Q & A

Piano Related Questions

1.  What is your concept of fading songs out at the ends of songs? And how do you do the fades ?

I go by what the music tells me to do, and some songs want a slowly fading ending, fading on into the distance, sometimes feeling like it goes off into the distance, sometimes to give the impression of never ending.

And all the fades on my albums are done by playing softer and softer (except one song - the end of Minstrels on the DECEMBER album was an electronic studio fade). I grew up with my dad’s 78 RPM records, where everything on the record is exactly how it was played, with no overdubs or electronic fades, etc. So when 45 RPM records and LPs came out later, I thought the band was just playing softer and softer, thinking everything on a record that I heard was actually played in real time.

2.  Is there any sheet music of your recordings available?

Yes. The first fully authorized sheet music book is now available. It features 20 transcriptions of originals and interpretations of other composers pieces. We are currently taking orders on our merchandise page. Other transcriptions that have not been approved by me all have varying degrees of inaccuracies, due to the unusual way I play (such as sustained notes vs. played ones, and what is played with the left hand vs. the right hand). Sheet Music Book 2 will be out in 2015-16.

Purchase George Winston's sheet music book here »
The songs transcribed in the songbook are:
1. Black Stallion
2. The Cradle
3. Graduation
4. Joy
5. Loreta and Desiree’s Bouquet – Part 1
6. Longing
7. Lullaby
8. New Hope Blues
9. Prelude / Carol of the Bells
10. Reflection
11. From THE SNOWMAN - Walking in the Air
12. From THE SNOWMAN – Building the Snowman
13. From THE SNOWMAN - The Snowman's Music Box Dance
14. Stevenson
15. Thanksgiving
16. Thumbelina
17. The Twisting of the Hayrope
18. Variations on Bamboo
19. Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel
20. The Velveteen Rabbit

Guitarist Ed Wright, a good friend of mine, has transcribed 10 songs for a book titled GEORGE WINSTON FOR SOLO GUITAR, published by the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation.

In addition, the original sheet music for the song Graceful Ghost, by composer/pianist William Bolcom, (George rearranged and recorded a shorter version on his album,FOREST) is available in a booklet THREE GHOST RAG and is published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation.

Two good books of Vince Guaraldi’s peanuts pieces are: THE VINCE GUARALDI COLLECTION - This has the most accurate transcrption of Linus and Lucy available. It also has Cast Your Fate to the Wind, Christmas Time Is Here and Vince's wonderful arrangement of Greensleeves and five other songs. The other is The Peanuts Illustrated Song Book which has a nice introduction by Hank Bordowitz and 30 Peanuts songs including Skating, The Great Pumpkin Waltz, Christmas is Coming, and Christmas Time is Here.. Both are published by the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation

Also, George’s second book of transcribed pieces from his recordings will be out soon.  

The songs in this book, GEORGE WINSTON PIANO SOLOS will be: 

1.  Fragrant Fields – from SUMMER
2.   Ike La Ladana – from PLAINS
3.   Lullaby 2 – from REMEMBRANCE - A Memorial Benefit 
4.  Minstrels (Night Part 3)  – from  DECEMBER
5.  New Orleans Slow Dance  – from GULF COAST Vol 2
6.  Peace  – from the album, DECEMBER
7.  Remembrance – from LINUS & LUCY –The Music of Vince Guaraldi Vol. 1
8.  Returning (in G minor)/The Cradle/(Returning in B flat minor)  – from FOREST  
9.  Sea – from AUTUMN
10. Snow (Night Part 1)   – from  DECEMBER
11.   Theme for a Futuristic Movie – from BALLADS & BLUES 1972
12.   Troubadour – from FOREST
13.  Valse de Frontenac – from MONTANA

3.  What is your view of music theory?

Totally essential for the approach I have (I very rarely use written music). A great place to start is by learning chords: the first building block is the Major chords - then the minor chords, then the sevenths (the Major, minor, and dominant sevenths), then the augmented, diminished, and half-diminished chords, then ninths (major & minor), sixths (major & minor), then thirteenths and elevenths, and so on.

I encourage everyone to then study music theory, which is how these chords relate to each other – the tendencies, and the “rules”, which you can then break. It is an excellent way to understand and memorize music. You can then analyze written scores (I always analyze recordings – when learning a song, I usually like to hear many versions of it, and as many different versions by the same artists as possible as well – sometimes I take the uneducated route first, just playing what I remember of a piece, and making variations, then educate myself later – I find I often keep my variations).

Many Northern American musicians who play jazz, rhythm & blues, rock, and folk use music theory extensively. I recommend asking your music teachers to teach you music theory, if they don't already, and, again, the best place to start is with learning the chords.

Here is a chord chart and some information that I pass out when I give workshops.

4.  Do you give workshops? What materials do you make available at workshops?

I enjoy giving workshops when I can for any age group, time allowing and there is no charge. I do make materials available, the concert programs from the solo piano concert, the solo guitar concert and a workshop sheet of chords, intervals/ear training, modes & scales, solo guitar, solo harmonica, and more. I also go over how I play solo harmonica, solo guitar (in open G Major tuning D-G-D-G-B-D - from the lowest pitched string to the highest), and if a piano is available, the three solo piano styles I play melodic folk, stride piano, and New Orleans R&B.

5.  How do you learn music?

I use the Marantz PMD-201 2-speed monaural Music Study Recorder. It has a speaker so you don't have to use headphones, pitch control to vary the speed and (most importantly for me) a half-speed switch which lowers the music one octave in the same key. It may not be exactly in pitch at half speed (it's often a half-step or a quarter-tone low), but you can use the pitch control to tune it to the piano. It also has a built-in microphone for taping, and a built-in speaker (it is a mono machine). They also make similar machines for CDs, and I haven’t tried them, but I have heard good things about them. Good sources for getting them are: Homespun: PO Box 694, Woodstock, NY 12498, phone 800-33-TAPES or www.homespuntapes.com/, and search under “Marantz” ; and also the Martel Company www.martelelectronics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv, and search under “Tape Recorders”, and then under “Professional Recorders.”

6.  Which piano do you prefer?

The nine-foot Steinway concert grand works best overall for what I do. It really depends on the individual instrument though.

7.  What songs do you work on for the piano? What is your concept of composing?

About 80% - 90% of what I work on are R&B, slow dance songs, Soul, Rock, a bit of Latin, etc., for the solo piano dances I play. The other 10% - 20% are songs for the concerts: melodic pieces, stride piano, and Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts soundtrack pieces.

About 95 % of all the pieces I play are by other composers almost all North American. My temperament is much more that of an interpreter than as a composer. The composer who I have played the most songs of is Vince Guaraldi (46 songs). Very few of the pieces I have arranged by other composers were originally solo piano pieces – only 13 overall ever.

I compose 1 or 2 songs a year, and it happens occasionally, without any planning or intent to compose, as I am practicing, and it always happens at the piano, as opposed to in my head away from the instrument. Sometimes it happens when I am inspired by the Season, Montana, etc., and sometimes it just happens without any feeling at all. Most of the songs I compose, however, evaporate away in a day or a week. The ones that stay get used for a concert, or a recording, or a dance.

Most of my practicing is working on the musical languages of R&B piano - most specifically the great New Orleans pianists Professor Longhair (the founder of the New Orleans R&B piano scene in the late 1940s), James Booker (whose language is basically the way I think of playing in terms of), and Henry Butler, who is the pianist I am studying the most.

Also, on the guitar the languages I improvise in are Hawaiian Slack Key, Appalachian/American folk music, and popular standards. On harmonica, I play songs from three traditions: Appalachian, Celtic, and Cajun.

Some songs just get used for one function. I just see where each song goes, what it is to be used for. I have no personal mythologies or philosophies, or any connection to any movements, etc. - I am simply dealing with just these three elements: the music (the songs on the three instruments), the seasons & the places which give me the inspiration to play, and gratefully, the audience to play for.

8.  When did you begin playing?

I had a few piano lessons as a kid, but wasn’t interested and quit. I was always an avid listener when growing up, especially to instrumental music, and especially to organists. Finally, in 1967, when I heard the Doors, I had to start playing organ. I learned chords and music theory, and studied recordings of organists, especially the great Jazz organist Jimmy Smith. Then in 1971, when I heard recordings of the great Stride pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller (1904-1943), I switched immediately to solo piano. I never played any music from the great European classical tradition, nor have any desire to. My approach is entirely North American, rather than European and I treat the piano as an Afro-American tuned drum.

9.  What is stride piano?

"Stride" piano basically means that the left hand "strides" between a bass and a chord while the right hand plays the improvisation. It is an older jazz piano tradition, played most predominantly between the 1920s and the early 1940s. Stride piano came some out of the ragtime tradition of Scott Joplin and the other great ragtime composers from the early 1900s, but the tempos are much faster, there is much more improvisation, and more harmonic development. Some of the greatest stride pianists were Thomas "Fats" Waller(1904-1943), James P. Johnson (1891 -1955), Willie "The Lion" Smith (1897-1973), and Donald Lambert, just to name a few. The great post-stride pianists Teddy Wilson (1911-1986), Art Tatum (1909-1956) and Earl Hines (1905-1983) could play fantastic stride piano as well. Three of the pianists who are the bridge between ragtime and stride are Eubie Blake (1883-1983), Luckey Roberts (1887-1968) and Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941).

Some great later and contemporary stride pianists are also Dick Hyman, the late Ralph Sutton (1922-2001), the late Dick Wellstood, the late Joe Buskin, Mike Lipskin, Jim Turner, Tom McDermott, Brad Kay, Judy Carmichael, Marcus Roberts, Butch Thompson, and Barry Gordon (note -there are two pianists with the name Barry Gordon – the one referred to here is a different person than the one who has some recordings out).

Good sites for stride piano are: http://www.redhotjazz.com/

Five music books covering covering stride playing are available from Songbooks Unlimited, Music Books Now, Dept. 903807, P.O. Box 639. Holmes, PA 19043, phone 800-527-6300, online at www.musicbooksnow.com:

  1. HARLEM STRIDE PIANO (913459) - a sheet music book containing 26 classic swing-era solos by the greatest pianists of the 1920s and 1930s
  2. JUDY CARMICHAEL'S INTRODUCTION TO STRIDE PIANO (971366) - newly revised edition contains arrangements, practice drills and a new CD.
  3. JUDY CARMICHAEL'S - YOU CAN PLAY STRIDE PIANO (948869) - includes song book, easy 'how-to' drills, special tips and a CD.
  4. JUDY CARMICHAEL'S COMPLETE BOOK OF STRIDE PIANO (91657) - contains eight stride piano classics and preparatory jazz exercises.
  5. DICK HYMAN: PIANO PRO (935957) - teaches the user how to play runs like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Also contains insights, "how-to"s, and musical tips.
10.  What do you do if a note or notes go out of tune on the piano during a set?

I keep small black rubber mutes (wedges) inside the piano. If the out of tune note is one of the notes that has three strings in the upper half of the piano, then sometimes in between songs, I put the mute in between the left two of the three strings, leaving the very right string untouched (no matter which of the three strings of a note is out of tune, always do it this way, otherwise you’ll have problems with the note not sounding when the soft pedal is used). The higher up on the piano the less this changes the sound of the note. If it is a lower string with just two strings or one string, there is nothing I can do, but I try to hit the note less hard or, if it fits with the song, play that note an octave above it or below it, but usually I just play that note softer (or not at all sometimes) and emphasize more of the other notes around it. 

11.  How do you get harmonics on the piano?

Three ways:

  1. One way is like getting artificial harmonics on the guitar – with the left hand reach way inside the piano past the hammers, around octaves 4 & 5, and towards the middle of the inside of the, and with the index finger lightly touch the left of the three strings (each note in that part of the piano has three strings). At the same time, pluck that string with the thumbnail. Unlike on the guitar where you have fret markings, this is pretty much intuition but does improve with practice. I am usually aiming for the harmonics that is an octave above the note of the string (like playing a natural harmonic on a string at the 12th fret on the guitar), but you can experiment with other harmonics, like the equivalent of playing a natural harmonic on the guitar on a string at the 5th fret (sounding 2 octaves above the note of the string), the 7th fret (sounding an octave plus a fifth interval above the note of the string, or the 9th fret (sounding 2 octaves plus a Major third interval above the note of the string).
     
  2. Again, hold the left hand way inside the piano past the hammers, around octaves 4 & 5, and slant the hand until the index finger and part of the hand is lightly touching the strings, slanted so the index finger is a bit nearer the keyboard and the rest of the hand is a bit farther away from the keyboard. While doing this, strike the keys normally (I hit them pretty hard). Like the technique in #1 above, it takes intuition and practice. Again, I am usually aiming for the harmonics that is an octave above the note of the string (like playing a harmonica on the 12th fret on the guitar), but you can experiment with other harmonics (like the equivalent of playing a natural harmonic on a string at the 5th, 7th, or the 9th fret on the guitar)
     
  3. This is a bit similar to technique #1 above. Around the low second octave, touch the string lightly in the space before the hammers and strike the key normally (I usually strike the key a little less hard then in # 2 above). 

    (for harmonics on the harmonica, see the question below “How do you get harmonicas on the harmonica?”). 
12.  What are you doing when you reach inside the piano during a song?

(this also includes information on the song An African in New York) One of four things:

  1. Muting the strings - usually on the closest part of the string(s) toward the keyboard, with the left hand and playing the keys normally with the right hand. The right hand playing is similar to playing guitar, as the thumb plays the lower notes and the fingers play the higher notes - (see Dubuque on the PLAINS album, Forbidden Forest on the FOREST album; the end of the song Cast Your Fate to the Wind, on the album LINUS AND LUCY – THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI; on the song My Wild Love, from the album NIGHT DIVIDES THE DAY: THE MUSIC OF THE DOORS: and on the songPine Hills, from the 20th Anniversary Edition of the album WINTER INTO SPRING.

    I also do this on the end of the live version of the song Woods, muting the very low notes, on the live version in the SUMMER SHOW, and also on the song An African in New York, that I play live sometimes in the SUMMER SHOW). It is a four part song and part of the first part was inspired by the work of the great South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (AKA Dollar Brand), and all of the Africans who have immigrated to New York - and in fact, all New Yorkers.
     
  2. Plucking a string - at the beginning and near the end of the live version of the song Woods, in the SUMMER SHOW – here a note is plucked with the left hand an octave lower than the same note played normally on the keyboard with the right hand to fatten it up, as if there is a bowed bass – I also do the same thing in the introduction of the song Cast Your Fate to the Wind, on the album LINUS AND LUCY – THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI. I pluck low bass notes also on the beginning on the song My Wild Love, from the album NIGHT DIVIDES THE DAY: THE MUSIC OF THE DOORS. Also on the song Midnight, from the album DECEMBER, I pluck the strings for the whole song.

    The strings can also be scraped with the nail, although I have not done that on any songs yet.
     
  3. Tapping the strings - see the first part of the song Tamarac Pines on the FOREST album – I don’t do this when I play this song live, as a medley with the song Colors, from the AUTUMN album, in the WINTER SHOW, as it is inaudible.
     
  4. Playing a harmonic chime - by lightly touching a string at a certain place with the left hand, and plucking it with the right hand, like it is done on the on the guitar (sometimes done near the end of the live version of the songWoods, from the AUTUMN album, in the SUMMER SHOW).
13.  How do you play the rapid repeats in the right hand at the end of Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel, and during the song Moon?

I use my thumb and middle finger, and you can substitute the index finger for a while if the middle finger gets tired. I also, inspired by Bluegrass mandolin players, sometimes let the little finger hit notes above the notes that the thumb and middle finger are playing, and it hits notes half the time that the thumb and middle finger hit notes. It does sometimes give the aural illusion that the little finger’s notes are being played as rapidly as the ones with the thumb and middle finger.”

14.  What is your concept of pedaling on the piano?

One of the things I love about the piano is its sustain. I like this sustain better than the sustain of strings, organ, or synth, so that is one of the reasons I always play solo, to hear that sustain (the other reason is that is how I hear music in my head, is solo – what I am really, is a solo instrumental player that uses the piano, guitar, and harmonica. About 95 % of the songs I play are adaptation of songs by other composers, very few (nine) which were originally solo piano pieces by the original composers - what I do is the opposite of most arrangers – I go from big to small, adapting band and ensemble pieces to solo (most arrangers go from small to big, conceiving arrangements for the band or ensemble at the keyboard. So I sustain as much as I can, because I want a big sound. Also I spent my first few years of that I played on the organ, so I got used to having different sounds, having sustain, and a fat sound.

For Stride Piano, I have the exact opposite approach – there I often just briefly pedal the bass notes, to give them a fatter sound, like a string bass.

I also take off my shoes to minimize the sound of the foot pounding on the floor, and to have better control on the pedals.

15.  Why do you never mic the piano during a concert?

I like the total acoustic sound, and I play better that way, and I dislike the sound with a mic for my ways of playing. I am influenced some by the sounds of electronic instruments, but I reflect those influences on acoustic instruments. Playing the piano wears my nails down, so I play the guitar with just the fingertips of the right hand, and I have to generally mic the guitar to be heard. I have more of a tolerance for a mic on the guitar. And as long as I am using a P.A. for the guitar, I use it for talking and the solo harmonica as well. However, the best situation for me is a very small hall, with no mic at all.

16.  What are the solo piano dances?

The solo piano dances I do, is where the piano is a one man band kind of thing which go 3 hours or more, of one long medley of R&B songs, slow dance songs, Soul, Rock, Vince Guaraldi Peanuts pieces, and a bit of Latin, Blues, and occasional waltzes (these are not Modern Dance/Ballet piano dances). I do on the average 5-8 dances a year as benefits for service organizations.

My concept of the piano, whatever style I am playing, is a band approach (a North American approach, rather than the European classical orchestral approach). Basically the left hand is the bass and rhythm, and the right hand is the lead singer and sometimes an additional rhythm, and the whole thing is the drummer.

17.  Who are your main influences on piano?

Primary Direct Influences (extensive studying of their musical languages):
{Keep in mind that each musician is really their own category, and that categories only tell you what someone doesn’t do, and that only narrows things down a bit – one has to hear each one to get a cognition}

  1. James Booker - New Orleans R&B pianist (1939-1983) - His musical languages are the main way I think in terms of playing the piano. I learned more from his album Junco Partner than any other album about how I want to play the piano. I have been studying him since 1982 when I first heard him.
  2. Henry Butler – New Orleans Jazz and R&B pianist - I have been studying him since 1985 when I first heard him, and I am still just scratching the surface of what he does.
  3. Professor Longhair – New Orleans R&B pianist (1918-1980) - I have been studying him since 1979 when I first heard him, and I am just now starting to come to terms with what to do with his influence. He was my inspiration to start playing again after I had quit in 1977.
  4. Thomas “Fats” Waller -Harlem Stride pianist (1904-1943). Also visitwww.fatswaller.org I have been studying him since 1971 when I first heard him, and he was my inspiration for switching from organ to piano then.
  5. Teddy Wilson –Stride and Swing pianist (1912-1986) -I have been studying him since 1973, when I first heard him. 

Secondary Influences

  1. Dr. John – New Orleans R&B pianist
  2. Jon Cleary – New Orleans R&B pianist
  3. Ray Charles (1930-2004)
  4. Earl Hines (1905-1983) Stride and Swing pianist
  5. Vince Guaraldi – Jazz pianist/ composer (1928 -1976)
  6. Abdullah Ibrahim (AKA Dollar Brand) - South Africian pianist
  7. Philip Aaberg – Montana pianist/ composer (the only melodic pianist I have ever studied)
  8. Oscar Peterson – Jazz pianist
  9. Art Tatum – Jazz and Stride pianist (1909-1956)
  10. Don Lambert – Harlem stride pianist (1904-1962)
18.  Who was Professor Longhair?

Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd 1918-1980) was the founder of the New Orleans R&B piano scene in the late 1940s. Some of his influences were the great blues and Boogie Woogie pianists of the 1920s and the 1930s, especially Meade Lux Lewis (1905-1964), Pine Top Smith (1904-1929), and Jimmy Yancey (1898-1951), and also Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Little Brother Montgomery, as well as blues pianists in New Orleans, such as Archibald, Sullman Rock, Kid Stormy Weather, Robert Bertrand, and the great blues and jazz pianist Isidore “Tuts” Washington (1907-1984); as well as New Orleans music in general, and the Caribbean and Latin music traditions. traditions. He was the reason I began playing again in 1979, after I had quit in 1977, when I heard his album with his first recordings from 1949 and 1953, NEW ORLEANS PIANO (Atlantic 7225), and especially his beautiful track from 1949, Hey New Baby. Called “Fess”, and beloved and inspirational to all who heard him, and the foundation of it all to me and many others, he had many inventions (as they were called by the great New Orleans pianist and composer Allen Toussaint) on the piano. He always put his own deep, definitive, unique and innovative way of playing on every song he composed or arranged. His playing, and his whole approach speaks volumes. New Orleans R&B piano starts here.

Called “Fess”, and beloved and inspirational to so many who heard him, Professor Longhair inspired and influenced many pianists, including Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Henry Butler, the late Allen Toussaint, the late James Booker, Fats Domino, Jon Cleary, Huey “Piano” Smith, Art Neville, the late Ronnie Barron, Harry Connick, Jr., Tom McDermott, Amasa Miller, Josh Paxton, Harry Connick, Jr, Davell Crawford, David Torkanowsky, Joe Krown, Amasa Miller, Tom McDermott, David Torkanowsky Tom Worrell, Cynthia Chen,  and many many others.

New Orleans has a wonderful and incredible R&B piano tradition, beginning with the late Professor Longhair’s recordings in 1949, and continuing today. Some of the great New Orleans R&B pianists playing there today are Jon Cleary, Art Neville, Davell Crawford, Joe Krown, Josh Paxton, Tom McDermott, Amasa Miller, David Torkanowsky, Cynthia Chen, Tom Worrell, and many others. For listing of live performances and information on New Orleans music in general, see OFFBEAT MAGAZINE.

Fess had many inventions on the piano, as they were called by the great New Orleans pianist and composer Allen Toussaint (Allen talks about the influence this this video) He always put his own wonderful and unique stamp on every song he played, whether it was an original composition or a great and often very different interpretation of another composer’s song (for example hear his version of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” on Fess’ album LIVE ON THE QUEEN MARY, and compare it to the original version).

At least 13 of Fess’ inventions are:

  1. Fess’ “Rhumboogie” (or Rhumba-Boogie) syncopated left and right hand playing style - see the song Hey Now Baby from the albums NEW ORLEANS PIANO and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT and BIG EASY STRUT:THE ESSENTIAL PROFESSOR LONGHAIR; and the song Her Mind is Gone from the albums CRAWFISH FIESTA and BIG CHIEF and BALL THE WALL! LIVE AT TIPITINA’S 1978 and BYRD LIVES!
  2. Push beats on left hand notes – sometimes for one note, and sometimes throughout a whole phrase – especially see the song Hey Now Baby from the albums NEW ORLEANS PIANO and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT; the song Walk Your Blues Away from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO; and the song Tipitina from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO.
  3. Rapid right hand triplets - see the song Hey Now Baby from the albums NEW ORLEANS PIANO and ROCK & ROLL GUMBO and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT; the song Hey Little Girl from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO; and the song Her Mind is Gone from the albums CRAWFISH FIESTA and BIG CHIEF.
  4. Double note crossovers - especially see the song Hey Now Baby from the albums NEW ORLEANS PIANO, and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO, and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT, and also especially the song Hey Little Girl from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO album.
  5. Two hand rolls – see the introduction of the song Ball the Wall from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO, which has a unique two hand roll with single notes in the left hand and chords in the right hand, followed by octave rolls in the right hand with single notes in the left hand, with the hands crossing sometimes; and the same rolls on the song 501 Boogie on the album HOUSE PARTY NEW ORLEANS STYLE –THE LOST SESSIONS 1971-1972; and on another version of the same song, with the title Boogie Woogie on the out of print LP album THE LAST MARDI GRAS, and this same track with the title 501 Boogie (with part of the introduction edited off) is on the album RUM AND COKE; and on the introduction and in the middle of another version of the same song, with the title Ball the Wall aka 510 Boogie, on the album BALL THE WALL! LIVE AT TIPITINA’S 1978
    And there is a similar roll in his instrumental piano break in the song It’s My Fault on the album CRAWFISH FIESTA; and the incredible two hand drum roll technique in his instrumental break on the song Every Day I Have the Blues on the album LIVE ON THE QUEEN MARY (One Way Records S21 56844), and on the albums THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT and BYRD LIVES!; and the same technique the song It’s My Own Fault on the album BYRD LIVES; and on the song Gone So Long, near the end of the song, on the album BYRD LIVES! (Night Train Records).
  6. His wonderful and distinctive piano phrases for the chord progression of the late Earl King’s (1934-2003) song Big Chief - his later version of these piano phrases for Big Chief is on the albums THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT and CRAWFISH FIESTA. His first version of these phrases was on his 1964 recording of Big Chief, reissued on the compilation album with Professor Longhair and other artists titled COLLECTOR’S CHOICE –FEATURING PROFESSOR LONGHAIR (on Rounder Records), and it was also reissued on the compilation album with various artists MARDI GRAS IN NEW ORLEANS (on Mardi Gras Records). It is amazing how he came up with this one… and all the others – what Fess said in an interview with the late filmmaker Stevenson Palfi about how he came up with things was that “I just dream ‘em up” – that is the key right there.
  7. His distinctive phrase for the IV chord (the C chord in the key of G, and the F chord in the key of C) – see the song Mean OlWorld from the album ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO; and in his instrumental break on the song It’s My Fault from the album CRAWFISH FIESTA; and the song Gone So Long from the albums HOUSE PARTY NEW ORLEANS STYLE–THE LOST SESSIONS 1971-1972 and MARDI GRAS IN BATON ROUGE; and the song Hey Now Baby from the albums ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT.
  8. Two hand rolls ending with right hand broken octaves – see the introduction for the song Tipitina on the album ROCK & ROLL GUMBO ; and the song Willie Fugal’s Blues on the CRAWFISH FIESTA album. A related technique is the right hand broken octaves at the end of the song Mess Around on the albums ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT
  9. Another aspect of his “Rhumboogie” (or Rhumba-Boogie) left hand, using the Latin Clave beat, with notes played on beats one, “two and”, and four – he used this on many songs, as this was his favorite left hand bass to play – for example, see the song Junco Partner on the albums ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO; and the song Hey Little Girl from the album NEW ORLEANS PIANO (interestingly enough, this same Clave beat was the favorite solo guitar bass pattern of the late, great Hawaiian Slack Key guitarist Sonny Chillingworth [1930-1994], who was so revered and influential in Hawai’i).
  10. His use of repeating the tonic chord (the I chord) and/ or a tonic chord phrase in the right hand, over the IV chord (for example, in the key of C, playing the C Major chord over the F chord bass, creating the tonality of an F Major 7/9 chord) - see the song Hey Now Baby from the albums NEW ORLEANS PIANO, and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and THECOMPLETE LONDON CONCERT; and the songs How Long Has That Train Been Gone and Stag-O-Lee, from the album ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO – these latter two songs are in the key of F, so here for the IV chord, he played the F Major chord over the B Flat chord bass, creating the tonality of a B Flat Major 7/9 chord. Fess also sometimes played a roll with the tonic Major chord throughout the whole chorus – see the song DoinIt on the album ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO and the song Gone So Long on the album HOUSE PARTY NEW ORLEANS STYLE–THE LOST SESSIONS 1971-1972 and MARDI GRAS IN BATON ROUGE.
  11. His temporary altering of the rhythm within a song – see the song Mean OlWorld from the album ROCK & ROLL GUMBO; and the song Everyday I Have the Blues from the album THE COMPLETE LONDON CONCERT; and the song Gone So Long from the albums HOUSE PARTY NEW ORLEANS STYLE–THE LOST SESSIONS 1971-1972 and MARDI GRAS IN BATON ROUGE.
  12. His use of octaves, going up the notes of the tonic chord (the I chord), just before going to the IV chord. He did this in many songs, and notable variations of this, with push bests in the left hand before the right hand octaves, are in the introduction and in the middle instrumental solo on his 1950 recording of Byrd’s Blues, which appears on two albums: THE MERCURY NEW ORLEANS SESSIONS 1940 & 1953 (a double compilation album with Professor Longhair and various other artists), and his album 1949.
  13. Another wonderful characteristic of Fess's playing is what I call his "returning". By this I mean a very strong and definitive return to the bass note of the tonic chord in the middle of the verse or the beginning of the verse. Examples of this are is 1949 version of Hey Now Baby on his album NEW ORLEANS PIANO; also on his 1974 version of Hey Now Baby, Doin' It, Junco Partner, and Mean Old World from his album ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GUMBO.
    Some of my favorite albums of his are:
    1. NEW ORLEANS PIANO (Atlantic 7225) – 1949 and 1953 tracks - New Orleans R&B piano starts here.
    2. ROCK 'N' ROLL GUMBO (Dancing Cat 3006)
    3. THE LONDON CONCERT (JSP Records 202) - English import
    4. CRAWFISH FIESTA (Alligator 4718)

Fess is lovingly featured in the late Stevenson J. Palfi's great documentary PIANO PLAYERS RARELY EVER PLAY TOGETHER along with the great New Orleans pianists Alan Toussaint and Isidore “Tuts” Washington- Video available from Alligator Video at 1-800-344-5609.

19.  Who was James Booker?

James Booker (1939-1983) was the late/great New Orleans R&B pianist, who has been my overall biggest influence of how I think in terms of playing the piano. He was the first one to take R&B, soul music, New Orleans music, the blues and more and make a whole solo piano style out of those traditions. I learned more from his album JUNCO PARTNER than any other album ever. Some of his influences were Professor Longhair (1918-1980), Ray Charles (1930-2004), Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Art Tatum (1909-1956), Erroll Garner (1921-1977), Meade Lux Lewis (1905-1964), Albert Ammons (1907- 1949 ), Pete Johnson (1904-1964), Jelly Roll Morton, and many others.

He was musically fluent in all 12 major and minor keys. He was an outstanding organist as well, and his piano playing reflects that especially in his left-hand bass lines and his use of right hand, full-sounding chords and voicing. His unique, innovative, and deeply soulful arrangements of the songs he arranged often became the definitive and standard way of playing that song. His playing covered at least seven separate styles, and he had many inversions on the piano (the notes and the songs referred to here are from his JUNCO PARTNER album [Rykodisc 1359], which is the album I have learned more from than any other):

  1. An R&B band style, with single note bass line and a partial chord in the left hand played within a hand span of an octave or a 10th interval. (On this album you can hear this style on Good Night Irene, Pixie, Make a Better World, Junco Partner, Blues Minuet and Pop's Dilemma)
     
  2. A medium temp. hard winging stride style (stride piano meaning the left hand plays a bass on the on beat and then “strides” or jumps up to a chord on the off beat) with the root note and 5th below that played simultaneously just before the beat and the lower root note played on the beat. He played both standards and R&B pieces in this style (Sunny Side of the Street on this album).
     
  3. A slow and medium slow stride style with 10th in the left hand, preceded often by a fast chromatic roll, and the right playing bluesy fills and occasionally jazz lines (Until the Real Thing Comes Along/Baby Won't You Please Come Home, I’ll Be Seeing You on this album).
     
  4. A rock stride style (Put Out the Light on this album).
     
  5. A romantic, classically-influenced style (Black Minute Waltz, I'll Be Seeing You on this album.)
     
  6. An organ-influenced style (not represented on this recording) with the octave bass line sparse and the right hand consistently going, often with choppy rhythms. James played a different version of Junco Partner than the one on this album in this style, as well as the song Papa Was a Rascal.
     
  7. A speeded-up version of his R&B band style (not represented on this recording), again with the bass line and partial chord in the left hand within a hand span. He sometimes used this style to play ragtime-type pieces and older pop songs such asBaby Face and Sweet Georgia Brown.


Some of my favorite albums of his are:

  1. JUNCO PARTNER (Rykodisc 1359)
  2. NEW ORLEANS PIANO WIZARD: LIVE (Rounder 2027)
  3. SPIDERS ON THE KEYS (Rounder C2119)
  4. RESURRECTION OF THE BAYOU MAHARAJAH (Rounder C2218)
  5. KING OF THE NEW ORLEANS KEYBOARD (Junco Partner JP1, JSP Productions) - English import
  6. PIANO PRINCE OF NEW ORLEANS
  7. BLUES AND RAGTIME (Aves INT 146.530 - out of print) - German import

Filmmaker Lily Keber has made a wonderful documentary of James, BAYOU MAHARAJAH. 

20.  Who is Henry Butler?

Henry Butler is the great New Orleans R&B/jazz pianist, who has been the main pianist I have been studying since 1985, and I am still just scratching the surface of what he does. He is the only pianist I know of that plays the deep blues and R&B and mainstream jazz, two extremely different mind-sets and technical approaches. In my opinion, he has taken the R&B piano to its farthest heights, and he is a phenomenon to experience live. Each performance is deep to the core, and they are all very different from each other as he is an absolute master of improvisation. They are impossible to describe – you just have to see him. His musical languages are very complex yet he always takes one on the journey with him. I realized the first moment I heard him, that I would be studying his playing forever.

Some of his influences have been Professor Longhair (1918-1980), James Booker (1939-1983), Ray Charles (1930 -2004), McCoy Tyner , Art Tatum (1909-1956), George Duke, and many more.

One of his greatest and most amazing inventions, one of many, is a percussive style that I call two hand conga playing where he plays very powerful syncopated rhythmic figures up and down the keyboard with both hands and/or with two hands answering each other in phrases. A great example of this is Henry's Boogie on his recording HOMELAND (BSR 0802 - 2). Another major invention of his is the funk stride bass, with the feel of a whole funk band with the solo piano.

However, you need to see this artist live to fully experience his music. Some of his styles are rhythm & blues/funk, deep slow blues, mainstream jazz, impressionistic/classical influences, and stride piano.

His website is www.henrybutler.com. You can also see www.offbeat.com, the site for the New Orleans magazine, OFFBEAT, for live performances in New Orleans in general.

Some of my favorite albums of his are:

21.  Who are some New Orleans pianists?

The great New Orleans R&B pianists are the ones who have inspired me to play the piano the most - especially Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd), James Booker, and Henry Butler, as well as Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, and Jon Cleary;
- and also New Orleans pianists Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton, Tony Jackson, Alfred Wilson, Albert Carroll, Sammy Davis, Game Kid, Buddy Carter, Josky Adams, Luis Russell, Frank Richards, Buddy Bertrand, Mamie Desdoume, Kid Rock (the early 1900s pianist), Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Clarence Williams, Frank Amacker, Sweet Emma Barrett, Jeanette Salvant Kimball, Billie Pierce, Dolly Douroux Adams, Lizzie Miles (Elizabeth Landeraux), Blue Lu Barker, Eurreal “Little Brother” Montgomery, Roosevelt Sykes, Isidore “Tuts” Washington, Richard M. Jones, Joe Robichaux, Burnell Santiago, Sadie Goodson, Olivia Charlot (Olivia “Lady Charlotte” Cook”, Walter “Fats” Pichon, Alton Purnell, Manuel Manetta, Lester Santiago, Octave Crosby, Armand Hug, Don Ewell, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Butch Thompson, Sam Henry, Dave “Fatman” Williams, Al Broussard, Pleasant “Cousin Joe” Joseph, Henry Gray, Kid Stormy Weather, Sullivan Rock, Robert Bertrand, Champion Jack Dupree, Paul Gayten, Walter Decou, Alex “Duke” Burrell, Eddie Bo (Bocage), Archibald (Leon T. Gross), James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, Herbert “Woo Woo” Moore, Ellis Marsalis, Ronnie Kole, Frank Strazzeri, James Drew, Roger Dickerson, Huey Smith, Art Neville, Salvador Doucette, Fats Domino, Edward Frank, Esquerita (Eskew Reeder), Tommy Ridgley, Willie Tee (Turbinton), John Berthelot, Big Chief Jolly (George Landry), Al Johnson, Ronnie Barron, Carol Fran, Tom McDermott, Amasa Miller, David Thomas Roberts, Dave Paquette, David Torkanowsky, David Paquette, Phil Parnell, Harry Connick, Jr., Joshua Q. Paxton, Joe Krown, Frank Chase (Professor Bigstuff), Bob Andrews, Davell Crawford, Ivan Neville, John Magnie, Rickie Monie Tom Worrell, Marcia Ball, Mitch Woods, Philip Melancon, Luther G. Williams, Tom Roberts, Joel Simpson, David Egan, Bob Greene, Lars Edegran, Bob Discon, Roy Zimmerman, Stanley Mendelson, Larry Seiberth, Eddie Volker, Willie Metcalf, Doug Bickel, Frederick Sanders, Richard Knox, Phamous Lambert, John Brunious, Ed Perkins, Walter Lewis, Peter Martin, Peter Cho, Darrell Lavigne, Emile Vinette, Jonathan Batiste, Victor “Red” Atkins, Frederick James McCray, Jesse McBride, Ronald Markham, Matt Lemmler, Richard Johnson, John Royen, John Autin, Michael Pellera, Jim Markway, Paul Longstreth, Tom Hook, Mike Dennis (aka Mike Bunis), John “Papa” Gros, Ronald Markham, Marc Adams, David Reis, Chuck Chaplin, Noah Levi, Adam Matasar, Sanford Hinderlie, Lawrence Cotton, "Piano Bob" Wilder, Nelson Lunding, David Boeddinghaus, John Sheridan, Lawrence Sieberth, Steve Conn, Thomas Gerdiken, Keiko Komaki, Artie Seeling, Stanley Mendelson, Jim Hession, John Mahoney, Craig Brenner, David Morgan, David Ellington, Glenn Patscha, Austin Johnson, Warner Williams, Ralph Gipson, Michael Bagent, Kim Phillips, Marvell Thomas, Craig Wroten, Sammy Berfect, C. R. Gruver, Bill Malchow, Judith Owen, Mari Watanabe, Paul David Longstreth, Cynthia Chen,Conus Pappas, Jr., Wil Sargisson, Mike Wadsworth, Mike Esnault, Lee Pons, Richard Scott (Scott Obenschein),, Jimmy Maxwell, Bart Ramsey, Bobby Lounge, Zaza Marjanishvili, Big Mama Sunshine, Brett Richardson, Brian Coogan, Eduardo Tozzatto, Dave Egan, Jonathan Lefkowski, Steve Pistorius, Marco Benevento, Kenny Bill Stinson, Davis Rogan, Nicholas Sanders, Wilson Savoy, and more… and so many other New Orleans musicians…. 

22.  Who was Fats Waller?

Thomas “Fats” Waller (1904-1943) was, in my opinion, the greatest of the stride pianists. He had an amazing combination of power and yet effortlessness and finesse in his playing. He grew up in Harlem and his main influence was the great stride pianist James P. Johnson (1891-1955). Some of his greatest playing is on the instrumental breaks of his tracks with his band Fats Waller & His Rhythm, especially between 1934-1936. He also composed many songs, including Ain't Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose in 1929, his signature instrumental piece Handful of Keys, and many others. He was my inspiration, upon hearing his recordings in 1971, to instantly switch from organ to piano. Fats Waller websites include - Red Hot JazzFats Waller & His Rhythm, and www.fatswaller.org.

Some of my favorite recordings of his are:

23.  Who was Teddy Wilson?

Teddy Wilson (1912 -1986), was the great swing and stride pianist who was best known for playing with the Benny Goodman (1909-1986) Trio & Quartet from 1935-1939. This incredible group also featured the late Lionel Hampton (1908-2002) on vibes and the late Gene Krupa(1909-1973) on drums. Teddy also backed up singer Billie Holiday on some of her first recordings in the 1930s. He also made his first amazing solo recordings in 1934, 1935, and 1937, and he made many recordings up to his passing in 1986.

Teddy Wilson was not only the most influential jazz pianist of the late 1930's to the early 1940's, he was also the first one to break the color line, playing the first integrated public concert, with the Benny Goodman Trio in Chicago on Sunday, April 12, 1936. One of his many inventions was to play moving bass lines with his left hand in tenth intervals. Another was his flowing right hand lines, played at the same time. He told me that in 1928, he had heard Fats Waller, and that influenced him to play jazz piano rather than classical. I was thrilled to be able to tell him that in 1971 I had heard Fats Waller’s recordings, and that made me switch from organ to piano. His other main influences where the great pianists Art Tatum (1909-1956), and Earl Hines (1905-1983).

Some of my favorite recordings of his are:

Solo piano: Especially his piano solos in 1934, 1935 and 1937. These are available on the following recordings:

  • Solo piano: THE COMPLETE TEDDY WILSON - PIANO SOLOS 1934-1941 (2 CD set) (CBS 4676902) - French import - Out of Print. There are other recordings that feature his piano solos from 1934, 1935, 1937.
  • SUNNY MORNING (Musicraft/Discography 2008) - piano solos recorded in 1946
  • TEDDY WILSON - PIANO SOLOS (Charley Records CD-AFS 1016) - British Import - This recording also has all the 1934, 1935 and 1937 piano solos.

Some of these piano solos are also available on the following five recordings:

With the Benny Goodman Trio & Quartet (with Benny Goodman on clarinet , Teddy Wilson on piano, Gene Cooper on drums, and as quartet Lionel Hampton on vibraphone - Teddy's incredible left hand playing 10th intervals provided the bass for the trio & quartet):

24.  Who was Earl Hines?

Pianist Earl Hines (1903-1983) was one of the greatest early jazz pianists, and is sometimes referred to as the first modern jazz pianist. On May 9, 1927 Earl Hines and trumpeter Louis Armstrong made their first recordings together, defining the beginnings of modern jazz, and on December 8, 1928 Earl recorded his definitive eight piano solos composition that further define modern jazz piano: A Monday Date, Chicago High Life,Stowaway, Chimes in Blues, Panther Rag, Just Too Soon, Blues in Thirds, and Off Time Blues. He was also well known for his performances and radio broadcasts with his big band in Chicago in the 1930s, and for his composition Rosetta.

Here are his earliest recordings: 

 

25.  Who was Donald Lambert?

Donald Lambert (1904-1962) was a great stride pianist who played in New Jersey clubs and sometimes in Harlem. He made four great recordings in 1941: Anitra's Dance,Sextette, Pilgrim's Chorus, and Elegie, and also some live recordings between 1959 and 1961, that have been reissued on two CDs: .

26.  How do you feel about playing different pianos at each concert?

I like that situation, as each piano is very different and each one brings something different out of the songs. I also like playing in different places, as each town also affects and brings something new and different to the music.

27.  What do you call the styles of piano you play?

I play three styles:

  1. R&B piano – Inspired by the great New Orleans R&B pianists from the late 1940s onward, especially: Henry Butler, the late James Booker, the late Professor Longhair (the founder of the New Orleans R&B piano scene, much like the late Gabby Pahinui is the father of the modern Hawaiian Slack Key guitar era), as well as Dr. John and Jon Cleary. The vast majority of songs, about 90% I play are in this style, and they are mainly played at the solo piano dances I do, but I use some songs played this way at concerts and recordings (especially on the recordings LINUS & LUCY – THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI, and NIGHT DIVIDES THE DAY – THE MUSIC OF THE DOORS. Three albums are planned of the songs I play at the dances.
     
  2. Stride Piano –(see # 5 above) – I play just a few songs in this style now. It was the main thing I worked on in the early 1970s, but over the years my main approach became R&B piano.
     
  3. Folk Piano – this is a combination listening as a kid to the instrumental R&B and rock, and American folk music. This is the melodic style I came up with in 1971, when I had switched from organ to piano, and I was mainly working on stride piano, and I wanted something that was complimentary to that – melodic and simpler, and using the sustain sound of the piano that I love. The majority of songs on my recordings are in this style (and it is rural in nature, rather than urban), and I like to stay within the theme of the album. About 10% of all the songs I play on piano are in this style.

 

28.  Has your music ever been mislabeled ?

Yes. I came up with the melodic style that I play in 1971, and I have always called it "Folk Piano", (or more accurately "Rural Folk Piano), since it is melodic and not complicated in its approach, like folk guitar picking and folk songs, and has a rural sensibility. When theAUTUMN album came out in 1980, I was first sometimes mislabeled as classical, but I have never played any European classical music, and I don’t have any classical influence (I treat "Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel" from the DECEMBER album in a folk way, basically improvising on the chord structure).

Around that time I was also sometimes mislabeled as jazz, but I also don't play jazz on the piano, as my main temperament is New Orleans R&B, not jazz. (I am inspired some by the jazz traditions, and jazz was my main focus on the organ before I switched to the piano in 1971).

Any other labels, including anything having to do with anything philosophical, or spiritual, or any beliefs, are also not accurate, as I have no interest in those subjects. I just play the songs the best I can, inspired by the seasons and the topographies and regions, and, occasionally, by sociological elements, and try to improve as a player over time.

Guitar Related Questions

1.  What is your guitar sound?
  1. I use John Pearse steel strings, the Slack Key set.
     
  2. I never change the strings. And I ask friends (not players that change their strings after every concert – those are virtually new strings) to send me old ones, since in the event of one breaking, putting a new one on would stick out too much.
     
  3. I play everything (no matter what key) in the G Major Tuning on a 1965 Martin D-35 Dreadnought (no cutaway, and with the body meeting the neck at the 14th fret), with a low pitched 7th string added, off the fretboard ([C]-D-G-D-G-B-D – from the lowest pitched string to the highest), and for more power and getting the Curt Bouterse 1800’s banjer “thwank”, I tune up one half step to sound in the key of A flat, or two half steps to sound in the key of A (or in between – whatever the strings want at the time. I never play with anyone, so the pitch is not a problem).
     
  4. I also occasionally use a smaller Martin D-18, probably made in the 1960s. I tune it (7 stings on that guitar also) to two tunings: [C]-F-G-C-G-B-D (from the lowest pitched string to the highest), and occasionally to the Hawaiian Slack Key tuning, Samoan C Mauna Loa ([C]-F-G-C-G-A-E), only having to change the two highest pitched strings. I also never change the strings and also tune up one or two half steps (or in between).
     
  5. If I play open (unfretted) strings as much as possible with chords and especially with melodies and fills. I heard this technique wonderfully played by guitarists Pierre Bensusan, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Phil deGruy, Alex DeGrassi , and by banjo player Bill Keith.
     
  6. On the Martin D-35, I never tune to another tuning (except occasionally I tune the lowest pitched 7th string down to A or G), and I don’t loosen them for airplane rides (I DO put something between the headstock and the case to prevent “whiplash” – I also have a strong guitar case and handle, and have it covered with a custom-made big loose cover made by seamstress (and great fiddler) Betty Vornbrook, and I stuff clothes in the cover, both protecting the guitar and making the suitcases lighter (one time in a plane before taking off I saw a forklift run over the guitar - I was not concerned, and the only damage was to the cover – I have 3 of them).
     
  7. I never use a DI (an electronic direct input. I took them out of the guitars I have – for me they interfere with the natural acoustics inside the guitar, and I have never liked the sound of them for the way I play – and there is one less thing to go wrong). I use one Josephson condenser mic (I needs phantom power – I carry a portable one to occasionally use), pointing the mic to about where the neck of the guitar meets the body. I prefer no mic for solo guitar concerts (and solo harmonica concerts) if the hall is small enough (I never mic the piano for concerts or solo piano dances).
     
  8. Playing the piano wears away the nails, so I play with finger tips. I cut nails that grow too long, and I cut the right hand calluses that get too hard and make notes stick out too much.
     
  9. I use humidifying granules inside the guitar case to keep the wood from getting too dry. You can get them from Music Sorb at www.musicsorbonline.com and you should replace them once a year.
     
  10. Sound Settings: I use 3 settings:
    1. Weaving through the string on the very right side (making sure especially that the highest pitched string is muted) , I use a cut or torn piece of cardboard from a folder a bit thicker than the ones normally used for file cabinets – I call this the “Baroque Lute Setting”.
    2. Weaving through the string on the very right side (making sure especially that the highest pitched string is muted) , I use a torn playing card about a half inch thick – I call this the “African Setting”. 
    3. Played normally with nothing weaved through the strings

      I have tried every kind of cardboard and many, many other things – each person would prefer different things to use. I originally got the idea from hearing the great guitarist Ralph Towner use a matchbook in this way around 1981, but didn’t really explore it, trying many different textures until recently, in early 2011. In the earlier part of the 20th Century the great South American guitarist Augustine Barrios used steel strings because the hot and humid South American climate deteriorated the gut strings too quickly (nylon strings weren’t available yet). To alter the steel string sound, he muted the three highest pitched strings using rubber or eraser material wrapped around each string.
2.  Is that a "Slack Key" guitar that you play? Why does it have more than six strings? What styles of guitar do you play?

Slack Key is a guitar tradition, like Blues guitar, Flamenco guitar, Jazz guitar, Brazilian guitar, Classical guitar, African guitar, and Folk guitar - it is not a type of guitar. Slack Key can be played on any guitar. I play a 7 string guitar because I wanted an extra low C bass string. Currently I am playing a new Gibson Guitar with a low 7th string added, which is off the fret board, tuned to low C (I sometimes play a 1965 Martin D-35 guitar as well). I mainly use the open G tuning, which is very popular in Hawaii, mainland America, Europe, and it is also played some in the Philippines, and Africa. The tuning from the lowest pitch string, (including the 7th string), to the highest pitched string is [C]-D-G-D-G-B-D. This way I can play in the keys of G and C. I sometimes also play in the key of D, and sometimes I tune the 7th string down to A for songs in the key of D.

I sometimes play in four other tunings:

  1. [C or F]-C-G-C-G-C-E, known as open C tuning. I am most influenced to play in this tuning by the late American guitarist George Cromarty. I am also inspired in this tuning by the Canadian guitarist Bruce Cockburn, the late American guitarist John Fahey, the late American guitarist Robbie Basho, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger. I am also very inspired by the Slack Key guitarists Cyril Pahinui and the late Atta Isaacs who both play extensively in Atta’s C Major tuning which has one note different on the fourth string C-G-E-G-C-E.
     
  2. [C]-F-G-C-G-B-D, a cross between the G Major Tuning in the top three pitched strings, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth strings are the same as the Samoan Mauna Loa Tuning that the late slack key guitarist Sonny Chillingworth used for the song Let Me Hear You Whisper, on his album SONNY SOLO.
     
  3. [C]-F-G-C-G-A-E, known as Samoa Mauna Loa Tuning in Hawai’i. Mauna Loa Tunings are based on a Major chord, with the two top-pitched strings tuned a fifth interval apart. This way, the two highest pitched thinnest strings in a Mauna Loa Tuning can easily be played in sixth intervals (intervals that in most other tunings are played on the highest pitched first string and the third string; or on the second and fourth strings – since in most other tunings most of the highest four pitched strings are tuned a fourth, a Major third, or a minor third interval apart), producing the recognizably sweet sound that Mauna Loa Tunings bring out.
     
  4. I also occasionally play a song in the Hawaiian Tuning called G Wahine Tuning: [C]-D-G-D-F# -B-D. Wahine Tunings are tunings that are a Major 7th chord, or tunings that contain a Major 7th note (the Major 7th of the I chord). The open Major 7th note has two functions: it can easily be "hammered on" to produce the tonic note of the I or tonic chord (the note that is the same note as the I chord). Technically, the tuning mentioned above [C]-F-G-C-G-B-D, is a “Wahine” Tuning, since it contains the Major 7th note of the key of C (the B note).

    I like to improvise on the guitar in basically two traditions: Hawaiian Slack Key, and Appalachian/ American folk music. I also play an occasional Irish tune, an occasional Standard (especially inspired by the late guitarist Ted Greene), and some compositions and arrangements by contemporary guitarists/composers such as the late songwriter/fiddler/banjo player John Hartford, banjo player Curt Bouterse, harmonica player Rick Epping, guitarist Ralph Towner, the late guitarist George Cromarty, the late Brazilian guitarist Bole Sete, country guitarist Jerry Reed, Canadian guitarist Bruce Cockburn and guitarist Walter Boruta.

    I play about 15 solo guitar concerts a year as benefits for service organizations.

    Common most used tunings in the world (roughly in order of the frequency of use):
    1. Standard Tuning - E-A-D-G-B-D
    2. Dropped D Tuning – D-A-D-G-B-E
    3. Open G Tuning (aka Taro Patch Tuning; aka Spanish Tuning) – D-G-D-G-B-D
    4. Open D Tuning – D-A-D-F#-A-D
    5. Dad Gad Tuning (aka D Modal Tuning) – D-A-D-G-A-D
    6. G Sixth Tuning – D-G-D-G-B-E
    7. Dropped C Tuning (aka Keola’s C Tuning) – C-G-D-G-B-E
    8. C Major Tuning – C-G-C-G-C-E
3.  Who was Ted Greene?

Ted Greene was a wonderful guitarist and educator, he was best known for his book Chord Chemistry and for his wonderful recordings of solo guitar that I'm still learning from after hearing it in 1978. Ted's main influences where the last jazz guitarist George Van Eps, Wes Montgomery, Lenny Breau, and many film soundtrack composers such as the late Max Steiner, the late George Duning, and many, many more. Ted played with a deep feeling for every song he played and extending the beauty of those songs with what he called “extended diatonic” harmony, and more.

4.  Who was John Fahey?

Statement by George Winston at the John Fahey Memorial on March 4, 2001.

"John Fahey has been, is and will continue to be a great influence on music as we know it - as a solo guitarist, a composer, and as an independent label owner & producer. He started his own label, Takoma Records, in 1958 to record his unique solo guitar compositions, which was unheard of at the time. His other great contributions include locating some of the great pre-war country blues guitarists from the South, such as Bukka White (Parchment Farm), Robert Pete Williams and Skip James (I'm So Glad). He was also instrumental in locating many old recordings of these great musicians for re-issue so we could all be inspired by them, especially those of great Mississippi bluesman Charley Patton, the main inspiration for Robert Johnson. And he brought forward the great solo guitar artistry of the late Brazilian guitarist Bole Sete. And he issued albums on his Takoma label of the great contemporary guitarists Leo Kottke, the late Bola Sete, the late Robbie Basho, Rick Ruskin and Peter Lang. And he was also a great writer. The list goes on. It is a very long story. I would need 5 books to tell it, but suffice to say things would be very different without him and he was my very dear friend, and the world is very different without him here.

I would not be doing anything that I am doing now--solo piano albums, solo instrumental concerts, and recording the great solo Hawaiian slack key guitarists on my own label - without his influence and inspiration. And he is the only person in the world who would have recorded me as a solo pianist in 1972, which paved the way for all that I do now. I thank you John, but just knowing you, or hearing you would have been great enough.

I share with all of you here a love of the whole person, of which his great unique music is just a part, as you all well know. We will never see the likes of one like him again. And I had the supreme privilege of knowing him for 30 years.

He taught us to be ourselves--even not to even care what he thought---but in the end what he thought always DID matter to us anyway, didn't it? We never know if he was going to attack or tolerate our nonsense. The lingering problem, besides not being able to hear him play or hang out with him to hear his slant on history, music, many other subjects (and on what was happening right there IN THE MOMENT), is: how do we explain him to the uninitiated???

One of the greatest things about knowing John, and there were many things, was that I appreciate the individually of everyone else more. Everyone has this great things in them, even if it is covered and repressed by societies, groups, etc. Nothing ever stopped him for a second. May we all become ourselves. He was and is a teacher, maybe even more so because he didn't claim to be one. I owe much to many, but without question, he changed my life more than anyone else. Aloha John, and to all of you. Thank you all for loving him too."

5.  What is your favorite guitar piece?

If I had to name one song, it would be the South African song Isoka Labaleka, played as an instrumental acoustic guitar solo by the great “Blind Man and His Guitar”, as is listed on the 78 RPM record. He played the melody and the bass simultaneously, while answering the melody phrases with a drone phrase with two strings playing the same note. He is probably playing in the G Major tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D, from the lowest pitched string to the highest), tuned up a half step to the key of A Flat (even though this tuning is not common in Africa). He accomplishes all this by playing just the five highest pitched strings, never playing the lowest pitched six string. It is so powerful and moving and I can feel his humanity and his very soul and he creates a whole encyclopedia and a whole world in three minutes.

This track was originally recorded on a South African 78 RPM record, year unknown. I know of no other recording by this artist. I wish more than anything that more could have been recorded on him. This track changed my perspective on everything.

Another candidate would be the great blues/jazz guitarist Lonnie Johnson's song from 1926, To Do This You Got To Know How. To hear it go here and scroll down alphabetically to the song.

Another candidate would be the 1949 version of Hey Now Baby by the late New Orleans R&B pianist Professor Longhair, from his album NEW ORLEANS PIANO (Atlantic 7225), and which features many of his signature techniques, including beautiful right hand triplets and rolls, left and right hand syncopations, and left hand puch beats. This track also changed my perspective on everything.

Another candidate is the 1976 version of Pixie, by the late New Orleans R&B pianist James Booker, from his album JUNKO PARTNER (Rykodisk 1359), featuring many of his beautiful signature techniques, and also reflects the Professor Longhair influence. To me this song totally captures the feeling of the heat rising off the pavement on a sweltering summer day.

Harmonica Related Questions

1.  What kind of harmonica do you play?

I usually use Hohner Big River harmonicas, key of low D (using Hohner Low D Cross Harp reed plates within the Big River Harmonica body (I occasionally use the cross harp reed plates for low E flat Big River harmonicas and very occasionally for low E Hohner Big River harmonicas, but not for higher keys as it doesn’t seem to make a difference). I also use the Hohner Big River harmonicas in the key of A. I usually play solo harmonica pieces in these three keys (referenced here on a C harmonica: : the 1st position key of C (the Major scale – C, D, E, F. G, A, B C); the 2nd position key of G (the Mixolydian mode - G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G), called "cross harp" playing; and the 3rd position D Minor (the Dorian mode – D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D). The cross harp playing in the key of G is the most common way of playing by harmonica players in America.

I most often play the Hohner Big River harmonicas in the low key of D in the 2nd position for playing in the key of A, and here I tune the holes 5 & 9 draw up a half step (as I learned from Rick Epping – and Lee Oscar Harmonicas also offers tuning kits anddirections on tuning and retuning the harmonica), as well as hole 10 blow down a half step. Most recently Rick Epping has made me a 12 hole harmonica with an extra high note and an extra low note. Here is the tuning:

12 hole Low D Harmonica – usually played in the 2nd position in the key of A (and occasionally in 3rd position in the key of E [Mixolydian mode), and in the 5th position in the key of F# minor [Aeolian Mode]).

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Blow

A

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

C#

E

Draw

A

E

A

C#

E

G#

B

C#

E

G#

B

C#

And the same tuning on a normal 10 hole harp:

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

B Blow

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

C#

Draw

E

A

C#

E

G#

B

C#

E

G#

B

For reference---the same tuning on a C harmonica – playing in the 2nd position in the key of G (and occasionally in 3rd position in the key of D [Mixolydian mode), and in the 5th position in the key of E minor [Aeolian Mode]).

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Blow

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

B

D

Draw

G

D

G

B

D

F#

A

B

D

F#

A

B

And the same tuning on a normal 10 hole harp:

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

B

Draw

D

G

B

D

F#

A

B

D

F#

A

I also sometimes play the low D Hohner Big River harmonicas (with the low D Cross Harp reed plates) with just hole 10 low tuned down one half step played in key of A with the Mixolydian mode (with the 7th flatted) instead of the major scale (with the sharp 7 note).

I also often play the drone technique (see the How do you get the constant drone note that you play on the harmonica? Question in this section, and go to the first and fourth paragraphs for how I do this).

For playing Appalachian tunes that are in minor keys, and tunes inspired by the Mongolian Matouqin (or the Morin Hurr, the deep two-stringed bowed instrument that got itxs name from itxs horse-head carving by the tuning pegs), I retune a low D Hohner Big River harmonica (with the low D Cross Harp reed plates), lowering holes 3 & 7 draw down a half step, and hole 10 blow down two half steps, yielding the 2nd position Dorian Mode (in the key of A minor the scale is A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A – and I sometimes avoid the sixth, the F# note). Holes 2, 5, & 8 blow could also be tuned down a half step, yielding the Aeolean Mode (in the key of A minor the scale is A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A).

Here is the tuning:

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

D

F#

A

C

Draw

E

A

C

E

G

B

C

E

G

B

And the same tuning referenced in the key of C (to play in G minor):

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

Bb

Draw

D

G

Bb

D

F

A

Bb

D

F

A

For more on Chinese music influences, see the Have you been inspired and influenced by Chinese classical and traditional? music question in this section. I also again often play the drone technique (see the How do you get the constant drone note that you play on the harmonica? Question in this section, and go to the first and fourth paragraphs for how I do this).

For 1st position playing, sometimes called straight harp, with nothing retuned and playing in the key that is stamped on the harmonica, I usually use Hohner Big River Major Diatonic harmonicas in the key of A.

For 3rd position playing, in the Dorian mode, in the key of D minor on a C harmonica (with the scale D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D), I use a tuning that Rick Epping showed me with holes 2 & 3 tuned down two half steps. I usually play Lee Oskar major diatonic harmonicas in the key of A to play in the key of B minor (with the scales B, C#,D, E, F#, G#, A, B), or sometimes in the key of A flat to play in the key of B flat minor (with the scale Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb).

Here is that tuning (referenced in the key of C):

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

B

Draw

D

G

B

D

F#

A

B

D

G

A

I also play some Eastern European influenced tunes on the Harmonic Minor tuned harmonica---I usually use Lee Oskar Harmonicas in the key of C# minor (for reference, in the key of C minor the scale is C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, B, C).

I also sometimes use the Hohner XB-40, a wonderful harmonica invented by Rick Epping where you can bend all the notes, especially the keys of A flat and G, playing in the 1st position.

I also occasionally use the Hohner Autovalve harmonica, a double reed harmonica where each note is an octave, especially the keys of D, E, and F, playing in the 1st and 2nd positions

Again, Lee Oskar Harmonicas offers a tuning kit with instructions on how to tune and retune harmonicas. It is best to practice tuning and re-tuning on old harmonicas at first, since it is easy to make damaging mistakes when you first start learning to tune.

2.  How do you get the bass and chords at the same time as the melody on the harmonica?

I play extra notes - octaves, double notes, and chords wherever possible, since I am always playing solo. I get these by what is called "tonguing", which means to put the front of the tongue on the harmonica, blocking certain holes so they don't sound. Then when you lift your tongue off those holes a cord will sound. This is the way to play the melody with the right side of the month accompanied by a chord.

To get the "stride harmonica” with a bass and chord and melody, playing in the the first position (the key that is stamped on the harmonica) - play a low note with the left side of the mouth on the first beat of the measure while the tongue is in the middle of the harmonica blocking notes. Then you play out of both sides of the month with the low note on the left side of the month on the first beat of the measure, then release the tongue on the second beat to produce the chord. Place the tongue back again on the harmonica on the third beat, while playing out of the left side of the mouth for another bass note, then release the tongue for the fourth beat, getting another chord. The right side of the mouth plays the melody while this is happening.

A good way to practice getting a bass note with the left side of the mouth and a melody note with the right side of the mouth is to practice octaves in the low part of the harmonica – for example, blowing out with the breath and blocking holes 2 and 3 with the tongue and playing holes 1 and 4 with the left and right side of the month respectively. You can hold this octave and lift the tongue on and off the harmonica, and then the next step would be to practice playing the note with the left side of the month on beats one and three, and then lifting the left side of the mouth off the harmonica along with lifting the tongue off the harmonica on beats two and four.

3.  How do you get harmonics on the harmonica?

There are two ways to play the harmonica: one with the lips on the harmonica (but not the tongue); and the other is with tongue on the harmonica separating it into two parts, left and right. A way to get subtle harmonics without the tongue on the harmonica is to have the tongue on the roof of the mouth when playing, until you find a high whirring noise (a bit similar to the sound of the Tuvan and the Mongolian throat singers). I find it a bit easier to find this on the blow notes than on the draw notes. Especially on the blow notes, if you find that little whirring sound by moving the tongue back and forth on the roof of the mouth, then try to locate the middle area of that sound. It will be a little different for each note.

I just recently found this and I have not found a way to get harmonics with the tongue on the harmonica separating it into two parts. I will keep experimenting, but I don’t know if it is possible. With both ways of playing, I’ve also been experimenting with shaping the mouth with the vowels A, E, I, O, U, & Y, and in-between those, and well as shaping the tongue in different ways, and having the tongue in different places in the mouth and on the harmonica. 

(for harmonics on the piano, see the question above “How do you get harmonics on the piano?”).

4.  How do you get the constant drone note that you play on the harmonica?

Again using the tonguing, referencing again in the key of C, holding the low drone G note on the Scottish and Irish and Appalachian and Cajun tunes, basically I play a C harmonica, playing cross harp style in the key of G, playing a low G drone note for every high melody note. This low G note occurs on both blow and draw holes (the same G note on hole 3 blow and on hole 2 draw). I keep the tongue blocking the middle of the harmonica the whole song, so that just the drone and the melody note sound.

For the Scottish pieces and some traditional American Appalachian pieces, I play a regular C Diatonic harmonica cross harp style, playing in the key of G, yielding the Mixolydian Mode which has the flatted 7th note that so many Scottish tunes have, here the F note (with the scale G, A, B, C, D, E, the flatted 7th note F, and G). For Irish tunes in the Major scale played with the drone, I use the retuned Major scale (with the scale G, A, B, C, D, E, the Major 7th note F#, and G).

An example of this can be heard on the song Farewell Medley on my benefit CD Remembrance. For the first two songs I used a Lee Oskar C Major diatonic harmonica and play in the key of G, in the Mixolydian Mode, with the flat 7th note, the F note. For the third song, I quickly switch harmonicas, to a C harmonica with the 5th and 9th draw holes raised up a half step from F to F sharp, and hole 10 tuned down a half step from C to B.

I also sometimes use the (referenced again here in the key of C) C Diatonic harmonica with the G drone notes played the same way, but playing in the key of C, with the 5th note of the scale, the G notes, as the drone, just as the Scottish bagpipers do when they occasionally play an Irish tune with the major scale. This is a technique I learned from Sam Hinton, who was the first one to do it. He used this drone technique for a section of his version of the traditional fiddle tune Bonaparte's Retreat (on the key of C on a C harmonica, holding the G note, the 5th of the key, as Scottish bagpipers do when they play Irish tunes in the Major scale). We have recorded all of Sam's harmonica solos, and they are issued on his double CD MASTER OF THE SOLO DIATONIC HARMONICA (Eagle’s Whistle Records). I later then moved this technique to the key of G (the cross-harp key), and retuned the harmonica to the Major Scale as described at the end of the previous paragraph, and the drone here is the tonic note, the 1st note of the scale.

I also sometimes play the harmonic minor tuned harmonicas with this same technique of holding the fifth note of the scale as a drone.

I am now also playing a tuning with a constant high drone note. This would also be playing in the key of G where I retune the 9th hole draw up two half steps (so that the F note is now a G, the tonic note playing a C harmonica cross harp style in the key of G). G note now occurs on the 9th hole blow and draw. I use the same tongue splitting technique but now the melody is on the left side of the mouth and the constant note is on the right side of the mouth.

Here is that tuning (referenced in the key of C, for playing in the key of G ):

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

B

Draw

D

G

B

D

F#

A

B

D

G

A

And also for playing in the Dorian Mode in the key of G minor (referenced in the key of C):

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

Bb

Draw

D

G

Bb

D

F

A

Bb

D

G

A

5.  Who are your main influences on harmonica?

I have had two major influences for playing solo harmonica. My first main harmonica mentor has been Sam Hinton, who plays mainly in the first position, otherwise know as straight harp (playing in the key that is printed on the harmonica). Sam was the first one ever to play the stride harmonica, with the bass and chord accompanying the melody. Harmonica players had played the melody with an accompanying chord which is played by holding the tongue on the harmonica, and then releasing it to let the air flow through to get the chords in whatever rhythm the player wants, but no one before Sam had put the bass in also. We recorded Sam Hinton's whole solo harmonica repertoire, and it is released as a double CD set, titled MASTER OF THE SOLO DIATONIC HARMONICA (Eagle’s Whistle Records). It features studio recordings and live recordings, including a radio broadcast from 1937 when Sam was with a vaudeville troupe.

Here is an excerpt from some of the notes from Sam’s recording:

It is wonderful to have this document of Sam Hinton’s harmonica playing available. I have been working on this project in my mind ever since I first heard him play “Bonaparte’s Retreat” live on April 16, 1975 (see disc 2, track 27). The series of songs (# 13-28) shows how Sam evolved this marvelous harmonica version of Bonaparte’s Retreat”. He has been my main harmonica mentor ever since (along with the great harmonica player and inventor Rick Epping (who helped get Sam’s chordomonicas repaired for the recording sessions.) Sam also inspires me in all other aspects of music and life.

Sam has invented three major innovations for solo first position harmonica playing:

  1. “Stride bass” harmonica, created by Sam around 1935, where he is playing the bass, chord, and rhythm simultaneously. (See the songs “Haste to the Wedding” on disc two, track 14,“Ach Du Leber Augistin on disc two, track 4, "Simple Gifts" on disc two, track 43, “Bobby Shaftoe” on disc one, track 52, the third version of “Bonaparte’s Retreat” on disc two, track 28 and the 1937 version of "Swannee River" on disc two, track 59.)
     
  2. Playing a drone note through part of the song, invented by Sam in the late 1930s. (See the songs "Bonaparte’s Retreat" "Bobby Shaftoe” on disc one, tracks 26-28 and “Bobby Shaftoe” on disc one, track 52.)
     
  3. Playing counterpoint melodies -- two melodic lines played at the same time, -- invented by Sam in the 1970s. (See the song Simple Gifts on disc two, track 43, Oh Dear, What can the Matter Be on disc one, tracks 4 and 5, Pufferbillies on disc one, track 22,Mississippi Sawyer on disc one, track 2, Au Claire De La Lune on disc one, track 50, and some on Mr. Tunstall’s Hoedown on disc two, track 12, and Hick’s Hornpipe on disc one, track 40; as well as moving bass lines on, Oh Dear, What can the Matter Be on disc one, tracks 4 and 5, Mississippi Sawyer on disc one, track 2, and Downfall of Paris on disc one, track 7.)

My other main harmonica mentor has been Rick Epping, who also was the product manager with the Hohner Harmonica Company for eighteen years and still serves as a technical adviser for them. He currently lives in Ireland, and he records and plays live with the great Irish fiddler Frankie Gavin, with the Celtic/American band Scuttlebutt, the harmonica trio Iron Lung with Brendon Power and Mick Kinsella, and with many other Irish musicians. I am currently extensively recording his repertoire, both solo harmonica, and his beautiful playing of the harmonica and concertina at the same time (and occasionally harmonica and mandolin at the same time, as well as harmonica and banjo at the same time).

Rick plays cross harp a lot, the 2nd position - for example the key of G on a harmonica that has the key of C printed on it. He plays this with the Mixolydian Mode, with the flatted 7th note (with the scale G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G).

He also often tunes holes 5 and 9 draw tuned up one half step – on a C harmonica this would be with the fifth hole draw F note and the Ninth hole F note an octave higher both tuned up a half step to F#, yielding the Major scale, with the sharp 7th note, while playing in the cross harp position (the 2nd position), in the key of G (with the scale G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G).

He also often plays in the 3rd position, yielding the Dorian mode - for example, the key of D minor on a harmonica that has the key of C printed on it, and he does this with a tuning of lowering holes 2 and 3 draw two half steps - on a C harmonica this would be with the third hole draw B note tuned down to A, and the second hole draw G note tuned down to F (the scale for the Dorian Mode on a C harmonica is be D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D). Rick also plays a lot in the first position (in the key of C on a C harmonica), in this tuning, which yields a nice ii minor chord (the D minor chord in the key of C).

Here is that tuning (referenced in the key of C):

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blow

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

E

G

C

Draw

D

F

A

D

F

A

B

D

G

A

He also plays a lot in the 1st position (called “straight harp”, the key that is stamped on the harmonica), and occasionally in other tunings as well. He favors low pitched harmonicas, usually from the key of G all the way down to the low D harmonica (and he has created a low C harmonica as well).

Rick has recently designed a new harmonica, the result of decades of research and experimentation, the XL-40, for Hohner Harmonicas, that you can bend every note on. It is the first major innovation for Hohner Harmonicas since the chromatic harmonica came out in 1924 and it is altogether a new class of harmonica, a true fusion of the diatonic and the chromatic harmonicas. To see Rick Epping play click here.

I have also been inspired and influenced by the late Deford Bailey,the great harmonica player who broadcasted on the original Grand Ole Opry and made his recordings in the 1927 and 1928; and the great Cajun harmonica player Artelius Mistric who made his recordings in 1929, and others as well, especially the great solo harmonica players who recorded in the late 1920s and the early 1930s. The first harmonica solos I heard and were inspired by, before Sam Hinton and Rick Epping, were by the great Appalachian guitarist/ banjoist/ harmonica player Doc Watson (also see the INFLUENCES section, under GUITAR for Doc Watson, and under HARMONICA for Sam Hinton and Rick Epping).

Here are the main traditions I draw from for harmonica playing and some of the great players who have influenced and inspired me:

  • Appalachian/Old-Time Country - Sam HintonRick Epping, Doc Watson, Kyle Wooten, El Watson, William McCoy, Gwen Foster, Henry Whitter, Charlie McCoy, Mark Graham, & Mike Stevens; fiddlers W. M. Stepp, Eck Robertson, Ed Haley, Luther Strong, Benny Thomasson, Tommy Jarrell, Ed Haley, Luther Strong, Benny Thomasson, Marian Sumner, John Hartford & Lisa Ornstein; banjo player/vocalist Dock Boggs & Bob Webb, multi-instrumentalists Curt Bouterse & Mike Seeger; The New Lost City Ramblers; guitarist Dudley Hill; the bands Crooked Still, The Improbabillies & more.
  • Celtic - Sam HintonRick Epping, Phil, John, & Pip Murphy, Brendan Power, Mick Kinsella, Phil Black, Tommy Basker and P. C. Spouse; and these bands: The Bruno Morris Dance Band, The Bothy Band, Altan, The Chieftians, The Boys of the Loch, & more.
  • Cajun - Artelius Mistric & Isom Fontenot; accordionists Amede Ardoin & Marc Savoy; fiddlers Wayne Perry, Dennis McGee & Michael Doucet; Quebec fiddler Louis Boudreault, & more.
  • Blues - Deford Bailey, Peg Leg Sam, Sonny Terry, Freeman Stowers, George “Bullet” Williams, Palmer McAbee, James Lee “Sunny Boy” Williamson, Rice Miller, James Cotton, Little Walter, Mark Ford, Andy Just, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musslewhite, George “Harmonica” Smith, Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, Rick Epping, & more.
  • Contemporary Harmonica – Rick Epping, Howard LevyRichard Hunter,Mark GrahamLee Oskar , Norton Buffalo, John B. Sebastian, John Popper, Peter “Mudcat” Ruth, & more.
  • Mongolian Music - the Matouqin (and also known as the Morin Huur, theMorin Khuur, the Morin Xuur, the Morin Khor and the Marinhur), the Mongolian deep sounding two-string bowed instrument that got its name from its horse-head shape (also see the Chinese Traditional and Classical sectionon the Influences page and the links page).

I also draw much inspiration from the great players of the Cajun accordion tradition, particularly Amede Ardoin (circa 1896-1941) and Marc Savoy. Amade was Marc Savoy’s biggest influence, and he also influenced me to play the Hohner Big River harmonicas in the key of low D, since that was the key of the accordion that he played on all of his recordings.

The Cajun accordion (originally the German accordion) is the same tuning and works on the same principle as the harmonica (push and pull on the accordion, making two different notes for the same button, and blow out and draw in on the harmonica to produce two different notes in the same hole). The one difference is, the accordion has one higher note (the 3rd in the scale) than the harmonica, and it does not have the low root base note on the finger board, since it is available on the other side of the accordion to play.

6.  Have you recorded any harmonica?

Yes - the album HARMONICA SOLOS has studio and live recordings. 

I also recorded a harmonica song Flowers in the Forest dedicated to the people of Virginia Tech – to view click here.

7.  How does one tune the harmonica?

Lee Oskar Harmonicas offers a tuning kit with instructions on how to tune and retune harmonicas. It is best to practice tuning and re-tuning on old harmonicas at first, since it is easy to make damaging mistakes when you first start learning to tune.

You can also look online for possible instruction sites. Basically though, you take the covers off the harmonicas, take the reed plates off and put a thin piece of metal under the reed. You carefully file a little bit off the 3 end of the reed with a good sharp file or razor blade (the end that is not attached to the comb), to raise the pitch to get it in tune or to tune to a higher note. To lower the pitch, you file near where the reed is attached to the comb. You may have to go back and forth to get the note in tune. Notes can be tuned up a half step, sometimes two half steps and at the most occasionally three half steps. Again, it is good to practice on old harmonicas. Always check the note you are tuning and remind yourself are you raising or lowering the pitch to get the harmonica in tune or to change the note itself.

To learn more about Lee Oskar Harmonicas and to find a distributor in your area, his website is www.leeoskar.com or contact them at Lee Oskar Enterprises, Inc., PO Box 50255, Bellevue, WA 98015, phone 206-747-6867, fax 206-747-7059.

8.  What are your favorite harmonica tunings?

See question #1 above in this harmonica questions section. Click here for actual and theoretical tuning.

9.  What are some good harmonica sites?
  1. Sam Hinton's website - www.samhinton.org
     
  2. Rick Epping Online - http://www.harmonicamasterclass.com/rick_epping.htm
     
  3. To learn more about Lee Oskar Harmonicas and to find a distributor in your area, his website is www.leeoskar.com or contact them at Lee Oskar Enterprises, Inc., PO Box 50255, Bellevue, WA 98015, phone 206-747-6867, fax 206-747-7059.
     
  4. The Hohner Harmonica company’s website is www.hohnerusa.com
    Email: info@hohnerusa.com, Phone: 804-515-1900
    Address: Hohner, Inc., P.O. Box 15035, Richmond, VA 23227-0435
    The Hogner newsletter: "Easy Reeding" has current harmonica news and information. The subscription is free and current issues are available on the Hohner website. Write to Hohner or send a request to info@hohnerusa.com.
     
  5. http://www.harmonicalinks.com/
     
  6. www.levyland.com/ - harmonica player Howard Levy’s website
     
  7. www.brendan-power.com/ - harmonica player Brendon Power’s website
     
  8. www.planetharmonica.com/VE/SpotlightBPUK.htm - article of harmonica player Brendon Power
     
  9.  www.patmissin.com/index1.html - Pat Missin’s website
     
  10. A good site for tuning and other information is the Diatonic Harmonica Reference site www.angelfire.com/tx/myquill - and for tuning information go down the index on the left side to “Maintenance”, then to “Tuning”.
     
  11. Also see the Harp On site at www.angelfire.com/music/harmonica 
     
  12.  www.planetharmonica.com/ph5/VE/PlayingChromaticallyUK.htm - good harmonica article

    Good Winslow Yerxa sites:
     
  13. www.angelfire.com/music2/harmonicainfo/ - Winslow Yerxa music site
     
  14. www.angelfire.com/planet/winslowyerxa/ - Winslow Yerxa information site
     
  15. www.harmonicasessions.com/apr05/chromatic.html - Winslow Yerxa playing instruction site - part 1
     
  16. www.harmonicasessions.com/feb06/chromatic.html - Winslow Yerxa playing instruction site - part 2
     
  17. www.angelfire.com/music2/harmonicainfo/products/magazine/magmain.htm - Winslow Yerxa's harmonica magazine

 

Other Questions Related Questions

1.  What information can you give me on the music business and how to get my music recorded?

I know nothing about the business. A great source of information on the recording business is the book MUSICIAN’S BUSINESS & LEGAL GUIDE by Mark Halloran, published by Prentice Hall. Available for purchase online at : www.amazon.com.

2.  You have mentioned your favorite music growing up was instrumental pop and R&B hits from the 50's and 60's, can you name some of those?

You can download a full list HERE. I grew up during the heyday of pop instrumental music in the late 1950s and the early 1960s (there were 30 instrumental hits in the Top 40 in 1961), and I would listen to the radio faithfully for the 30 seconds before the hourly news when they would play instrumentals – artists such asFloyd Cramer (Last Date and On the Rebound and Let’s Go and Hot Pepper and Flip Flop & Bob and The First Hurt and Fancy Pants and Shrum and All Keyed Up and San Antonio Rose and [These Are] The Young Years and What’d I Say and Java and How High the Moon), The Ventures (Walk Don’t Run and Walk Don’t Run ‘64 and Perfidia and Ram-Bunk-Shush and Diamond Head and The Cruel Sea and Hawaii Five-O and Oh Pretty Woman and Go and Pedal Pusher and Tall Cool One), Booker T. & the MG’s (Green Onions and Hip Hug-Her and Groovin’ and Time is Tight and HangEm High and Melting Pot and Soul Limbo and Slim Jenkins’ Place and Red Beans & Rice and Summertime and Mo’ Onions and Pigmy), B. Bumble & The Stingers (Nut Rocker [with Ali Hassan {aka Al Hazan} on piano and Rene Hall on guitar] and Bumble Boogie [with Ernie Freeman on piano] and Apple Knocker), Jack B. Nimble & the Quicks [with H. B. Barnum on piano] (Nut Rocker), Ali Hassan [aka Al Hazan] (Malaguena and Chop Sticks), Jack Fina (Bumble Boogie), Rene Hall (Twitchy), Ray Charles (Sweet Sixteen Bars and One Mint Julep and Roadhouse and Chitlins With Candied Yams and Mess Around), King Curtis (Soul Twist and Soul Serenade and A Change Is Gonna Come), Jr. Walker & the All Stars (Shotgun and [I’m a] Road Runner and Do the Boomerang and Cleo’s Mood and Cleo’s Back and Shake & Fingerpop and Shoot Your Shot and Sweet Soul), Lonnie Mack (Memphis and Wham!), Link Wray (Rumble and Rawhide and Jack the Ripper), Roy Buchanan (Mule Train Stomp and Pretty Please), The Chantays (Pipeline and Move It), Kokomo [aka Jimmy Wisner](Asia Minor and Roy’s Tune), Jimmy Wisner (Windjammer), Jorgen Ingmann (Apache), Santo & Johnny (Sleep Walk and Tear Drop), Jack Nitzsche (The Lonely Surfer and Beyond the Surf ), The Sandals (Theme from Endless Summer), Frank Zappa (Peaches En Regalia and Little Umbrellas and Son of Mr. Green Genes and The Gumbo Variations and It Must Be a Camel and Willie the Pimp and The Little House I Used to Live In), The Viscounts (Harlem Nocturne), Alvin Cash & the Crawlers (Twine Time), Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen (Midnight In Moscow and The Green Leaves of Summer), The Village Stompers (Washington Square and From Russia With Love), Bill Black’s Combo (Smokie-Part 2 and White Silver Sands and Hearts of Stone), Johnny & the Hurricanes (Red River Rock and Reveille Rock and Beatnik Fly and Crossfire), Dave Appell & the Applejacks (Mexican Hat Rock), The Tornados (Telstar and Bustin’ Surfboards), The Hawk [Jerry Lee Lewis] (In the Mood), The Champs (Tequila and Limbo Rock and El Rancho Rock [El Rancho Grande] and Too Much Tequila and Midnighter), Dick Dale (Misirlou and Let’s Go Trippin’), The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds and Let’s Go Away for Awhile and Moon Dawg and Misirlou and Stoked and Diamond Head and Let’s Go Trippin’ and Surf Jam), Bill Justis (Raunchy), Duane Eddy (Rebel Rouser and Forty Miles of Bad Road and Ramrod and Because They’re Young and Cannonball and Peter Gunn), Arthur Smith (Guitar Boogie), Arthur Smith & Don Reno (Feudin’ Banjos), The Virtues (Guitar Boogie Shuffle), Billy Strange (James Bond Theme and 007 Theme and Limbo Rock), Ace Cannon (Tuff), Freddie King (Hideaway and Surf Monkey and King-A-Ling), The String-A-Longs (Wheels and Mathilda), The Duals (Stick Shift), The Ramrods (Ghost Riders in the Sky), The Marketts (Out Of Limits), The Pyramids (Penetration), Billy Joe & the Checkmates (Percolator), The Lively Ones (Surf Rider and 40 Miles of Bad Surf), Les Cooper (Wiggle Wobble), The Bel-Airs (Mr. Moto), Eddie & the Showmen (Mr. Rebel), The Fireballs (Torquay and Bulldog and Carioca), Davie Allan & The Arrows (Blues’ Theme and Apache ‘65), The Rip Tides (Machine Gun), The Rock-A-Teens (Woo-Hoo), The Revels (Church Key), The Piltdown Men (McDonald’s Cave and Brontosaurus Stomp), Preston Epps (Bongo Rock), Sandy Nelson (Teen Beat and Let There Be Drums and Big Jump), The Surfaris (Wipe Out and Moon Dawg and Point Panic), The Hollywood Persuaders (Drums a Go Go), The Van-Dells (Slumber Party), Cozy Cole (Topsy-Part 2), Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (Rocket 88), Ernie Freeman (Theme from Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Raunchy and Indian Love Call and Blues After Hours and Jivin’ Around–Parts 1&2), Paul Revere & the Raiders (Like Long Hair and Beatnick Sticks), Bill Doggett (Honky Tonk-Part 2 and Hold It and Ram-Bunk-Shush and Shindig), Hank Crawford (After Hours), The Mar-Keys (Last Night and What’s Happenin’), The Bar-Kays (Soul Finger), Rene Hall’s Orchestra (Thunderbird), The Wailers (Tall Cool One and [I’m a] Road Runner and Mau-Mau), The RockinRebels (Wild Weekend and Rockin’ Crickets), The Routers (Let’s Go [Pony]), Jimmy Forrest (Night Train), Lee Allen (Walkin’ with Mr. Lee and Strollin’ with Mr. Lee and Boppin’ at the Hop), Al Caiola (Bonanza and Theme from The Magnificent Seven), Hugo Montenegro (The Good The Bad & The Ugly), Willie Mitchell (20-75 and Soul Serenade and Fever), Dave “Baby” Cortez (Rinky Dink and The Happy Organ and Come Back To Lonely Me and Hula Hoop and Jamin’-Parts 1&2 and The Whistling Organ), Professor Longhair (Big Chief-Parts 1&2), Fats Domino (Swannee River Hop), James Booker (Gonzo and Cool Turkey), Billy Preston (Billy’s Bag and Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying and Gospel In My Soul and Outa-Space and Space Race), Dave Lewis (Little Green Thing and David’s Mood-Part 2 and Lip Service), Eskew Reeder [aka Esquerita] (Green Door), Al Hirt (Java and Cotton Candy and Fancy Pants), Phil Upchurch (You Can’t Sit Down-Parts 1&2), James Brown (Night Train and Mashed Potatoes ’66 and Ain’t It Funky Now-Parts 1&2), Earl Palmer (Johnny’s House Party-Parts 1&2), Johnny Otis (Harlem Nocturne and The Midnight Creeper-Part 1 and Long Tall Sally and Willie & the Hand Jive), Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers (The Honeydripper-Parts 1&2 and Pink Champagne), Erskine Hawkins (After Hours), Roy Milton & His Solid Senders (T-Town Twist), Lloyd Glenn (Southbound Special and Old Time Shuffle Blues and Chica Boo), Buddy Lucas (Deacon John), Joe Houston (All Night Long), Jimmy Beck (Pipe Dreams), Googie Rene (Side-Track), Plas Johnson (Hoppin’ Mad), Maxwell Davis (Boogie Cocktails), Jay McShann (Hootie’s Ignorant Oil), Mandrake (Lost Love), The Astronauts (Movin’ and Competition Coup and Baja), Tim Whitsett & The Imperials (Mashville and Monkey Man and Shine), Al Casey (Surfin’ Hootenanny and Cookin’ and Jivin’Around), Travis Wammack (Scratchy), The Shadows (Apache and Wonderful Land and Kon-Tiki and Dance On and Foot Tapper and FBI), The Rondels (Shades of Green and Back Beat #1), Jim Messina & the Jesters (The Breeze & I), Chet Atkins (Freight Train and Snowbird and Teensville and Wheels and Windy & Warm and Walk Don’t Run and Boo Boo Stick Beat and Muskrat Ramble and Greensleeves), Jerry Reed (The Claw and Jerry’s Breakdown), Lenny Breau (The Claw [a medley that also includes This Here] and Mercy Mercy Mercy), Merle Travis (Walkin’ the Strings and Cannonball Rag and Blue Smoke and Saturday Night Shuffle and Bye Bye Blues and I’ll See You in My Dreams and Bugle Call Rag), Flatt & Scruggs (Foggy Mountain Breakdown and The Ballad of Jed Clampett), Eric Weissberg & Deliverance (Dueling Banjos), Buck Owens & His Buckaroos (Buckaroo), Pee Wee King & Redd Stewart (Bonaparte’s Retreat), Johnny Smith (Moonlight in Vermont and Walk Don’t Run), Wes Montgomery (Windy and California Dreamin’ and Goin’ Out of My Head and Tequila and Bumpin’ On Sunset and Little Child Daddy Dear and The Big Hurt and What the World Needs Now and Insensatez [How Insensitive] and Midnight Mood and The Thumb and Road Song [aka Ogd] and Willow Weep for Me and Movin’ Wes and A Day In the Life), Gabor Szabo (Spellbinder and Witchcraft and Gypsy Queen and Cheetah), Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli (Minor Swing and Sweet Sue and Swing ’39 and I’ll See You in My Dreams and Limehouse Blues and Tiger Rag and Body & Soul and Sheik of Araby and Dinah), Jimi Hendrix (Rainy Day Dream Away and Still Raining Still Dreaming and Third Stone From the Sun), Tommy Garrett & The Fifty Guitars (Guadalajara), Boots Randolph (Yakety Sax), Earl Bostic (September Song and Harlem Nocturne and Flamingo), Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto (The Girl from Ipanema), Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd (Desafinado), Charlie Byrd (Meditation), Acker Bilk (Stranger on the Shore), Mongo Santamaria (Watermelon Man [with Herbie Hancock on piano, and he also composed this piece] and Afro-Blue), Grant Green [with Larry Young on organ] (The Cantaloupe Woman), Larry Young [Khalid Yasim] (The Cradle), Jimmy Smith (The Cat and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Walk on the Wild Side and Got My Mojo Working and High Heel Sneakers and Chain of Fools and I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town and Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby and Elegy for a Duck and Peter Plays Some Blues and I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man and One Mint Julep and Boom Boom and Blues & The Abstract Truth and TNT and Ain’t That Just Like a Woman and Midnight Special and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and The Sermon and The Champ and This Nearly Was Mine and The Gentle Rain and Go Away Little Girl and Organ Grinder’s Swing), Jimmy McGriff (I’ve Got a Woman-Part 1 and I’ve Got a New Woman and Red River Valley and Kiko), Gene Ludwig (Comin’ Home Baby and Moanin’), Little Richie Varola (Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ), Groove Holmes (Misty), Billy Larkin & the Delegates (Pygmy-Parts 1&2), Brother Jack McDuff (A Change is Gonna Come), The Mustang [aka Paul Griffin] (Night Train and Tennessee Waltz Frug and A Hard Day’s Night), Walter Wanderley (Summer Samba [So Nice] and Call Me and The Girl from Ipanema), Ethel Smith (Tico Tico), The Spencer Davis Group [with Stevie Winwood on organ] (Blues in F), Nicky Hopkins [pianist with the Jeff Beck group] (Girl From Mill Valley), Jeff Beck (Greensleeves), Al Kooper [with Super Session] (Harvey’s Tune), Al Kooper & Michael Bloomfield [with Super Session] (Albert’s Shuffle and Stop and His Holy Modal Majesty and Really), Al Kooper & Stephen Stills [with Super Session] (Season of the Witch), Blood, Sweat & Tears [featuring Dick Halligan on organ] (Blues Part II ), Brian Auger & the Trinity (In & Out and Kiko), The Nice [with Keith Emerson on organ] (America), Lee Michaels (Stormy Monday), Country Joe & the Fish (Masked Marauder), Jorma Kaukonen [guitarist with the Jefferson Airplane] (Embryonic Journey), Bert Jansch (Anji), Paul Simon (Anji), Davey Graham (Anji), John Renbourn (The Lady & the Unicorn and Trotto/Saltarello and Sarabande and The Earle of Salisbury and The Trees They Do Grow High), John Fahey (Brenda’s Blues and On the Sunny Side of the Ocean and Some Summer Day and When the Springtime Comes Again and The Last Steam Engine Train and Night Train of Valhalla and Joe Kirby Blues and Wine & Roses and Give Me Corn Bread When I’m Hungry and Requiem for John Hurt and Lion and Steamboat Gwine ‘Round De Bend and Beverly), John Mayall (Marsha’s Mood and Steppin’ Out and Room to Move), Paul Butterfield (East West), Little Walter Jacobs (Juke), Charlie McCoy (Orange Blossom Special), Albert King (Drowning on Dry Land-Parts 1&2), B. B. King (The Thrill is Gone), Clarence Gatemouth Brown (Okie Dokie Stomp), Elmore James (Dust My Broom and Hawaiian Boogie), Earl Hooker (Boogie Don’t Blot), Meade Lux Lewis (Honky Tonk Train Blues and Yancey Special and Bear Cat Crawl and Six Wheel Chaser and Mr. Freddie Blues and Celeste Blues and Celestial Express and Bass on Top), the Edmond Hall Quartet [with Meade Lux Lewis on celeste and Charlie Christian on acoustic guitar] (Profoundly Blue and Celestial Express), Jimmy Yancey (Five O’Clock Blues and Yancey Stomp and Tell ‘Em About Me and The Mellow Blues and Yancey’s Bugle Call and State Street Special and Yancey Special), Albert Ammons (Boogie Woogie Stomp and Shout for Joy and Bass Gone Crazy and Boogie Woogie Blues and Woo Woo), Pete Johnson (Kaycee on My Mind and Blues on the Downbeat and Death Ray Boogie and Roll ‘Em Pete and Shuffle Boogie), Albert Ammons & Pete Johnson (Cuttin’ the Boogie and Barrelhouse Boogie), Pinetop Smith (Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie-Parts 1&2 and Jump Steady Blues-Parts 1&2), Mary Lou Williams (Overhand), Andy Kirk & Mary Lou Williams (Little Joe From Chicago), Bob Zurke (Honky Tonk Train Blues and Cow Cow Blues), Freddie Slack (Down the Road Apiece and Behind the Eight Beat and That Place Down the Road and Rib Joint and Blackout Boogie and Kitten on the Keys and Bashful Baby Blues and Cow Cow Boogie), Teddy Powell (Bluebird Boogie and Teddy Bear Boogie), Franz Jackson (Boogie Woogie Camp Meeting), Dorothy Rice (Texas Stomp), Will Bradley (Celery Stalks at Midnight and Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar and In the Hall of the Mountain King and Lonesome Road), the Raymond Scott Quintet (Powerhouse and The Toy Trumpet and Twilight in Turkey and In an 18th Century Drawing Room and Huckleberry Duck and Manhattan Minuet and New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House and Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals and Siberian Sleighride and Boy Scout in Switzerland and War Dance for Wooden Indians), Woody Herman (Blue Flame and Woodchopper’s Ball and Blues on Parade and Chips’ Boogie Woogie and Indian Boogie Woogie), Stan Kenton (The Peanut Vendor [El Manisero]), Les Paul & Mary Ford (How High the Moon and Mockin’ Bird Hill and Steel Guitar Rag and Vaya Con Dios and Hummingbird and Nola), Johnny Lytle (The Snapper and The Loop and The Man and Lela and Selim and The Village Caller and A Taste of Honey), Artie Shaw (Indian Love Call and Nightmare and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child and Stardust and Concerto for Clarinet and Temptation and Begin the Beguine and Summertime and Tabu and Marinela), Leroy Anderson (Blue Tango and Sleigh Ride and The Syncopated Clock and Fiddle Faddle), David Rose (The Stripper and Holiday for Strings), Morris Stoloff (Moonglow [Theme from Picnic]), Les Baxter (The Poor People of Paris [Jean’s Song] and Ruby and Blue Tango and Blue Star [Theme from Medic] and Unchained Melody and The High & The Mighty and Tabu [Taboo]), Perez Prado (Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White and Mambo #5 and Patricia and Mambo #8 and The Peanut Vendor [El Manisero] and Mambo Jambo and Caravan), Xavier Cugat (Jungle Drums and Brazil and Tico Tico and La Cumparsita and Jalousie and Siboney and Inspiration and Perfidia and My Shawl and Havana’s Calling Me and Eco and Bim Bam Bum and Amor and Taboo [Tabu]), Tito Puente (Oye Como Va and Take the A Train and Lindo Cha Cha and Night Ritual and The Late Late Scene and Carioca and A La Salud and No Voy A La Luna and Ran-Kan-Kan), Machito (Zambia and Tanga), Ray Barretto (Watusi and El Watusi), Cal Tjader (Soul Sauce [Guachi Guara] and The Whiffenpoof Song and Solar Heat), El Chicano (Viva Torado-Part 1), Tommy Dorsey (Tea for Two Cha Cha and Boogie Woogie), Jimmy Dorsey (So Rare and The Breeze & I and Besame Mucho and Yes Indeed), Glenn Miller (A String of Pearls and In the Mood and Moonlight Cocktail and Song of the Volga Boatmen and Tuxedo Junction and Little Brown Jug and A Stone’s Throw from Heaven and Pavanne and Moonlight Serenade and Londonderry Air and Pennsylvania 6-5000 and Sunrise Serenade and The Spirit is Willing and I Dreamt I Done it in Harlem), Duke Ellington (Take the A Train and Caravan and Things Ain’t What They Used to Be and Satin Doll and Perdido and Mood Indigo and In A Sentimental Mood and Solitude and It Don’t Mean a Thing [If It Ain’t Got That Swing] and Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore), Count Basie (One O’Clock Jump and Jumpin’ at the Woodside and Basie Boogie and One Mint Julep and How Long and Boogie Woogie), Benny Goodman (Sing Sing Sing and After You’ve Gone and Bugle Call Rag and Stompin’ at the Savoy), The Benny Goodman Quartet [with Teddy Wilson on piano, Gene Krupa on drums, and Lionel Hampton on vibraphone] (Runnin’ Wild and I Got Rhythm), Teddy Wilson (Liza and Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea), Fats Waller (Handful of Keys and Russian Fantasy and Valentine Stomp and Minor Drag and Numb Fumblin’), Art Tatum (Tea For Two and Tiger Rag and St. Louis Blues and Willow Weep for Me and Begin the Beguine and How High the Moon), Earl Hines (Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues and 57 Varieties and Panther Rag and Rosetta and A Monday Date), Louis Armstrong (West End Blues), Bix Beiderbecke (In a Mist), Lionel Hampton (Flying Home and Two Finger Boogie), Gene Krupa (Drum Boogie and Rhumboogie and Drop Me Off Uptown), Buddy Rich (Mercy Mercy Mercy and West Side Story), Bob Crosby (Big Noise From Winnetka [actually a duet with just two musicians - drummer Ray Bauduc playing the drums and also the strings of the upright bass with his drumsticks, and bassist Bob Haggart playing the bass and whistling] and Yancey Special and What’s Now and I’m Praying Humble and Gin Mill Blues and Boogie Woogie Maxine and Honky Tonk Train Blues), Harry James (Sleepy Time Gal and Sleepy Lagoon and Misirlou and Memphis Blues and Flight of the Bumblebee and Two O’Clock Jump and Cribiribin), Claude Thornhill (Snowfall and Autumn Nocturne), Herbie Mann (Memphis Underground and Comin’ Home Baby and Hold On I’m Comin’ and Feeling Good), Hubert Laws (Pavane), Paul Horn (Prologue/Inside),The T-Bones (No Matter What Shape [You’re Stomach’s In]), Pete Drake (Forever), Reg Owen (Manhattan Spiritual), Bert Kaempfert (That Happy Feeling and A Swingin’ Safari and Bye Bye Blues and Wonderland By Night and Red Roses for a Blue Lady and Afrikaan Beat and Market Day and Take Me and The Magic Trumpet [The Happy Trumpeter] and Happy Safari and Sugar Bush and Pata Pata), Billy Vaughn (A Swingin’ Safari), The Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band (Skokiaan), The Tokens (The Lion Sleeps Tonight [Wimoweh {aka Mbube}]), Ralph Marterie (Skokiaan and In a Persian Market and Caravan), Pete Fountain (Stand By Me and Just a Closer Walk With Thee), Pete Seeger (Living in the Country), Doc Watson (Black Mountain Rag and Beaumont Rag and Dill Pickle Rag), Hank Garland (Sugarfoot Rag), Area Code 615 (Scotland), John Hartford (Austin Minor Symphony and Skippin’ in the Mississippi Dew and Presbyterian Guitar), The Dillards (Banjo in the Hollow), Ray Conniff (Blue Moon), Percy Faith (Theme from A Summer Place and Delicado and Song from Moulin Ridge [Where is Your Heart]), Bill Pursell (Our Winter Love), Don Cossack Choir (Song of the Volga Boatman and Two Guitars and Excerpt from Overture 1812), Claus Ogerman (Watusi Trumpets and What’d I Say and Comin’ Home Baby), John Barry (Goldfinger and Troubadour and From Russia With Love and Thunderball and Midnight Cowboy and The Last Valley), Elmer Bernstein (Theme from The Magnificent Seven and Theme from The Sons of Katie Elder and The Man with The Golden Arm), Francis Lai (A Man & A Woman), Harpo Marx (his solo harp scenes in all of the Marx Brothers’ films), Martin Denny (Quiet Village and A Taste of Honey and The Enchanted Sea), Arthur Lyman (Yellow Bird and Taboo [Tabu]), Antonio Carlos Jobim (Wave and Insensatez [How Insensitive]), Luiz Bonfa (The Gentle Rain and Manha de Carnival [aka Morning of the Carnival, and also aka A Day in the Life of a Fool]), Los Indios Tabajaras (Maria Elena), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (A Taste of Honey and The Lonely Bull and Mexican Shuffle and What Now My Love and The Work Song and Spanish Flea and Zorba The Greek and Acapulco Gold and Lollipops & Roses and Acapulco 1922), The Baja Marimba Band (Acapulco 1922 and Comin’ In the Back Door), The Brass Ring (The Phoenix Love Theme [Senza Fine]), Mikos Theodorakis (Zorba The Greek), Stevie Wonder (Fingertips-Parts 1&2), Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats (Peg O’ My Heart and Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White), George Martin (This Boy [Ringo’s Theme] and And I Love Her), The Beatles (Blue Jay Way), The Hollyridge Strings (All My Loving and Love Me Do and I Want to Hold Your Hand), Jose Feliciano (And I Love Her and Here There & Everywhere and Jingle Bells), Ernie Fields (In the Mood and Hucklebuck [Twist] and The Happy Whistler), The Soulful Strings [with Richard Evans] (Burning Spear), Henry Mancini (Peter Gunn and The Pink Panther and Baby Elephant Walk and Romeo & Juliet and The Sweetheart Tree and Moon River and Lujon and March of the Cue Balls and Mr. Lucky and Experiment in Terror and Theme from Hitari and Dear Heart and The Days of Wine & Roses), Ray Anthony (Theme from Peter Gunn and Skokiaan and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and A Taste of Honey and The Bunny Hop), Nelson Riddle (Route 66 Theme and Lisbon Antigua and Port-Au-Prince and Volare), Neal Hefti (Bathtub Saturday Night and Lord Love a Duck and Batman Theme), Spencer Ross (Tracy’s Theme), Lawrence Welk (Calcutta), Don Costa (Never on a Sunday and Theme from The Unforgiven), Ted Heath (Swingin’ Shepherd Blues and Sucu Sucu), Moe Koffman Quartet (Swingin’ Shepherd Blues and Curried Soul), Robert Maxwell (Shangri-La), Paul Weston (Bali Hai), Paul Mauriat (Love is Blue), Derek & Ray (Interplay and Dizzy Fingers), Anton Karas (The Third Man Theme), Hugo Winterhalter (Canadian Sunset [with Eddie Hayward on piano] and Vanessa), Frankie Carle (Sunrise Serenade and Near You and My True Carrie Love), George Shearing (Lullaby of Birdland), Mitch Miller (March from the River Kwai /Colonel Bogey March and Tunes for Glory [aka Scotland the Brave] and Under Paris Skies and Meet Mister Callaghan), Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians (Dry Bones), Milton Delugg (Theme for The Creature from Under the Sea and Theme from The Thing), Si Zentner (Up A Lazy River), Dominic Frontiere (Theme from The Outer Limits), Marius Constant (Theme from The Twilight Zone), Jerome Moross (Theme from Wagon Train), David Buttolph (Theme from Maverick), Fred Steiner (Theme from Perry Mason and Theme from Gunsmoke), Johnny Williams (Theme from Checkmate), Lalo Schifrin (Theme from Mission Impossible), Bernard Herrmann (soundtracks for the films The Day the Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, Psycho, and Fahrenheit 451), Herman Stein (soundtrack for the film This Island Earth), Horst Jankowski (A Walk in the Black Forest and Sing a Simple Song and Near You and Cast Your Fate to the Wind), The Bob Crewe Generation (Music To Watch Girls By), Kai Winding (More [Theme from Mondo Cane]), Andre Kostelanetz (I Will Follow Him), Felix Slatkin (The Sundowners), Skitch Henderson (Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy), The Mystic Moods (One Stormy Night), Dave Pike [with Herbie Hancock on organ] (The Jet Set), Herbie Hancock (Maiden Voyage), Eric Jupp (The Rhythm of Life), The Electric Indian (Keem-O-Sabe), Mason Williams (Classical Gas and Greensleeves), Hugh Masekela (Grazing in the Grass), Cliff Nobles & Company (The Horse), Hot Butter (Popcorn), Del Wood (Down Yonder), Johnny Maddox (The Crazy Otto Medley and Sabre Dance and Heart & Soul), Joe “Fingers” Carr [aka Lou Busch] (Ivory Rag and The Portuguese Washerwoman), Jo Ann Castle (Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy and Thoroughly Modern Millie), Big Tiny Little (Dill Pickles Rag and Tom Cat Blues), Crazy Otto [aka Fritz Schulz-Reichel] (Gaslight Medley and Sunrise Serenade and 12th Street Rag and The Crazy Otto Rag and Glow Worm), Sir Julian [Gould] (Caravan and Bach Goes Berserk and Lover), Steve Allen (Gravy Waltz), Bent Fabric (Alley Cat), Don Shirley Trio (Water Boy), Andre Previn (Like Young), Joe Harnell (Fly Me To the Moon-Bossa Nova), Dick Hyman (Moritat [Theme from The Three Penny Opera {aka Mack the Knife}] and The Sweetest Sounds), Pete Jolly (Sweet September and Kiss Me Baby and Little Bird and Serenata and Dindi), Art Van Damme (Lover), Roger Williams (Autumn Leaves and Theme from Exodus and Born Free), Ferrante & Teicher (Tonight and Exodus and Theme from The Apartment and Laura’s Theme and A Man & A Woman), Peter Nero (Brian’s Song and Where Do I Begin [Love Story]), Michel Legrand (I Will Wait for You and Brian’s Song and Theme from Summer of ’42 [The Summer Knows]), the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Take Five and Blue Rondo A La Turk and Raggedy Waltz), Brother Bones & His Shadows (Sweet Georgia Brown), the Paul Winter Consort (Allemande and Trotto and Both Sides Now and Icarus), John Coltrane (Giant Steps and My Favorite Things and Greensleeves and Chim Chim Cheree), Dizzy Gillespie (Groovin’ High and Salt Peanuts and The Champ and Night in Tunisia), Miles Davis (So What and Freddie Freeloader and Blue in Green and All Blues and Flamenco Sketches and ‘Round Midnight), Cannonball Adderley (This Here and Mercy Mercy Mercy and The Work Song and Country Preacher), Lee Morgan (Sidewinder), Milt Jackson (Bag’s Groove and Sunflower), Oliver Nelson (Blues & The Abstract Truth), Oscar Peterson (Night Train and Hymn to Freedom and The Honeydripper), Bill Evans (Waltz for Debby and Nardis), Thelonious Monk (‘Round Midnight and Blue Monk), Horace Silver (Song for My Father and The Jody Grind and Senor Blues), Bobby Timmons (This Here and Moanin’ and Dat Dere), Erroll Garner (Misty and I’ll Remember April and Teach Me Tonight and April in Paris), Linton Garner (To My Liking), Charlie Parker (Ornithology), Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Volunteered Slavery and Now Please Don’t You Cry Beautiful Edith), Stanley Turrentine (Salt Song), Charles Mingus (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat and Nostalgia in Times Square), Ray Bryant (The Madison Time-Part 1 and Gotta Travel On), Bud Powell (Tempus Fugit), Ahmad Jamal (Billy Boy), Ramsey Lewis (The In Crowd and Wade in the Water and Hang on Sloopy and High Heel Sneakers and A Hard Day’s Night and Billy Boy and Day Tripper), The Young-Holt Trio (Soulful Strut and Wack Wack), The Sounds Orchestral [with John Pearson on piano] (Cast Your Fate to the Wind), Vince Guaraldi (Cast Your Fate to the Wind and Samba de Orpheus and Linus & Lucy and Skating and Christmas Time is Here and Christmas is Coming and The Christmas Song [Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire] and Treat Street and Star Song and Happiness Is and Oh Good Grief and Pebble Beach and Charlie Brown & His All Stars and You’re In Love Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty and The Great Pumpkin Waltz and The Red Baron and It Was a Short Summer Charlie Brown and The Masked Marvel and You’re Not Elected Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving), and The (??) Brass (Feeling Good - [NOTE: if anyone knows the band who recorded this uptempo track of “Feeling Good” around 1966, in a style influenced by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass please contact us at ml@dancingcat.com].

3.  Have you been inspired and influenced by Chinese classical and traditional music?

CHINESE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

There are many, many more wonderful musicians, and there are many deep traditions of the bowed, plucked, wind, and percussion instrument families, and many in these first three families of instruments are listed here below. These instruments are used for traditional music, classical music, folk music, and modern music and compositions (there are also many other older instruments used by the many Minority groups in China).

(NOTE - all of the tunings listed in the bowed and plucked instruments are from the lowest pitched strings to the highest – and the word “Qin 琴 means “instrument”):

Bowed Instruments

  1. Erhu 二胡 -the Chinese two string violin with metal strings, tuned a fifth interval apart, to D and A, or sometimes to C and G. “Huqin” is the name for this family of Chinese bowed instruments; and “Qin” is the general name for an instrument. It is called Nan-Ju 南胡 (or the Nan-Hu) by Cantonese and Taiwan people..
  2. Jinghu - the Beijing Opera two string violin pitched one octave above the Erhu. The soundbox is made of bamboo and the strings are usually metal; traditionally the strings were silk, and silk strings are occasionally still used. The strings are tuned a fifth interval apart.
  3. Gaohu 高胡 - the soprano version of the two string Erhu, tuned a fourth interval higher than the Erhu, with metal strings tuned a fifth interval apart.
  4. Zhonghu 中胡 - the deeper “viola” version of the two string Erhu, with metal strings tuned in fifth intervals; and tuned a fourth or a fifth lower than the Erhu.
  5. Gehu 革胡 - the deeper “cello” version of the two string Erhu, with metal strings tuned a fifth interval apart.
  6. Bei Gehu - the big deeper “bass” with four metal strings tuned in fifth intervals.
  7. Sihu - an Erhu type instrument with four silk strings tuned in fifth and fourth intervals, to C-G-C-G, or D-A-D-A. It sounds much like the human voice, and it has a bow which has two simultaneous bowing parts.
  8. Dalei - an Erhu type instrument with the soundbox made of copper, tuned lower than the Erhu, also sounding much like the human voice, with two metal strings tuned a fifth interval apart; traditionally they were tuned a fourth interval apart.
  9. Banhu 板胡 - a loud Erhu type instrument made of coconut, with two metal strings tuned in fifth intervals.
  10. Nan-Ju (or the Nan-Hu) – the Cantonese opera Erhu, with two metal strings tuned a fifth interval apart.
  11. Matouqin 马头琴 (or in Mongolian, the Morin Huur, the Morin Khuur, the Morin Xuur, the Morin Khor, or the Marinhur, or the Chaoer in eastern Mongolia), the Mongolian deep sounding two string bowed instrument that got its name from the carved horse head by the tuning pegs, with nylon or metal strings, and traditionally with horsehair strings, and they are tuned a fifth interval apart. There are three different sizes, like the Western violin, viola, and cello. Traditionally in eastern Mongolia the fingerboard is played normally like a violin, and the instrument is also called the Chaoer, but in western Mongolia, traditionally the string is played where the bottom of the nail meets the skin of the finger, so that the sound is produced with both the nail and the finger.
  12. Di Matouqin 低马头琴 - the bigger and lower pitched Matouqin, also tuned in fifth intervals.

Chinese music is some of the deepest and longest running traditional music on the planet. I have for decades been very inspired and influenced by many of the beautiful and incredibly expressive Chinese music traditions, particularly by many great players of these five instruments:

The Gu-Zheng 古筝 (pronounced “goo-jung”, and sometimes spelled Guzheng, or Zheng, or Cheng), the Chinese zither/ harp with 16 to 25 strings and a moveable bridge. The 18 string and the older 16 string ones have metal strings, and the 21 to 25 string ones have metal strings wrapped with nylon. Traditionally the older instrument had 13 strings made of silk, and that one is the ancestor of the Japanese Koto. I am especially inspired by the playing of these five artists:

  1. Liu Wei-Shan 劉维姗 (www.guzheng.org), on her solo instrumental recordings MORNING BELL and THE MAGNIFICIENT BRONZE GORGE (China Record Co. Guangzhou, and available at her concerts and at the Chinese Arts and Music Center www.camcsf.com, and also at the Clarion Music Center in San Franciscowww.clarionmusic.com). In addition to her beautiful playing, composing, and arranging, Liu Wei-San 劉維姍 is also the founder of the wonderful San Francisco Gu-Zheng Music Society, which shares Chinese culture and music in many ways through community performances, and she is also responsible for the instruction of all its members. I am learning much from her, and I will also be co-producing with her many new solo instrumental recordings of her music. Her teacher was the late Cao Zheng (Tsao Chung) 曹正, and she has also been inspired by the masters Chen Lei-shi (Louis Chen) 陳蕾士 and the late Liang Tsai-Ping (Liang Zaiping) 梁在平.
     
  2. Chen Lei-shi 陳蕾士 (also known as Louis Chen – and he was a friend of the late Cao Zheng [Tsao Chung] 曹正 and a friend of the late Liang Tsai-ping [Liang Zaiping]) 梁在平, on his solo instrumental recordings SPRING NIGHT ON A MOONLIGHT RIVER (Nonesuch Explorer Series – out-of-print), and LOUIS CHEN PLAYS ZHENG SOLOS (Hugo Productions – for more on him do a web search – look under both spellings of his names).

    - and there is a recording with both Liang Tsai-Ping and Louis Chen, CHENG- TWO MASTERS PLAY THE CHINESE ZITHER (Lyrichord Records LLST 7262 – out-of-print).
     
  3. The late Liang Tsai-Ping (Liang Zaiping) 梁在平 (1910-2000), the renowned player and teacher (and one of the teachers of the late Cao Zheng [Tsao Chung] 曹正, and he was also a friend of Chen Lei-Shi [Louis Chen] 陳蕾士), on his solo instrumental recording THE CHINESE CHENG–ANCIENT AND MODERN (Lyrichord Records 7302). www.lyrichord.com

    -and there is a recording with both Liang Tsai-ping 梁在平 and Louis Chen (Chen Lei-shi) 陳蕾士 , titled CHENG-TWO MASTERS PLAY THE CHINESE ZITHER (Lyrichord Records LLST 7262 – out-of-print).
     
  4. The late Cao Zheng (Tsao Chung) 曹正 (1920-2002), the renowned player and teacher (and the teacher of Wei-Shan Liu 劉维姗, and he was also a student and friend of the late Liang Tsai-ping [Liang Zaiping] 梁在平, and he was a friend of Chen Lei-shi [Louis Chen] 陳蕾士). In 1948 he established the first university level Gu-Zheng program in Mainland China. He has two songs on another great anthology of recordings by older Chinese master musicians, CHINE: MUSIQUE CLASSIQUE (Ocora Radio France C-559039 – he plays songs #2 & #3 on this CD, High Mountains and Flowing Waters, and The Autumn Moon in the Han Palace, even though the booklet of the CD says he just plays song #2).
     
  5. And a younger contemporary player, Wu-Fang, on her recording SO SHIN (or SOU SHIN - this recording title is in Japanese) (Toshiba EMI TOCZ-9276 – Japanese release). (www.moz.co.jp/wu-fang/ - this site is also in Japanese).

​The Erhu 二胡, the Chinese two string violin with metal strings, tuned a fifth interval apart, to D and A, or sometimes to C and G. “Huqin” is the name for this family of Chinese bowed instruments; and “Qin” is the general name for an instrument. I am especially inspired by the playing of these artists:

  • Sun Wen-ming 孫文明 (1928-1962), on the recording COMMEMORATION OF THE RENOWNED FOLK MUSICIAN SUN WEN-MING. This recording features all eleven of his solo recorded tracks on CD #1, and it also includes ten of his compositions and one of his arrangements, all showing his many innovations and incredibly soulful and unique approach to the Erhu; and also including other musicians playing his seven best known and most influential compositions on CD #2 (ROI Productions Ltd RC-001003-2C) - in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, e mail roiprdtn@hknet.com.
     
  • Hua Yan-jun (Ah Bing) 華彥鈞 (1893-1950) on the recording COMMEMORATION OF THE RENOWNED FOLK MUSICIAN HUA YAN-JUN (AH BING). This recording features the beloved Hua Yan-Jun playing all six of his documented and very influential compositions (songs #8-13 on CD #1 [and track #14 is a repeat of track #11]); and it also includes other musicians playing his six documented compositions on the rest of CD #1 and on all of CD #2. (ROI Productions Ltd –RC-961002-2C) - in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, e-mail roiprdtn@hknet.com.
     
  • Liu Tian hua 劉天華 (1895-1932) on the recording COMMEMORATION OF THE RENOWNED LIU TIAN HUA. This recording features Lui Tian hua, and it also includes other musicians playing his ten definitive and deeply renowned Erhucompositions, which established the Erhu as an instrumental solo instrument. (ROI Productions Ltd – RC-941008-2C) - in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, email roiprdtn@hknet.com.
     
  • on the double CD recording DRUNK BOWSTRING (Jiuzhou Record Company BBZX01), two great Erhu artists are featured:
    ​(1). the elder Erhu master Zhang Rui 張銳 , playing on CD #2 [even though the packaging and the disk says he is on CD #1]. His CD features all ten of the definitive compositions [songs #1-10 on the CD] by the great Erhu composer Liu Tian hua 劉天華 (1895-1932), who was the teacher of Zhang Rui’s own Erhuteacher, Chen Zhen duo陳振鐸 ; and also two compositions by the great erhucomposer Ah Bing [Hua Yan-Jun] 華彥鈞 (1893-1950) [songs #11 & #12 on the CD];
    (2). and another great Erhu player, Sun Yu rong 孫宇嵘 , playing on CD #1 [even though the packaging and the disk says he is on CD #2]. This recording has two compositions by the great Erhu composer Ah Bing [Hua Yan-Jun] (1893-1950) [songs #4 & #10 on the CD].

    (NOTE: In the title of the CD, the word “drunk” refers to being “filled with the music, and playing from the soul.”)

    For ordering, go to the Chinese Art and Music Center in San Franciscowww.camcsf.com.
     
  • Zhu Changyao 朱昌耀, on his recording ERHU, THE ART OF ZHU CHANGYAO. This recording includes his signature composition Jiangnan Chunse (Spring in Jiangnan or The Scenery from Jiang Nan) [song #9 on the CD], and his compositionChang Xiangsi (Endless Love) [song #6 on the CD]; as well as three compositions by the great Erhu composer Liu Tian hua 劉天華 (1895-1932) [songs #2, #7 & #8 on the CD], and two compositions by the great Erhu composer Ah Bing [Hua Yan-jun]華彥鈞 (1893-1950) [songs #1 & #3 on the CD]. His well-known rendition of the piece Sunan Xiaoqu (Melody of Sunan Reqion – also called in English South of the Yanzi River) is also on this CD [song # 10] (King Record Company KICC 5231 – Japanese release) – order from www.amazon.com, or from Far Side Musicwww.farsidemusic.com.
     
  • George Gao 高韶青 , on his solo Erhu recording ERHU PIECES OF LIU TIAN HUA BY GEORGE GAO. This recording features all ten of the definitive compositions by the renowned Liu Tian hua 劉天華 (1895-1932), which established the Erhu as an instrumental solo instrument (ROI Productions Ltd RA-001010C) - in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, email roiprdtn@hknet.com.

also recommended are many recordings by these master players

  1. Min Hui Fen閔惠芬
  2. Song Fei宋飛
  3. Jiang Cai-ru蒋才如
  4. Jiang Jian hua姜健华
  5. Chen Jiebing陈潔冰
  6. Chen Yao Sing陳耀星
  7. the Cantonese (Southern Chinese) Erhu player Loo Kah-chi盧家熾
  8. the Cantonese (Southern Chinese) Erhu player Liu Tian-yi劉天一
  9. the Erhu composer and player Wang Hai Huai王海淮
  10. the Erhu composer and player Liu Ming-Yuan 劉明源 ,who composed for (and played) four of the bowed instruments: the Erhu, the Banhu (the louder Erhu with a cocoanut body), the Gaohu (the soprano Erhu), and the Xhonghu (the deeper “viola”Erhu) - (also see the list of Chinese instruments below).
  11. the Erhu composer, player, and conductor Liu Wen-Jin 劉文金. Three famous pieces by him are The Yubei Ballad 豫北叙事曲, The Sanmen Gorge Capriccio, 三門峽暢想曲 and The Great Wall Erhu Concerto長城二胡協奏曲

And especially inspiring my harmonica playing, the Matouqin 馬頭琴 (and also known in Mongolia as the Morin Huur, the Morin Khuur, the Morin Xuur, the Morin Khor, the Marinhur, the Igil; and the earlier version of the instrument is called the Chaoer, where the low string is on the opposite side), the Mongolian deep sounding bowed instrument with two nylon strings tuned a fourth interval part, that got its name from the carved horse head up by the tuning pegs. Traditionally the strings were made of horsehair and were tuned a fifth interval apart, as well as sometimes a fourth interval apart, and it was used to accompany singing. Around 1980 it became standard to tune the two strings a fourth interval apart.

I am especially inspired by these musicians and recordings:

  • the recording MATOUQIN, which features solo instrumental pieces or duets by Qinggele (pronounced “Ching-guh-luh”)青格勒 , as well as by Darima 達日瑪 ; and also one song by the late (Qi) Aotegeng Bayar.敖特根巴雅爾 (1938-2002) [who was also one of Qinggele’s teachers], playing the older version of the Matouqin 馬頭琴 , called the Chaoer.潮爾 (Hugo Productions HRP 7195-2 –.
  • the recording HORSE’S HEAD QIN RECITAL, which has 16 solo instrumental pieces by various artists, including three by Qinggele青格勒 (pronounced “Ching-guh-luh”) [songs #8, #10, & #14 on the CD]; and two by (another one of Qinggele’s teachers) [songs #3 & #12 on the CD] (COlourful COH-1006 – order from the Chinese Arts and Music Center www.camcsf.com).
  • as well as recordings by the renowned Mongolian composer and Matouqin 馬頭琴 player Chi Bulico 齊寶力高, (also spelled Ci Bulag, or Ci Bu-Lag, or Qi Baoligao), on his recording MONGOLIAN MORIN KHUUR, on the World Music Library series on the Japanese King Label (KICC 5135). He has many other great recordings, featuring many of his compositions, especially for the Matouqin 馬頭琴 orchestra that have become standard songs in Mongolia.
  • a historical recording by the late Qi Aotegeng Bayar 敖特根巴雅爾 (1938-2002) [and one of Qinggele’s teachers – see letters a and b just above], playing the older version of the Matouqin 馬頭琴 , called the Chaoer 潮爾 , on his solo instrumental recording CHAOR –ECHO OF GRASSLAND–COLLECTION OF CHAOR MUSIC BY QI AOTEGENG BAYAR敖特根巴雅爾
  • Li Bo李波 , who is now living and teaching in Japan, on his mainly solo instrumental recording FARAWAY AROTE - SHEPHARD SONG OF ONE HUNDRED YEARS - LI BO MATOUQIN ZHANGI SPECIAL EDITION 遙遠的敖爾特 (China Academy Productions ISRC CN A55-03-005-0/VJ6); and the same album is also issued with the CAO YAN YIN SHI - LI BO MATOUQIN ZHANGI SPECIAL EDITION遙遠的敖爾特(China Academy Productions ISRC CN A56-03-307-00/AJ6)
  • I also hope to co-produce with Wei-Shan Liu,recordings for future release by Matouqin 馬頭琴 players of three generations: Bu Lin布林 , Qinggele 青格勒 (see letters a and b just above), and from the younger generation, Chensibuo陳思博.
  • I am also very inspired by the Mongolian ensemble Namgar-Hatar (Sketis Music XATAP –SKMR 008) - Buryat vocalist Namgar Lkhasaranova leads the ensemble that takes her name, accompanied on traditional instruments from the Buryat and Mongolian tradition, played by an expert ensemble of musicians from Russia and Mongolia.

Also inspiring my harmonica playing is the Xianzi 弦子 (and sometimes spelled Xuanzi, or the Kuangxie, or the Biban, or the Xie, and sometimes called the Ox-horn Erhu, or the Ox-horn Qin), the Tibetian two string bowed instrument, shaped somewhat like the Erhu, with strings made of horsehair, and a bit similar sounding to the Matouqin 馬頭琴. especially the Tibetan artist Xu Guang-ping, 徐光平 from the compilation album with various artists, SONG OF SHANGRI-LA (Hugo Productions HRP 7226AG) - he is especially featured on songs #1, #28, & #29, as well as some on # 9, #14, & #17)

And also inspiring my harmonica playing is the Sheng 笙 , the bamboo mouth organ, blown both in and out, with the notes produced by the fingers covering the holes. It is the ancient ancestor of the Western German harmonica. Unlike the German harmonica, where the breathing in and out produces two different notes (and the German accordion, where the bellows pushed in and pulled out produce different notes when the same button is held), the notes on the sheng are the same with in and out breathing. Traditionally it had 17 notes and more recently it has 21 and 24 notes, and most recently 36 notes.

A is great recording of sheng and orchestra by Hu Tian Quan 胡天泉 on the recording THE YELLOW RIVER SHENG – CHINA FOLK INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC COLLECTION (Canton Audio Productons 廣東音像出版社出版 ), phone # in China 02-8385-4729; it is also available at the Chinese Art and Music Center in San Francisco at 415-666-3001, and their site is www.camcsf.com.

(this recording is also issued under the title MIN ZU YUE QI YAN ZOU ZHUAN JI (NIGHT OF THE FRONTIER), Vol:2, on the Canton Jiesheng Record Company (ISRC CN-F18-97-347-00/AJ) – their website is http://gdjs.cnave.com (this site is in the Chinese language, and it can take awhile to open), and their e mail is jsxsc@163.net; [NOTE – on this CD, songs #2-8 are only on one index mark, the #2] - NOTE: this is fairly common for Chinese albums to be issued with different covers, and with the artists sometimes not listed.

The Pipa 琵琶, the Chinese four string lute, played with five fingers of the right hand, especially the playing of these artists:

  • Wang Fan-di 王范地 , on his recording THE ART OF PIPA – WANG FAN-DI (ROI Productions Ltd –RC-031004C)- in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, e mail roiprdtn@hknet.com
     
  • Liu De hai 劉德海 , on his recording 50 YEARS IN MUSIC (ROI Productions Ltd –RC-011007-3C) - in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, e mail roiprdtn@hknet.com.
     
  • Wei Chung-loh 衛仲樂 , on his recording TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTAL PIECES OF WEI CHUNG-LOH, which features his Pipa playing, and also has outstanding performances by him on the Erhu (the Chinese two string violin), the Guqin (the Chinese seven string zither), and the Xiao (the Chinese vertical bamboo flute). (ROI Productions Ltd –RB-961010-2C) in Hong Kong, phone 852-2897-9188, fax 852-2976-0098, e mail roiprdtn@hknet.com.
     
  • Lin Shi-cheng 林石城 , on his recording CHINE-L’ART DU PIPA (Ocora Radio France C 5600460; and also on his recording TIAN XIA DI YI PIPA 天下第一琵琶 ٹ石城 (Jiu Zhou Productions ISRC CN-A65-01-370-00/AJ6)
     
  • and a younger contemporary player, Wu Man 吳蠻 (www.wumanpipa.org), who was a student of Lin Shi-cheng 林石城 , and then was a student of Liu De Hai 劉德海. Two of her recordings are: CHINESE MUSIC FOR PIPA (a solo instrumental album), and WU MAN & ENSEMBLE–CHINESE TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (both on Nimbus Records).

And very inspirational to me is the beautiful Silk and Bamboo 江南絲竹樂 (Sizhu Yue Cuan) music tradition which today is most prominently played in the Shanghai area of China, and which first emerged from Central Eastern China around the 14th century. It is an ensemble tradition using instruments such as: the “Silk Part” of the ensemble, including the Erhu (Chinese violin), Zhonghu (the Chinese viola), the Pipa (Chinese lute), the Xansian (the three-string lute), the Yangqin (the “Butterfly Harp”, the hammer dulcimer), the Qingin (the Chinese guitar with three silk strings), the Ruan (the Chinese guitar with three metal strings); and the “Bamboo Part” of the ensemble, including (the Dizi (Chinese Bamboo flute), the Xioa (the vertical bamboo flute), the Sheng (Chinese mouth organ), as well as other instruments.

Plucked Instruments

  1. Pipa 琵琶- the four string Chinese fretted lute, with metal strings, and occasionally with silk strings. It is tuned G-C-D-G, or A-D-E-A.
  2. Liuqin - the small Pipa, the Chinese fretted lute, with three or four metal strings. It has either three strings tuned G-D-G, or four strings tuned G-D-G-D; and the four strings can also be tuned in fifths like a Western violin, to G-D-A-E.
  3. Yeqin - also called the “Moon Guitar”, played with the Beijing Opera, a banjo-like fretted instrument with three or four metal strings. It is tuned A-D-A, or G-C-G, or D-A-D, or C-G-C; or with four strings, it is tuned D-A-D-A, or C-G-C-G.
  4. Xiaoruan - the small Ruan (Ruan is the name of the instruments with a hollow soundbox), similar to the Yeqin, the “Moon Guitar”, but it has a hollow soundbox and a longer neck. It has three or four metal strings and is fretted. It has three strings tuned D-A-D, or four strings tuned D-A-D-A.
  5. Zhongruan - the medium lower Ruan, similar to the Yeqin, the “Moon Guitar”, but it has a hollow soundbox and a longer neck. It has four metal strings tuned D-A-D-A, or to G-D-G-D; or tuned in fifth intervals like the Western cello to C-G-D-A, and it is fretted.
  6. Daruan - the big bass Ruan, similar to the Yeqin, the “Moon Guitar”, but it has a hollow soundbox and a longer neck with four metal strings. It is traditionally tuned D-A-D-A, and in modern times it is also tuned in fifth intervals like the Western cello C-G-D-A, and it is usually bowed.
  7. Sanxian - the three string unfretted lute with metal, or gut, or nylon strings, with a long neck and made of snake skin. This instrument is also played in Japan, and it is also the main instrument for traditional music in Okinawa. It is tuned C-G-C.
  8. Yangqin - the hammered dulcimer, called the “Butterfly Harp.” Especially the artist YangQin Zaho. See her album PURE YANGQIN 
  9. Guqin – (or the Qin), the ancient seven string Chinese zither with metal strings wrapped with nylon, played by sliding the fingernail up the strings. It originally had five strings, and was called the Qin, meaning “instrument,” or “stringed instrument”; and the term “gu” means ancient. The standard tuning (listed in the key of C) is G-A-C-D-E-G-A. Another very common tuning (for the key of F) is C-D-F-G-A-C-D, and there are many others.
  10. Gu-Zheng 古筝 (or the Guzheng, or the Zheng, or the Cheng), the Chinese zither/ harp with 16 to 25 strings and a moveable bridge. The 18 string and the older 16 string ones have metal strings and the 21 to 25 string ones have wire strings wrapped with nylon. Traditionally the older instrument had 13 strings made of silk, and that one was the ancestor of the Japanese Koto. The two most common tunings are the C pentatonic scale (C-D-E-G-A), and the G pentatonic scale (G-A-B-D-E); the pentatonic scale has the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the scale.
  11. Konghou - the vertical Gu-Zheng, the Chinese zither/harp, somewhat like a Western harp, with four pedals, and it usually has five or six octaves. It has metal strings wrapped with nylon in the lower section, and the higher strings are sometimes metal.
  12. Se – the ancient 50 string zither with a moveable bridge, which is no longer played. It may have been the ancestor of the Gu-Zheng, the Chinese zither/ harp. It had silk strings.
  13. Hudie Zheng – somewhat like two Gu-Zhengs combined, sometimes called the “Butterfly Gu-Zheng”, which is a recent invention, but rarely played. It has metal strings wrapped with nylon, and some of the high strings can be metal. It has a set of 25 strings tuned normally to a pentatonic scale on the right side (with the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the scale - in the key of C those notes are C, D, E, G, and A), where the bridge is moveable; and on the left side of the bridge, with notes that cannot be bent (and without a moveable bridge), a set of strings is tuned in half steps to all twelve chromatic Western pitches within the octave; also the left side has some pairs of strings that are tuned to the same notes that correspond to the notes of the strings on the right side of the bridge that are in the pentatonic tuning.
  14. Khomuz (also spelled Kosianqin in Mandarin) - the Mongolian jaw harp with one or two metal reeds, played by holding it in the mouth and changing the tones with the mouth cavity.
  15. Duxianqin – an old one string instrument with a metal string supported by a wood bow, played by plucking the string and bending the wood bow.

Wind Instruments

  1. Xun (or the Huin, or the Hsuin, or the Hsun) - a clay wind instrument with eleven holes. It was revived by the Gu-Zheng master Cao Zheng in the early 1970s, and it became very popular again in 1998.
  2. Dizi 笛子 – the horizonal side-blown bamboo flute.
  3. Xiao (or the Hsiao) - the vertical bamboo flute.
  4. Paixiao - Chinese pan-pipes.
  5. Sheng – the bamboo mouth organ, blown both in and out. It was the ancient ancestor of the Western harmonica.
  6. Diyinsheng - the big mouth organ with 48 pipes.
  7. Hulusi - made of bamboo or another plant such as straw grass, and played like a mouth organ, blown both in and out.
  8. Shuang Quan Hulusi – the double-reed hulusi.
  9. Bawu - the small and deeper sounding bamboo flute.
  10. Guanzi 管子 – the short cylindrical-bore oboe type older flute, made of wood.
  11. Shuang - a double-pipe flute made of wood.
  12. Gaoyinsuona – the soprano Chinese trumpet (suona is the word for trumpet).
  13. Zhongyinsuona – the lower Chinese trumpet.
  14. Diyinsuona – the bass Chinese trumpet.

SOME GENERAL SITES ON CHINESE MUSIC AND RECORDINGS

  1. The Chinese Music Society of North America - www.chinesemusic.net.
  2. Chinese Culture Net - www.chineseculture.net.
  3. Wind Records – great selection of CDs; and to get some of their recordings, go to www.store.yahoo.com/ymaa/tradchininmu1.html.
  4. Farside Music – Paul Fisher’s great mail-order company with traditional and contemporary CDs from many Asian countries and cultures - www.farsidemusic.com.
  5. The Singapore Chinese Orchestra site – listings of Chinese instruments and other information - www.freewebs.com/nusco/index.htm.
  6. Melody of China site – a list of musicians and more - www.melodyofchina.com.
  7. Information on a recent concert in Hong Kong of elder master musicians: Lu Chunling on Dizi, Lin Shicheng on Pipa, Lin Maogen on Gu-Zheng, and Gan Shangshi on Gaohu - Click here

SOME SITES ON THE GU-ZHENG

  1. Wei-Shan Liu’s San Francisco Gu-Zheng Music Society - www.guzheng.org.
  2. Site of Cynthia Hsiang (Gu-Zheng player) & Zhiming Han (Yanguin and Dizi player) - www.chinesemusic.us/bios.html

SOME SITES ON THE GU-QIN

  1. Wang Fei’s Gu-Qin Society - www.chineseculture.net/guqin/index.html.
  2. John Thompson’s Gu-Qin site - www.silkqin.com.

SOME SITES ON THE PIPA

  1. Cheng Yu’s site on the Pipa, the Gu-Qin, The UK Chinese Music Ensemble, and more - www.ukchinesemusic.com.
  2. Wu Man’s Pipa site - www.wumanpipa.org.
  3. Liu Fang’s Pipa site - www.philmultic.com/English/index.html.
  4. Gao Hong’s Pipa site - www.chinesepipa.com/bio.html.

SOME SITES ON THE ERHU

  1. Erhu site listing many great and influential players - Click here
  2. Site on the great Erhu player Zhang Rui - Click here

SOME SITES ON THE MATOUQIN

(or in Mongolian, the Morin Huur, the Morin Khuur, the Morin Xuur, the Morin Khor, or the Marinhur):

  1. Article on the Matouqin - http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Oct/76609.htm
4.  What is your favorite song?
  1. If I had to name one song, it would be the South African song Isoka Labaleka, played as an instrumental acoustic guitar solo by the great “Blind Man and His Guitar”, as is listed on the 78 RPM record. He played the melody and the bass simultaneously, while answering the melody phrases with a drone phrase with two strings playing the same note. He is probably playing in the G Major tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D, from the lowest pitched string to the highest), tuned up a half step to the key of A Flat (even though this tuning is not common in Africa). He accomplishes all this by playing just the five highest pitched strings, never playing the lowest pitched six string. It is so powerful and moving and I can feel his humanity and his very soul and he creates a whole encyclopedia and a whole world in three minutes.

    This track was originally recorded on a South African 78 RPM record, year unknown. I know of no other recording by this artist. I wish more than anything that more could have been recorded on him. This track changed my perspective on everything.

    To hear this song click HERE.
     
  2. Another candidate would be the great blues/jazz guitarist Lonnie Johnson's song from 1926, To Do This You Got To Know How. To hear it go here and scroll down alphabetically to the song.
     
  3. Another candidate would be the 1949 version of Hey Now Baby by the late New Orleans R&B pianist Professor Longhair, from his album NEW ORLEANS PIANO (Atlantic 7225), and which features many of his signature techniques, including beautiful right hand triplets and rolls, left and right hand syncopations, and left hand punch beats. This track also changed my perspective on everything.
     
  4. Another candidate is the 1976 version of Pixie, by the late New Orleans R&B pianist James Booker, from his album JUNKO PARTNER (Rykodisk 1359), featuring many of his beautiful signature techniques, and also reflects the Professor Longhair influence. To me this song totally captures the feeling of the heat rising off the pavement on a sweltering summer day.
5.  What are the lists you are maintaining?
  1. New Orleans Pianists – (the long list - about 200 pianists) - these are in the web notes for GULF COAST BLUES & IMPRESSIONS – A HURRICANE RELIEF BENEFIT, and for GULF COAST BLUES & IMPRESSIONS 2 – A LOUISIANA WETLANDS BENEFIT.
     
  2. Vince Guaraldi complete discography, videography, and more – (the long list – about 70 items - audio, and video, and Peanuts episodes, and documentaries).
     
  3. Workshop Documents – handed out or sent by PDF to George’s workshops. There are sections on chords, modes, music theory, ear training & more. Email ml(at)dancingcat(dot)com for the latest versions.
     
  4. Instrumentals that George grew up listing to from the 1950’s and 1960’s - (the long list – hundreds of songs)
     
  5. Jazz Waltzes – This list is in the web notes for Great Pumpkin Waltz from George’s album LINUS & LUCY – THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI; and also in the notes to Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown from George’s album LOVE WILL COME – THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI VOL 2-(the long list – about 100 songs ).
     
  6. Hawaiian Slack Key guitar – a list of “Hawaiian Blues songs” – search for “blues” in the Slack Key Information Book 1. This is part of the eight part Slack Key Information Booklet that has lists of tunings and more. 
     
  7. Dancing Cat Records Hawaiian Slack Key Information Booklet, SECTION II:RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS AND OTHER INFORMATION . This is part of the eight part Slack Key Information Booklet. 
     
  8. Harmonica tunings that George has experimented with for playing solo harmonica (48 tunings). 
     
  9. Solo harmonica tracks from the 1920’s and the 1930’s (from anywhere in the world, including America, Ireland, and Australia). George is still working on the notes for each of the 97 songs.