Next Saturday, Jan. 10th I play my Annual “Lose Your Blues” show at TCAN, The Center for Arts in Natick, MA (Come to the show! Buy tix now! Check out the Left-section seating!).
I think it’s sooooo much more fun to actually know what a performer’s doing, especially when they’re using unusual techniques. So I’ve filmed some 2-minute videos in my studio to show you how I actually DO some of the things I do in the show — including adding effects pedals, playing differently, using parts of my body to damp the strings or setting up the harp differently. So here you go …
Jan. 1 – “Dogs of Somerville” – Looper with Bassline
In this video I wanted to show you one way I use the looper pedal to create a repeated bass groove that I can improvise over – or tell stories over. This is a tune about a canine cultural exchange program and you’ll first see me setting up the groove, recording it into the looper – and then starting and stopping it so I can be more flexible with how I accompany my story.
Jan. 2 – “If You Had a Dream” (aka StrumTune)
This is a song about a modern-day Doña Quixota and her sidekick Sasha Panza, and this is a song Sasha sings to Quixota. I started writing this tune when I was on tour with Steve Vai in 2013, and I was inspired by the band and the combination of sounds and rhythms we got. So I wanted to capture some of that energy and translate it to the harp.
This video actually shows two different techniques:
- A wooshing strum, where I stop some of the strings with my right hand to effect the harmony and then ‘woosh’ over the strings with my left hand
- A way of damping the strings with my arm and then playing a muted rhythm – it lets me add a melodic-percussive effect and because it’s not an exact technique, I often get unexpected ‘harmonics’ that ring out over the percussion – and I love the unpredictability of that.
Jan. 3 – Brubecker – Tuning Different Parts of Harp in Different Keys
This is another tune I started writing when I was on tour with Steve Vai in 2013. I wanted to write something starting with a similar rhythm to Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” I also wanted to be able to shift to different key areas without having to move the levers (which is how you shift from one key area to another).
So for this song, I tuned different parts of the harp in different keys, and as I play the melody, I literally shift to different areas of the harp – which you can easily see me doing – in order to shift to different key areas.
Jan. 4 – Juanitos – Playing a Bossa with One Hand Tied Behind My Back
OK … OK… my hand’s not tied behind my back but …I always wanted to be able to play a Bossa Nova accompaniment with one hand so I could improvise with the other hand, but the Bossa accompaniment I wanted to play has three parts: an inner line, a bassline and a rhythmic chord. So this video shows how I put those three parts together to provide bassline and comping for my right hand to play over.
What the video doesn’t show is how long it took me to learn to play this and how many hours I worked on it with a metronome.
(And non-harpists, just ignore these next two Uber-Harp-Geeky paragraphs):
The video also doesn’t show my lever settings. So, first of all, I tune my harp in Ab (most people tune lever harps in Eb or C) – so if you’re a harpist and you want to try this, you’ll need to do it in a different key. I’m playing a Bossa in Bb and all my levers are down (i.e. the whole harp is in the key of Ab) except for the levers I’m using for the ‘inner line’ and those are raised.
So the whole harp in is Ab except there’s an A-natural and a G# in the octave below middle C – and those let me create the chromatic inner line without shifting any levers. This particular video is about the playing technique, not the lever setting – but I know it’ll drive you crazy (if you play the harp) and you try this and I didn’t tell you how I set the levers.
Stay tuned for more … and if you’re in the Boston area – or have friends here, get tix now because this annual show often sells out (and check out left-side of the theater – there are great seats there and they often sell out last)