Harmonica World Magazine

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Rachelle Plas © RC.Here

DEC 2020 - JAN 2021

Registered Charity (England and Wales) No. 1131484 HarmonicaUK.com


President - Paul Jones

4 Chair’s Message

Vice-President - Ben Hewlett vice-president@harmonica.co.uk

7 Interview with Rachelle Plas

Patrons - Lee Sankey, Brendan Power, and Adam Glasser


Publicity Column


Chair - Pete Hewitt (also acting Editor-in-chief) chair@harmonica.co.uk

Virtually Yours October Festival 2020


Backstage Pass October Festival 2020

Vice-Chair (shared) Sam Wilkinson (also Publicity) publicity@harmonica.co.uk


The Ten Minute Question


A Personal Perspective


Ben Talks Harmonica


Expanding Membership


Christmas Pull-out


Events Calendar


“Harpin’ By The Sea”


Zoom Harmonica Talks


History of National Harmonica League/ HarmonicaUK


Album Reviews

Eva Hurt (Education)


End Notes: Big Mama Thornton

Barbara Tate (IT)

38 Classified

Executive Committee

Vice-Chair (shared) Richard Taylor hove.actually@ntlworld.com Secretary - Davina Brazier sec@harmonica.co.uk Treasurer - Phil Leiwy treasurer@harmonica.co.uk Committee Members Membership Secretary David Hambley memsec@harmonica.co.uk 7 Ingleborough Way, Leyland, Lancs, PR25 4ZS, UK +44 (0)7757 215047 Dave Taylor

Simon Joy (Tremolo) Use the contact form at HarmonicaUK.com/about-us Assistants to the committee Education - Dick Powell edu@harmonica.co.uk Health - Rollen Flood use the contact form Archivist - Roger Trobridge gopher@internet-gopher.com

To contribute please contact Barry Elms, editor@harmonica.co.uk. Published on first of every February, April, June, August, October and December. All material due in to Editor by 1st of the preceding month. Cover: Rachelle Plas © RC.Here



Hello everyone! I’d like to thank you all for attending the annual general meeting via Zoom. Your support was amazing, and we had a great turn out, thus leading to a very positive response to the proposed changes.



It’s apparent to me how much support there is around; we have Paul Jones as President and Ben Hewlett as our new Vice President. Then, of course, our patrons: Lee Sankey, Adam Glasser, and Brendan Power (who lend their names to HarmonicaUK as a way of support). In my team, we have several new positions: Richard Taylor and Sam Wilkinson as Vice-Chairs, and Davina Brazier as Secretary. Simon Joy has also joined the committee, and of course, our stalwarts Dave Hambley, Phil Leiwy, Barbara Tate, Dave Taylor, and Eva Hurt are still with us. Plenty is going on behind the scenes, including Richard Taylor working with a team to hear your views and exploring how we can refresh/rebrand the look of HarmonicaUK. Also, Davina Brazier is getting everything ship-shape with the charity commission. I am confident that soon we will be a beacon for other charities. Then there is the brand new-look magazine. Dave Taylor did a tremendous job during his period as editor. Editing a magazine was a massive task for one person, and I must congratulate him for his efforts. About six weeks ago Ben put out an email asking for volunteers to create a new editorial team. Many people came forward. As caretaker chief editor, I had no idea where to start, apart from the valuable information provided to me by previous editors, Dave Taylor and Roger Trobridge. A small core of people would drive this project forward: Justin Norton (acting editor), Steve Pardue (acting designer), Barry Elms (acting sub-editor), assisted by Sophia Ramirez. Carli Collins and Keith Parker contributed their specialist skills in advertising and photography. Sam Wilkinson has given so much to this cause too. This newly formed, highly experienced and exciting team deserves much more than just a mention in my column. By the next edition, we will have a better understanding of a more permanent team. This magazine is a mix of old and new, and the team has many innovations and ideas for future editions. I’m sure that you will all enjoy this journey of evolution. This year has been a challenge for any organisation. The team I have is very forward-looking, and we are evolving accordingly. The lockdown sessions and Friday morning chats continue to be very popular. Then of course, we’ve had Virtual Chromatic Weekend and the Virtual October Festival.

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The Virtual October Festival planning/production team consisted of Ben Hewlett, Dave Hambley, Sam Wilkinson, Trevor Yeo, and me. Roger Trobridge worked with us to provide all of the wonderful videos we enjoyed. We decided to take the positives from lockdown and set our sights high. The acts who wanted to be involved are at the top end of their game. If I can boast a little here, we had: Thursday: Christelle Berthon, Giles Robson Friday: Annie Raines, Adam Glasser Saturday: Donald Black, Giovani Volini, Sorarmonica Duo, Jiayi He, Beata Kossowska, Charlie McCoy Sunday: Tony Eyers, Mathias Heise, Rachelle Plas, Robert Bonfiglio. As mentioned, our organisation had to evolve this year, rising to the challenge of Covid 19. Rather than accepting defeat, the team took this as a time of opportunity. I’m already sensing a feeling of belonging, cohesion, and excitement. I know I speak for everyone on our committee in wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year as we all look forward to making a great deal of collective live noise at one of our events next year. Pete

From Hewlett to Hewitt - HarmonicaUK Reshuffle Back in 2012, Roger asked the committee to step forward if they would like to become the new chairman. Everybody took one pace back except me, who said: ‘sorry, what was that question again?’ Roger said: ‘congratulations you’ve got the job.’ Of course, I jest! It has been an honour to hold such a lofty position. Growing into the role took time. While I am confident I have positively influenced HarmonicaUK, I realise that I am just one cog in a complex machine. By handing the chair over, I feel I have secured a succession chain that should see us in safe hands for a decade. Bringing in new people is something I’ve tried to do to grow HarmonicaUK and inject new ideas and enthusiasm into the system, as I’m past my sell-by date already. Pete Hewitt and Richard Taylor are two of my most recent victims (sorry, recruits) and I think I may have discovered Sam Wilkinson and Davina Brazier a little while ago. These four have added a huge amount to the team and now they must also look for understudies to continue the work when they reach their shelf life.



So it rolls. You will see me still being active in HarmonicaUK and even more as a teacher running live classes on Zoom and writing new video courses every month, so I’m far from disappearing. Many thanks to the committee and to John Cook for making this amazing harmonica for me - it has beautiful engraved silver cover plates and sits proudly in a box made from English walnut. Pete Says: I have been working very closely with Ben now since April. From the outset Ben wanted a deputy to hand over to this year, and it has been a huge learning curve for me. We have talked on the phone and on Zoom probably every day, and I have to say that we have become great friends. We have a similar sense of humour and we generally laugh each day, a must in this role. As the months went by, I learned about his vision for the future and we spoke about how we could make this happen. By the end of September, we both felt ready and so began a handover process. I feel confident that my leadership vision mirrors his views. So just like a baton of a relay race, we handed over on October 29. Roger Trobridge explained to me that this is the process that has been going on for generations, and in due course, I’ll hand over the baton too. Ben is a humble man, but he has displayed resilience, vision, professionalism, empathy and, of course, humour. Quite rightly he has earned his position in our rich history as one of our greatest chairs. Ben isn’t leaving us completely since he will serve as our new VicePresident I guess it’s a bit like leaving the House of Commons and going up to the House of Lords. Thank you Ben. You are one in a million.


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RACHELLE PLAS Rachelle Plas is a modern singer-songwriter from France. She complements her smooth, provocative voice with her virtuoso, refined harmonica playing. Besides her career as a musician, she is a very successful judo sportswoman. We spoke with her for Harmonica World Magazine about her music, how she has managed life during lockdown and her musical influences.

Thank you for talking to HarmonicaUK Rachelle. I'm very happy to talk to you and contribute to your great magazine. How have you coped during lockdown? During the first lockdown we did daily Hohner live sessions and this helped me a lot. Many of these sessions were improvised and everyday we answered questions from viewers and it was great to be able to make these videos. Over the summer I made music with Philippe Hervouët and we decided to improvise from the very beginning. So the music was like a snapshot in time. I’m very thankful to my music team, Victory’s Way Music, Virginie Leroux, Hohner, and all the people who are following and supporting me in different ways. You can see many of these videos on my website.


Which harmonica players from the past have influenced you? Stevie Wonder, Charlie McCoy and Toots Thielemans. I have a special relationship with Sonny Terry and have worked on creating his effects. He was an incredible player and rhythm maker. Others include Little Walter, Robert Johnson, Herbie Hancock, and jazz singers like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. My first influences were traditional blues such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. In my songs I play pop, blues, rock, folk and jazz. There are many pressures being in the public eye, especially in the scary place that is the internet - how do you manage this? I have had some problems in the past, but not too many. I concentrate on making my website a safe place where I manage all my music, blog and songs. And this year I started a new project where I have tuition videos available on my website. Some of the subjects were prompted by the questions from these Hohner sessions. Sometimes you get stuck with things such as vibrato - do you have any advice to readers how to overcome these blockages? This is where my videos can help - it is the last little piece that can help you to understand a technique. You have to try and try and one day you will get it. You have to practice and practice. You were young when you first started playing harmonica - was there a time when you felt discouraged by not being able to play what you wanted to play? I was very happy to play what I wanted to play. Day after day, step by step, I began to play things that were more difficult. When I


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was a child I wasn’t thinking ahead - I was just happy to play my instrument. If your goal is to play fast - try today to play as you can and day after day you will play faster. In the beginning its 15 minutes a day, then half an hour a day then two hours, then as much as you want. In society today people and students want to learn fast and are so busy. Expectations are that you can learn an instrument in a few weeks. In judo we call it Uchikomi (meaning “fitting practice”) that means you are repeating the technique 100 times, 200 times then one day it will work. Judo and music are very close. When you are on the mat about to fight you have to be at your best at this moment. In music when you go on stage it is the same - you have to be at your best. HarmonicaUK is undergoing some changes and we are hoping to bring harmonica to younger players - do you have any advice for us? Harmonica is a traditional instrument with a unique history. In France we have a saying that harmonica is the “cherry on the cake.” There are many young players, like my friend Konstantin Renfield who are doing things to help make harmonica popular. In the UK, Ben Hewlett, Steve Baker, Will Wilde, Alan Glen and Greg Miller are incredible modern players. These players will help to make our instrument considered as a serious musical instrument with a high value and unique history. Harmonica is a soloist instrument and for me it like a second voice. What are your hopes for the future? I hope to play in UK again and l miss the happiness I feel when playing in front of a live audience. Favourite author: Agatha Christie. Favourite food: Brittany crepes Favourite place: Paris Favourite Harmonica: Hohner Golden Melody. www.rachelleplas.com

Rachelle has made a special video for Harmonica World Magazine where she shows us a typical Rachelle technique. www.rachelleplas.com/single-post/harmonicauk-magazine-dec-2020-jan-2021

HarmonicaUK YouTube channel Here we are in lockdown again, but by now, everyone will be aware of the online events HarmonicaUK has laid on since the start of the first lockdown. The weekly Zoom HarmonicaUK Lockdown Sessions started in May; they have gone from strength to strength, and now artists are contacting me to run sessions. Around the same time, the Friday Zoom ‘coffee mornings’ began, which have also been a great success, with a common core of participants talking about all things harmonica.


We also held the Chromatic Weekend and, more recently, the Virtual October Festival; both have had very positive feedback and exceeded expectations regarding donations to artists. Not to forget the AGM on Zoom that was attended by around 80 members – the largest number for years. For the Lockdown Sessions and festivals, we ask the artists if they are happy to be recorded and uploaded to our YouTube channel; thankfully, most agree! The HarmonicaUK channel was created in May, and up to the end of October, there are 50 videos, 6,000 views, and 156 subscribers. Using YouTube analytics as a rough guide, it is unsurprising to find that most of the UK's viewers are followed by the USA. But there are a substantial number of views from around the world, suggesting that awareness of HarmonicaUK is growing worldwide. They also show that about half of views come via the HarmonicaUK website and about 10% via Facebook, which emphasises the importance of our online communication channels. About half are in the 65+ age group, and a quarter each in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups, which echoes the age profile of the HarmonicaUK membership. But it also serves as a reminder that HarmonicaUK has a lot to do to entice younger players to get involved. In terms of gender, 93% are male and 7% female – this is something we are already aware of, and we need to look at how to redress the balance. The lockdown sessions have a great variety of subject matter, and no two sessions are the same. If you haven’t done so already, please go to youtube.com and search for HarmonicaUK. To conclude, I would like to thank everyone who has supported these events throughout the year; as long as there’s a demand for them, then long may they continue!



Gary Newman starts off a selection of your feedback: I am quite new to the harp world and was looking forward to my first festival. So, I was disappointed to find that it would now be a virtual festival. But a lot of us have used Zoom to communicate with groups of people during the year for pub quizzes, family gatherings and Ben Hewlett’s wonderful Sunday sessions. It was the ideal vessel for this year’s festival. It must have taken a lot of work to organise the virtual festival, and I would like to thank the organisers for their efforts. There was a good mixture of information and great music. It was interesting and above all enjoyable. There was inspiration and ideas in abundance, and I think that everybody will have taken something from the festival, irrespective of their experience.


The competition was the highlight for me, and demonstrated the versatility of the harmonica. It was never going to be the same as live music, but it was what many of us needed, and spread harmonica magic to our lockdown homes.

We welcomed 14 of the best harmonica players in the world; Rhian Evans emailed: well, 15 really, I loved the festival. It’s obviously not the same as meeting people since one act was a in person. Still, there are some significant benefits, especially rerun workshops, and catch up on ones missed the first time around. It duo. And we had a also allows people to watch from anywhere in the world (I think!). competition too. I hope there can be some other similar events from time to time, even when we can finally get back to regular Festivals.

Pauline Llewellyn offers her review: I had a great time. I had to be quite selective as to which ones I attended. It was a great way to open the festival with previous performers from past live festivals. Luckily, I made notes to help me remember what we were shown! I know we can watch it again, but I can read through quickly and watch it again when I need to. Christelle Berthon demonstrated diatonicphragmatic breathing and building an air column. Giles Robson said to listen to all Little Walter’s playing. Annie Raines mentioned Slim Harpo and Big Walter as critical players. She focused on tongue blocking (something I have not mastered) tongue rolls and tongue flutters. I especially liked her demonstration of holding the harmonica close to the microphone with a gap. Rachelle Plas was another brilliant player and started


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so young. Charlie McCoy was very entertaining with lots of anecdotes and stories. There was a great atmosphere at the festival, albeit in our own homes. I hope I get to meet some of the greats and the audience, some of whom I now feel I know in real life; maybe, hopefully, next year!

Dave Taylor says: The VOF was a fantastic festival, entertaining and inspiring! I didn’t have the stamina to see everything as it was happening, but knew that the sessions would be available to watch again later; what a great feature! It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear the best harmonica players globally, sharing their knowledge, experience and great stories, and playing fabulous music. It seems unfair to single out anybody, but I must say that Robert Bonfiglio delivered a magnificent finale.

The HarmonicaUK Virtual October Festival (VOF) was a considerable success, demonstrating that the current restrictions can’t keep us tin sandwich players down! So, what was it like behind the scenes? Well… calm and collected most of the time, but there were a few glitches. Sam Wilkinson spills the beans. The organisation team consisted of Dave Hambley (who successfully organised and ran the Chromatic Weekend), Pete Hewitt (who attended many of the Virtual SPAH festival workshops), Ben Hewlett (who has done a lot of teaching on Zoom), and yours truly, best known as the organiser of the weekly Zoom lockdown sessions. To complete the team, we had our IT/ Zoom guru Trevor Yeo. With this level of knowledge and experience, plus numerous dry runs, what could possibly go wrong?


OCTOBER FESTIVAL 2020 Sam Wilkinson, HarmonicaUK

As this event was virtual, it meant that the world was our oyster – literally! With lower Vice-Chair fees for artists (as they would only be doing an hour and a half rather than a full weekend), we could aim high. Someone suggested Stevie Wonder – what a coup this would be. I offered to pursue this, and after two hours of Googling, I had come across a dozen or so websites claiming they can book big stars, but there was no way of knowing if these were authentic. Plus, had I said: “we’ll give Stevie 75 quid for an hour and a half,” then I don’t think I’d have got many polite replies! I had to admit defeat; we tried to find contacts of contacts, etc. Sadly, there was no way to get to Mr. W… next year, perhaps. It wasn’t long before the first gremlin reared its head. There was some confusion with Zoom codes about half an hour before we started. I got that stomach-dropping feeling when you’ve sent an email or text to the wrong person. Thankfully, people started to enter the waiting room, so panic over, even though at one point, I ended up accidentally throwing Christelle Berthon out of the Zoom room. Then there were the videos that had been wonderfully prepared by Roger Trobridge. I practised the evening before and had everything running like clockwork.


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But on the opening night, I was knocked sideways due to the Zoom codes issue. It didn’t give me a proper chance to set up the videos. I quickly tried before letting people in and got it wrong each time! “I’ll get this right by the end of Sunday,” I joked… little knowing that even this was a bridge too far. In came the hoards, and it was time to play the ‘opening ceremony’ videos featuring Paul Jones (President) and Ben Hewlett (Chair). Needless to say, I messed this up! Once I’d fumbled my way though, Christelle started her session, and the festival was up and running. One of the problems with being a host meant that I couldn’t see nor hear what participants could, so I dusted down and fired up my old Tesco Hudl tablet. It was reminiscent of a film when someone goes into a Soviet bunker and fires up the machinery 30 years after it’s been abandoned. And there it was – a second log-in ‘Sammy Boy Wilkinson’ (a mildly amusing nod to the great player). In fact, at one point, I went to get a cuppa and logged in on my phone as Sammy Boy II… One of our biggest fears was artists not turning up at their allotted time; after all, many were from different time zones. Everything had been going so well – Beata Kossowska even turned up an hour and a half early. Then came the turn of Charlie McCoy. We started getting a bit concerned when he hadn’t signed in 15 minutes before the start his session. Then 10 minutes… 5 minutes… 2 minutes. We sent a calm message to the waiting room, saying that we were experiencing a few delays. But it was far from calm for us. “Has anyone got Charlie’s telephone number?”. We did get it, but it went straight to voicemail! More panic. Meanwhile, I started running some of Roger’s videos. Two minutes to go on the last planned video… “I know… I’ll run Paul Jones and Ben Hewlett’s videos again.” Next… the tremolo festival video. At that point, I thought I may have to resort to videos of cats doing daft things, but all of a sudden, there it was… the name ‘Charlie McCoy’ in the waiting room – I punched the air with delight. When someone is sharing their Zoom screen, they appear in a small box to the side, and my reaction was there for all to see. So that’s one good reason for me not to take up poker. So, there you have it - an insight into the more colourful side of the festival. I’m proud of what we achieved, with a great team each doing supporting each other. It shows what you can do when you fly in the face of adversity. P.S. Has anyone got Stevie’s phone number?



Regular listeners to the Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast will be familiar with the question that I ask each of the guests: “if you had ten minutes to practice, what would you spend those ten minutes doing?” The answers from these great players (including such luminaries as Kim Wilson, Charlie McCoy, and Antonio Serrano, to name just a few) apply equally to themselves and offer some sage advice to less experienced players. For this article, I have sifted through the answers to this question, and the results are in. I have categorised them into the following areas:

The ‘mechanics of playing’: A popular answer is to develop your breath control to be as efficient as possible, often by playing some rhythm harmonica, typically in the Sonny Terry style. Working on a good tone also falls into the mechanics: developing nice phrasing, and making a good sound. An approach to help with this is to play long and short notes, paying close attention to the sound you’re generating. And playing simply and slowly to start off. Don’t jump into trying to play fast, or take on something difficult. Pros emphasize that it is crucial to relax while playing.


‘Learning sources’: Playing along with records and learning solos and/or licks from great players is something almost all the pros have done although several are keen to emphasise that copying other players solos note for note on the bandstand is not cool. Don’t just limit yourself to harmonica players either, but listen to other great instrumentalists like saxophone. Depending on the harmonica player's music style, some discuss the importance of learning melodies and some practicing improvisation. Composing your own riffs will help push you to play something new and put some thought into your playing. Recording yourself and listening back is another valuable tool and is easy these days using smart phones or computers.

‘Harmonica technique’: Practising bending was the number one choice here: making those bends precise and ensuring you can hit them at will. Also, switch between puckering and tongue blocking. Many players say they use both throughout their playing.

‘Musical exercises’: Favoured by perhaps some of the more technically minded and/ or chromatic harmonica players, this includes playing scales,


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arpeggios, and patterns. Specifically, for the diatonic, this also involves playing in different positions. Being aware of the notes you are playing was another one, not forgetting everyone’s favourite tool: the metronome. That timing is crucial.

‘Practice habits’: Some said that regular practice is needed, with one saying this should be done in short sessions through the day, rather than one long session. Others said they don’t have a regimented practise schedule and just work on what’s called for at the time, such as an upcoming gig or recording session. From this list, one message is abundantly clear: the basics are something pros have spent a lot of time working on and still continue to work on. This includes several players who are over 70 years old! If you want to hear the full answers to the ’10 minute question’, or what your favourite player said, as well as many other pearls of harmonica wisdom, entertaining stories and great music, then head along to the link: https://happyhourharmonicapodcast.buzzsprout.com/ or searching for ‘Happy Hour Harmonica’ on your smart phone’s podcast player.

My formal music education started and ended in Year 1, with a morning violin class once a week. Besides vague memories of screeching sounds and plucking out the tune of ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’, 5-year-old me didn’t get much out of the lessons. And so, when I left the class, I left behind any musical aspirations with it. Last year, though, on a family road trip, I spotted a three dollar harmonica in a souvenir shop. It was more children's toy than instrument - wooden cover plates painted yellow and with little cartoon flowers and ladybugs. Maybe I was bored, or maybe I had started to feel like I was missing out on something in my music desertion, something important. In either case, when I brought my pack of gum up to the cashier, I threw in the harmonica also, and with change to spare.


I watched an unhealthy number of ‘For Beginners’ YouTube videos during that trip, and when we got back I promptly upgraded to a ten dollar harmonica, one with metallic cover plates and a full set of working holes. Later on, once I was able to play simple songs, I’d mess around with online tabs at school while waiting with my friends in the hallway for class to start, ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Yesterday’. While that was fun for a while, I kept on getting stuck on problems, airy draws and tough higher notes, that, despite all the advice I found online, I still couldn’t quite crack. Progress became slow, and the harmonica frustrating. So, I began looking for a teacher online: surprise, it made the whole experience so much easier. For starters, they revealed to me that a ten dollar harmonica is actually not a great harmonica. Beyond that, from lessons on bending to vibrato to even how to read sheet music, every class I was reminded of how valuable classes can be. That’s a bittersweet realization, thinking back to it: it’s a shame that these classes weren’t so readily available to me at school, that not many young people play. Look up “teen” and “harmonica” on Google and the first results are about a viral TikTok video that a girl recorded with a harmonica stuck in her mouth before rushing to the hospital to get it removed. Not that she’s to blame for the lack of harmonica-playing teens, of course: when school bands and orchestras only offer the ‘standard’ instruments - violin, piano, trumpet, clarinet, and so on - who would think to play the harmonica? It, along with the other outcasts, start seeming like less valid of an instrument to pursue. But, while I can’t speak to what it's like to feel a violin resonate under your chin or piano keys under your fingers, I know there’s something special in cupping the harmonica in your hands, breathing in and out. Harmonica feels so human, and I wish more schools would encourage it.



This month I have mostly been teaching ... people how to practise their harmonica to ramp up skills enabling them to play with other people or on their own with much more confidence. The result is a short video course called ‘How to practise your harmonica to get amazing progress fast!’ It lives at www.playharmonica.co.uk. How, why, and when to practise your harmonica? Firstly it’s clear there is not a single answer; every teacher will have their own tried and tested method, and some individual players will also have found their own solution. So this will act as a sounding board, and if you choose to disagree, that’s fine - it serves to get you closer to what suits you best.


Do not write in and tell me I’ve got it all wrong. Use it to figure out what is best for you. Here’s a little research and a few useful quotes from the net.

Why is practice important in music? A regular practice routine helps develop discipline and aids in developing music skills and better technique, fine motor skills, and muscle memory. Students who practise regularly improve far more rapidly than those who practise sporadically. Why should I practice my instrument? Practice is the process of getting closer to achieving your musical goals. When we practice, we take elements of our playing that we find challenging and play them carefully until they are easy. Once what your practicing becomes second nature, playing your instrument becomes a lot of fun. How can I learn music? Practise playing chords, notes, and scales on your instrument. After you've mastered the concepts of notes, chords, and scales, learning how to produce these sounds with your instrument is the first step to learning how to play music. Start by practicing chords first, then move on to notes, and finally to scales. What happens when someone practices a musical instrument? Practice is the act of rehearsing a behaviour repeatedly, or engaging in an activity again and again, to improve or master it, as in the phrase 'practice makes perfect.' ... playing a musical instrument well takes much practice. It is a method of learning and acquiring experience.


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This is my 5-part system (make sure you progress and challenge yourself): 1. Warm-up: For diatonic players, Joe Filisko’s exercise called ‘haha (out) hoo hoo (in)’ is perfect for building tone, strength and challenging yourself on speed and stamina. I would also recommend chugging, blues shuffle, train sounds and excellent warm-ups. 2. Nuts and Bolts: One or two subjects a day - all techniques (make sure you progress and challenge yourself). You could choose to work on rhythm, tone, scales, bending, smooth transitions, dynamics - anything we need in music that is not, in itself, music. Just as nuts and bolts are not an engine but an engine needs nuts and bolts. 3. Ear training: Singing tunes, scales, intervals, improvising, recorded sound analysis, and rhythms. Random notes on two harps or more - this is excellent to try. Pick two harmonicas in different keys, play a random note on one and try to reproduce it on the other harmonica. If you can sing something, you might be able to play it - otherwise, not; unless you can read music. 4. Repertoire: Preparing and memorising progressively tricky/ interesting pieces, tunes or riffs for performance. 5. Fun: Whatever fun is to you! And make sure you warm down afterwards. I say ‘mostly this month I have been teaching people how to practice their harmonica’ because I have put together another exciting project exploring an early number from Sonny Boy Williamson the first. That’s John Lee Curtis Williamson, not Aleck “Rice” Miller, who was known as Sonny Boy Williamson the Second He was the pioneer of modern blues harmonica, and he seems to have been instrumental in making the harmonica a solo instrument at the front of the stage. His hit song “Sugar Mama” is the B-side of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and I have broken it down into bite-sized morsels in another short video course. This is a classic blues all blues players should know - it's the bedrock of original blues from the father of modern blues harp. It also lives at www.playharmonica.co.uk, and if you would like to work on how to play like Sonny Boy 1, you can watch ten minutes free and see if it interests you. More study and learning next time!



A huge word of thanks and congratulations to our Committee who remoulded on Zoom so successfully the Chromatic Weekend and the October Festival. Under new Chairman Pete Hewitt, I have every confidence that these achievements will take us further along the path of clarifying objectives, rebranding, expanding membership, and securing a viable future for the organization. Speaking of new members, what if we were to explore making connections with communities, groups, and nationalities via the kind of music they listen to? Prepare material - TAB, pdfs, mp3s, videos, etc. in a given idiom - and offer online workshops to those not yet aware that the music they know and enjoy could be played on the harmonica?

EXPANDING MEMBERSHIP New horizons for HarmonicaUK Adam Glasser - Patron HarmonicaUK

My version of this began in 2012. After a gig at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, I was asked to run a workshop in the township of Gugulethu. The year before, on a visit to Trossingen, I discovered the Hohner 'Melody Star' - a solo tuned harmonica which is still my instrument of choice for teaching, such are the melodic and educational possibilities of two octaves of white piano notes from middle C upwards. Many great South African township jazz and folk melodies can be played on this or solo tuned harmonica. Workshops regularly followed over the years, in Johannesburg and at the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland. I even coached a group from the Moses Mololekwa Centre in Tembisa for an appearance on South African TV playing both jazz standards ( Miles Davis “Milestones”), a pop tune ( “Isn’t She Lovely” in Em) and an SA township hit (“Zandile”) all on the Melody Star. (Google: “Award-winning Jazz harmonica and keyboard player Adam Glasser” to see the TV report). Teaching jazz piano and harmonica on Zoom, I am fired up with the possibilities of using multimedia. The internet knows no international borders. Do you have a specialist area of music related to another culture? Can it translate to the harmonica? I look forward to continuing this discussion!


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C H R I S T M A S P U L L- O U T

Harmonica World Christmas Pull-out The Committee of HarmonicaUK would like to wish you all

a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Adam Glasser and Richard Taylor have kindly provided us with harmonica tab for four seasonal tunes, so get practicing ready for the holidays!

Membership Renewal Only those members receiving a Membership Renewal, loose-leaf, reminder with their magazine need to renew their membership in January 2021. Methods of renewing are given in the insert, if in doubt, contact David Hambley.



C H R I S T M A S P U L L- O U T


The magazine for HarmonicaUK

C H R I S T M A S P U L L- O U T



C H R I S T M A S P U L L- O U T


The magazine for HarmonicaUK

EVENTS CALENDAR Neil Warren Harpin' By The Sea: 5-7 February 2021. UK. www.harpinbythesea.com

Chromatic Weekend: 18-20 June 2021. UK

SPAH Convention: August 10-14 2021. Charlotte, USA. Currently planned to be a physical festival: www.spah.org

HUK Annual Festival: 1st - 3rd October 2021. UK.

Wisconsin Annual Blues Harmonica Festival:

Nov 19, 2021. USA. Currently planned to be a physical festival: www.eventbrite.com/e/wisconsin-annual-blues-harmonica-festival2021-tickets-84058736945

HUK Lockdown sessions: typically run weekly, virtually: www.HarmonicaUK.com/lockdown-sessions/

Mundharmonika Live, Sept 14-19, Germany: https://mundharmonika-live.de/

GOOD VIBRATIONS A decade ago, a small group of friends in Brighton UK decided to share their love and enthusiasm for the harmonica by putting together a day of workshops, a blues jam, and a live show. The event quickly sold out. Wind the clock forward ten years, and Harpin’ By The Sea has become a much anticipated fixture in the international harmonica calendar. Our unofficial tagline ‘a breath of fresh air’ is a reference to our seaside location. It also encapsulates what we’re about: taking a risk and doing things just a little bit differently.



5th-7th February 2021 on Zoom & YouTube

Over the years, Harpin’ By The Sea has organised UK debuts for several emerging artists, spotlighting talent that might otherwise go unnoticed. Aki Kumar (USA), Jerome Godboo (Canada), Victor Puertas (Spain), and Fede Vaz (Uruguay) are a few fine examples.

In our quest for diversity, we have also themed each event, highlighting the wide range of styles and traditions enjoyed by harmonica players worldwide. Our musical odyssey has taken us from blues, Latin and Cajun, to busking and solo loop-station harmonica. Most recently, Harpin By The Sea welcomed junior players for the first time with a children’s workshop, performance, and prizes, paving the way for the next generation of harmonica talent. We also began our relationship with the Wishing Well Music charity, which brings music therapy to children's bedsides in critical care. Ultimately Harpin’ By The Sea’s success comes down to one thing; those who give up their time to attend. This is when our harmonica family grows, memories are made, and new ideas are born.


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For 2021, although we can’t welcome you in person owing to Covid-19, the show must go on. Thanks to our sponsors, the event is free, but our guest artists need your support now more than ever. Please help us show how much our artists are appreciated by attending Harpin’ By The Sea 2021 online and donating as much as you can manage using this PayPal link: paypal.me/harpinbythesea We’re featuring an incredible cast of sixteen guest artists, with a fantastic programme of live performances, tutorials, interviews, archive video footage and product giveaways. We’ll also be bringing you a top-secret headline artist from the USA, who we know you’re going to adore. All of which means we’re locked down, loaded, and ready to rock. Keep an eye on our website and social media in the coming weeks as we reveal our stellar line-up, our amazing array of trade sponsors, and of course, the code for you to tune in. In the meantime, don’t delay, help us to help our harmonica artists: paypal.me/harpinbythesea

Will Wilde © Gordon Maxwell



Sundays in January 2021 3pm - 4.30pm

South African chromatic harmonicist and jazz pianist (and Patron of HUK!) Adam Glasser presents 4 multimediatonic talks on Zoom. Based on personal experience, research and interviews he will provide a fascinating personal take on three legends of the harmonica and in the final talk a look at some of the great contemporary jazz harmonica players. The talks will be illustrated with photos, audio and video footage and also have an educational Adam Glasser component with selected excerpts of harmonica solos and a For registration details email: detailed look at the different chromatic harmonica styles. Each harmonicastories@gmail.com talk will have an opportunity for Q & A at the end and could feature Updates at: some surprise live guests! www.adamglassermusic.com

1 - 10th Jan: Stevie Wonder

Covers Adam's discovery of the chromatic harmonica via Stevie Wonder and ending up depping for him with Sting and the Eurythmics. Also looks in detail at some of Stevie's less well known solos and what we can learn from them.

2 - 17th Jan: Larry Adler

Draws on Adam's interviews with musicians who have worked with Larry Adler and includes some fascinating anecdotes and rarely heard music from an Australian tour.

3 - 24th Jan: Toots Thielemans

When Adam interviewed Toots Thielemans back in Leiden in 1996, little did he know a year later he would be asked to work with him on Paramount feature film 'Hard Rain'. You will hear some of the original interview as well as see the music both Toots and Adam had to record for the opening titles.

4 - 31st Jan: Contemporary Jazz Harmonica

In this final talk Adam examines some of the music of great contemporary jazz harmonica players Mathias Heise, Yvonnick Prene, Antonio Serrano, Hermine Deurloo and GrĂŠgoire Maret.



HarmonicaUK started life as a Hohner marketing activity in 1935 and remained so until it was handed over to the members in 1981. This is the first part of the story. Hohner harmonicas had been sold in the UK for a long time, but they set up their first representative, M. Michaelson, in the mid-1870s. This arrangement continued with moderate success either side of WW1 until 1929 when Hohner decided that they needed a bigger presence, and they set up Hohner Concessionaires Ltd. in London. They brought in their own people to help run the business, which was located first in Farringdon Road and then 21 Bedford Street, Strand, London, but it was still not successful enough.

THE HISTORY OF HARMONICAUK Part 1 1930-1947 Roger Trobridge

In 1930, Dr. Otto Meyer was moved from the Hohner Hamburg Export office to reorganise the new company. He was a British national born in Bradford with an English mother and a German father. It was an inspired choice. In the next few years, Dr. Meyer encouraged the formation of accordion clubs, and he realised the need for more tuition and music for the accordion and harmonica. He brought in specialists to provide this. Initially, the concentration was on the accordion. In 1935, Charles Millard was asked to create the National Harmonica Song Bands League (HSB) to encourage youth organisations in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State to set up song bands. Tremolo, diatonic and, increasingly, chromatic harmonicas were the main instruments sold at that time. Players were urged to join the League, get their membership cards and then buy their HSB Harmonica and Song-Books. Soon hundreds of harmonica bands had joined the membership. Hohner began to publish a magazine “Accordion Times and Harmonica News� later that year. Jimmy Black became the editor. Dr. Meyer had two pieces of luck at this time. Captain James Reilly, the father of Tommy Reilly, returned from teaching orchestral harmonica band music in Canada, and he accepted the position of Musical Director of the HSB. He wrote articles for the magazine and produced some of the best-known tuition books for the harmonica.


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Also, Larry Adler was brought from New York in 1934 by C B Cochran to star in his review ‘Streamline’ on the London stage. By 1935, interest in the chromatic was growing fast, and Hohner brought out the “Larry Adler” model. Larry toured Britain playing in the main theatres and presenting prizes to players like the young Harry Pitch, who won talent contests in local halls. Hohner’s biggest turnover came in 1936. Regional competitions and harmonica bands were set up in churches, schools, scouts, and youth groups. Books on how to play the chromatic harmonica and how to organise bands and perform in concerts were produced by the new Hohner Concessionaires. The bands promoted by Hohner used HSB branded tremolos with orchestral, tenor, and standard tunings plus vinetas for harmony. Drums and an accordion were sometimes included. Chromatic soloists like Ronald Chesney and Morton Fraser were starting to emerge, but the HSB and the magazine, Accordion Times, closed down with the start of WW2 in 1939. Hohner was regarded as a German Company, although it had become a part of Hohner Inc. in New York. Dr. Meyer was arrested but released about four months later after an appeal. He had built up stocks, so Hohner managed to keep going through the war period. It took quite a few years after the end of the war to get the business working normally again, but Dr. Meyer had more plans for the HSB.



JOE COOK BLUES BAND - Doghouse Joe Own label, no issue number

Review by Norman Darwen Joe Cook had recorded a couple of well-received albums for the Blue Loon label in his home-base of Minneapolis when he relocated to Seattle about fifteen years ago, and he then had to set about re-establishing himself on the local blues scene. This release, with a bunch of top-notch West Coast players, shows he has succeeded. A blues harmonica player and singer, on this self-produced CD Joe shows a strong influence from Kim Wilson— try the opening ‘Riding With The Devil’ with its tough, no-nonsense sound, for a strong example. Other numbers reveal that he has This issue Norman Darwen also taken inspiration from Little Walter. Many reviews two blues CDs tracks exhibit Joe’s familiarity with Chicago and Texas's classic blues sounds, and he has written some fine original songs—lend an ear to the title track. The bias towards mid to up-tempo rocking and grooving numbers means that this set comes across as a strong, good-timing blues release, contemporary but solidly rooted in the music’s history.



The Steve Miller Band - Live From Filmore West 1968 (Floating World FLOATM 6406)

Review by Norman Darwen Yes, that’s the same Steve Miller who had hits in the 70s and 80s with ‘The Joker’ and ‘Abracadabra,’ but here leading his psychedelic blues outfit in the late 60s. That may or may not interest many readers, but note that he does have three tracks here on which Chicago harmonica legend Paul Butterfield turns up as a special guest. One is a fine cover of Little Walter’s ‘Blues With A Feeling’ (with Paul also taking the vocal), and the other two are instrumentals—now, I thought that might be of interest! Not the best recording quality, but it is good enough, and the performances are indeed well worth listening to. Check them out!



Anyone who was around at the start of the British blues boom will remember the excitement created by the American Folk Blues Festival tours of Europe in 1963-65 by the German promoter, Horst Lippmann. Suddenly all the blues LPs came to life and you could see and hear in real life, people you had only been able to listen to on records. This may be hard to believe for the Internet generation, but it is true!

BIG MAMA Buster Wolfe

Big Mama sang the blues during her hard life and lived the blues until she died. She said: “White or black, rich or poor - if you ever had your heart broken, you have a right to sing the blues.”

One of the big stars of the 1965 tour was “Big Mama Thornton". She was not well known at the start but this tour put her in the spotlight she deserved - a blues shouter who played harmonica. Like many black musicians in the USA she had known success but only in the black R&B market. The originator of big hits for Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin finally got her recognition. Born in 1926 in Alabama, Willie Mae Thornton , who was to become better known “Big Mama Thornton”, learned her music in the Baptist Church where her father was a preacher. Growing up to the sounds of blues singers like Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, she left home in 1940 when she was 14. Big Mama joined Sammy Green’s Hot Harlem Revue, billed as the new Bessie Smith, before moving to Houston, Texas, in 1948. Three years later, she got a recording contract with Peacock Records followed by a performance at the Apollo Theatre in New York. Big Mama reached the pinnacle of her musical career in 1953 with a song that was No. 1 on the R&B charts and sold half a million copies; however, she didn’t make a lot of money from the sales. That hit was “Hound Dog”, the first record written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller ,who went on to write many more hits. The popularity of the song is credited with helping bring the early sounds of rock ‘n’ roll to music. Three years later, in 1956, Elvis Presley brought his version of “Hound Dog” to a new audience. His growing popularity turned it into huge hit selling 10 million copies. He turned her growling blues into fast western swing version with sex appeal. It was the start of his a rags-to-riches story as a pelvispushing heartthrob. The second time Big Mama got the short straw on a recording deal came in the early 1960s, just before her success in the American Folk Blues tour to Europe. Thornton wrote and recorded “Ball 'n' Chain” for Bay-Tone Records but the company didn’t release the song and held on to the copyright. Janis Joplin recorded a very different version of “Ball ‘n Chain” a few years later in 1968 after she had heard Big Mama sing it in a club. Thornton said later she gave Joplin permission to record the song and received royalty payments from its sales. She is named as composer on the BMI music publishing credits. Arhoolie released Big Mama’s original slow blues version on a Country Blues album in 1968.

Thornton had success through the rest of her life, on seven different record labels. Blues players she performed with included the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King, among many others. Harmonica players Walter “Shakey” Horton and James Cotton appeared on her albums. She finally recorded a gospel album, “Saved,” in 1973. Thornton was nominated for the Blues Music Awards six times and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984. In the 1970s, Big Mama’s health suffered from heavy drinking. and she died in a Los Angeles boarding house in 1984 with heart and liver disorders. Big Mama sang the blues during her hard life and lived the blues until she died. She said: “White or black, rich or poor – if you ever had your heart broken, you a have right to sing the blues.” If you want to see her raw power, check out this clip on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxoGvBQtjpM

Teachers and Repairers Adam Pritchard blues

Cheltenham 01242 253949

Paul Gillings tuition

Norfolk/ Suffolk 01502 589439

Mat Walklate all styles

Greater Manchester 07725 479148

Steve Lockwood diatonic/tonic/chromatic

Cambs 07786 256178

Roy Green chromatic/blues

Cranbrook, Kent 01580 720148

Aidan Sheehan Cajun pop folk blues

Cwmbran 07812 143226

Gary Murray chromatic online

01344 842162 garymharmonica.co.uk

Adam Glasser chromatic tuition

Skype adamgharmonica@icloud.com

Johnny Mars blues

Somerset 01823 400744

Tony Perry chromatic jazz classical

Beds/ Cambs/ Herts 01767 680668

Eddie Martin blues eddiemartin.com

Bristol/Frome 07974 120418

Fredrik Hertzberg blues Sweden


George Wickstead blues/diatonic

Ormskirk/North West 0775 3633720

Mike Fairbairn diatonic blues

Notts 01623 753693 fairblues@hotmail.com

Joff Watkins diatonic/chromatic joffharp@yahoo.com London 07890 834002 Julian Jackson jazz classical joolsj@yahoo.com

London 07930 801344

John Monaghan chromatic repairs/tuning

Liverpool 0151-424 9594

Richard Taylor diatonic hove.actually@ntlworld.com

Brighton 01273 271203

Tony Jukes diatonic/chromatic tjukes@hotmail.co.uk

East Midlands 01455 202829

Will Pound all styles online will@willpound.com

Warwicks 07884 222356

Eva Hurt adults/kids eva.harmonica@yahoo.com diatonic/chromatic/tremolo

Skype/ London 0757 8808 353

John Cook Hohner-affiliated Harmonica Repairer 01708 446644 john@johncookharmonicas.com Cathal Johnson diatonic tuition/repairs/tunings

Republic of Ireland 03834 444980

Ben Hewlett diatonic Skype global

Bristol 07973 284366 benhewlett@me.com

Will Wilde diatonic willharmonicawilde@hotmail.com

Brighton 07854 591413

Ian Briggs blues ian.briggs.moneens@gmail.com

Devon 01395 443158

Ed Hopwood diatonic edhopwood@gmail.co.uk

West London 07814 637317

Greg Miller diatonic london-harmonicaschool.com

Brentford 07715 583993

Ricky Cool blues/country

Birmingham 07749 918343

Moses Jones chromatic/diatonic

Bristol 07707 1934377

Tim Haigh Blues contact@learntheharmonica.co.uk

North London 07947 363441

John Beckett diatonic

Kent ME1 3PA 07951 650731


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Small Ads Wanted - social media marketing expert, work available now. Ben 07973 284 366 Gerry Ezard chromatic/chord/bass CDs £10 01656 784904 Honeyboyamps.com - we can refurbish your tatty old cabinet! Patrick Ellis CD Interpretaciones £12 inc p+p 07760 132980 Alan Glen Barcodes CDs £10 0207732 1127 glenalan9@aol.com Igor Djeke cool stuff - visit www.facebook.com/harpplayercustomshop Harry Pitch 3 CDs @£11 01628 622895 haru.harmonica@talktalk.net David Hynes finest Irish Traditional harmonica CDs £7 davesharmonicas.com Bass Harmonica for sale, in good condition, box a bit used organbeal@hotmail.com Harmonica Player Wanted Surrey, by Country/Bluegrass guitar/voc paddy.peters@yahoo.com Bargains New/Used Harmonicas For Sale – please ask for list - davetaylorbluespiano@gmail.com

A final note from the magazine team… As we rapidly approach the printing deadline of our first magazine together as a team, we would like to thank all our contributors for their help and support. Dave Taylor wrote and collated a great piece on the HarmonicaUK October Festival, and Sam Wilkinson gave us an insight into the festival backstage, and also his publicity column. Thanks are due to Neil Warren who put together this issue’s events column, and also wrote a piece on his harmonica podcasts. Buster Wolfe and Sophia Ramirez both pulled together great articles in very little time, and Steve Pardue’s Rachelle Plas interview made for an excellent cover story. We were all very pleased when Adam Glasser and Richard Taylor agreed to provide us with chromatic and diatonic harmonica tab for a selection of seasonal tunes - see the centre pages and get your harmonicas out! Adam and Richard also contributed articles for which we are grateful. You will also find towards the back of the magazine two in the first of a series of CD reviews by Norman Darwen. Thanks to Ben Hewlett for the first of a regular teaching harmonica column, and to Roger Trobridge for a fascinating first part of the history HarmonicaUK; Roger and Ben also helped with additional information, photos and general support and encouragement throughout the birthing of this new magazine. Thanks guys! Be a part of your HarmonicaUK magazine! If you’ve enjoyed this issue of the HarmonicaUK Magazine, we’d love for you to get involved. We always need volunteers to generally help out, and people to write us articles or reviews. For articles we need either 300 or 600 words, ideally in Word or Pages format, and some photos or images to go with it if possible. If you’d like to help or submit an article, please get in touch with Barry Elms - editor@Harmonica.co.uk The Magazine Team Pete Hewitt, Steve Pardue, Justin Norton and Barry Elms Additional thanks to: Keith Parker, Carli Collins and Sophia Ramirez



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