Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/


Adventures in Lyricism: Finale

January 7, 2015

description

Prelude and Finale — The Prelude was my third piece (after Spanish Inquisition and Chaos). It was my musical response to his challenge, “Find another technique, the stuff you are giving me is becoming repetitive and boring.” (He was actually a bit nicer than that, but still very direct). After I handed him the Prelude, both my instructor and I thought, “That’s it, that’s a wrap for the project!” We were wrong, because there was quite a bit more to come. The Finale is simply a reprise and embellishment of the Prelude, to frame the entire suite.

sheet music

View this document on Scribd

Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/


Adventures in Lyricism: Redemption

January 5, 2015

description

This was the last song that I composed for the Suite. It is heavily inspired by the harmonic progression in Etude No.1 in E-Minor, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, which is a much more technically advanced composition than mine. At the end of the day, a piece grabs me because it is emotionally compelling, not because it requires or demonstrates advanced, difficult-sounding techniques. If I can say something I need to say simply, I will prefer that over saying it in a complicated, difficult manner. Simplicity is accessibility. Complexity for its own sake is simply elitism. I am proud of the simplicity of my compositions.

sheet music

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Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/


Adventures in Lyricism: Seren-Aide

January 3, 2015

description

I was inspired at 2am to start playing this piece…I’m not sure what else to say. The entire A section just came together over the course of several hours of playing. By the time 4-5am rolled around, I was infused with adrenaline and excitement, frantically catching and holding onto new pieces of inspiration about the direction of the song. I thought that there wasn’t any better feeling, until the next night the B section came to me in a similar manner. It is my favorite song in the entire suite, and the composition more than any other that made me feel legitimate as a composer and musician.

sheet music

View this document on Scribd

Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/