Last Saturday, at my annual “Lose Your Blues” show, I came back on stage early after intermission – as I often do (because there’s nothing to do backstage and I came there to be with the audience, so why would I hang out in the basement)?
Anyway, I often use it as a Q & A period, and segue from that back into the show.
I generally get the same questions: how long have you been playing, when did you cut your hair, how much does the harp weigh – and they’re always fun to answer because it’s fun to re-examine even the simplest question – and sometimes I discover a new answer.
But after a couple of those, one young man asked about the harp tuning, and whether I could just use the levers to set up a Blues scale when I play Blues.
I panic a little when I hear questions like that, because I really want to answer the question, but I imagine the audience’s eyes glazing over if I go into the technical details.
Also, the answer to this question is “yes and no.” I set up what I call a “Modified Blues Scale” to play Blues on the harp. It’s modified because:
A. I suspect it’s not really a “Blues Scale” (but don’t really know what an official Blues Scale is or if there even is one)
B. The tuning is different in the top of the harp (where I usually play melody) than in the bottom of the harp (where I usually play basslines).
So I was juggling those three things: complicated two-part answer and audience who might feel isolated if I start answering technically – when I realised that the profound point of his question could be illustrated right then, right there.
The profound point, to me, is that the harp is unique as an instrument because it can be SET into a key or mode. That means that a person with knowledge of MUSIC or with a SENSE of melody can actually make music fairly simply if they know how to set the conditions for it by setting the levers/tuning.
(Which gets me to another profound point of his question: the whole concept of setting conditions as the foundation for success in any endeavor from cleaning your room to writing a symphony (and I guess those examples illustrate the spectrum of my experience). But that’s for another blog.)
The POINT is that because he asked the question – and because I panicked – but a good kind of panicking – I just blurted out, “Look, why don’t you come up here and I’ll show you?”
And to his credit (1000 points to him and a gold star for leaping into the fray), he climbed out of the middle row and jumped on stage.
I set the harp into a modified Blues scale – I told him quickly what the colors of the strings meant, where the scale started and pointed out one string that doesn’t sound good – all of which took about 10 seconds …
… And then we played an upbeat little Blues – both of us on the same harp – with me accompanying and him playing melody.
And I’m pretty sure that answered his question.
What’s YOUR question? My next spontaneous Q&A might be coming to a show near you.
ANOTHER fun thing happened !!
Senator Karen Spilka was in the audience – and on the stage. It was her birthday and when I sang “Congratulations, You Made it This Far” all the birthday folks in the audience (5 gorgeous women, including Senator Spilka) came and sat on stage with me so I could sing RIGHT to them. Check out the picture below: