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Chromatic for Diatonic Players: Hand Cupping & The Slide – Part 2

7 December 2010 5,444 views No Comment

By Winslow Yerxa 

Putting it to Work – Combined Slide and Cup Action

Now, let’s try playing a note sequence while using the hand cup to produce a very subtle vibrato (and let’s not quibble over whether this is tremolo or vibrato). Play a simple C major scale, as shown in Tab 1, using a subtle hand vibrato. Play each note long enough to get the vibrato effect, and see how little hand movement you can use and still get an audible vibrato.

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Now, do the same thing, but with one difference: You’re going to hold the slide in the entire time, so you get a C# major scale. Now you’re using your right index finger to hold in the slide, even while the hand cup is rotating to change the sound of each note.

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You may notice that your right hand holding in the slide is a sort of anchor point for the motion of the hand cup, along with the heels of the thumbs, which remain gently pressed together.

Now, believe it or not, classical music has symbols for hand wah’s. An “O” above the note indicates an open cup, while a “+” indicates a closed cup.

When you do a wah, you start with the hand cup closed, and quickly open it as you play the note. So above each note you’ll see “+O” meaning first closed, then open.

Tab 30-3 shows the C major scale with a “wah” on each note. Start the note with your hands closed and then open them quickly to get the “wah” effect.

While you hold the note, slowly bring your cup back toward the closed position. This is to prepare you for the next note. Try to do this without affecting the sound of the held note. Then when it’s time for the next note, you’re ready too start it with your hands closed, ready to spring the cup open for the next “wah.”

Try to play the series of notes without stopping or pausing between the notes—the whole scale should be one unbroken sound to the extent possible.

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Tab 30-4 shows the C# major scale with a “wah” on each note. You’re holding the slide in the whole time, so your index finger pressing the slide button may act as an anchor point for your right hand cup as it swings open, then closes to start the next note.

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Neutral Slide Action

Now it’s time to mix slide-out notes with slide-in notes. It helps to practice each combination separately before combining them into a longer sequence.

Let’s start with slide-out to slide-in on the same breath as shown in Tab 30-5. Each note is played with a “wah” as before. Repeat each action until you’re comfortable with it.

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Now let’s try staying in the same hole, but combining a slide change with a breath change, while playing a “wah” on each note, as shown in Tab 30-6. Again, practice each move separately at first until it’s familiar.

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Push Slide Action

Now, let’s try combining a “wah” with the push action—you press in the slide with your right forefinger as you also press the harp to the left. The notes and tab are shown Tab 30-7. You’re getting a good workout on basic slide movements along with your hand cupping, eh?

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Squeeze Slide Action

Now let’s try a squeeze action with a “wah”—you use your left hand to press the harp to the right, into the slide. Tab 30-8 shows you the notes and tab.

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Coordinating slide moves with hole changes and breath changes is complex. Adding hand cup effects adds another layer. But the added expression of hand effects makes it worth practicing.

Of course I could have carried this much farther. For instance, I could have had you do a “wah” on each note of the chromatic scale—maybe you should try that next. I didn’t combine a hand “wah” with all three basic actions at once—slide, breath, and hole change. And there’s the reverse “wah” that sounds like a “meow”—moving from an open cup to a closed one while playing a note (notated as “O+”). Or, instead of doing the same cup action on each note, we could have done something different on each note along with all the other stuff you’d be keeping track of. But I leave those explorations to you, now that you have some basic tools to work with.

Next time, I’ll be on my way back from the 2010 SPAH convention in Minnesota, and who knows what wonderful new harmonicas, ideas, techniques and gizmos I’ll encounter. Stay tuned!

Recommended Book—Basic Blues Chromatic


Notation Key

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

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