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Chromatic for Diatonic Players

Part 9 Leaping Variable Splits

by Winslow Yerxa

Last time we worked on varying the size of a split interval while playing a musical line, and we ended with a folk tune called Aura Lee (though better known as a pop ballad under another name), played with variable splits.

This time let's start with the tune "Scarborough Fair." We'll play it in D minor on a C chromatic, which doesn't require the slide and offers plenty of chordal intervals.

We'll also look at alternatives. In some cases you could make difference choices and get different results. Arranging a tune to suit your style and taste is all about such choices, and evaluating them thoughtfully-and earfully-is essential to finding your own way of playing a tune.

Here's the tune played as single notes, with tab:

Click here to listen9-1.mp3

I recommend learning this first. Though I might often recommend switching between left and right sides of your embouchure to play a melody, in this case we will be using the left side for harmony, so play all the notes out of the right side of your mouth.

Once you have good command of the melody, you can start adding left-side harmonies.

Now, why not just lock in a single-size of split and let it just ride along with the melody? That way you wouldn't have to think about what the left side is doing-it just moves in lockstep with the right side. The problem is that not every interval produced by a split, and not every move from split to split, will sound good.

Here's the tune played entirely with a one-hole split:

Click to listen:9-2.mp3

OK, some of that sounds nice, some of it is sort of OK, and some of it sounds kind of weird.

What if we stick with a locked two-hole split:

Click to listen:9-3.mp3

OK, some of that really doesn't work. But most of it sounds full and moves smoothly.

So we go back to the old expedient of using largely two-hole splits, and using one-hole splits when the two-hole splits are dissonant:

Click here to listen:9-4.mp3

This plays smoothly and sounds nice and full. But isn't it a little bland? What more could we do with it?

Here is a version that takes things a little farther. This version is a challenge to play, but it adds some interest:

Click here to listen. 9-5.mp3

We've started with one-hole splits-they give a nice ringing, hollow, archaic sound that works well with this tune. But listen to the left-side line in Measure 3. The left-side melody is moving up while the right side is moving down. To make this happen, all we do is move the left side inward for a smaller block while the right side stays in one hole. One moves, the other doesn't.

Also, whenever we play the G in Blow 7, we play an octave. This can be a tricky leap, but hear how evocative it is Measures 7 and 8. (Note that I also added a measure so I could hold that note longer).

In Measure 12, the octave allows us to keep the left-side melody moving independently of the right side for added interest. It stays in more or less the same place while the right side melody moves downward.

At the very end of the tune, the left side melody moves down while the right side moves up, resulting in an ending interval of an octave.

Play around with these possibilities. Try playing the locked 1-hole and 2-hole blocks, then find the ways of mixing them that work for you. Think about and experiment with octaves to see where they might be effective, and look for opportunities for making the left and right sides move independently of one another.

Notation Key
Please visit http://www.harmonicasessions.com/feb05/ChromaticTab.pdf for a notation key.

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