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Three New Harmonica Book Collections To Download.

At Long Last

We are very proud to announce the availability of three new harmonica book collections from The Ben Hewlett Harmonica Course. Those who have seen and bought Ben Hewlett and Paul Lennon’s books will know just how accessible and fun these books and lessons are to work through. We invite you to try one of our collections because of the value you are getting but also because you truly can immerse yourself in the subjects your tackling and let the fun and learning last longer.  So with that in mind we come to you now with three new collections. Each collection has PDF book and backing audio for all lessons shown inside to guide you through the playing exercises. Our collections are best enjoyed as a digital download making them accessible to almost any harmonica players. You could be playing a fine tune in just a few minutes, give it a try. You do not have to be experienced now, but you will be by the end of just one of our collections.

The Collections

 

 

National Harmonica League on Wikipedia

Wikipedia makes room for the National Harmonica League

Just a short note to tell you all that you can find out a bit about the National Harmonica League from Wikipedia. As well as the league’s own website which you can access by clicking here. Our own Ben Hewlett is the current Chairman of the National Harmonica League, he was elected in October 2012 at the Annual General Meeting.

It is nice to note that an institution like the NHL has gained a place in history by being documented inside the world’s online encyclopaedia. So many societies do not get immortalized on the web in the way that Wikipedia does. Great to see the league and its’ community attracting the attention of Wikipedia. This truly means that the harmonica has high level importance and the league has contributed enough to the global harmonica community in positive ways that deserve recognizing and protecting.

Articles within Wikipedia are written and verified by the Wikipedia community itself and can be edited accordingly. As the league develops and Ben’s involvement as its’ Chairman continues I am sure we shall see the piece expand dramatically.

 

Great Words of Endorsement

Harmonica Players – Great & Small

Our Sonny Terry Collection has been the fortunate receiver of some lovely endorsements over the years. Endorsement matters a great deal to us and with that in mind when positive feedback comes in we love to share it. We’ve been given direct quotes from some of the big names in the harmonica community who have enjoyed the books. We felt it worthwhile to share their words of encouragement with you now.

Endorsements

Jon Gindick

Ben Hewlett’s book and CD on the riffs and techniques of Sonny Terry will make a great study companion for all developing harp players. Terry was a master of rhythm and phrasing and Hewlett helps beginners turn simple patterns into complex ones. Although the material ranges from simple to complex, there is no doubt in my mind that beginning players will benefit from this project.

Rob Paparozzi

Ben has figured out how to make Sonny Terry’s licks & style attainable for harp players on all levels. His methodology and respect for the music are what make him a  great player and an extraordinary teacher. Kudos to Ben for ‘demystifying’ the work of one of our Harmonica Giants in a way thats makes it FUN to learn a style with many twists, turns, hoots and hollers!

Harmonica Masters Workshops line up for November 2014.

Whats the situation?

Well, the masterful Ben Hewlett will be joining the lineup for the exciting Harmonica Masters Workshops 2014 which is being held in Germany. He will be teaching the workshop called: Blues on the Chromatic Harmonica for Beginners.

Course Outline:

“The workshop is mainly directed at diatonic harp players of any level who want to learn to play the chromatic in a blues style to add another dimension to their playing. This is mostly based on the easy and familiar third position as played on diatonic. We are going to learn how to play rhythms and chords effectively with great punch and timing in the 12 bar blues.”

“We will analyze the styles of the originals Little Walter and George Harmonica Smith, as well as some of their students such as William Clarke. We will also take a look at present-day masters such as Kim Wilson and Dennis Greunling. In addition, we will approach single note playing and improvising around the blues scale. Finally we’ll learn some classic blues tunes for you to be able to play confidently with a band.”

Ben’s thoughts:

He has told us that he is very excited about this wonderful opportunity to join such a exciting bunch of tutors, learners and other harmonica enthusiasts.

Ben also confessed that he fully intends to provide written literature to go along with his course. Though he did say he still has to research and write the book entitled Blues on the Chromatic Harmonica for Beginners. Adding to the point that Ben has a lot on his plate at present but will come through for his avid crowd of adoring fans.

Essential Details

The cost for the course is €250.00. The workshop will run over a Wednesday – Saturday and include 14 teaching units of 75 minutes each.

For full information head over to the website by clicking here.

SPAH Blog – Part 4 – More Great Performances

Friday 16.8.13  SPAH Festival

Playing tasteful fills         Bass        Band in a box        Doo-wop/jazz        John Sebastian Jr on his famous fatherIrish Music        Chord workshop        Chromatic harmonica 101        Add variety to your act        Tone, Vibrato, BendingBasic diatonic        Can playing harmonica improve your health and athletic performance?       Classical harmonica        Rock harp        Why harmonica?       Reading music       Al and Judy Smith workshop

…are the seminars I missed today – I don’t quite remember why now, it’s all somewhat of a blur, but after my teaching session I went to a truly outstanding session with Buddy Greene and Charlie McCoy. Buddy is best known for his video that went viral.  Buddy’s solo performance, at Carnegie Hall I think, of the William Tell overture is worth a Google search if you would like to see an extraordinary performance.   Buddy and Charlie are old friends and started by telling jokes – it was quite a routine – and gradually it turned into an hilarious interview with jokes and music throughout. Boy, can they both play!  Steve Baker had a seminar followed by Deak Harp, which sadly I missed, and the movie ‘Pocket full of soul’ was shown and I managed to catch the end of that.

The Windy City Trio caught my attention in the evening shows and then the amazing Stan Harper who I must confess I hadn’t known about until SPAH. I loved his start; something like (and I’m paraphrasing here)…what an amazing festival, all these great people, I’ve enjoyed every minute…until now.   What an outstanding player, I’ll need to find out more about him.The youth cameo produced more great young players reassuring me the harmonica is being preserved and advanced all the time.  Koei Tanaka knocked everybody out with his beautiful lyrical playing on the chromatic. An exceptional jazz player who will surely become world-famous if he isn’t already. You won’t find many better players than him in my opinion.  After the break Filip Jers came on and played a wonderful set using diatonic and chromatic, sometimes with guitar. He is also a great front man interacting well with the audience.   His story about meeting Toots had great effect on the person who won a drawing of Toots in the raffle on the final day –  he kindly and fittingly gave it to a very proud Filip.  Madcat and Kane played a fantastic set after that. It’s hard to get used to such an amazing talent one after another, all the time!  Sandy Weltman finished the concert off with a dazzling performance of jazz, klezmer, latin and gypsy jazz; and once again the audience was blown away by the talents of Sandy and his band.

I seemed to run out of energy and didn’t really make it to the blues jam, the bluegrass jam, the country jam, all the jazz jam, all of which seemed to go on till very late every night. I guess I caught the jazz jam a few times as it was very close to the source of beer and the quality was very high each time I saw it (the music that is!)

Saturday 17.8.13

Early start with the ‘Presidents Breakfast’. I was able to meet all the other presidents and vice presidents of local harmonica clubs and tell people about the National Harmonica League (www.harmonica.co.uk) so it was a great opportunity to network plus we got to meet the instrument manufacturers, most of whom I already knew, but it was a treat to meet the President of Hohner Inc. worldwide.

Unfortunately that meant I had to miss Buddy Greene’s bluegrass, Celtic and old-time seminar, the Sgro Bros, Joe Filisko’s country blues tradition, and Harmonica fun 101. Maybe each seminar needs to be videoed so people like me who are hungry for information can get to see everything?  Following that there was a gospel show, the legacy of Stevie Wonder, Breathe easy MD harmonicas in therapy, melodic approach to diatonic with Michel Herblin, patterns and arpeggios for improvisation with Sandy Weltman, Harmonikids with Gary Alegretto, jazz harmonica – chromatic, diatonic or both? With Filip Jers, breathing secrets – using your third lung, with James Conway and Richard Sleigh, rock effects for the harmonica with Marko Balland. I managed to get to quite a few of these but only a few minutes in each as I had the Filisko teach–in to attend between 12 and 2.  That was the first time I had taught at SPAH in Joe’s teach-in and I must say I enjoyed doing it and was able to give quite a lot of people some help.

The people I was competing with to get customers were Steve Baker, Madcat Ruth, Buddy Greene, Jerry Devillier, Brandan Bailey, Ronnie Shellist, David Barrett, Michael Peloquin, Buzz Krantz, Dennis Oellig, Will Scarlett, PT Gazell, Jellyroll Johnson, Lonnie Joe Howell, Cara Cook, Jimmy Gordon, James Conway, Michael Rubin, Adam Hamil. It was amazing that I managed to get anybody to sit on my table!  Later there were cocktails, the grand dinner, the award ceremony, and then the final concert was started by Robert Bonfiglio showing why he is regarded as one of the finest classical players of the chromatic harmonica. I recall him introducing one piece saying he had played it 440 times with different orchestras in pretty much all the classical venues in the world.  Another youth cameo came next with some more brilliant playing followed by harmonica express featuring Al and Judy Smith with Tom Stryker. Finally Charlie McCoy and a magnificent group of Nashville stalwarts finished the evening off with standing ovations throughout, and thinking about it, standing ovations have been a very common sight during every concert.  He even played the ‘stone fox chase’ as a special favour for the British contingent!   As I did not win anything in the raffle I don’t really want to talk about it.   I managed to get away from all of the wonderful jams going on at about 1:30 AM but had to get up at 4 AM for my flight out. You might think that at 4 AM on the last night of SPAH after spending five days immersed in the harmonica world people would want to take a break, but no, outside were six people standing in a circle playing crazy stuff to each other all jamming along and on a bench two guys were talking and playing as if the harmonica had just been released from prohibition. And that was my exit from SPAH 2013 leaving in the shuttle bus to the quietening sounds of the harmonica…

I forgot to mention the shops and stalls that were a constant source of interest. All the main manufacturers were present: Seydel, Hohner, Suzuki, the SPAH shop, Richard Sleigh, Harmonica Einstein, Blue Moon harmonicas, Brendan Power and his X-reed harmonicas, Martin Haeffner’s harmonica museum, PT Gazell and more (sorry I didn’t name everyone – there was too much going on).

The SPAH festival over I wnet on to Denver and after 2.5 hours sleep and a bit of driving found myself on a 4 mile hike in the Rockies with a 1,000 foot elevation change up and back. Denver is already a mile high so I had to stop every 100ft to get my breath back and settle the heartbeat. I also drank a gallon of water on the hike.  I don’t know if SPAH will be held in Denver anytime soon but as dry mouths and inability to breathe would be really tough for any low altitude folks, it might not be such a good idea!

That’s enough from me.  It’s an amazing festival which it would behove any harmonica player to attend, and even though I was overwhelmed by the talent, skills, numbers of great players, and the incredible opportunities – I’ll be back.

Thanks to Winslow, LJ, Deb, Elizabeth, Phil, JP, Paul, Tom and the convention staff, plus the performers, teachers and attendees for a wild time.

Ben Hewlett

Chairman NHL

Ben at SPAH – news from the States – 15.8.13

Ben at SPAH  —   latest from the harmonica festival    —  15.8.13

Up early to sample some American culture at a Waffle House – coffee, bacon and maple syrup with some no transfat white substance. An alternative to the $17 breakfast in the hotel.  This to make sure I got to Madcat Ruth’s seminar on acoustic tone at 08.30am and I was only a little late.  He is a great harmonica player and gave us a wonderful write up in one of our Sonny Terry books so I wanted to thank him and hang out a bit. We’ll try to get him to a UK festival some time.  He’s such a character;  you have to love him and I learned about a bunch of new things including his ‘loo-roll’ amplifier and his swanee whistle auto bending machine…!!

My own one and a half hour seminar teaching ‘How to play in 7 keys on a C harp without bending a note’ went down really well with a flurry of interest and a swarm of people came up wanting more at the end of it.  My workshop followed two hours of the Joe Filisko Teach-in.

There were so many seminars of great interest but I just couldn’t get to many.  These included:

Harmonica Collecting and History             Chicago Blues with Joe Filisko          Chromatic playing for diatonic players

Group playing by ear                      X-Reed harmonicas with Brendan Power              The craft of Country harp

Traditional Quebecois music                      Adding color to music                    Singing and harmony                 Better bending

Playing by ear                     How to be a frontman                 Breath control for blues harp

Just so much great stuff.    So much going on that you can really only catch 10% of what’s available.

Then in the evening there was a 4-hour concert with Winslow Yerxa, Pierre-Luc Dupuis, Paul Rishell, Annie Raines, John Sebastian, Hot Shots, Gateway Club followed by and blues jam, a jazz jam, a country jam, a bluegrass jam all very high quality especially the jazz.
I had to leave at 1.30am to get some rest but sat for a while listening to a little hallway jam with Madcat Ruth, Richard Sleigh, Steve Baker, Dennis Greunling and friends. Astonishing.
Crawled down for breakfast at 08.30 this morning to find the stage in the lobby bouncing to the sound of a chord/bass/chrom trio playing ‘When the saints’ to rapturous applause.
Harmonica festivals – what are they like!!

More from Ben at SPAH – 14.08.2013

Ben’s SPAH daily blog.

The first full day at SPAH.ORG has been interesting.  Being still a bit jetlagged I couldn’t make Michael Rubin’s beginners blues jam at 08.30 but did see him doing a workshop on 3rd position to a packed house.  There was a theory class ‘for scaredycats’ and a ‘harmonica for meditation and relaxation’ that was on at the same time at the 3rd position workshop.
Bob Kessler did an excellent seminar on composing using an ipad app ‘LooperHD’ where he showed how you can compose with multi layers on this simple app using multiple harmonicas – it looks so simple I might try it myself.  Later Roger Trobridge showed some of his harmonica movies but only extracts – he needed a 59 hour extension to cover the whole thing!
Jimmie Lee taught about ‘Every groove a bluesman needs to know’ explaining  how he’s categorized everything from a texas shuffle, the ‘flat tyre’, a Bo Diddley to a jazz swing. More on his site no doubt.  Jason Rosenblatt taught advanced diatonic theory using many klezmer scales which I enjoyed – especially ‘Freygish’ which is Phrygian mode with a natural 3. The klezmer guys turn some of the normal modes into eastern european hybrids it would seem. Cunning stuff and worth exploring.
If you go to any seminar you miss four others so ‘Chord Structures’, ‘Soulful Beats from the Heart’, ‘Rhythm Games’, ‘Basic Chrom’, ‘Nashville Numbering’, Jazz Impro’, and ‘Pulmonica’ were the ones I missed.
I also located the only place where you can’t hear any harmonicas – in the pool under the water. Must go for a dip.

SPAH is The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica and Ben is attended their 50th Anniversary bash.

Ben in the States at SPAH (The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica)

SPAH

Tuesday 13th August.   Ben is heading for SPAH.org; the 50th anniversary. The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica is the main US harmonica organisation and this is their festival.  Leaving Heathrow midday and arriving later in St.Louis.

He’s hoping to learn lots of new things, try some new styles of music, meet some new people, meet some famous attendees like Charlie McCoy, John Sebastian, and Madcat Ruth.
He is presenting a seminar and doing three workshops on ‘going with the grain of the harmonica’

So St Louis via Chicago is the plan with a trip to Memphis afterwards to see Elvis if he’s in.

More later.

Breaking News

There is a new Chairman of the National Harmonica League (NHL) in the UK – wait, that’s me.
Yes folks, yours truly has somehow ended up with the top job in the UK harmonica community and it’s quite an honour – for you I mean, that someone in your condition should get a newsletter from me!
The NHL is a marvelous organisation and serves to promote the harmonica and offer the harmonica community a brilliant magazine and countless events throughout the year. Take a look at their site and have a look about.
I joined many years ago and have found it fantastic for learning how to play harmonica and  have met so many incredible people as a direct result. So join! www.harmonica.co.uk