One thing I love about teaching at Hip Harp Academy is getting to see the “Final Beginning Projects” that each student does. This is a culmination of Charlene Elderkin’s experience in the Blues Harp-Style class – and this is just the beginning!
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CHARLENE SAYS …
1. Give a short description of what it took for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally
I’m grateful for snow in Boston, because I needed the extra week to get this together. I kept simplifying the blues arrangement, as coordinating all the different aspects – the lyrics, the slap bass with the vocals, etc. was a little beyond me.
I’ve gotten more relaxed about making these videos, less worried about perfection, but I did want the video to fairly represent where I’m at. I was able to find a spot in the house less cluttered and more visually appealing, and my staff tee shirt became my costume. I didn’t do a half baked because I didn’t have the lyrics together, but in retrospect I wish I would have, because once I sat down with my partially completed lyrics and played, the rest started coming.
2. What freedoms and blocks in yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
The lyrics were my biggest hang up. I knew that I would have to get the words in order to do the song, and without them I was only half-baked in my practice. Once I started working with the lyrics, it was hard getting the slap bass in the right place, which surprised me. I tried many times to put a non-rhythmical intro to it, but then I couldn’t seem to come in on the downbeat with the slap bass and the lyrics. So I cut the intro, went with a chord and a short vamp so I could get the groove. I also had trouble keeping an even, slow tempo. The walking bass kept running away with me!
3. What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?
I really like to be expressive in my singing, to embody a song, but I’m not competent enough on the harp to do both – yet. The D key was a little high for my voice, but not impossible. I’ll have to learn the C blues and work with that. I have ideas for a whole lot of verses for this song, it’s meant to be funny, and I’d like to collaborate with my fellow employees to really let this song “whine.”
4. What were your personal “Ahas”?
So many! A big one for me is that as a harpist, I have a lot of versatility when it comes to playing with other instruments. I may not be able to coordinate all the aspects, but I could handle one of the roles (bass, comping, melody) at a time and it would be great fun. I love having all the reference material for blues in other keys, and knowing the basic structure now, I can pick it out when I hear a song. I’ll be doing more play-alongs with recorded music just for the fun of it.
5. Is there anything else you´d like to tell people who are watching your video?
I’d like to thank everyone who shared videos, because I learned so much from watching them. Deborah has given us so much content in a short while, and I can feel intimidated as I haven’t been playing that long. But the way each of you were willing to post your imperfect completions and ask questions, get Deborah’s feedback, really brought the material home for me. I could also experience a much wider interpretation, seeing how each person interprets the blues in their own unique way.
Thank you Deborah for your talent and enthusiasm, for modeling imperfect completion, for all the years gathering this material and your willingness to share it and create a truly collaborative learning experience. [DHC says – you are so, so welcome, Charlene. If only you saw how I sit here grinning as aI watch and read all of these!]
A NOTE TO THE READER FROM DHC
Hey, thanks for reading this example of what it’s like to go thru a course with me! Did you have A-ha’s or revelations watching the video & reading the answers she wrote? Add your comments below. Please – no critiques – just share what you learned from someone courageously sharing a project that’s the BEGINNING of a lifelong learning journey.
Want to do some courageous learning yourself? Click here to check out my next online course especially for harp players.